Skeleton Epilogue 1
After the curtain has fallen and (if the actors are applauded) been raised once or twice, there are to be cries from several parts of the house of…
At last the curtains are pulled back and Jane is pushed on2 by the Management, dressed up slightly for the occasion and looking half a ghost, half a real person.
She looks around like one who is being punished beyond her deserts and turns to go, when someone calls out sharply….
Then her pride strengthens her.
JANE. (Coolly, deliberately, quietly.) Oo’s calling Jane? I’m not servin’ you, am I? (Looking around again.) What am I ’ere for? It’s a low trick, it is, to push me out ’ere before a lot of gapin’ fools. Some of you I can see are all right, but why don’t you stop those impudent mouths behind there from shouting “Jane, Jane?” Why can’t they let me rest?
The lights have gone quietly down a little.
I suppose I can go now, can I? (She moves away.)
Female Voice. (From the back of the Pit) Jane! Tell us what you did it for.
JANE. (Stops like lightening, and looks from underneath her eyebrows at the spot from where the voice has come3, and then in measured tones…) What business is it of yours? Tell me that. Do you want to ’elp me? Now that it’s too late? You did a mighty lot to make me ’appy, you & your kind did: and now you can just go and join the Society for the Prevention of Curiosity in Animals. Why weren’t you all satisfied with what you ’eard and saw on the stage? ’e did all right the man wot made this ’ere play. You mayn’t think it tragic enough… I do. ’e treated me all right…’e never gave me away… as all the other “gentlemen” what writes plays do. I suppose they think it’s clever. I call it dirty and low… that’s what I call it. An’ ’e spoke well of my dear master and mistress, and of Miss Minnie too, and of Miss Fanny and Mr. Jack. I’ve been to see plays too… as many as you ’ave, I dare say. I saw old Sir ’enery Irvin4’…’e was lovely… ’cos ’e didn’t make me sick cryin’ cow’s tears over everything. ’e was a ’uman being, ’e was. Real. I loved ’im. Nowadays it’s all ’umbug and pretence. “Meaw meaw meaw” all over the stage. A lot of cats and dogs instead o’ men and women. If there ’ad been a hactress to hact my part, d’you suppose the hauthor wouldn’t ’ave written it up into three long hacts, and do you suppose ’e wouldn’t ’ave “plucked out the ’eart of my mystery”, as Sir ’enery used to say ’undreds of times in my very ’earing? Why, of course ’e would; that’s to say, allowin’ that there were ladies and gents in the haudience. I’m not a lady I know, but I know a lady when I see one, any day. A lady don’t want to pry into secrets which ain’t ’ers. I was always sorry for that poor Mrs. Tanqueray Number Two5. ’er case upset me badly – didn’t seem to me as ’ow it was fair of a hauthor to give ’er away to a crowded ’ouse… where you will admit the company is very mixed. An’ I’ll go further than that now I’m about it. It don’t seem fair to me to expose all us dead people for 10/6, 5/, 3/6, and a shillin’ in the gallery. It don’t seem right, or fair, or anything. If these ’ere dramas what they write are only written to satisfy nasty curiosity… oh, I ’ate it! And so do ’amlet and Ophelia and a lot of ’em… They told me so. When I got to – where ’amlet is now – ’amlet says to me, “The man what wrote that play and made me out a silly ass and showed up my mother as ’e did, was no gentleman. My mother an’ me,” says ’amlet, “was good friends and we did understand one another, but we didn’t dream there was a child among us takin’ down notes.” An’ Miss Cordelia too… she shook ’er ’ead when I spoke o’ Shakespeare and said that ’is portrait of ’er father, old Lear, was a shocking and malicious libel. (Forcibly.) And that’s why I like the man what wrote this ’ere play “The Skeleton”. As I said before ’e didn’t give away ’is ’eroine. And now while I’m ’ere, though I didn’t come ’ere of my own free will, I think I owe you some apology, and if you care to ’ear I’ll satisfy your curiosity… as to what really made me put an end to my life… and you can believe me or not as you like. (Very quietly.) I don’t know if I ought to say it… anyhow ’ere goes. It was going to the theatre what made me do it. Them plays with their mawkish sentimentals and hystericals did it. I loved Sir ’enery, mind you, but after ’e died I says to myself one evening “’e died doin’ ’is dooty…. ’e ’ated this sort of sheep’s-twaddle and a tremblin’ voice. ’e fought against it… and ’e died. So let me die too, says I, and I shot myself. That’s all. Now are you any the wiser of my ’aving satisfied your henquiry?
(She edges towards the corner to go.)
I ’ope as ’ow you don’t take nothing I’ve said in no bad part. I don’t mean to offend. I wouldn’t ’urt no one’s feelings, you understand; but I was pushed on ’ere… I was ’eckled and provoked, and my back was up. But you can go away and say if you like “She was only a spook”… or you can say… or you can say… but whatever yer say, don’t ever say “she fell in love”.
She goes out.
© Edward Gordon Craig Estate and EASTAP.
1. Ask some apology for not having written it in European. (In his puppet plays for the Drama for Fools, Edward Gordon Craig often mocks the attempts of creating artificial languages like volapük, espéranto, or ido.)
2. In front of the curtain – It is essential that she should stand in a narrow place – & have hardly room to move in – The footlights too must cast their upward shadows – They will be blue & green mixed with white – in this order:
3. When Henry Irving took two whole minutes which seemed like an hour to turn his head, draw himself up & up & up & look at an impudent speaker, as when in Shylock he looked at Gratiano, there was Jane look that she now gives to this woman.
4. The actor and stage manager Henry Irving (1838-1905).
5. Allusion to Sir Arthur Wing Pinero’s play, The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1893).