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University Microfilms International 300 North Zeeb Road Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106 USA St. John's Road. Tyler's Green High Wycombe, Bucks, England HP10 SNR 77-31,976


The Ohio State University, Ph.D., 1977 Theater

University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan 4sio6

(£) Copyright by James Edward Shollenberger




Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for

the Degree Doctor of Philosophy in the Graduate

School of The Ohio State University

ay James Edward Shollonborger, B.A., M.A,

* -X- * *

The Ohio State University


Reading Committee: Approved By

Donald R, Glancy David H. Ayers John A. Walker Adviser Department of Theatre ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I owe cin unrepayable debt of gratitude to Professor

Donald R. Glancy for the assistance, encouragement, and enlightened guidance he has lent to the formulation of this study. He has propped me up when I was in danger of ciumb- ling and taken me doim when I was in danger of demonstrating my foolishness in print. Professor Glancy has done far more than advise and consent; he has questioned, challenged, probed and, above all else, spent countless hours at the unenviable task of curbing my verbal excesses and correct­ ing at least my most heinous stylistic felonies. Without his diligence and steadfast dedication, this project might never have reached fruition,

I would like to thank Professors Jolm A, Walker and

David II. Ayers for their many perceptive criticisms, and

Professor Gerard A. Larson (California State University,

Sacramento) for alerting me to the subject of Henry James’s plays in the first place.

Finally, I would like to extend a most heartfelt word of gratitude to my wife, Trish Shollonborger, whose quiet support and have boon of inestimable value. To accomodate my pre-occupation with this study, she has borne

the treble burden of being wife, mother, and family provider without once complaining about the number of burdens my ii project was foisting upon her. Not content with, giving me all that I asked for, she has smiled knowingly and given me all that I needed.

ixx VITA

August 2, 1 94 3 B o m - Louisville, Kentucky

1964 B.A., Bellarmine College, Louisville, Kentucky

1973 I'I.A,, California State Univer­ sity, Sacramento, California

1973-1977 Teaching Associate, Department of Theatre, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio


Major Field; Theatre

Studies in Criticism and Literature, Professors Donald Glancy, John Morrow and Gerard Larson

Studies in Kistoiy. Professor Alan Woods

Studies in Production, Professors Roy Bowen, Donald Glancy and Gerard Larson



VITA ...... iv



1. ilENKY JAMES ON D l ü V > A ...... 28 II, TÜE EARLY P L A Y S ...... "{k "PYiüU'iCS AND T h I S B E " ...... 78 "STILL WATERS" ...... 92 "A CHANCE ÜF iUCART" ...... 101


DAISY MILLER ...... 131 TUE AMIA-ICAN...... I55 te?:akts...... 1 7 s


DIS-MGAC i-p ...... 213 T'iL A L B U M ...... 231 TUE R E P R O B A T E ...... 251


GUY DOI'iVILLE...... 265 TUE S A L O O N ...... 290 THE OTHER H O U S E ...... 306 Page

VI. THE "ISSUE" PLAYS: Ti!i: JIIC-II P.ID. THE O I T C X Y ...... 35h

THE HIGH HI D ...... 356 Tin: OTJTClvY...... 378

VII. UOEGLUSIüN ...... 398

EIBLIÜÜlii'.PHY...... 413


In the whole of the Victorian period it would be difficult to discover an Anglo-American author of greater stature than Heniy James, The late 19th century was a fertile period in , and it is no small compliment to James that any list of its brightest lights would have to include his name, 's palette might have been more brilliant, or 's more romantic, but James was, and is still, the acknowledged master of the pastel; he was, in a sense, the Renoir of late nineteenth-century English and American fiction.

In the most extraordinary fullness of the term, James was a litterateur, a man for whom life's all in all was the exquisite use of language, Throughout his long career, he regarded the English language as a precious and irreplace­ able gift that was deserving of the same deft touch with which a glass statue might be removed from its pedestal, lie viewed the world of letters as a sovereign world, which, by encompassing the whole of man's capacity for expression, could both contain and transcend the familiar realm of human travail. Literature, he felt, was a medium through which "all life, all feeling, all observation, all vision,"^

^Henry James, "The Art of Fiction," Partial Portraits. (London: MacMillan and Company, 1888), p, 399, 2 indeed, all that was worthwhile in the mind and soul of man could be seen and understood,

James's chief reputation derives, deservedly, from his novels and tales, but the variety of other literary endeavors he undertook are equally worthy of attention,

Ilis descriptions of life and times in London, Paris, and various other European locales, not to mention his expatri­ ate impressions of the United States, are at least semi­ precious literary gems. Ilis excellence as a creator of fiction overshadows but slightly his facility as its critic.

Taken together, the scrupulously forthright "Prefaces"

James appended to the hew York Edition of his Collected hovels and Talcs ai'e an important addition to his published theories of the novel, ilis essay, "The Art of Fiction," is a closely reasoned analysis of the novel as a distinct art form and a well-stated defense of "all life" as its proper province. Nor was ho in any way timorous about applying his theoretical conceptions to the work of other authors. Even a partial list of writers who came under his critical scrutiny includes artists as diverse, both in style and nationality, as Musset, Baudelaire, "Whitman,

Hawthorne, Trollope, Tennyson, Turgenev, Story, Tolstoy, and Gautier,

James was also a life-long devotee and student of the

theatre, from which interest arose, over the years, a substantial body of critical opinion about theatre's 3 nature, conditions, and literature, Allan Vade has done

every serious student of Henry James an invaluable service

by collecting his major works of dramatic criticism in a

volume entitled The Scenic Art « Moreover, James's devotion

to the theatre went considerably beyond the reactive or

theoretical role of critic ; from virtually the beginning

of his literaiy career, he harbored a pressing desire to

write for the stage.

