The Play within a Play
The 'Green Room'- a sitting room beside the smaller drawing room. Three days later. A large work table dominates the room, two couches extend out from opposing sides of the large fireplace with a roaring fire. A modest pianoforte is against the far wall. A small table is almost hidden in the near corner. Books and papers are strewn across the large table. Henry Crawford, Tom, Maria and Julia and sitting at various angles and poses of unease round the table. Mr. Yates reclines on one of the couches perusing a book. Fanny sits to the side at the little table, at her work on the curtain, unnoticed by the others.
Yates (sitting up abruptly): Here's just the thing. To be sure, it's a comedy, but it has three very good parts for women, not too terribly many parts for men. If each man take but two parts, I doubt not that we will complete the cast. This is much better than most of our proposals. There is some fine tragedy and comedy mixed and it is the most respectable of plays from the most respectable of authors. Twelfth Night by Shakespeare. Listen, players:
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Oh, such sweet melodious sounds. Oh, to play Duke Orsino! What say you, company?
Julia: It won't do. I despise comedy. And some woman must wear man's garb to play Viola. That can not be.
Tom: Yes, I'm afraid that Edmund would turn my mother and my aunt against us if we dared propose such a thing.
Crawford: But it would be a wonderful play. Such words to learn, from such a pen. It would be an education to all of us that no one could despise. Only that one impediment. And so central to the action. Could we have a man play Viola playing a man?
Maria looks at Henry Crawford longingly, with such an obvious affection. Fanny smiles at the foolishness of the company and returns her eyes to her work.
Yates: No! It would not do.
Crawford: Well, we must search on. It is very trying to the patience to have no play we can all agree on.
Maria: (softly, as if only to Henry Crawford, though heard by all): If you like Twelfth Night very well, I should be willing to wear trousers, if you play the Duke.
Yates: (getting up and striding over to the table) No, it was my idea. And if we do Twelfth Night, I must play Duke Orsino.
Tom: I should play the fool. How I should love the part!... But you know Edmund would be against us. What say you, Fanny? Should you wear trousers to play Viola?
Fanny (awe-stricken): Me? No, not I. No, never. Not any part, but certainly never in trousers.
Tom: (laughing): Calm down, little one. I was merely showing the reaction that I am certain your cousin Edmund would share. And he would incite my mother and my aunt against us. Then there would be no peace at Mansfield. No, we must find another play.
Julia: We have rejected so many! I am altogether tired of having no play. Hamlet and MacBeth won't do because there are too few women and too many men -- and no comedic action at all to suit Tom. Othello was negatived because Tom wants no ranting tragedies. And Edmund says we must have Shakespeare or no play at all.
Tom: This will never do. We are wasting time most abominably. Something must be fixed on. No matter what, so that something is chosen. We must not be so nice. A few characters too many must not frighten us. We must double them. We must descend a little. If a part is insignificant, the greater our credit in making anything of it. From this moment I make no difficulties. I take any part you chuse to give me, so as it be comic. Let it but be comic, I condition for nothing more.
Julia: I begin to think we could chuse worse than Twelfth night. It must please Edmund because it is from Mr. Shakespeare. Though I long for a tragedy, I suppose I should enjoy this play, it is certainly a good one, for a comedy.
Tom: I still think that Heir at Law would do famously for our little company, if only Edmund would consent. But should I take Lord Duberley or Dr. Pangloss for myself? What say you to this? I'll warrant that there are some fine tragic parts in the rest of the dramatis personae.
Maria: Oh, Tom, not again. You have proposed Heir at Law at least five times. You know you agreed to chuse only Shakespeare.
Fanny stifles a laugh, unheard by any of the others, and continues to look on unobserved but amused.
Yates goes back to the sofa and reclines.
Tom (picks up a book at random and shuffles through it. He starts and then exclaims): I say, Yates, I begin to be quite of your mind that Twelfth Night would suit us all. It strikes me as if it would do exactly. What say you all? Here are capital parts for Yates and Crawford and Edmund in the Duke, Sebastian and Malvolio. All quite good parts. Here is the fool or Sir Toby for me--either is a capital comedic role-- if nobody else wants it. Neither is a trifling part, but the sort of thing I should not dislike, and, as I said before, I am determined to take anything and do my best. 'Tis a pity I can not play both, but they appear together so 'tis impossible. And as for the rest, they may be filled up by anybody. In fact, I think neither my brother nor my father could object to the play if Miss Crawford took the part of Viola.
Crawford: Yes, that is a good idea. And I am certain that the ladies should like it once they get to know the play. Mary, I will wager, will like the part above any thing.
Yates: I must play the Duke. (gravely) But, if you really wish for the Duke (to Henry), then I should be satisfied with Malvolio -- for he is a truly tragic but comedic character.
Crawford: I am certain that you will present us a superior Duke or Malvolio -- whichever part you undertake.
Yates: Ah, my good Mr. Crawford! I feel your compliment deeply, I assure you. And I am equally certain that you would do either part supreme justice.
Crawford: I think, if the Duke is taken -- that I should play the fool, or the clown(as he is known in the script), Feste, for he sings a great deal and, if I may say so, I am up to the demands of the part and should enjoy it greatly.
Maria: Mr. Yates, do you not feel that this is a point in which height and figure ought to be considered, and that your being the tallest, seems to fit you peculiarly for Malvolio.
Yates: No, I do not see how Malvolio should be taller than the Duke. No I must play the Duke, if Crawford will yield the part.
Crawford: Yes, I think you are quite right, Mr. Yates. You would be the best Duke we could propose.
Yates: Then I should be very happy to storm through the Duke, as happy as I would have been to play Baron Wildenhaim, which part you must know is the height of my theatrical ambition.
Maria (disappointed): I would prefer any part but Viola. I can not take the chance of risking displeasure by appearing in trousers.
Crawford (with an enigmatic look): You are very good.
She gives him a haughty look. He smiles in an attempt to appear unaffected but is noticeably taken aback.
Crawford (in a conciliatory tone): Miss Bertram must be Olivia, I propose.
Julia: And what does that leave me? The servant woman, Maria?
Crawford: She is a gentlewoman. And it is an excellent part. Perfectly suited to your vivacity and liveliness. I am certain that Mary would take the part if you were willing to play Viola, but I advise against it. Your brother and your father might object.
Julia: Why is Maria such an excellent part?
Crawford: She wages an ingenious campaign against Malvolio and conquers him completely. He is decimated by her wit. And she is rewarded by the hand of Sir Toby at the end of the play.
Julia (thoughtfully): I did not remember that... (after a moment's deliberation)... Then I will undertake Maria, the gentlewoman. Who will play Malvolio? (She crosses to a sofa and begins to browse the play.)
Tom: We have not yet any Malvolio. If Crawford takes the fool, I must undertake Sir Toby? That is a capital comedic part as well. But who will take Malvolio and Antonio and Sir Andrew? (browsing the play)... Oh, yes, we will need a Sebastian, a Sea Captain, a Valentine, a Curio, and a Fabian.
Yates: Why, that is eight more men! How can we ever fill such a variety of roles?
Tom: If I am not mistaken, 'twas you said we could fill the men's roles with only two parts each.
Maria: I am certain that Mr. Rushworth will take any part you propose. But I must caution you to assign him a simple part. I can not imagine his genius extends to memorising lines.
Crawford: Spoken as a loyal fianc»e!
Maria: How would you have me speak of him?
