Posted on: 2011-11-16
(The scene is a platform at a railway station. Enter Puck, dressed as a railway conductor.)
Three couples, each alike in eminence,
From different worlds, shall presently collide.
So shall ensue a lover's spat intense,
As each young lord desires another's bride.
Attribute all these passions run amuck
To yet another player on this scene,
Yours truly, lads and ladies, jolly Puck!
Five hundred years on, still weaving dreams.
Thou, good my audience, shalt recognise
The six sweet lovers with which Love shall play.
And lest I'm forced to come anoint your eyes,
Enjoy the dream of this midsummer's day.
For love and mystery are for our joy,
And 'tis with the impossible we toy.
(Exit Puck. Enter Gwendolyn, reading, with Ernest, centre stage. Lizzy and Darcy, upstage right, are conversing happily. Catherine and Heathcliff, upstage left, are whispering intently. Gwendolyn sobs loudly, once.)
ERNEST: Good Heavens, Gwendolyn! What on earth is the matter? (noticing the book on her lap) What are you reading?
GWENDOLYN: Oh, nothing is the matter. I am reading my diary.
ERNEST: Again! (grumbling) Your diary seems to be all the company you desire.
GWENDOLYN: Why, Ernest! I owe a great deal to my diary. Reading is wonderfully beneficial for the mind. I did not become so clever by sitting idly at home and twiddling my thumbs, you know.
ERNEST: I suppose you are right. But why were you crying, my love? (Gwendolyn sighs dramatically, and ceremoniously hands the diary to Ernest, turning her head away as though overcome by emotion.)
ERNEST: (reading) You gave a beggar boy tuppence to buy bread? With no inducement other than the tugging of your own tender heartstrings? Gwendolyn!
GWENDOLYN: Have ever you read a tale of such kindness, such generosity, such unparalleled selflessness? That is why I was weeping, Ernest.
ERNEST: You are a perfect angel!
GWENDOLYN: Darling, you must not talk such nonsense. Elusive though my own imperfections may seem to be, I am sure I must have them, else I would be quite dull.
ERNEST: Wisely spoken, Gwendolyn. (closes diary) Is it not extraordinary to think that we are only a few steps away from where I was found, as a mere baby?
(This last sentence catches the attention of Catherine and Heathcliff, who pause and turn slightly towards Gwendolyn and Ernest.)
GWENDOLYN: For one whose childhood was so inconveniently disrupted, I must say you turned out rather well. I should not be anything like so placid as you are, had someone left me in a handbag without consulting me first.
(Catherine moves to left centre, Heathcliff follows. Lizzy and Darcy are distracted by the sudden movement and turn to watch the other four.)
CATHERINE: (addressing Ernest) Forgive the interruption, sir. Did you say you were found as a boy?
ERNEST: (taken aback, but not offended) Why, yes, at this very railway station. (indicating terminus) At that very terminus.
CATHERINE: (turning back to address Heathcliff) Fancy meeting someone else who was adopted as a child, Heathcliff! How quaint if the two of you should turn out to be long lost brothers!
HEATHCLIFF: (looking at Ernest, unimpressed) That doesn't follow logically at all, Cathy.
ERNEST: I believe I have had more than my fair share of long lost brothers. We are on our way to meet mine now, actually.
CATHERINE: (passionately) We are on our way far away from my brother! (Ernest is about to respond but Gwendolyn interrupts.)
GWENDOLYN: The concept of escaping from tyrannical family members is one with which I can sympathize wonderfully.
CATHERINE: (nodding slowly) Hindley doesn't like Heathcliff.
(Lizzy and Darcy are listening to the conversation, somewhat concerned.)
GWENDOLYN: Poor wronged darling! How romantic! What is your name?
CATHERINE: (extending her hand) I am Catherine Earnshaw. And this is Heathcliff. And what are your names?
GWENDOLYN: I am Gwendolyn, and this is my husband, whose name is quite definitely and utterly decidedly Ernest Moncrieff. Now, would that be Catherine with a 'C', or with a 'K', dearest? I ask merely for the sake of posterity. (indicates diary)
ERNEST: (hastily, noticing Catherine's confused expression) Mr and Mrs Earnshaw---
CATHERINE: (with a short, careless laugh) Oh no, not Heathcliff Earnshaw!