He had been publishing criticism and short stories

for scarcely five years when his first play, "Pyramus and

Thisbe,” appeared in the April, I8 6 9 , number of Galaxy,

There is no indication that ho ever intended that one-act

dialogue to be produced, nor that"Still Waters"(1 8 7 1 ) or

"A Change of Heart"(I8 7 2), his next two one-act efforts, were so intended. There is, likewise, no certain indica­

tion of what prompted James at that stage of his advancing

career to write tliree short plays. In any case, he spent

the next ten years developing his skill and reputation

as a novelist, and during those years he forsook the writ­

ing of drama. Although he refrained from the practice of

dramatic writing for ten years, the idea of returning to

it retained a lingering appeal. In an 1878 letter to his

brother William he admitted, "It has long been my most

earnest and definite intention to commence at play-writing 2 as soon as I can, . . Latex in that same year he again wrote to his brother, am very impatient to get at work writing for the stage~a project I have long had."

An occasion to do so presented itself three years later when Daniel Frohman invited him to dramatize his highly successful short novel, Daisy Miller, for the newly opened Madison Square Theatre in New York, In response to that opportunity James ifrote in his journal, "After long years of waiting, of obstruction, I find myself able to put into execution the most cherished of all my projects— that of beginning to work for the stage. It was one of my 4 earliest— I had it from the first," He completed the dramatization during the winter of 1882, only to have the play turned down by the Madison Square's management. After an abortive attempt to have it produced at the St, James

Theatre, he published it in the Atlantic Monthly,

Henry James, "Letter to Nilliam James," May 1, I8 7 8, The Letters of Henry James « ed, Percy Lubbock, (New York; Charles Scribner's Sons, 1§20), Volume I, p, 6 0 , 3 Heniy James, letter to Villiam James, Cited in The Complete Plays of Henry James, ed, with Introduction by Leon Ed el, (piailadelphia : J, E, Lippincott Company, 1949), p, 4l. Edel's Introduction in this anthology is a reprint, in translation, of most of his earlier work, Henry James ; Les années dramatiques (Paris, 193l), Future references to this work will be listed: Edel, Introduction,

*^Edel, Introduction, p, 4l. He quotes here from one of James's unpublished journals. 5

Cnco again he set aside his dramatist's pen, this time for seven years. hhen ho picked it up again in 1889» it was under conditions akin to those that had surrounded

Daisy Miller; he had boon asked by , actor- managor of a provincial touring company, to dramatize his twelve-year-old novel. . As before, he suspended his other projects for a time emd set himself to the task of extracting from his novel "the simplest, strongest, baldest, most rudimentary, at once most humor­ ous and touching play.”^ That time his efforts were rewarded by a production: the play opened at Southport on Januaiy 3»

1 8 9 1 , and after numerous revisions and considerable anguish on James's part, finally made it to London on September 26.

It load been relatively well received in the provinces, but the London audience was decidedly lukewarm. It nonetheless managed a lun of seventy performances and closed on

December 3» Whatever the reality of the situation, James considered that "Honor is saved,and announced himself convinced that a new sun had risen on his literary horizon,

"This episode has done what I am quite content with its having done— simply put me in the saddle. Now (if stone

^Edol, Introduction, p. 179.

^Edel, Introduction, p. 1 9 O. 6 walls don't circumvent me) I intend to ride— to ride as far 7 as I can, . .

During the next five years, from 1890-95, James rode his dramatic pony strenuously. During that period he produced seven of his fourteen dramas, fully developed his distinctive concepts of "the dramatic," and prepared himself

(as has been previously observed by numerous scholars) for the "dramatic novels" of his "major phrase,"

James clearly intended each of the plays written during that period for production, though only one, Guy Domville, achieved that goal. In addition to The American, he also wrote The Album (I8 9 1 ) and The Reprobate (1 8 9 ) for Compton,

Tenants (IS9 0 ) was written for the actress Genevieve Ward, who thought highly enough of the piece to suggest it to

John Hare for production. Hare professed considerable admiration for the play but for various reasons was never able to produce it. Disengaged (I8 9 2 ) was written for

Augustyn Daly's company as a vehicle for Ada Rehan, Daly took a five-year option on the play but then had misgivings about it, with the eventual and, for James, painful result that it too was not produced, James published Tenants and

Disengaged in 189^ under the title : Tifo Com­ edies , The other two plays were published the next year as

Theatricals ; Second Series,

7 Henry James, "Letter to George ¥, Smalley," October 19, 1 8 9 1 , The Selected Letters of Henry James, ed, Leon Ddel, (New York; Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy, 1955), p. 119. 7

Guy Domvillo was written during the summer of IS93 for , who was something of a matinee idol in London at the time; after eighteen months of painstaking revision, polishing, and cutting, the play was produced at the St. James Theatre on January 5, 1S95« The exacerbat­ ing conclusion of that opening night has been well docu­ mented and need not be detailed here;^ suffice it to say that James was hissed from the stage by u n m l y members of the audience. The play itself became a cause colebre in the London press, and critics like George Bernard Shaw and A, B, Walkley took the opportunity to upbraid London audiences for their general lack of aesthetic sense.

The final play of that period, 'SummersoftJ' (l895), was written for , apparently as a result of her commiseration with James over the Guy Domville incident.

She gave every indication of being favorably impressed with the piece, but in a situation to which James must by

The unrulinoss began in Act II and continued through to the end of the play, James had been too nervous to attend the opening himself (he had sat through Wilde’s An Husband instead) and only arrived at the theatre as curtain calls were beginning. Perhaps as an act of revenge, Alexander peremptorily hauled James on to the stage, and it was his appearing before the audience that set off the loudest part of the clamor, James never quite recovered from that distasteful experience. 8 thon have become accustomed, she never got to the practical 9 business of putting it on the stage,

•'Summersoff marked the end of James's first cxnd most prolonged period of concentration on the theatre. He did not return to it until twelve years later, when, once again, he acceded to the urgings of a prominent man of the theatre.