Crawford: It is not for me to say how a woman should speak of her betrothed.
Maria looks dejected. Julia exalts in her gloom.
Yates: Would Mr. Rushworth undertake Antonio? There are few speeches from that gentleman, though some are long. But perhaps they could be shortened. And Antonio has swordplay to perform. Would he not like that?
Maria: Mr. Yates, I think you know Mr. Rushworth well, though never having met with him.
Yates (bowing graciously to Maria, then continues to Tom): Would your brother take the part of Sebastian?
Tom: I think he might.
Yates: Then we have only Sir Andrew, Malvolio, Fabian, Valentine, Curio, the officers and the Priest. Oh, it is too perplexing a problem. Let us think on it later. (Spoken in the style of a true Scarlet O'Hara)
Tom: Yates, we must decide what we can do with the theatre. My brother made me promise not to build any thing or paint any sets. But we should look and see if there is aught we can do. (He and Yates discuss the subject by the fire, inaudibly to us).
Maria (quietly, to Crawford): I am sure I would give up Olivia to Julia most willingly, but that though I shall probably do it very ill, I feel persuaded she would do it worse.
Crawford: I am certain that you will fill the role admirably.
Maria: I do feel sorry that there is not a better part for Julia.
Crawford: We must both make Julia amends. But the important thing is that we have the right Olivia.
Maria (smiling coquettishly): Do you really think so?
Crawford: Indeed. There is not a question of it.
Maria: I shall certainly endeavour to fulfil your faith in me. (softer still): But I wish you were to play the Duke.
Crawford: Alas, that is not to be. And I shall enjoy the Clown much more. I believe it is quite the best role in the play.
Yates (louder): Let us look at the theatre and see what we can do.
Tom and Yates exit.
Maria: Shall we go down to the Parsonage to offer Viola to your sister.
Crawford: Yes, I will join you.
Julia: I will go as well.
Crawford, Maria and Julia exit.
Fanny stands and moves gracefully but cautiously to the great table. She sits and takes up the play. She begins to read. She appears shocked.
Fanny (reading): Upon my word... (laughing): How astonishing... Such impropriety! What can my cousins be thinking of? Perhaps they are not familiar with the play.
The curtain falls as she is still reading and mumbling to herself with an occasional muffled giggle or chortle. (See, Fanny is not a dullard with no sense of Humour. It is as I always told you.)
The Drawing Room at Mansfield Park. After Tea. Tom and Mr. Yates sit discussing the arrangements as they are developing for the play. Maria enters.
Maria: Miss Crawford accepted the part of Viola very readily. (She goes to the Pianoforte and begins to play).
Tom: That is excellent. Now if we could only cast the men so well. Let me see. The Duke has only four scenes, so you should be able to take on more small parts if needed. Which will you have, Yates.
Yates: If Fabian was not in Act V, I could take him, because he is in no other act with the Duke. The same is true of Sir Andrew. Both of these characters have but short parts in Act V but they speak directly with the Duke so I can not contrive how I should take them on.
Tom: I play Sir Toby. I believe I can take the Sea Captain with out any difficulty and even Valentine as well, though I should then be in almost every scene in the play and should be driven mad with costume changes
Yates: Crawford can take Valentine, to save your sanity.
Tom: Good. Who will be Malvolio?
Yates: I am puzzled on that question? It seems impossible for any of us to play the part with our others. And Sir Andrew as well.
Julia: I have read my part and I must say it is ingenious. I will find it great fun. Who is to be Sir Toby?
Tom: (with a bow) I undertake that part, Madam.
Julia: Ughh! I am in love with my brother. Oh, well it is not to be helped. It will be the superlative test of my acting ability.
Tom: And I do think you will portray the scheming and playful Maria with the greatest finesse, my beloved sister.
Julia: You are too good, Sir.
Yates: I wish that you could play Viola, Miss Julia. I should like above all things to see you in that role. But your brother and father will not approve. So I must fall in love with Miss Crawford, I suppose.
Julia: Remember, these are parts we are playing. We will not be speaking or acting or feeling as ourselves but as our character.
Yates: Can you truly do that, Miss Julia? Put aside your own feelings and have only those of your character? Do you think you could ever do that?
Julia: Yes, I believe I could. Else, I should certainly refuse any of these parts.
Yates: What an excellent character! How I long to see you act.
Julia: I will certainly oblige you Sir, if we can fill the rest of the roles. Who will play Malvolio?
Tom: We have not solved that puzzle as yet. I can not because Sir Toby and Malvolio are on in all of the same scenes. For that same reason I can not play Sir Andrew, nor Fabian. Yates could do so, except for Act V. If Edmund takes Sebastian, he could also do Malvolio, except for Act V as well. That damnable last act will defy any of our manoeuvres.
Yates: Ah, but it is a masterpiece, and makes the play!
Tom: Yes, but defies the abilities of a manager trying to fill the roles with too few actors. Should we get someone from the Neighbourhood? Possibly either of the Olivers or Charles Maddox?
Julia: Edmund will object strongly to including any of those gentlemen, I am certain.
Tom: Yes, you are probably right. His absurd morality forbids it. ... (Thinking)... What think you of asking Dr. Grant and Mrs. Grant to join our festivities?
Yates: I know them not.
Tom: They are pleasant enough, and devoted to any thing to amuse their young sister and brother.
Julia: Even Edmund could not object to their joining us. We are already quite intimate with the family.
Yates: Could Dr. Grant play Malvolio?
Tom: I am certain he could. But would he? That I know not.
Yates: If Dr. Grant would take the part, he might also take the Priest. The Priest and Malvolio are both on in Act V but not at the same time -- or not speaking at the same time, so we could send the Priest away before Shakespeare did and work the plan to our benefit.
Tom: We must all meet together and thrash out these difficulties. When will Edmund be home?
Julia: He should arrive shortly. He said he would return from Thornton Lacey in time for dinner.
Tom: We should all walk over to the parsonage together after dinner -- no, that will be too late. Yates, let us walk over to the parsonage and invite them to dine with us tomorrow night.
Yates: Capital. Then we can solve all the problems with the different parts at once.
Tom: Let us be off. Maria, make certain that Mr. Rushworth dines with us tomorrow night.
Exit Tom and Yates.
Julia walks over to the pianoforte.
Julia: Maria, have you read your part?
Maria: No, not as yet. (still playing)
Julia: Shall I read it to you? You have some really humorous scenes in which you make love to Viola. You and Miss Crawford will have a good deal of rehearsing to do, I'll warrant.
Maria stops playing and looks alarmed.
Maria: Let me see that. (walks over to the sofa and begins to read.)
The curtain falls as Julia hides a laugh at her sister and Maria is deeply engaged in reading the play.
The same setting and day. The drawing room. Prior to dinner. Maria still reads. Tom and Mr. Yates enter.
Tom: Good news, Maria. (She hardly looks up). Dr. and Mrs. Grant have pledged to join us. Mrs. Grant we almost had to disappoint by saying that there are no more women's parts, but she volunteered to take a man's part if her husband would allow. So, we contrived to make Sir Andrew even more of a cuckold than usual by giving him a woman's manner and a grecian dress--with a long robe. Ha! It will be the greatest comedy of the play to see Mrs. Grant and Miss Crawford sword fighting! Dr. Grant gave his consent, if his wife was modestly dressed. He seemed to find it as amusing as any of us.
Maria: That's nice.
Tom: Is Edmund arrived yet?