ERNEST: (shocked) Do you mean to say that you two… are not married?
(Catherine, sensing discovery, slips her hand into Heathcliff's. Lizzy and Darcy exchange alarmed glances.)
HEATHCLIFF: We will be! Who are you to judge us, Ernest Moncrieff? (pronounces name with contempt.)
ERNEST: (obviously intimidated by Heathcliff) Oh! Well--I--
(Lizzy and Darcy move to right centre.)
LIZZY: I must trouble you to forgive an interruption once again, sir. My name is Elizabeth Darcy, this is my husband, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. We could not help but overhearing---
GWENDOLYN: (interrupting) Do you know your parentage, Mr Darcy?
DARCY: I do, madam.
GWENDOLYN: (to Lizzy) You mustn't feel bad, dear. I daresay many men may have had similarly uninteresting childhoods, with no long term ill effects.
LIZZY: (momentarily distracted from purpose by Gwendolyn's ridiculousness) He is tolerable, I suppose.
(Lizzy and Darcy both smile. Catherine and Heathcliff grasp the opportunity to begin backing away.)
LIZZY: Miss Earnshaw.
CATHERINE: (dipping an anxious curtsy) Mrs Darcy.
LIZZY: You might think it impertinent of me to ask, but I mean only to help, not to offend. Does your brother know where you are?
CATHERINE: (immediately suspicious, aggressively) Did Hindley hire you to follow us?
LIZZY: (shaking her head) I speak only as one who has had a sister abandon her home for the same reason that you do now. I beg you, Miss Earnshaw, do not put your brother through this misery.
HEATHCLIFF: (scoffingly) Put Hindley though misery! I only wish our leaving would give him half the misery he has given me. You do not know what you are saying. Let's go, Cathy.
(Catherine and Heatchliff turn to leave.)
HEATHCLIFF: (aggressively) Let her be! You gentry think that you may rule the very way the sun shines, but you may never rule the way our hearts beat, and for all your wealth you cannot buy our freedom!
DARCY: That is enough, sir.
HEATHCLIFF: And you are the one to decide that, I suppose?
ERNEST: Gentlemen, gentlemen!
(Loud incoherent chaos ensues. Gwendolyn seizes her diary and begins writing very intently. Lizzy continues to try and persuade Catherine to reconsider the elopement, Heathcliff continues to lash out against any such objection, Catherine begins weeping with frustration, Darcy continues to defend Lizzy and Ernest continues to attempt to restore peace. Everyone freezes as Puck enters. As he speaks, he drips love potion into the eyes of the three men.)
Such situations lend themselves to mayhem,
And from this chaos, new chaos will spring.
When from their wide-eyed sleep these men awaken,
Their throbbing hearts a new love song will sing.
Ash will burst to flames; fire fade to embers,
Their eyes with potion helpfully adorned.
But in this pandemonium, remember,
Hell hath no fury like three women scorned.
(Exit Puck. The six lovers snap back into action. After a silent pause, Heathcliff steps towards Gwendolyn and kneels by her.)
HEATHCLIFF: My heart's darling.
GWENDOLYN: Good Heavens, how unexpected! Ernest, I believe you must duel this young man. It is the only sensible course of action.
ERNEST: (seeming not to hear this, walks over to Lizzy) Mrs Darcy. Elizabeth!
CATHERINE: Heathcliff! What are you doing?!
HEATHCLIFF: Oh be quiet, Catherine, nobody wishes to hear your grating voice.
(Catherine, utterly shocked, sits down on the bench a few metres away from Gwendolyn. Darcy crosses over and sits beside her.)
DARCY: Dearest, loveliest Catherine. That unworthy gentleman has injured you, though he has spoken harshly and falsely. I would sooner listen to you railing that you hated me, than listen to any other woman declaring love for me.
(Lizzy and Catherine both look at Darcy incredulously.)
ERNEST: My darling Elizabeth, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl… I have ever met since… I met you.
GWENDOLYN: (recognising with horror the words Ernest used when courting her) Ernest! I am your wife!
ERNEST: Gwendolyn! You are ridiculous!
LIZZY: Is this some jest, Fitzwilliam?
DARCY: (coolly) If you find true love comical, Mrs Darcy, then it is a riot.
LIZZY: Why are you doing this, Fitzwilliam?!