Sir Johnston I'orbes-kobertson, Ironically, it was Forbes—

Robertson’s reading of James's tale. Covering Ihid, which the latter had adapted from ’Summersoft," that prompted his pleading. The actor found the little tale "admirably suited for the stage,and in October, 1907, James agreed to re-adapt the story into a three—act play. As The High

Bid it opened on March 26, 1908, at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburg and wont so smoothly that James made of it a self-proclaimed "real and unmistakeable victory.He began immediately to dream of a London showing, but cir­ cumstances prevented that eventuality until Febnaary 18,

9 Miss Terry saw the Guy Domville debacle and, shortly thereafter, proposed to James that he write for her a one- act play she could include in a forthcoming American tour. He responded with "Summersof t," and Miss Terry was apparently impressed with it because sne sent him an advance royalty of one hundred pounds. Though there is no documentation on the matter, it is likely that she later decided against producing it because its scenic demands were too heavy for a tour production,

^^Edel, Introduction, p,

^^Henry James, "Letter to Henry James, Junior," April 3, I9 O0 , Lubbock, Volume II, p, 97. 9 1909, when Eeorhohm Tree presented it as one of his After­ noon Theatre matinees. West of the critics rejoiced in the production, which led James to write that it had at least 12 "done definite joed to my reputation and position" while

3TUOfully admitting that he would make no from it.

During December, 1907, James had set himself to work on a one-act play that he eventually entitled "The Saloon," He completed it in early January, 1908, and showed it to Harley

Granville-Darker, who was not overly impressed, James then expanded it somewhat, hoping that Forbes-Hobertson would use it as a curtain-raiser for The High Did in London,

IThen it became apparent that the latter would not make it to London immediately, the dramatist St, John Hankin urged

James to submit it to the Incorporated Stage Society, Ho did so, but it was also rejected by the Society, It was finally produced on January 17, 1911, by an English actress named Gertmdo Kingston, Once again, a James play created a division of opinion among critics, their reactions rang- ing from high praise to base contempt. 13

^^Edel, Introduction, p, 553»

^^Tlie critics who did not like "llie Saloon" found the whole situation implausible. They took especial exception to the candor with which the major characters, few of whom knew the others very well, spoke to one another. Even the critics who liked the play felt its closing moments were marred in performance by the ranting of the actors, James himself was particularly upset when he learned that, con­ trary to his instructions, Kingston had endeavored to make the ghost perceptible at the climactic moment. 10

In 1 8 9 3 f during his first infatuation with the theatre,

James had sketched out a scenario for what would become

The Other House. Compton rejected the scenario as inappro­ priate for his company, so James filed it away. In I8 9 6 , an opportunity arose to write a serial for the Illustrated

London News, and James recalled the rejected scenario as one that might bo sufficiently melodramatic for that publica­ tion. He adapted it into a serial that was published July through September of that year. In July, 1 9 0 8 , he re-applied himself to the task of treating the story in its originally intended form, Granville-Barker again rejected his efforts, but Herbert Trench took an option on the play for produc­ tion at the Haymarket, Unfortunately, Trench's projected repertory company experienced financial problems and collapsed before the play could be produced,

James's final play. , was intended to be his contribution to a London repertory season planned in 1909 by Charles Frohman that vreis also to showcase new plays by

Shaw, Granvil1e-Barker, Jolm Galsworthy, J, M, Barrie, John

Masefield, and Somerset I'laugham, James was understandably enthusiastic about moving in such company and threw himself into the writing of The Outcry with considerable fervor.

Shortly after finishing it he became ill, which made the always painful task of revising and cutting even more irritating. In fact, the illness ultimately sealed the play's doom, for James adamantly refused to allow even its 11 casting without his personal participation. As a conse­ quence, when I^irohraan’s project also collapsed for lack of funds, the play was still uncast, James finally adapted the story to novel form and published it.

The preceding survey of the production history of

James’s plays indicates that he did not take to the writing of plays in the manner, say, of a Eyron or Tennyson, to amuse himself with the intricacies of the form. It was never his intention to set for himself certain problems of stage writing for the sole purpose of discovering whether they could be solved. On the contrary, when he wrote a play he did so with the full intention of producing a respectable and functional artwork. He was neither a dilettante, nor, as he sometimes attempted to present him­ self, a purveyor of theatrical pulp whose sole motive was profit. He was, as in every other aspect of his profes­ sional life, a dedicated and conscientious artist, who, when writing plays, balanced the whole weight of his crea­ tive gift against the task of producing work that would be both art and good theatre. He was fully cognizant of the fact that, although literature should be dramatic and drama should be literate, each genre possesses essential requi­ sites of form that make it iniiercntly distinct from the other.

Few novelists have bettor understood the scope and structure of the novel, or enplainod it more lucidly, than 12

Henry James; it can also be said that he recognized, at least in theory, the limitations and potential of the dram—

tic form. Despite his plays' lack of commercial success,

they reveal a conscious and consistent effort to achieve

the dramatic form's maximum artistic potential while respecting its structural limitations.

However serious his artistic intentions, the fact remains that James's plays were singularly unsuccessful.

As a consequence, a troublesome critical question arises; why devote serious study to a group of plays, largely unproduced, that have slumbered in relatively quiet solitude

for nearly a centuiy? It would be most felicitous to be able to say that they are, in whole or part, a body of too-

long neglected masterpieces. That, unfortunately, cannot

be said. While each of James's dramas can be unreservedly

praised for certain of its parts (a scene here, a turn of dialogue there, in a few cases, even an entire act), only

one of them can be called, dm toto, a good play. In that

connection, however, it is important to be wazy of critical

absolutes. Art is, after all, a matter of positing (to borrow one of James's favorite terms) a donnee , a presump­

tive set of conditions, characteristics, and possibilities,

and then carefully realizing, through judicious execution,

the fullest potential inherent to that donnee, If the donnee is small, its potential is concommitantly limited.