Maria: Uh, no. I think not.
Tom: Perhaps we could convince Fanny to take one of the parts. The servant could be a man or a woman. And so could the attendant to Olivia in Act V.
Yates: Do you think she could do it justice?
Tom: Can any of us? We are all untried. Back to the men. We need a Fabian. He is in five scenes, more than even the Duke. He needs to be a strong actor. I think it would not be a good part for Mr. Rushworth.
Yates: Without a doubt. What of your brother?
Tom: No, Sebastian is in the last two scenes with Fabian.
Yates: Can Mr. Rushworth manage Antonio?
Tom: It will not be easy for him and I doubt he will do the part well, but he will certainly play the buffoon convincingly (They laugh.) (Tom looks sheepishly over at Maria, but she is occupied with her reading.)... though I dare say, Shakespeare did not mean for Antonio to be a buffoon.
Yates: Well, he will have that extra depth to his character in our production.
Enter Mr. Rushworth. He goes directly to Maria on the sofa and attempts to kiss her hand.
Maria: Mr. Rushworth, I am using that hand to turn pages.
Rushworth: Maria, I've missed you. Will you take a walk in the shrubbery with me?
Maria: No, Sir. You will be needed here. We have arrived at a play and I promised Tom that you would take a part. Is that agreeable to you?
Rushworth: I don't know. Will you be acting?
Maria: Yes, I take the part of Olivia.
Rushworth: What is the play?
Maria: Twelfth Night
Rushworth: That seemed a very silly play when I saw it in London.
Maria: Mr. Rushworth. It is Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him?
Rushworth: Have I? I know not the name.
Tom (walking over to speak to Rushworth): Come, talk to us Mr. Rushworth. We need you for our play.
Rushworth looks back longingly at Maria but follows his soon-to-be brother-in-law to the other end of the long room for a conference with Tom and Yates.
Tom: Well, Rushworth. We have some ideas of some parts for you. Do you know the play, Twelfth Night?
Rushworth: I thought so. Did Garrick present it in London?
Tom: I know not. It is a comedy of mistaken identities. Sebastian -- who, we hope, will be played by Edmund -- and Viola -- who will be played by Miss Crawford -- are twin brother and sister from the country of Messaline, who are shipwrecked and separated. Each believes the other dead. Sebastian is saved by a Sea Captain, named Antonio, from Messaline, who had in a war with Ilyrria killed many Ilyrrians. We think of having you play Antonio. (Mr. Rushworth starts to speak.) But hold, all will be clear. Viola and Sebastian are washed up on the shores of Ilyrria separately, with others who befriend them. Viola decides to pose as a boy in the Court of the local Duke, one Orsino -- Yates will play him. He likes her in her boy character, which she calls Cesario, and makes him -- or her - it is too confusing -- his most trusted confidante. She loves the Duke but says not so, for he thinks her a boy. (Mr. Rushworth looks confused.) The Duke loves the Countess Olivia -- who will be played by Maria -- but she refuses to see him. So, the Duke sends Cesario to tell Olivia of his love for her, but Olivia falls in love with Cesario -- whom you remember is actually Viola -- played by Miss Crawford. Then Sebastian and Antonio come to the Dukedom of Orsino. Olivia's cousin Sir Toby and his friend Sir Andrew challenge Cesario -- or Viola -- to a duel. Antonio comes upon them and thinking Cesario is Sebastian, takes up his sword against Sir Andrew. Antonio is captured by the Duke's men. Sebastian is mistaken for Cesario by Sir Toby and Sir Andrew and they again fight. Olivia stops the fight, thinking him Cesario and convinces him to marry her. He does though he thinks she is mad to act as if she knows him. The Duke meets with Olivia and proclaims his love. Cesario is with him and Olivia calls Cesario husband, though Cesario denies it. The priest is brought to testify that he is her husband. Antonio is brought before the Duke, who recognises him, but Antonio thinks Cesario is Sebastian and that Sebastian has betrayed him. Sebastian appears after fighting with Sir Toby and Sir Andrew again and Antonio, the Duke and Olivia are dumbfounded to see Sebastian and Cesario at the same time, since they look alike. The confusion is cleared up and every man gets his maid (at least the lead characters). This little story ignores some of the characters and plots, but that is the play.
Rushworth: Who do you wish me to play?
Tom: Antonio. You will have seven and twenty speeches and you will have a sword fight. Should you not like that?
Rushworth (smiles): Yes, I think I should.
Maria walks over to join them. Rushworth takes her hand and presses it to his lips.
Rushworth: My dear Maria, how do you advise me? Should I take Antonio?
Maria: I think that 'twould most suit you of all the parts in the play.
Rushworth: Then I shall play him. I will have to practise my sword play. 'Tis not my finest accomplishment.
Maria: That is a very wise decision, I believe, Sir. But we will review your speeches and shorten them if possible. What say you Tom?
Tom: Yes, we can do that I am certain.
Rushworth: Does Captain Antonio play any scenes with Olivia, my love?
Maria: We will be on stage at the same time in Act V, but never acting together.
Rushworth: Where is the play? I must study it.
Tom: Here is your copy, Sir, with your speeches marked.
Rushworth settles down on the sofa to slowly review the entire play,
Enter Fanny. She sits down to her work listening to the others.
Maria: (to Tom) We will likely have to shorten his speeches or the play will be ruined. He will never learn all of this.
Yates: What of Fabian. None of us can take him because of Act V. Could we cut out his character completely?
Tom: No, Fabian has quite a few comedic lines and forwards the plot. I wish I could take him on as well.
Yates: You would end up talking to yourself.
Enter Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris. Fanny busies herself settling her Aunt Bertram down to enjoy her repose before dinner.
Mrs. Norris: So, Tom, I hear you have a play. I have not seen it. Is it a good one?
Tom: Yes, ma'am. It is the best of Shakespeare's comedies, I'll warrant. It is silly and sad. Quite the thing for our amusement.
Rushworth rejoins the others. He wishes the ladies 'good afternoon'.
Rushworth: Maria, I sought a love-scene between Captain Antonio and Olivia. But I was disappointed so far as to find that not only do we not have any love-scenes together, we never say a word to each other.
Maria: But think of the sword play. You will be a swashbuckler. And you must wear a fine Captain's garb.
Rushworth: (affectedly) I do not think I shall like that much... I think I should have a red waistcoat and a long blue frock coat with great buttons. ... Will that be a difficulty ma'am? (to Mrs. Norris)
Mrs. Norris: Not at all, my dear Mr. Rushworth. We shall start to work on your costumes directly we finish the curtain. Fanny, do not dawdle. We have many more items to do. And you take your leisure more than any one I know. What would we do if every one worked as little as you?
Tom: Aunt, I don't think I've seen Fanny without a needle in her hand this last week. Indeed I can not imagine any one who takes less leisure than Fanny.
Fanny busied her self at her work -- even more than usual and did not look up at her aunt or her cousin.
Rushworth: I have counted up my speeches. They number seven-and-twenty. Not an inconsiderable part, I warrant.
Maria: That is a good deal to memorise, Mr. Rushworth. Can you do it?
Rushworth: I shall try. But it is not an inconsiderable part.
Tom: No, indeed. It would try the memory of any man alive.
Mr. Rushworth: We have got a play. It is to be Twelfth Night; and I am to be Captain Antonio, and am to come in first with a red waistcoat and a blue frock coat with great buttons, and afterwards am to have a sword fight. I do not know how I shall like it.