CATHERINE: Why do you damn me to a living hell, Heathcliff?!
GWENDOLYN: Why did you never ask me to elope with you, Ernest?!
HEATHCLIFF: Gwendolyn is a goddess; she is more glorious than the stars in their spheres and more beautiful than the angels in heaven, and you are not fit to kiss the ground she walks on, Catherine Earnshaw!
CATHERINE: (beginning to get hysterical) No! You love me! As long as I live you shall love me, and nothing can separate you from me! Nothing, Heathcliff! Nothing! For how can anything separate one soul from itself?
DARCY: Catherine, I am your true love!
LIZZY: Fitzwilliam, you are making Mr Collins look like a sage. You do not even know Miss Earnshaw! Are you unwell?
DARCY: Indeed not. For the first time in my life, I am well! I have been a fool. I have been blind, but now I see!
ERNEST: I am sorry, my dear fellow, but if Elizabeth says you are unwell, you are unwell.
HEATHCLIFF: Gwendolyn, my darling---
(Before Heathcliff completes his sentence, Catherine leaps up and slaps Gwendolyn across the face.)
CATHERINE: How dare you? How dare you?!
(Heathcliff puts his arms protectively around Gwendolyn, and snarls. Gwendolyn picks up her diary and hits Catherine with it. Catherine sinks to the ground and begins sobbing.)
LIZZY: That is enough! (moving towards the other two girls, pulling Catherine to her feet, moving to downstage centre) Come, Catherine. Gwendolyn, please accompany us.
(Gwendolyn, reminded of the imperious tone of her mother, rises to obey. Heathcliff holding her dress prevents her.)
GWENDOLYN: Good gracious, release me at once!
HEATHCLIFF: I will hold you until you love me, or until we are both dead.
CATHERINE: (as the only one who knows how to control Heathcliff, obviously pained and angry) Let her go or she shall never look at you again, Heathcliff!
(Heathcliff releases Gwendolyn reluctantly. She joins Lizzy and Catherine.)
LIZZY: (dryly) I had previously thought myself well acquainted with the perversity of men, but I am afraid this is not a situation with which I have had extensive experience.
GWENDOLYN: Oh no, my dear, I have never read anything like it.
CATHERINE: (bitingly) Do you ever read anything other than your own precious diary, Mrs Moncrief? (pronounces name with contempt.)
GWENDOLYN: Hardly ever, Miss Earnshaw. Heavens, how irrelevant!
LIZZY: Ladies! If you would kindly forestall tearing each other to pieces until after we have recovered our husbands---
CATHERINE: If she would kindly forestall stealing Heathcliff---
LIZZY: Pray remember, Catherine, that my husband seems to be in love with you. (Catherine is silenced.) I think we might have a better chance of progressing if we speak to each renegade alone.
CATHERINE: (allowing no opportunity for further discussion) Very well. (turning to men) Heathcliff, come here.
HEATHCLIFF: Since when am I your puppy to command, Catherine?
GWENDOLYN: (obviously relishing her power) Mr Heathcliff, pray join us. (smiles at Catherine. Catherine glowers.)
(Heathcliff obeys, though wary.)
LIZZY: You came here with the intention of marrying Miss Earnshaw, did you not, Mr Heathcliff?
HEATHCLIFF: What of it? Have you never made a mistake in your life?
LIZZY: Do you not love her?
HEATHCLIFF: Perhaps I did once. But how can I ever love another now that I have seen Gwendolyn? She is as superior to humanity as diamonds are to glass.
GWENDOLYN: Modesty alone prevents me from wholeheartedly agreeing with you. Common sense and popular opinion lie entirely on your side.
CATHERINE: Oh, you wicked woman!
LIZZY: Surely you cannot mean to bring an innocent young girl all this way from her home and then leave her, Mr Heathcliff?
HEATHCLIFF: I see she has fooled you, Mrs Darcy. Catherine is no 'innocent young girl'. She is like an adder that strikes in silence; you think yourself safe until it is too late.
(Catherine slaps Heathcliff. He glares but does not retaliate.)
CATHERINE: Vile, vicious liar! You should throw yourself onto the tracks for this! (to Lizzy) He is useless, send him back.
HEATHCLIFF: You'll find, Cathy, that I cannot be summoned and sent as easily as Edgar Linton.
