صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
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self-the American artist, Mr. Harold Routledge, passing through Paris on his way from his studio in Rome. He has insisted on a visit from Mr. Routledge, and the two parted lovers are brought face to face by the husband. They are afterward left alone together. . . . Lilian forgets everything except the moment when her lover last parted from her. She is again the wayward girl that waited for his return; and she does what she would have done five years before; she turns, passionately, to throw herself into his arms. At this moment, her little child, Natalie, runs in. Lilian is a mother again, and a wife. She falls to her knees and embraces her child at the very feet of her former lover. Harold Routledge bows his head reverently, and leaves them together.

Act third. The art of breaking the tenth commandment-thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife-has reached its highest perfection in France. One of the most important laws of dramatic construction might be formulated in this way; if you want a particular thing done, choose a character to do it that an audience will naturally expect to do it. I wanted a man to fall in love with my heroine after she was a married woman, and I chose a French count for that purpose. Harold Routledge overhears the Count de Carojac, a hardened roué and a duellist, speaking of Lilian in such terms as no honorable man should speak of a modest woman. .. A duel is arranged. The parties meet at the Château Chateaubriand, in the suburbs of Paris. ... A scream from Lilian, as she reaches the scene in breathless haste, throws Routledge off his guard; he is wounded and falls. Strebelow, too, has come on the field. Lilian is ignorant of her husband's presence, and she sees only the bleeding form of the man she loves lying upon the snow. She falls at his side, and words of burning passion, checked a few hours before by the innocent presence of her child, spring to her lips. The last of these words are as follows: “I have loved you—and you only-Harold, from the first.” John Strebelow stands for a moment speechless. When his voice returns, he has become another man. He is hard and cold. He will share all his wealth with her; but, in the awful bitterness of a great heart, at that moment, he feels that the woman who has deceived him so wickedly has no natural right to be the guardian of their child. “Return to our home, madam ; it will be yours, not mine, hereafter ; but our child will not be there.” Ungenerous words! But if we are looking in our own hearts, where we must find nearly all the laws of dramatic construction, how many of us would be more generous, with such words as John Strebelow had just heard ringing in our ears? As the act closes, the startled love of a mother has again and finally asserted itself in Lilian's heart, the one overmastering passion of her nature. With the man she has loved lying near her, wounded, and, for aught she knows, dying, she is thinking only of her lost child.

Maternal love, throughout the history of the world, has had triumphs over all the other passions; triumphs over destitution and trials and tortures; over all the temptations incident to life : triumphs to which no other impulse of the human heart—not even the love of man for woman-has ever risen. One of the most brilliant men I had ever known once said in court: “Woman, alone, shares with the Creator the privilege of communing with an unborn human being"; and, with this privilege, the Creator seems to have shared with woman a part of his own great love. All other love in our race is merely human. The play, from this time on, becomes the story of a mother's love. Two years later Lilian is at the home of her father, in New York. Her husband has disappeared with her child. Harold Routledge was wounded seriously in the duel, but not killed; he is near Lilian, seeing her every day; but he is her friend, rather than her lover, now; she talks with him of her child, and he feels how utterly hopeless his own passion is in the presence of an all-absorbing mother's love. .. The sudden return and reappearance of the husband falls like a stroke of fate upon both; but Lilian dies at last, a smile of perfect happiness on her face, with her child in her arms.