The critic may, in such a case, decry the author's infertile 13 imagination, "but still find much that is edifying in his execution. On the other hand, and this is more frequently the case with James’s plays, an author may posit a donnee of considerable scope and potential, only to botch his finished product by imperfect execution.

The latter circumstance is deeply frustrating for the artist, but, at the same time, it provides the critic with an opportunity to perform yeoman service. Criticism is, relatively speaking, a simple task when the critic has only to congratulate the author on the richness of his concep­ tion and the perfection of his execution. There is, to be sure, a definite aesthetic value in a critic's lucid explan­ ation of why an art work is perfect; but he serves a more practical and, perhaps, more informative function in discern­ ing precisely where and how the artist missed his mark. To do that, the critic must begin by assuming that the author seriously intended to produce a work of art and that what he ended with, in terms of its execution, was what he envisioned at the start. Granted those assumptions, the criticism thus produced has importance proportionate to merit of the particular piece in question,

A group of plays produced by an artist as serious as

Henry James, an artist whose execution in both the novel and has been so widely admired, must provide the above-mentioned opportunity for "yeoman service." The fact that a serious novelist so utterly failed in his 14 equally serious attempts at playwriting raises questions,

the answers to which can only bo found in the peculiar distinctivoness of the dramatic form* If James failed as a playtfright, he did so not because his creative imagination

failed him, but because, within the narrow confines of the dramatic form, his execution was somehow imperfect. Indeed,

James himself was quite convinced that execution is the

touchstone of art, lie stated that conviction most succinctly in his essay, "The Art of Fiction” :

We must grant the artist his subject, his idea, his donnée : our criticism is applied to what he makes of it, , , , We may believe that of a certain idea oven the most sincere novelist can make nothing at all , , , but the failure will have been a failure to execute, and it is in the execution that the fatal weakness is recorded.

Just as James perceived the vital importance of execu­

tion to fine art, he realized that what it yields is an artistic form. Few words appear more frequently in James's

essays than "form," and fewer still are treated more lov­

ingly. It was entirely his pursuit of a more perfect form

for the novel that lead him to the development of the "dram­ atic novel,” It is significant, then, that what appealed

to him about the drama, despite his frequent subterfuge about the need for quick profit, was that "The dramatic 15 form seems to be of all literaiy forms the very noblest,"

^^lienry James, Partial Portraits, pp. 394-395« ^^Ilenry James, "Tennyson's Drama," Views and Reviews, ed, LeRoy Phillips, (: The Ball Publishing Company, 1 9 0 s), p, ISO, 15 On another occasion ho wrote, "I find the form opens out before me as if it wore a kingdom to conquer. . . . I feel as if I had found my form— my real one— that for which pale

fiction is an ineffectual substitute.The italics in both cases are James’s. It was also the dramatic form to which he was referring when, in I8 8I, he confided to his

journal: "The French stage I have mastered; I say that without hesitation. I have it in my pocket." 17

A curious paradox arises, then, in studying Honiy James as a playivright. On the one hand, he was a man for whom

the measure of artistry was execution within the prescribed limits of a form; a man, significantly, whose own execution in the novel form approached perfection. He was, at the same time, a man who felt the dramatic form to be the "very noblest" and to be one he had "mastered." In spite of all that, and in spite of the fact that his criticism of other dramatists invariably focussed on the dexterity, or lack

thereof, with which they manipulated dramatic form, his own efforts in it were a failure. That, indeed, is a pajradox worthy of critical inquiry.

As is the case with most paradoxical issues, this one conduces both to an easy solution and to one decidely less

^^Henry James, "Letter to ," February IS, I8 9 I, Lubbock, Volume I, p. 182.

17Edel, Introduction, p. 39» l6 facile. It would be simple enough to state that, clearly,

James had not mastered the dramatic form. To do so, however, would be to beg the question, not answer it. Such a response would tell the student little of how, in what particular details, James’s plays failed ; it would ignore the very concerns with which the not so facile solution is most intimately connected— -the ccncems from which criticism derives its greatest value.

Admittedly, mental energy is wasted when it is expended on matters of trivial weight. To demonstrate the failings of an artistic charlatan who was scarcely aware that a dramatic form existed, much less what other literary forms it might be distinct from, would be to trifle with the reader. However, to explore the failings of a genuine artist who was aware of the distinctiveness of the dramatic form, and who, both as a critic of that form and as a skilled practitioner of another demonstrated literary expertise, is clearly a different matter. Just as the scientist derives positive benefit from understanding why a respected col­ league's carefully planned experiment failed, so the serious student of dramatic literature has much to gain from careful examination of why Henry James’s attempts at execution in the dramatic form wore abortive. His plays should be crit­ ically examined, in other words, because they are not the hack offerings of a literary adventurer; they are, rather, inporfectly realized works of art from a man whose artistry. 17 on other occasions, came very close to perfection, Vhat

James's plays reveal about the principles of dramatic form is no less valuable for requiring negative, rather than positive, statement.

All critical examinations in the field of literature proceed from certain fundamental assumptions that may just as well be stated at the outset. The first of the assumptions on which this study is based is that the plays of Henry

James are themselves the primary sources to be exploited,

I'/liat James said of his plays and what contemporary critics said of them are equally suspect. Too often, an author equates his intention with his execution, whereas the two may be quite distinct; contemporary critics, most often in the guise of reviewers, too frequently deal in conclusions that are little more than expressions of taste, which, though valuable, are something less than exhaustive analyses. It is assumed in this study, then, that the best measure of an art work is the work itself.

The dramatist's psychology, his emotional state, even his bank account, may have been the basis upon which he decided to do this or that in a particular play; such information is a legitimate concern for the biographer, whose focus is on the man behind the work. The critic's proper focus, however, is on the work itself, and his field of inquiry is the artistic effectiveness of what the author did, not why he may have done it. The primary evidence of what James 18 did as a playwright is in the texts of the plays, and it is principally toward those texts that this study is directed.