GWENDOLYN: The sensation of being utterly indispensable in desperate situations can go quite to one's head. Mr Heathcliff, pray escort me back to the bench. I have urgent matters to address.
(Gwendolyn and Heathcliff retreat back to centre stage, joining Ernest and Darcy. Gwendolyn resumes writing in her diary, shielding it from Heathcliff, who is sitting very close to her. Ernest and Darcy pace, agitated, frequently glancing at Lizzy and Cathy respectively.)
CATHERINE: (with evident frustration) Oh, it is not fair!
LIZZY: Indeed not. But life rarely blesses us with justice. My aunt-in-law has been testifying to this philosophy ever since my refusal to lie down and die the day I presumed to marry her nephew. What will you do, Miss Earnshaw?
CATHERINE: I will go straight back to Wuthering Heights and marry Edgar Linton. He adores me. He would never look at another woman while I was with him, let alone one as ridiculous as her.
LIZZY: Heathcliff may repent, and your marrying Mr Linton would make him miserable.
CATHERINE: What care I if Heathcliff suffers? Does he not deserve it? Has he not made me suffer infinitely more?
LIZZY: The quintessence of love is forgiveness, Catherine.
CATHERINE: The quintessence of love is passion, possession and vengeance, and I will marry Edgar. Nothing in the world can stop me. I only hope Heathcliff is in agony till the end of his days, for this. Would you take your husband back?
LIZZY: I would. I love him too well not to.
(Gwendolyn returns with all three men.)
ERNEST: (addressing Lizzy) I could not stay away, Elizabeth!
GWENDOLYN: Oh hush, Ernest. Whenever you open your mouth to speak, you prove yourself a fool. (to Lizzy) I could not make the others stay. It seems we women have a magnetic attraction.
LIZZY: To accentuate the positive, as cases such as these necessitate, we have here solid evidence to discredit the cliché fickle nature of women; it is naught but a wild fallacy which pales in comparison to the capriciousness of men.
GWENDOLYN: Gracious, how verbose.
ERNEST: (awed) Gracious, how verbose!
DARCY: Like mother, like daughter, apparently.
GWENDOLYN: Thank heaven I am nothing like my mother. She thinks herself the most important lady ever to grace Grovesnor Square.
DARCY: (cutting across) Miss Earnshaw, this will not do. In vain I have struggled, knowing not which way to turn. I am married, as you know, but that is a barrier easily transcended. I implore you---although it is from this very deed that I intended to dissuade you those long fifteen minutes ago---run away with me. Elope with me, dearest Catherine.
LIZZY: (shocked, hurt) You say this in front of me, Fitzwilliam?
DARCY: Would you rather I said it in private, as I did at Meryton when I said that you were not handsome enough to tempt me? (stiffly, sarcastic) Forgive me; I believed that induced rather negative sentiments.
ERNEST: Not handsome enough?! My good fellow, how on earth could you say such a thing to your own wife? Especially when your own wife is Mrs Darcy!
DARCY: You do not seem particularly taken with your wife, sir.
ERNEST: I am married to Gwendolyn; it is a different matter entirely.
GWENDOLYN: Ernest! A disenchanted husband may hold an irresistible fascination for several minutes, but a quarter of an hour of such behaviour is enough to test even my patience.
HEATHCLIFF: (passionately, embracing Gwendolyn) Leave him, Gwendolyn! Flee with me!
CATHERINE: (weeping) You have broken my heart, Heathcliff.
DARCY: (embracing Catherine) Come away with me, Catherine! I know his kind; he will do nothing but hurt you. I will admire and love you, ardently, always!
LIZZY: (with quiet resignation, heartbroken) I cannot pretend to understand this sudden transformation, Mr Darcy. I can only hope that it will pass as quickly and unaccountably as it came, and that your love will return to me. Even if that love is but half of the love I have for you, Fitzwilliam, I will pray for it every night.
(Lizzy turns and begins to walk away, towards upstage left, but after a few steps, all characters freeze. Enter Puck.)
Some jokes may go too far even for fairies,
And lovers' fights soon cease to entertain,
Of this platform of tears I own I'm wary,
So Puck returns, to take away the pain!
The outlook's bleak as frosty bonds grow colder,
But sinking ships can yet be brought to land.