Fanny's eyes follow Edmund. The look of sympathy and longing is lost on all that might have seen it.
Edmund's face reveals the greatest astonishment.
Edmund: Twelfth Night! (He turned towards his brother and sisters as if hardly doubting a contradiction.)
Yates: Yes, after all our debatings and difficulties, we find there is nothing that will suit us altogether so well, nothing so unexceptionable, as Twelfth Night. We have cast almost every part.
Edmund (gravely, looking at Maria): But what do you do for the woman in man's garb?
Maria (blushing in spite of herself): I take Olivia, and (with a bolder eye) Miss Crawford is to be Viola.
Edmund: Miss Crawford! But... But... what says her brother? What says Dr. Grant?
Tom: Crawford suggested her for the part and Dr. Grant so far approves it, as long as the costumes are modestly done, that he is taking Malvolio and Mrs. Grant, with his approval, takes Sir Andrew Ague-Cheek.
Edmund laughed in spite of himself: Mrs. Grant will be Sir Andrew? Oh, no! That is more than I can imagine. Mrs. Grant and Miss Crawford will have sword play. (He doubles over in laughter). (After regaining control) but I can not countenance such activity among gentlewomen. This is even worse than Shakespeare dreamed.
Tom: Dr. Grant was amused as well... We have spoken for Sebastian for you, brother. Will you take it? We have lived up to our side of the bargain. Now you must take up yours.
Edmund sighs and nods his acquiescence.
The company sits in uncomfortable silence for a few moments.
Edmund: I must, my dear Maria, tell you, that I think this play, good though it is, exceedingly unfit for private representation, and that I hope you will give it up. I cannot but suppose you will when you have read it carefully over. Read only the third act aloud to either your mother or aunt, and see how you can approve it. You will be making love speeches to a woman! It will not be necessary to send you to your father's judgment, I am convinced.
Maria: We see things very differently. I am perfectly acquainted with the play, I assure you; and with a very few omissions, and so forth, which will be made, of course, I can see nothing objectionable in it; and I am not the only young woman you find who thinks it very fit for private representation.
Edmund: I am sorry for it, but in this matter it is you who are to lead. You must set the example. If others have blundered, it is your place to put them right, and shew them what true delicacy is. In all points of decorum your conduct must be law to the rest of the party.
Maria appeared pleased to hear such from her brother, but after a moments thought: I am much obliged to you, Edmund; you mean very well, I am sure: but I still think you see things too strongly; and I really cannot undertake to harangue all the rest upon a subject of this kind. There would be the greatest indecorum, I think.
Edmund: Do you imagine that I could have such an idea in my head? No; let your conduct be the only harangue. Say that, on examining the part, you feel yourself unequal to it; that you find it requiring more exertion and confidence than you can be supposed to have. Say this with firmness, and it will be quite enough. All who can distinguish will understand your motive. The play will be given up, and your delicacy honoured as it ought.
Lady Bertram: Do not act anything improper, my dear. Sir Thomas would not like it.--Fanny, ring the bell; I must have my dinner.--To be sure, Julia is dress'd by this time.
Edmund, preventing Fanny from complying: I am convinced, madam, that Sir Thomas would not like it.
Lady Bertram: There, my dear, do you hear what Edmund says?
Maria: If I were to decline the part, Julia would certainly take it.
Edmund: What! if she knew your reasons!
Maria: Oh! she might think the difference between us-- the difference in our situations--that she need not be so scrupulous as I might feel necessary. I am sure she would argue so. No; you must excuse me; I cannot retract my consent; it is too far settled, everybody would be so disappointed, Tom would be quite angry; and if we are so very nice, we shall never act anything.
Enter Tom, Yates and Julia.
Mrs. Norris: I was just going to say the very same thing. If every play is to be objected to, you will act nothing, and the preparations will be all so much money thrown away, and I am sure that would be a discredit to us all. I do not know the play; but, as Maria says, if there is anything a little too warm (and it is so with most of them) it can be easily left out. We must not be over-precise, Edmund. As Mr. Rushworth is to act too, there can be no harm.... The curtain will be a good job... The maids do their work very well, and I think we shall be able to send back some dozens of the rings. There is no occasion to put them so very close together. I am of some use, I hope, in preventing waste and making the most of things. There should always be one steady head to superintend so many young ones. I forgot to tell Tom of something that happened to me this very day. I had been looking about me in the poultry-yard, and was just coming out, when who should I see but Dick Jackson making up to the servants' hall-door with two bits of deal board in his hand, bringing them to father, you may be sure; mother had chanced to send him of a message to father, and then father had bid him bring up them two bits of board, for he could not no how do without them. I knew what all this meant, for the servants' dinner-bell was ringing at the very moment over our heads; and as I hate such encroaching people (the Jacksons are very encroaching, I have always said so: just the sort of people to get all they can), I said to the boy directly (a great lubberly fellow of ten years old, you know, who ought to be ashamed of himself), "I'll take the boards to your father, Dick, so get you home again as fast as you can." The boy looked very silly, and turned away without offering a word, for I believe I might speak pretty sharp; and I dare say it will cure him of coming marauding about the house for one while. I hate such greediness-- so good as your father is to the family, employing the man all the year round!"
Tom (under his breath to Yates): What can she be talking of?
Yates (under his breath to Tom): Is she always so tiresome?
The curtain falls as the group makes its way into the dining room.
Drawing Room, after dinner. Again (as every night) Lady Bertram retires to her well worn spot on the sofa, disturbing her long-suffering Pug and resettling her on her lap. Mrs. Norris goes through the same routine every night: sitting at her sister's side and upbraiding Fanny as soon as the elder lady is settled. Fanny Price limps a little as she comes through the drawing room door, closing it carefully behind her.
Mrs. Norris: When will this mean little spirit of independence and conceit quit you, Miss Price? How can you have been so presumptuous as to disturb your cousins for your comfort? They were coming directly behind us until you fell in their path. Then they set about to get the servants to clean the wet patch you say was there, but no one else found it.
Fanny looks down as she settles Lady Bertram's work and Pug around her. Her hand trembles but otherwise she betrays no emotion or response.
Julia: Well, it is cleaned up. Fanny, are you hurt?
Fanny merely shakes her head and makes no response.
Julia: I'm certain you must be hurt. That was quite a fall.
Fanny shakes her head again.
Mrs. Norris: Fanny, thank your cousin for her concern. Of course she is not hurt. It was a trifle and I doubt not caused by her own carelessness. Will you kindly make some response, Miss Price?
Fanny (softly, looking down at her work): I am not hurt. (Fanny shifts uncomfortably about in her chair, while trying not to bring notice to herself.)
Julia (angry): Aunt, how can you blame Fanny for her own fall? (Shakes her head and settles on the sofa opposite her mother, taking up her work).
Maria: Shall I play for you or read to you?
Julia: You might inquire as to how your cousin fares.
Maria: How are you Fanny?
Fanny (quietly): I am well.
Maria: Fine. Are you satisfied Miss Julia?
Julia: Can you not see that she is not well? Are we all heartless barbarians in this family?
Maria (concerned, kneels beside Fanny): You are truly well, are you not, Fanny?
Julia: I think Fanny should lie on a sofa.
Mrs. Norris: How fortunate Fanny is to have cousins who are so concerned about her. Indeed, her life is altogether a picture of fortunate accidents, unmerited and unappreciated.