The second basic assumption is really subsumed in the first, but it can be stated separately: the type of criti­ cal analysis employed should be formalistic. There are two reasons for that approach. First, the structural approach to dramatic criticism is the one most compatible with the questions of form and technique that constitute the chief interest of James's plays. Second, any approach that attempts to find a consistent, or even developing philosoph­ ical, moral, or social attitude in his plays would be destined to exhaust its fund of weighty pronouncements rather quickly. Though his plays have sometimes been referred to as Ibsenesque, they are decidedly lacking in

Ibsen's overt philosophic and social stances. Such concerns, except as they may determine or influence the handling of character, are more the province of the author's donnée than of his execution and, as such, are perhaps more pro­ perly the concern of the social than the dramatic critic.

It should be added, however, that James demonstrated in his plays the same predilection for characters of comfort­ able means and delicate sensibilities that is found in his tales and novels. Similarly, in the plays as in the novels, there exists among the sympathetic characters a distinc­ tively Jamesian sense of the past, an ever-so-slightly forlorn longing for a more gracious time. Both of those 19 facets of James's mind may be said to constitute a philo- phy that affected, in certain cases, his handling of char­ acter and situation. They will, as a result, bo more fully developed in Chapter One,

Notwithstanding the enormous amount of interest that

James's other literary endeavors have generated over the past forty years, his plays have been largely ignored by scholars. Scholarly interest in James has fallen, for the most part, into the following categories;

a) Biographical or critically biographical material :

The standard works of this sort are Henry James : Los années dramatiques (Paris, 1931) by Leon Edol and Henry James :

His Life and Writings (New York, 1936) by F, W, Dupee, As is apparent from its title, the former work is in French, but its most pertinent sections appear, translated, in

Edel's edition of The Complete Plays of Henry James, It is essentially a narrative account of James's activities as a playwright, containing little that might properly be called dramatic criticism. It is valuable, however, for its copious citations from James's letters and journals, many of which have not otherwise been published or been made available, Edel has also published a four-volume biography of James, but it contains little of relevance to this study that is not included in the works cited above, Dupee's work is a critical biography, but his criticism is mainly devoted to the major novels and tales. The plays he 20 mentions are treated rather cursorily, and several are not mentioned at all, Dupee has also published a volume entitled

Henry James ; Autobiography (New York, 195^)» a. compilation

of James's autobiographical works (A Small Hoy and Others,

Notes of a Son and Brother, and The Middle Years), James unfortunately never completed his multi-volume autobiography, and Dupee's compilation breaks off prior to the years dur­ ing which James's work in the theatre was done. It is useful only for the documentation it provides of James's long-standing interest in, and study of, the theatre,

b) Criticism of James's pure fiction: Work in this category constitutes the bulk of the scholarly work done on

James, but it has only marginal relevance to this study.

The most useful of such works are the several that attempt

to demonstrate a link between James's methodology as a playifright and the methodology he employed in his later novels. These studies establish very little that James had not already pointed out himself (cf, his Prefaces to The

Awlcward Ago and What Maisie Know) and make no real attempt

to analyze the plays. Indeed, they assume the failure of

the plays and proceed to point out all that James learned

from his failure as a dramatist. The most valuable work of

This sort is Henry James and the Dramatic Analogy (New York,

1 9 6 3 ) by Joseph Wiesenfarth, whose first chapter crystal­

lizes James's theoretical conceptions of "the dramatic" and documents what James considered to be its principal elements. 21

Virtually the same thing is done by a number of other works including several recent dissertations. They all teike essentially the same approach, however; they apply James's principles of "the dramatic" to the content and structure of his later novels, and, not surprisingly, they all arrive at much the same conclusions,

c) Criticism of James's plays ; This group of works can be considered da toto because the list is very short.

It begins with a thesis. The Plays of Henry James (Ohio

State, 1 9 3 3 )» ky Dorothy Donahey King. This work is, quite simply, inadequate. The author had available only what she refers to as the "story form" of five of the plays (The

American plus the four written between 1907 and 1909), and no version of Guy Domvillo at all. She states in her Pre­ face that after reading fiye of the plays she "became convinced that they wore good," and, accordingly, her thesis is more of a sympathetic appreciation than a critical analysis.

Another thesis, A Comparison of the Novel and Play

Forms of Henry James' "The American" (Ohio State, I9 6 3 ) by

Francino Pearl Hazard, is essentially an attempt to demon­ strate that James was out of his element in writing for the stage. The author's conclusion is that the novel version of The American is more artistically satisfying than the play (a point with which few would argue), primarily because it allows James to employ his "point-of-view" technique. 22 She grants that the play surpasses the novel in its treat­ ment of the conflict between the principal antagonists (a debatable point), but in general she pronounces the play a failure. Her analysis of the play itself is questionable because she appears to condemn it for unfolding its story in the manner of drama rather than the novel; more precisely, she condemns the dramatic form for denying James the use of those techniques that had served him to greatest advantage in the novel.

Versions of Melodrama ; A Study of the Fiction and

Drama of Henry James, 1865-1897 (Berkoly, 1957)» by Leo B.

Levy, is mainly concerned with James's novels and tales but does devote one chapter to liis plays. The author is intent on building a case that melodrama is, at base, a conflict between opposing forces of morality, that all of James's work is based on that kind of conflict, and that the best of his work is that which presents such a conflict most clearly. That thesis leads to some rather odd conclusions about James's plays. Levy calls the four plays published as Theatricals poor examples of melodrama, for example, because the leading characters are not strong "moral agents,"

That is hardly surprising when one considers that James wrote three of the four plays as mannered comedies, a genre for which strong "moral agents" are seldom required, Not surprisingly, the one he wrote as a melodrama. Tenants, is the one Levy has the greatest difficulty applying his thesis 23 to. Ile concedes that Tenants exliibits a "sldllfül manipu­ lation of scenes," and is a "dramaturgically intact, tech­ nically brillant work," but argues that it fails "because its dramatic cohesion conceals the flimsiest morality," 18

Unable to say its characters are not strong moral agents, in other words. Levy condemns the morality they represent.