Though beauty's in the eye of the beholder,
The antidote, it seems, is in my hand.
(Puck drips potion into the eyes of the three men. Exit Puck. Others snap back into action.)
HEATHCLIFF: (disgusted, to Gwendolyn) How I came to earn the misfortune of being thus entangled with you, woman, I am innocent of all knowledge. Remove yourself to one who will find your proximity less offensive.
(Gwendolyn, shocked, rushes into Ernest's welcoming arms.)
CATHERINE: Have you forgotten her already, Heathcliff? Is all your tumultuous love for her so rapidly evaporated? (bitterly, sarcastic) It is infinitely consoling, to know that I am not the only one discarded thus.
HEATHCLIFF: In love with Gwendolyn! That preposterous, presumptuous imbecile! (pauses; suddenly remembering) You must think me mad.
CATHERINE: (icily) I think you loathsome. I only pray that you never again find occasion to speak to me, and that I am never again obliged to listen. (Catherine begins walking to upstage right.)
HEATHCLIFF: Do not torture me, Cathy! I knew not what I was saying!
CATHERINE: Torture you! Did you not torture me? You called me an adder!
HEATHCLIFF: Then I lied! You are no adder; you are a python and you have wound yourself around my heart and will not release me! My darling, darling Cathy! Do not abandon me!
CATHERINE: I hate you! (sobbing, turns to face Heathcliff) But until I can curse the sun and hate the air and despise myself, and until I lie down on the earth and die, I cannot stop loving you, Heathcliff!
(They run towards each other, embrace and kiss.)
ERNEST: (to Gwendolyn) Queen of my heart! (Ernest attempts to kiss Gwendolyn, she refuses, detaching herself.)
GWENDOLYN: Do not let me forget to write that down. But, a moment, please. Have you forgotten so quickly your abominable behaviour to me?
ERNEST: Great Scott, Gwendolyn! What behaviour? I heartily deny any accusations of an abominable nature.
GWENDOLYN: (sighing) Ernest, it is painful to be forced to produce incontrovertible evidence to one's own husband of his infidelity, when he has not the gallantry to confess it unaided, but you leave me no alternative. (produces diary)
ERNEST: (reading) I do recall it, now that you mention it. But Gwendolyn! You will not hold this against me?
GWENDOLYN: For a while, I fear I must. But several expensive presents, and perhaps a trip to the Continent, shall reconcile me beautifully. It is my destiny to love you, after all. You were not christened for nothing.
ERNEST: You truly are a perfect angel!
GWENDOLYN: (smiling indulgently) There are few things as charming as a prodigal husband, and absolutely nothing in the world as charming as a prodigal husband whose name is Ernest.
(They embrace and kiss.)
(Elizabeth stops walking and turns to face Darcy. There are tears in her eyes.)
ELIZABETH: Mr Darcy.
DARCY: Nothing I can say will pardon my behaviour. Indeed, I know not how to begin.
ELIZABETH: A concept to which I have been no stranger of late, I can assure you.
DARCY: You have forgiven my idiocy once, Elizabeth. Dearest, darling, forgive me again.
ELIZABETH: (tenderly) Seeing you in love with someone else tore such a hole in me that I was sure I should never feel whole again.
DARCY: That is a sensation to which I am no stranger!
ELIZABETH: Your sudden hate of me was no less inexplicable than your love of me seemed the first time you ever spoke of it. Indeed, your erratic affections will perhaps soon cease to astonish me.
DARCY: Dearest, forgive me!
ELIZABETH: (smiling) You should know well by now that you never need ask me for anything more than twice; past experience dictates that I yield unfailingly on the second attempt.
(They embrace and kiss. Enter Puck. None of the lovers notice him; they are absorbed in each other.)
And so our lovely lovers reconcile,
And all is well on each of our three scenes,
Each lady's lord's heart absent for awhile,
Now properly returns to its true queen.
If by my mischief I've offended thee,
Sincerely I do ask to be excused,
My two-pronged aim is here, and e'er shall be,
To prove a point, and simply to amuse.
'Tis sweet, in love requited just to bathe,
But to love best, one must wade through the worst,
Our ladies from their Hell emerge unscathed,
So confirmation from this chaos bursts:
That Love transcends all hurdles finally
Is truth acknowledged universally.
(Exit Puck. Curtain falls.)