Julia: How can you say so? No one is more appreciative, to the extreme, than Fanny. Fanny, I must insist that you allow me to help you to the sofa.
Fanny: It is not necessary. But I thank you kindly.
Julia: I will not be put off. I saw how you landed and I see how you are trying not to squirm in your chair but can not help yourself.
Lady Bertram: Fanny, do take care of yourself.
Fanny looks at her in amazement: Perhaps I will lie down, just for a little.
Julia and Maria support her to the sofa on the far side of the pianoforte. Fanny lies down. Julia returns to the rest of the family and takes Fanny's chair. Maria stops by the pianoforte.
Maria: So, shall I play or read?
Julia: You always play. Tonight, you should work and I will read.
Maria: If you wish. (sits and takes up her work basket.)
Julia: What shall I read. Oh, I know. Shall I read to you from the play?
Maria: Yes. I would like that.
Mrs. Norris: Please, that would be very entertaining, Julia.
Julia (Taking up the volume next to her): Act I Scene 1 An Apartment in the Duke's Palace. Enter the Duke, Curio, Lords, Musicians attending.
Mrs. Norris (interrupting): Now, who will have which part?
Julia: The Duke will be Mr. Yates, I am not sure who will be Curio. But I am certain we will not have enough people to have Lords and Musicians.
Maria (impatiently): Go on.
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.
Will you go hunt, my lord?
Why, so I do, the noblest that I have:
O, when mine eyes did see Olivia first,
Methought she purged the air of pestilence!
That instant was I turn'd into a hart;
And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds,
E'er since pursue me.
How now! what news from her?
So please my lord, I might not be admitted;
But from her handmaid do return this answer:
The element itself, till seven years' heat,
Shall not behold her face at ample view;
But, like a cloistress, she will veiled walk
And water once a day her chamber round
With eye-offending brine: all this to season
A brother's dead love, which she would keep fresh
And lasting in her sad remembrance.
Enter Tom, Yates and Edmund.
Tom: How are you ladies entertaining yourselves. Methinks I hear the strains of Twelfth Night.
Julia: Yes, you interrupted us. I was about to read the last speech in the first scene.
Tom: Read on. (The gentlemen settle themselves about the room.)
O, she that hath a heart of that fine frame
To pay this debt of love but to a brother,
How will she love, when the rich golden shaft
Hath kill'd the flock of all affections else
That live in her; when liver, brain and heart,
These sovereign thrones, are all supplied, and fill'd
Her sweet perfections with one self king!
Away before me to sweet beds of flowers:
Love-thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers.
Lady Bertram: That was lovely, Julia. You read so well.
Edmund: Yes, you do justice to these immortal words, if any one can do so. But, where is Fanny?
Fanny sits up: Here I am, cousin. My cousin, Julia, required me to lie on the sofa, though I told her I was well.
Edmund gives Julia an appreciative look and goes to his cousin. Then kneeling by her: And are you truly well, Fanny?
Fanny: Truly, I am. And it was like a dream, lying here and listening to Julia read those lovely words.
Yates: I feel I missed a wonder. Will you read them again, Miss Julia?
Julia: Perhaps, later.
Enter Mr. and Miss Crawford shown in by the footman
Miss Crawford: We could not help coming, though it is late and dark and dirty.
Mr. Crawford: Well, how do you go on?
Miss Crawford: What have you settled?
Maria: Oh! we can do nothing without you.
Yates: We have filled out most of the cast, if Crawford will take Valentine who is only in the first and fourth scenes. The clown does not appear until the fifth.
Crawford: I will gladly do it. And what thinks the company of my brother-in-law, Dr. Grant for Malvolio?
Miss Crawford: Nay, what think you of my sister playing Sir Andrew? That is the question.
Mrs. Norris: What? Are the Grants acting? And did you say that Mrs. Grant plays a man?
Tom: Not much of a man.
Mrs. Norris: Well I never... What will the parish think of such goings on? In my day, the parson and the parson's wife were creatures of the greatest decorum, not busying themselves with play acting. And the thought of the parson's wife playing a man is outrageous.
Edmund: I agree Aunt. Should we not put a stop to this?
Crawford: My brother and sister are quite committed to the project. Mrs. Grant begins her costume tonight. Her plan is to look as much as she can like a man but not wear trousers or pantaloons at all. She will play Sir Andrew such as he has never been played before, in grecian garb, with a robe to the floor.
Miss Crawford: And Dr. Grant is just as enthusiastic as my sister. He reads the play to her tonight as she works. He plans to be the most foolish and wonderful Malvolio ever. I am quite delighted with them.
Edmund: Aunt, Mamma, can you not see that this is progressing to the point of complete impropriety?
Tom: Nay, Edmund, this is despicable after your agreement. Aunt, this will just be among ourselves and the Rushworths and Grants. No one else will see. The parish will not know unless YOU tell them.
Mrs. Norris: What say you sister? It is a different thing to me entirely when middle-aged married people act than when young single people do. Else, why do not you and I act as well?
Lady Bertram: I ... I ... I do not know. What would Sir Thomas say? I am perplexed, sister. It seems that the play Julia was reading is very nice. I can not imagine an objection. Do read on, dear Julia. We will see.
Julia: Yes, I think I will. That seems quite the best way to settle this debate.
SCENE II. The sea-coast.
Enter VIOLA, a Captain, and Sailors
Julia: Viola will be Miss Crawford. I do not know who will play the Captain.
Yates: Tom will take it.
Julia: Why do not we have the actors read the parts tonight.
Yates: Yes, that is a capital idea. But I must go back to scene I.
[They did so, but I will not 'bore' you with repeating it. Bored? with Shakespeare? Perish the thought.]
Tom: Are you ready, Miss Crawford?
What country, friends, is this?
This is Illyria, lady.
And what should I do in Illyria?
My brother he is in Elysium.
Perchance he is not drown'd: what think you, sailors?
It is perchance that you yourself were saved.
O my poor brother! and so perchance may he be.
True, madam: and, to comfort you with chance,
Assure yourself, after our ship did split,
When you and those poor number saved with you
Hung on our driving boat, I saw your brother,
Most provident in peril, bind himself,
Courage and hope both teaching him the practise,
To a strong mast that lived upon the sea;
Where, like Arion on the dolphin's back,
I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves
So long as I could see.
For saying so, there's gold:
Mine own escape unfoldeth to my hope,
Whereto thy speech serves for authority,
The like of him. Know'st thou this country?
Ay, madam, well; for I was bred and born
Not three hours' travel from this very place.
Who governs here?
A noble duke, in nature as in name.
What is the name?
Orsino! I have heard my father name him:
He was a bachelor then.
And so is now, or was so very late;
For but a month ago I went from hence,
And then 'twas fresh in murmur,--as, you know,
What great ones do the less will prattle of,--
That he did seek the love of fair Olivia.
A virtuous maid, the daughter of a count
That died some twelvemonth since, then leaving her
In the protection of his son, her brother,
Who shortly also died: for whose dear love,
They say, she hath abjured the company
And sight of men.
O that I served that lady
And might not be delivered to the world,
Till I had made mine own occasion mellow,
What my estate is!
That were hard to compass;
Because she will admit no kind of suit,
No, not the duke's.
There is a fair behavior in thee, captain;
And though that nature with a beauteous wall
Doth oft close in pollution, yet of thee
I will believe thou hast a mind that suits
With this thy fair and outward character.