His work is defective in that it rests on two a priori assumptions (what, in his view, constitutes ideal melodrama arid what constitutes ideal Jamesian art), both of ^vhich are external to the subject it purports to study. Levy does not so much analyze James's plays or novels as use them as examples to support his oim pre-conceived notions,

kudolf Hoffman's Henry James ; Dramatist (New York,

1 9 7 3 ) is the most thorough critique of James's plays avail­ able, but it is essentially what was referred to earlier as social criticism, Hoffman devotes a considerable amount of

time to details of James's life and the London environment in which most of his plays were written in an attempt to demonstrate how such factors influenced their social and philosophic content, While Hoffman's study is comprehensive and quite good in its own context, it touches the questions

of dramatic form and teclinique only lightly.

Two other brief treatments of James's plays complete

the list, 's Reading Henry James is a

18 Leo 13, Levy, Versions of Melodrama ; A Study of the Fiction and Drama of Henry James" I8 6 5—1S97, (Serkely: University of California Press, 1957)» PP« 81-82, 24 mostly sympathetic appreciation of one novelist by another, though Auchincloss’s sympathy docs not extend to James’s dramatic attempts, lie treats that aspect of James’s career in a short chapter, "The Theatre Years," and offers the interesting observation that what James "really wanted was to be a pla^n/right, rather than to write plays— a common 19 failing among novelists," lie does not treat the plays in any depth, but does include several astute comments about the defects in James’s use of dialogue, which have been useful in the present study.

The final work in this list is lîonald Peacock’s The

Poet in the Theatre, Like Auchincloss, Peacock offers no in—depth treatment of the plays, but he makes some inter­ esting speculations as to why they were destined to fail in

Victorian London, His essay also includes some intriguing commentary on the nature of the subjects James chose for dramatic treatment,

d) Miscellaneous ; A considerable amount of valuable spadework has already been done on Henry James by various scholars. At the top of the list is ’s compilation, under one cover, of all James’s dramatic efforts entitled

The Complete Plays of Henry James ( Phi lade Ipliia and Hew

York, 1 9 4 9 )» All the citations from James's plays in this

^^Louis Auchincloss, Reading Henry James, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1975), p, 103» 25 study are from the texts as printed in that volume. In addition, Edel's The Prefaces of Henry James (Paris, 193l) is an excellent exposition of the theories and methods developed by James and described in his Prefaces, The Pre­ faces themselves have been collated by Richard Blackraur into a volume entitled The Art of the Hovel (New York,

1 9 3 4 ), which was edited by Professor Blackmur and which contains liis perceptive Introduction, James's dramatic criticism, as noted earlier, has been collected by Alan

Wade in The Scenic Art (New Bnanswick, 1948), Literary

Reviews and Essays (New York, 1957) is a comprehensive collection of James's views on various French, English, and American authors edited by Albert Mordell, Richard

Foley's dissertation. Criticism in American Periodicals of the Works of Henry James from I8 6 6-I916 (Catholic Univer­ sity, 1 9 4 4 ) is a helpful assemblage of contemporary critical reactions, Percy Lubbock's The Letters of Henry James

(New York, 1920), in two volumes, is the most complete selection of James's correspondence, (Edel has also pub­ lished a less extensive volume of James's letters,) Eliz­ abeth Robins, the actress for whom James crafted several of his leading roles, has published an annotated collection of

James's correspondence with her under the title Theatre and

Friendship (New York, 1932), which contains some revealing information. The carefully recorded and always informative notebooks James kept have been published by F, 0, Hatthiessen 26 and Kenneth B. Murdock as The (New

York, 1 9 3 5 ) • The careful zind comprehensive work of those authors and numerous others has occasioned a considerable saving in time, travel, and expense in the preparation of this study.

The organization of this study is as follows; Chapter

One examines the extensive body of writing James produced dealing with the nature, forms, and conditions of drama in an attempt to discover the theoretical base from which his playwriting emerged. Chapter Two deals with James's early one-act efforts and extracts from them the "natural inclin­ ations" that he, as an artist, brought with him to the dramatic form. Chapter Three begins by setting down the fundamental requirements of melodrama as a dramatic form, then examines James's attempts at execution in that form.

Neither of the plays treated in that chapter are especially successful, and the reason for their failure is ascribed to

James's imperfect understanding of what melodrama requires with respect to the handling of the villain.

Chapter Four begins by offering some theoretical observations on the form and structure of comedy, then applies those observations to James's comedies. Nithout question, the three plays discussed in that chapter are

James's best efforts at playwriting, primarily because of the affinity between his "natural inclinations" as an artist and the requisites of comedy as a dramatic form. Chapter 27

Five treats James’s "serious plays," which have been so

designated because none of the traditional formal terms

(tragedy, melodrama, drame, otc.) is quite appropriate.

Indeed, to the extent that the play's fail, they do so

because they exhibit a curious mixing of forms.

Chapter Six treats the two plays James apparently wrote

to a particular "issue" or societal problem. Both of them

are weakened substantially by James's inability to effect

a proper balance between rhetorical purpose and dramatic

technique. Chapter Seven then offers what, hopefully, are

the logical conclusions to be drawn about James's diffi­

culties with the dramatic form. One further comment about the organization of this study must be made. Since James's plays are not well known, a decision had to be made as to whether it would be of greater service to the reader to attach synopses of the plays to the study as an appendix or to attempt to provide all the relevant information about the plays in the text.

In order to spare the reader the bother and confusion of constantly cross-referencing between text and appendix, the latter alternative was chosen. CHAPTER ORE


Henry James wrote 15 plays, but tliey wero not his only contributions to the field of drama, nor perhaps, in the long run, his most important. He had been a theatre-goer from his earliest years in Now York, and, by the time he got to the business of writing plays, he iiad closely observed the best theatrical faro on both sides of the Atlantic, By 1872, he had begun recording those observations in reviews and essays, a practice he would continue throughout his long career.