The radical change made in the story I have just related to you, before the production of the play in New York, was this : Lilian lives, instead of dying, in the last act. My reasons for making the change were based upon one of the most important principles of the dramatic art, namely: A dramatist should deal, so far as possible, with subjects of universal interest, instead of with such as appeal strongly to a part of the public only. I do not mean that he may not appeal to certain classes of people, and depend upon those classes for success; but just so far as he does this he limits the possibilities of that success. I have said that the love of offspring in woman has shown itself the strongest of all human passions; and it is the one most nearly allied to the boundless love of Deity. But the one absolutely universal passion of the race —which underlies all other passions—on which, indeed, the very existence of the race depends—the very fountain of maternal love itself—is the love of the sexes. The dramatist must remember that his work cannot, like that of the novelist or the poet, pick out the hearts, here and there, that happen to be in sympathy with its subject. He appeals to a thousand hearts at the same moment; he has no choice in the matter; he must do this. And it is only when he deals with the love of the sexes that his work is most interesting to that aggregation of human hearts we call the “audience.” Furthermoreand here comes in another law of dramatic construction—a play must be, in one way or another, “ satisfactory" to the audience. This word has a meaning which varies in different countries, and even in different parts of the same country; but, whatever audience you are writing for, your work must be “satisfactory” to it. In England and America, the death of a pure woman on the stage is not “ satisfactory,” except when the play rises to the dignity of tragedy. The death, in an ordinary play, of a woman who is not pure, as in the case of “ Frou-Frou,” is perfectly satisfactory, for the reason that it is inevitable. The wife who has once taken the step from purity to impurity can never reinstate herself in the world of art on this side of the grave; and so an audience looks with complacent tears on the death of an erring woman. But Lilian had not taken the one fatal step which would have reconciled an audience to her death. She was still pure, and every one left the theatre wishing that she had lived... The play which finally takes its place on the stage usually bears very little resemblance to the play which first suggested itself to the author's mind. The most magnificent figure in the English drama of this century was a mere faint outline, merely a fatherly old man, until the suggestive mind of Macready stimulated the genius of Bulwer Lytton, and the great author, eagerly acknowledging the assistance rendered him, made “ Cardinal Richelieu" the colossal central figure of a play that was first written as a pretty love story. Bulwer Lytton had an eye single, as every dramatist ought to have-as every successful dramatist must have—to the final artistic result; he kept before him the one object of making the play of “Richelieu” as good a play as he possibly could make it. The first duty of a dramatist is to put upon the stage the very best work he can, in the light of whatever advice and assistance may come to him. Fair acknowledgment afterward is a matter of mere ordinary personal honesty. It is not a question of dramatic art.

So Lilian is to live, and not die, in the last act. The first question for us to decide—I say “us”—the New York manager, the literary attaché of the theatre and myself—the first practical question before us was : As Lilian is to live, which of the two men who love her is to die? There are axioms among the laws of dramatic construction, as in mathematics. One of them is this: three hearts cannot beat as one. . . . It was easy enough to kill either of them, but which? We argued this question for three weeks. Mere romance was on the side of the young artist. But to have had him live would have robbed the play of all its meaning. Its moral, in the original form, is this: It is a dangerous thing to marry, for any reason, without the safeguard of love, even when the person one marries is worthy of one's love in every possible way. If we had decided in favor of Routledge, the play would have had no moral at all, or rather a very bad one. If a girl marries the wrong man, she need only wait for him to die; and if her lover waits, too, it'll be all right. If, on the other hand, we so reconstruct the whole play that the husband and wife may at last come together with true affection, we shall have this moral : Even if a young girl makes the worst of all mistakes, and accepts the hand of one man when her heart belongs to another, fidelity to the duty of a wife on her side, and a manly, generous confidence on the part of her husband, may, in the end, correct even such a mistake. The dignity of this moral saved John Strebelow's life, and Harold Routledge was killed in the duel with the Count de Carojac. But there are a number of problems under the laws of dramatic construction which we must solve before the play can now be made to reach the hearts of an audience as it did before. Let us see what they are.

The love of Lilian for Harold Routledge cannot now be the one grand passion of her life. It must be the love of a young girl, however sincere and intense, which yields, afterward, to the stronger and deeper love of a woman for her husband. The next great change, therefore, which the laws of dramatic construction forced upon us was this: Lilian must now control her own passion, and when she meets her lover in the second act she must not depend for her moral safety on the awakening of a mother's love by the appearance of her child. Her love for Harold is no longer such an all-controlling force as will justify a woman-justify her dramatically, I mean—in yielding to it. For her to depend on an outside influence now would be to show a weakness of character that would make her uninteresting. Instead, therefore, of re

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