I prithee, and I'll pay thee bounteously,
Conceal me what I am, and be my aid
For such disguise as haply shall become
The form of my intent. I'll serve this duke:
Thou shall present me as an eunuch to him:
It may be worth thy pains; for I can sing
And speak to him in many sorts of music
That will allow me very worth his service.
What else may hap to time I will commit;
Only shape thou thy silence to my wit.
Be you his eunuch, and your mute I'll be:
When my tongue blabs, then let mine eyes not see.
I thank thee: lead me on.
Crawford: Delightful! Such a play is this!
Lady Bertram: But, what does it mean? Why does Viola wish to be a eunuch?
Tom and Yates look blank. Finally Mr. Crawford speaks.
Crawford: The way I see it, Madam, she is mourning the loss of her brother and wishes to join Olivia in her seclusion from the world of men. But since that is not available she will dress like her brother and pretend to be him, also as an act of mourning for his loss.
Tom: Bravo! Crawford! Well said!
Lady Bertram: You may have explained it well, I have no doubt that you have, but it still is as much of a mystery to me as before.
Crawford: That is one of the mysteries of the play and why every actor or actress plays Viola differently. Many interpretations are valid, I believe.
Lady Bertram: It is all very confusing, but so beautifully spoken.
Mrs. Norris: Indeed, sister. Though I am still of a mind to wonder at the foolishness of middle-aged clergymen and wives who involve themselves in such display.
Yates: That should be all of the reading for tonight as the next scene requires Sir Andrew and she is not here. (sitting by Julia) That was remarkable reading, Miss Julia. I look forward to the next scene and your debut as Maria, the gentlewoman.
Julia (blushing): I thank you, Sir.
Maria (to Crawford): What an unexceptionable explanation of Viola's intentions you made. It was puzzling me until you explained it.
He smiles but says nothing.
Mr. Rushworth: I am puzzled yet.
Crawford (quietly to Julia): You and Mary and Tom must have done a remarkable performance. I have never seen your mother so alert for so long.
Julia smiles wickedly at him: That is shameful, Mr. Crawford. (She is struggling not to laugh.)
Miss Crawford (sits by Lady Bertram): I must really congratulate your ladyship, on the play being chosen; for though you have borne it with exemplary patience, I am sure you must be sick of all our noise and difficulties. The actors may be glad, but the bystanders must be infinitely more thankful for a decision; and I do sincerely give you joy, madam, as well as Mrs. Norris, and everybody else who is in the same predicament.
Lady Bertram: Why, thank you, Miss Crawford. And might I say that your reading was beautiful. I do wish to see this play.
Miss Crawford: Thank you Madam. (to Edmund) But you are not precisely a bystander, are you? For you are committed to acting with us. You must be my twin brother. And we will look so alike that people will mistake us. (laughs) How shall we contrive that Sir? Shall you grow shorter or shall I grow taller? Our hair is like in colour. But I must have a wig. Then will I paint side burns to match yours and rub a little soot into my chin to resemble your beard.
Edmund turns away from her, toward the fire, but can not completely stifle a smile. Miss Crawford does not see it, but Fanny does.
Tom, Yates, Crawford, Maria, Julia and Mr. Rushworth crowd around the table with copies of the script before them. They discuss the play inaudibly to us at present.
Edmund (aside to Miss Crawford): Madam, do you truly intend to wear pantaloons? If we are to wear military uniforms, they must be pantaloons. How will you ever leave the dressing room? Your lower legs will be exposed except for stockings. And the form of your entire leg will be seen. (He blushes). Have you thought this through?
Miss Crawford (laughing gaily at his discomfiture): Will I lose your respect, Sir, if I allow myself to be seen in such a manner?
Edmund: I must admit that I am amazed that you would consider such.
Miss Crawford: But I must. There is no way for me to disguise myself as you without wearing clothes like yours.
Edmund: Miss Crawford, it is not modest. I will uphold my agreement with my brother if the play goes ahead. But I must beg of you to reconsider.
They part. Miss Crawford sits by Mrs. Norris, vexation evident on her face. Edmund stands by the fireplace and stares into the fire thoughtfully.
Tom: Fanny, we want your services.
Fanny was up in a moment, though stiffly, from her sofa: Yes, cousin.
Tom: Oh! we do not want to disturb you from your sofa. We do not want your present services. We shall only want you in our play. You must be the servant and the attendant.
Fanny (collapsing onto the sofa with a most frightened look): Me! Indeed you must excuse me. I could not act anything if you were to give me the world. No, indeed, I cannot act.
Tom: Indeed, but you must, for we cannot excuse you. It need not frighten you: If you take the two parts together, still it is a nothing of a part, a mere nothing, not above one speech altogether, and it will not much signify if nobody hears a word you say; so you may be as creep-mouse as you like, but we must have you to look at.
Mr. Rushworth: If you are afraid of half a dozen speeches, what would you do with such a part as mine? I have seven and twenty to learn.
Fanny: It is not that I am afraid of learning by heart, but I really cannot act. (Rising from the sofa in ever increasing alarm, but also in obvious pain.)
Tom: Yes, yes, you can act well enough for us. Learn your part, and we will teach you all the rest. You have only two scenes, and as I shall be Sir Toby and on with you during both scenes, I'll put you in and push you about, and you will do it very well, I'll answer for it.
Fanny: No, indeed, Mr. Bertram, you must excuse me. You cannot have an idea. It would be absolutely impossible for me. If I were to undertake it, I should only disappoint you.
Tom: Phoo! Phoo! Do not be so shamefaced. You'll do it very well. Every allowance will be made for you. We do not expect perfection. You must get a brown gown, and a white apron, and a mob cap for the servant. And then for the attendant, all you do is enter and exit at the right times. And you can be in gentlewoman's dress for that part.
Fanny: You must excuse me, indeed you must excuse me. (quite red faced and looking distressfully at Edmund, who had turned towards her after the first of this conversation. He kindly observes her, but says nothing.)
Tom: No one will expect perfection. All you do is enter, stay with Olivia, speak one line in your first scene and no lines in your second scene. It will be a trifle, as nothing.
Fanny: (with tears in her eyes) You must excuse me.
Mrs. Norris (in a whisper at once angry and audible): What a piece of work here is about nothing: I am quite ashamed of you, Fanny, to make such a difficulty of obliging your cousins in a trifle of this sort--so kind as they are to you! Take the part with a good grace, and let us hear no more of the matter, I entreat.
Edmund: Do not urge her, madam. It is not fair to urge her in this manner. You see she does not like to act. Let her chuse for herself, as well as the rest of us. Her judgment may be quite as safely trusted. Do not urge her any more.
Mrs. Norris (sharply): I am not going to urge her, but I shall think her a very obstinate, ungrateful girl, if she does not do what her aunt and cousins wish her-- very ungrateful, indeed, considering who and what she is.
Edmund regarded his aunt angrily, but said nothing.
Miss Crawford (looks at Mrs. Norris with astonishment and then at Fanny, whose tears were beginning to shew themselves): I do not like my situation: this place is too hot for me.
Miss Crawford (moves to a chair close to Fanny. Then says to her, in a kind, low whisper): Never mind, my dear Miss Price, this is a cross evening: everybody is cross and teasing, but do not let us mind them.
Fanny gives Miss Crawford a weak smile as she lies back on the sofa in evident relief.
Miss Crawford: How tedious it is to plan for some event that one simply wants to do and enjoy. But men must plan. It is their forte. (Miss Crawford squeezes Fanny's hand in a show of camaraderie.) ... What is it that I always see you working on, Miss Price? I declare this is the first time I have seen you without a needle in your hands.