When exactly he began his quest for the "dramatic novel" is difficult to pinpoint, but after 1395 his journals and notebooks were filled with references to the methods and teclmiques it required. By 1907, when the Prefaces appended to the of collected novels and tales began to appear, his concern for the dramatic had become an over­ riding one, 'ihe Prefaces fairly resound with the words

"DramatizeI Dramatizei" as that ability grew to be, in his mind, indispensable to the writing of successful fiction.

As a result, there are many references in the Prefaces to the nature of the dramatic (as applicable to novel or play), and, to a lessor extent, to James's impressions of the dramatic form per so. Taken all together, his Prefaces, essays, and

28 29 reviews contain a considerable body of ideas and opinions on the nature of drama and the dramatic form; and while those ideas and opinions are hardly systematic enough to constitute a theoiy of drama, they are most revealing of James’s taste as an observer and sometime practicioner of theatre art.

There is, however, taste and taste; that is, taste may consist of instinctive, unreasoned preference or informed, fully appreciative choice. The former is of value only to the person holding it, but the latter, while retaining that value, has the further distinction of being useful to others interested in how it is informed and what it is likely to appreciate. Instinctive taste can respond only to the end- product, the finished effect, because it is ignorant of how that effect came about. On the other hand, the response of informed taste to a finished art object is substantially determined by its knowledge of the means by which that work was accomplished, and more importantly, by its awareness of the effect those same means, in more expert hands, might have achieved; by its awareness, in other words, of the potential inherent in those means. It is one thing to know that a gourmet meal does not taste quite as it should, but quite another to know what ingredient is missing or in the wrong proportion and to Imow as well the sublime pleasure the chef's ineptitude has denied the palate,

James' dramatic criticism was clearly of the latter variety, that is to say, an expression of informed artistic 30 taste. As such it is valuable for what it reveals of the end toward which ho felt drama should aspire and, to a lesser extent, the means by which that end might best be achieved.

The question of an end for art, any art, is significant because it lies at the base of all matters of taste, informed or otherwise, Ivhat it expresses is a choice in kind, a preference for one type or species within a class. If a critic's informed taste, his conception of drama's ideal end, runs toward the austere symmetry and balance of Racine's classicism, he is not likely to consider that end perfectly achieved by the prolix quality of Shakespeare's romanticism.

To prefer the former denies nothing of substance to the latter; it merely indicates that the critic's informed taste prefers an end of the classical kind to that of the romantic, 1/hen the critic in question happens also to be an artist, as James was, his criticism becomes valuable for what it presages about the end he would seek in his oivn art.

The first matter to bo discerned from Henry James's criticism, then, is what, in his view, constituted the ideal end of drama. The question is best answered by noting his admiration for the Theatre français. In a series of articles penned for American journals between 31 1872 and 1879»^ Jamos loft no doubt of liis conviction that the Theatre Français offered the finest in theatrical fare*

He felt that

surely, among the pleasures that one deliberately seeks emd pays for, none beguiles the human con­ sciousness so totally as a first ratg evening at the Theatre.Français or the Gymnase*

That series of articles reveal that James was singularly impressed by the grace and elegance of various French actors, cuid equally impressed by the traditional repertory of the

Theatre Français * lie rejoiced in the fact that, if he had missed Rachel, ho had seen Nathalie, Plessy, Desclee, Got,

Regnior, and Coquelin, Not surprisingly, the latter wero all traditional actors, much given to grace in movement and subtlety in intonation* He was less pleased by modernists 3 like Croizette, whom he branded as "brutal*"

All of these articles have been collected and reprinted by Alan Fade in a volume entitled The Scenic Art * (New Brunswick; Rutgers University Press, 19^8), For convenience, all quotations from articles reprinted in that collection will be cited by the page number on which they appear there* The name of the journal in which each article orig­ inally appeared, and its original date of publication, will be provided the first time the article is cited* 2 James, "The Parisian Stage," Scenic Art * p* 3* Appeared originally in Nation*. January 9» 1873* 3 James, "The Theatre.Français *" Scenic Art * p* 90* Appeared originally in The Galaxy* April, 1877* This article, which contains a full discussion of the French actors James liked and disliked, was reprinted by him in French.Poets and Novelists (London; MacMillan and Company, Ltd*, 1919), pp. 3 1 6 -3 4 4* 32

As for the plays, he delighted in the staple repertoire—

Moliere, Racine, and Corneille— but vas, in general, less enthusiastic about contemporary efforts. Of the latter, he most admired those which approached the style of the older plays, 's II nu faut .jurer de rien was one of James's favorites, admirable, in his view, for the elegant

"silvery tone" of its dialogue and the innocent charm of 4 its story,

James respected Alexandre Dumas fils' craftsmanship but, for the most part, deplored his ideas. He expressed guarded praise for lu Dame aux camélias,^ but could say nothing about, for example, L'Etrangère except that its

"story is both extremely improbable and profoundly dis­ agreeable , , , for there is not a character in the play who is not , , , misbehaving grossly,"^

James wrote virtually nothing about the vaudevilles, revues, and melodramas that adorned the stages of the various minor houses in Paris, Significantly, he had stated in the first of his impressions of

4 James, "The Parisian Stage," Scenic Art, p, 5,

^James, "Dumas the Younger," Scenic Art, pp, 26 2-6 3. Appeared originally in Notes on Novelists with Some Other Notes (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 19l4y%

^James, "Notes from Paris," Scenic Art, p, 6 0 , Appeared originally as a letter in the Now York Tribune, March 25, 18?6, 33

European tlieatre that he meant to "make a note of none but 7 pleasant impressions," so it is probable that his failure to write of those popular entertainments bespoke the dis­ pleasure with which he viewed them. The only exception to that rule of silence was the judgment he passed on the king of the boulevard theatres, , Expressing an opinion remarkably similar to that later expressed by Shaw,

James observed that

The charm with M, Sardou is not of a very high quality; he makes a play very much as he would make a pudding , . . Search M, Sardou's plays through and you will not find a trace of a personal conviction, of a moral emotion, of an intellectual temperament, of anything that malces the "atmosphere" of a work, TheygSeem to have been produced in a mental vacuum.