Fanny: The curtain for the play. I should be working on it now, but my cousin Julia insisted I lie down.
Miss Crawford: Why? Are you ill?
Fanny: Oh, no! Nothing like that. I fell in the dining room and must have bruised my hip. It is rather sore, but I am quite able to sit and work.
Miss Crawford: I believe you should listen to your cousin. I am surprised to see any one in this family take an interest in your welfare besides your cousin Edmund. He always thinks of you.
Fanny did not respond but looked over at the mentioned cousin, who was watching her conversation with Miss Crawford with complaisance. She blushed. He smiled. She turned her eyes back to Miss Crawford to see her still gazing in Edmund's direction.
Miss Crawford (lifting the curtain material from Fanny's work basket): What a careful seamstress you are for a thing that will likely be used but once or twice. 'Tis a pity.
Fanny smiled but did not respond.
Miss Crawford: I suppose you are also preparing for your appearance.
Fanny: I know not what you mean.
Miss Crawford: Of course you will come out after your cousin Maria is married. Are you making a gown for your own presentation or will you have one made?
Fanny: I still do not understand.
Miss Crawford: What is it you do not understand?
Fanny: What will I come out of? And what will I need a gown for?
Miss Crawford: (laughing gently): Oh, you sweet child! But I suppose that you have never been raised for coming out. That is when a young lady is presented to Society, when she has a ball in her honour and she may then entertain young men as suitors.
Fanny: Oh. (thoughtfully, blushing) I have never heard that I was to do so when my cousin was married. I do remember Maria and Julia laughing and speaking of such things... In their cases, I mean. Not pertaining to me... No, I do not believe any thing of the sort is planned for me.
Miss Crawford looks at her incredulously but says nothing. After a few moments, she volunteers: Have you heard recently from your brother at sea?
Fanny: Oh, yes! William is the most faithful of correspondents. I have had a letter from him just two days ago. He will be given leave on the return of his ship to Portsmouth. That is expected in late November or early December. He wrote me from Gibraltar. The letter was quite delayed in reaching me.
Miss Crawford: I have a great curiosity to see this fine brother of yours that so engages your heart. I imagine him to be a fine young man. Do you have a likeness of him?
Fanny: No. (sadly)
Miss Crawford: By all means, Miss Price, I advise you not to let him leave you again without getting a likeness of him to keep with you.
Fanny: Yes, I should like that above all things. But how would I contrive such a thing?
Miss Crawford: Do you draw?
Miss Crawford: Alas, I have not that accomplishment either, but my sister is very good with pencil and paper. I warrant she will take the commission.
Fanny smiled appreciatively.
Tom: Miss Crawford, what think you of our difficulties?
Miss Crawford (standing and walking over to the table with the planners): Which difficulty is that, Sir?
Tom: The casting of Fabian, the Servant and the Attendant, if Fanny can not be convinced to take them, the Officers and the Priest. Act V continues to be our downfall. Every man is on stage at some point in Act V. We can not come up with five more men to take these trifling parts.
She moves over to study their lists.
Mary: Oh, how clever, Mr. Bertram. You have diagrammed when each character is on stage. May I see the play?
Yates: I would take any of the parts but as you can see, I am on stage the entire 5th Act.
Mary: (Thoughtfully, while reading) May be... Perhaps it may be done... What say you to this? Fabian is on stage for the entire fifth act, but he does not speak except at the beginning and at the end. What if he left the stage after his first speeches and the Clown read a letter from him for the final speech. The Clown can very well take this speech as well.
Tom: How is that to the purpose?
Mary: Well, then, Mr. Edmund Bertram could play Fabian as well as Sebastian. Sebastian comes on towards the end of Act V. If Fabian left after his first speech, Mr. Bertram could portray both.
Tom: Edmund, what say you to this? Yes, that would work. You are not on in any scenes with Fabian except the last and as Miss Crawford says, your appearances in the fifth Act are widely spread apart. It could be done if you would but do it.
Edmund looks unhappy with the idea but states: I'll look over the script.
Mary: In the same way, Malvolio and the Priest could be done by Dr. Grant.... Could some of your servants play the officers and the servant and the attendant?
Tom: Possibly. I will ask Badderly.
Mary: Then all would be set right.
Tom: If I am unable to find servants to suit, or if Badderly forbids it -- and I would never dream of questioning his opinion of the proper use of the staff - there will not be the smallest difficulty in filling the roles. We have but to speak the word; we may pick and chuse. I could name, at this moment, at least six young men within six miles of us, who are wild to be admitted into our company, and there are one or two that would not disgrace us: I should not be afraid to trust either of the Olivers or Charles Maddox. Tom Oliver is a very clever fellow, and Charles Maddox is as gentlemanlike a man as you will see anywhere, so I will take my horse early to-morrow morning and ride over to Stoke, and settle with ...them.
Maria looks apprehensively at Edmund. He says nothing but looks at Miss Crawford expectantly
Miss Crawford: As far as I am concerned, I can have no objection to anything that you all think eligible. Have I ever seen either of the gentlemen? Yes, Mr. Charles Maddox dined at my sister's one day, did not he, Henry? A quiet-looking young man. I remember him. Let him be applied to, if you please, for it will be less unpleasant to me than to have a perfect stranger.
Tom: We will need all three of them. Both of the Olivers and Charles Maddox to fill all the roles.
Yates: How so? And how can we ask them to come rehearse for one or two scenes with the most trifling characters. I believe that if we invite outsiders, we must offer them something worth having, such as Sir Anthony or Fabian.
Edmund: Tom, my promise to act was predicated on your promise not to involve any other participants. If you invite any of these gentlemen, you will need one to play Sebastian as well.
Tom looks surprised, then angry, then resigned: Ah, well, so be it. How shall we solve this puzzle?
Julia: Maria is not in the last act. Could I help with any of the characters?
Tom: Thank you dear Julia. Will you be the Attendant? Certainly that will help a little. Fanny, Julia can not take the Servant's role in Act III, scene iv. Would you please help us with that? It is only one line.
Fanny looks wary. She thinks. Finally: I believe my Aunt Norris expressed a wish to act. Possibly she would take the part.
Maria, Julia and Edmund gasp and stare at her. Tom laughs. Mrs. Norris glares at Fanny.
Mrs. Norris: Yes, thank you Fanny. I believe I will.
Maria, Julia and Edmund are even more wide-eyed than before. No one said a word for several moments.
Yates: Finally! Now all we need is one man. I am sure we can re-write the 2 officers lines so that one man may say them. Will you ask Badderly?
Tom: Certainly. (sighs) I believe all is cast.
The curtain falls.
Twelfth Night text from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare at
The breakfast room. The following morning. Edmund and Yates sit eating thoughtfully or at least silently.
Yates (clearing his throat) : So Mr. Bertram, did you review the script? What think you of taking Fabian?
Edmund: I will do it. I am not happy about it but I will do it to keep more outsiders out of our lives.
Edmund eyes him with contempt but says nothing.
Enter Maria. The gentlemen stand. All exchange greetings. Maria serves herself from the breakfast buffet on the sideboard.
Maria: What have we planned for today?
Edmund: I hope to hunt this morning.
Yates: An excellent plan.
Maria: What of later? Shall we rehearse?
Yates: The Grants are engaged for dinner. It would be ideal to rehearse when they are present. I think we should read through the entire play together. No one can have memorised many of their lines as yet.
Edmund: I should think not.
Maria: I shall walk over to the parsonage and invite the Grants and Crawfords to come over early in the afternoon. Is that acceptable to you, Mr. Yates? Edmund?
Neither gentleman speaks.
Yates: I'll warrant that all our company is anxious to begin. We have no sets to decorate and the curtain is almost ready. Nothing holds us back. We could begin real rehearsals tomorrow. But today, we will read it through together two or three times. As we go we can think of props that we will need to gather and how the actors should act out the parts.
Enter Julia. The gentlemen stand. All exchange greetings of the morn. Julia serves herself.
Maria: Julia, we were just discussing the activities for this day. The gentlemen wish to hunt this morning. I will walk to the parsonage to invite the Grants and Crawfords to join us early -- perhaps directly after luncheon -- to begin rehearsing. Mr. Yates proposes that we read through the play several times and as we go, decide on props and the action of the play. What say you?
Julia: It sounds fine. I will join you to the parsonage. Then, shall we walk this morning or ride?
Maria: I believe I would like to walk.
Julia looks around and at the clock in the alcove beside the french doors.
Julia: Edmund, where is Fanny? She is normally here with you before we ever rise.
Edmund: I have not seen her this morning. I was thinking of sending Mrs. Embry to check on her.
Julia: I will do it, if she is not down before I quit this pleasant company.
Maria (in hushed tones): Are you not amazed at little Fanny suggesting Aunt Norris to play the part last night? I thought I would faint at the shock. But I believe Aunt Norris was actually pleased. Do not you think?
Julia: Yes, I think so. Of course, she could never let Fanny know that any thing she did pleased her. What genius that girl displayed! I am amazed, truly.
Edmund says nothing but smiles at his sisters.
Julia: I am convinced that Aunt Norris wanted exactly that suggestion to be made. But she never expected it from such a quarter, as who would?
Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris enter, sit and are served. The group shares the appropriate greetings.
Mrs. Norris: How are you all this fine morning?
Maria: Very well, Aunt. And you?
Mrs. Norris: I slept very well and have a mind for usefulness today. What have you all planned.
Yates: The Mr. Bertrams and I will hunt, as I expect will Mr. Crawford. In the afternoon, we hope to start rehearsals. Will you join us?
Mrs. Norris: Why, I would be delighted, though I have but one short line. Nay, it is a service I can pay to you to allow you to have this fine entertainment. No inconvenience to me will signify.
Lady Bertram: I wonder that we have never had a play before this. It seems an excellent diversion.
Enter Tom. Greetings go around.
Tom: My head! Have a care, please. Not so boisterous! Where is Fanny? Oh, spite! Julia, will you ring for Badderly -- quietly, like Fanny does.
Julia gets up and holds the bell out of the room when she rings it. Tom grimaces.
Enter Badderly. He speaks in low whispers to the Master of the House and makes to leave.
Yates: Tom, have you asked Mr. Badderly about the play?
Tom (wincing): No. Badderly, we need one man to supplement our cast. It is for a part in 2 scenes in our play, Twelfth Night. The part is the Officer. We will combine the two Officers Shakespeare wrote for into one, to suit our purposes and dearth of men to play the parts.
Badderly stands stock still during this speech.
Badderly: What is it you wish from me, Sir?
Tom: I want to know if you or any man of your staff would play the part.
Badderly: May I think on it, Sir?
Tom: Most certainly. (Waves him away.)
Yates: Will you hunt this morning and rehearse this afternoon, Bertram?
Tom (looking at him without comprehension): What? Please explain that statement quietly.
Yates: Your brother and I...
Enter Mr. Rushworth. Greetings go round. Tom grimacing all the while.
Rushworth: I apologise for my tardiness. Have I missed any thing? (serves himself)
Yates: I was just explaining the plans for the day to Bertram. Please join us Rushworth. We will hunt this morning and rehearse the play this afternoon, as soon as we can gather all the players.
Enter the Footman, with a glass of the usual vile concoction. Serves Tom. Exit Footman. Tom nurses the drink.
Rushworth: I should be very glad of some sport. I will face you down for some game, Yates and both my brother Bertrams.
No one responds.
Yates: Will you read your part with us this afternoon, Mr. Rushworth?
Rushworth: Yes, I believe I shall. You wish me to, do you not, dearest Maria? (Maria blanches but does not respond.)
Yates: I dare say, she does. Good then we should have a full company for the rehearsal. We will read through the play two or three times, taking notes and using this time to decide how we will portray the action of the play. I say, Rushworth, do you have a sword?
Rushworth: No, not here? I have many at Sotherton.
Yates: What say you, Bertram, shall we have four swords to loan our valiant warriors: Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Antonio, and Viola.
Tom: Can we think on this later?
Edmund: I begin to be quite concerned for Fanny. It is not like her to be this late. Shall I send a servant? Or may I impose on you now, Julia?
Julia: I am not finished with breakfast yet. I will go soon.
Edmund (standing): Please pardon me Ladies, Gentlemen.
Tom looks at Julia. She blushes.
Julia: I said I would go. If he would only wait a few more minutes.
Mrs. Norris: Do not concern yourself, Julia. Doubtless, Miss Fanny Price is taking her ease, sleeping longer than usual. She is a frightfully ungrateful girl. I am not at all pleased that I stooped to take her in. She does not reckon half of the advantages she has been provided by Sir Thomas and me.
Lady Bertram: I do hope she is not ill.
Mrs. Norris: Fanny has never been ill since she came to Mansfield Park. Why would she be ill now?
Enter Mr. and Miss Crawford.
Miss Crawford: We could not wait any longer to come over to the Park. When will we rehearse? Where is Mr. Edmund Bertram? Has he gone again for the day? (disappointed)
Maria: No, he has gone to check on Fanny. She has not come down yet, which is quite unlike her.
Miss Crawford: I do hope she is well.
Yates: We will be off for some capital sport this morning Crawford. Then we hope to rehearse this afternoon if we can coax your sister and brother to join us.
Crawford: That should be a matter of little discomfort. They are as disposed to rehearse as any one you could imagine. They are quite wild about this play. And Dr. Grant, little as he knows about sword play, has been trying to teach my sister. It is quite amusing.
Maria: We had proposed to walk down to the parsonage while the gentlemen are hunting and invite you all to come early in the afternoon, to read through the play.
Miss Crawford: I will not disturb your walk. We will all walk down there and my sister will be very pleased to join us, I am certain.
Julia: What think you of continuing on and taking a nice long walk through the lanes or on the downs?
Miss Crawford: Very well. I should be pleased to join you.
Re-enter Edmund. Speaking at the door.: I may not be able to join you at your sport, gentlemen. Fanny is quite ill, I believe. And I must ride for Mr. Warren.
Mrs. Norris: Don't let this disturb your fun, young people. Carry out your plans for the day... I declare, there is no reason to disturb the apothecary. He is quite a busy man... I am sure he will be quite vexed to be called here for nothing.
Maria and Julia stare at each other in horror. Miss Crawford contemptuously eyes Mrs. Norris.
Julia: I will go to check on Fanny.
Miss Crawford: May I join you?
Julia nods and moves toward the door.
Maria: Should I come as well?
Julia: 'Tis up to you.
Exit Julia and Miss Crawford.
The curtain falls on the rest of the company eating complacently.
Continued in Act 3
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