An important preliminary conclusion can be draim from just those random samplings of James's dramatic taste. He admired what was graceful, elegant, consciously artful, and he deplored any attempt to co-mingle art and life by remov­ ing from the former its ideal qualities. Much of the esteem with which he regarded the Theatre Français grew out of its persistent refusal to do that. The unique dis­ tinction of the Theatre Français, that which enabled it, in

7 James, "The Parisian Stage," Scenic Art, pp. 10-11, g Jamos, "The Parisian Stage," 1875-76, Scenic Art, p, 48, Appeared originally as a letter in the New York Tribune, January 29» 1876, 34

James's viov, to provide the ideal in dramatic art, was its insistence on "a certain largeness of style and robustness 9 of art," He lauded the fact, for instance, that Mile,

Fargueil, the reigning queen (in I8 7 6) of the minor French houses, had never been sought by the Theatre Français « He agreed that her "intensely Parisian intonation" would have been far too real for the "Maison do Moliere,

As might be expected by now, the word "ideal" is an important one in any discussion of James's taste in drama, lie used it frequently in his writings on the theatre, but with two subtly different meanings that should be noted.

First, James considered the traditional ropetoire of the

Theatre Français to be ideal in the sense that it represented drama at its best. Second, and more importantly, James considered drama at the Theatre Français ideal in the sense that it was idealized, that it presumed a distinction between life and art and preferred to emphasize the latter. In other words, James found the drama at the Theatre Français ideal because it demanded, both of its plays and its per­ formers, that they present themselves as conscious abstrac­ tions from real life, IThat could be found in that hallowed hall was, in his view, an

Q James, "The Theatre Français," Scenic Art, p, 90,

l°Ibid,. p, 78, 35 ideal and exemplary world— a world that has managed to attain all the felicities that the world we live in misses. The people do the things we should like to do; they are gifted as we should like to be; they have mastered tl^j aecomplishmonts that we have had to give up.

Earlier it was shoim that a drama critic's taste was

essentially the result of his conception of drama's end.

For Henry James, the proper end of drama was that it be art;

that, for both its characters and its situations, it fix its gaze squarely on that which might be in human affairs.

The great advantage of art, in his view, was that, being man-made, it could deal with whatever the mind of man could

imagine. Indeed, he believed the measure of all literary

art was its capacity to make "the way things don't happen

, , , pass for the way things do," 12 The only reality proper

to the drama, then, was the reality invented in performance

by the actors in accord with the equally invented reality

of the script itself. It was that conviction which led

James to opine that Ellon Terry had "too much nature, and we should like a little more art," 13 He made his point

^^Ibid,, p. 72.

James, "Preface to The American," from The Art of the Hovel, ed, Richard P, Blackmur, (How York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 193^0» P. 3^, This work contains all of James's Prefaces under one cover, so all future citations from them will be referenced by the title of the novel and the page number on which the material appears in The Art of the Hovel,

^^James, "The London Theatres," Scenic.Art, p, l42. Appeared originally in Scribner's Monthly, January, 1881, 36 most succinctly, however, in his assessment of the acting of a certain George liignold;

he desires to bo natural and real— a most laudable ambition; but there is reality and reality. When you have Shakespeare's speeches to utter, your reality must be a sort of imaginative compromise; you must wind your w^^lo conception up to a certain exalted pitch, . . .

James clearly preferred drama that operated at an

"exalted pitch," and it was that preference, or taste, that led him to esteem the Theatre Français so highly. Drama at an "exalted pitch" for him was not drama that reeked of real life, but drama that reeked of art. In that connection, the distaste with which he viewed the English penchant for illusionistic scenery is revealing. In a little dialogue entitled "After the Play," James made the character Dorri- forth spealc for him;

, , , It is so much less easy to get good actors than good scenery and to represent a situation by the delicacy of personal art than by "building it in" and having everything real. Surely there is no reality worth a farthing on the stage, but what the actor gives , , , ho hasn't a decent respect for his art unless he is ready to render his part as if the whole illusion depended on that alone and the accessories didn't exist,^5

^fhen one of the other characters pointed out that good scenery was at least pleasant to the eye, Dorriforth had

^^James, "Mr, George Rignold," Scenic Art, pp, 33-34, Appeared originally in Nation, May 27, 1873.

^^James, "After the Play," Scenic Art, pp, 230-31. Appeared originally in New Hevdew, June, 1889. 37 to agree, but vitli a reservation.

Good scenery and poor acting are better than, poor scenery with the same sauce. Only it becomes then another matter; we are no longer talking about the drama.

To be "talking about the drama" was, for James, to be talk­ ing about what Dorriforth later called "the old supersti­ tion, the bravery of execution, the eloquence of the lips, 17 the interpretation of character."

It should bo clear then, that what constituted the ideal end of drama was, for James, a certain pristine qual­ ity that emphasized grace, elegance, and simplicity— or, put another way— that emphasized art. lie demanded those qualities both from playscripts and performers.

His demand that drama consciously emphasize art, at the expense, if need be, of reality, should not be taken as a call for artificiality. liather, it was James's way of suggesting that art was pre-eminently two things: in its conception, it was a product of human imagination, emd in its construction, a process of realizing potential (cf. p. 12» this study). lienee, since the dramatist could con­ ceive of man in either a base or a fine aspect, James felt the conception bearing the greatest potential for the con­ structive process should be preferred. As a consequence.

^^Ibid., p. 2 3 2.

l^Ibid., p. 233. 38

he believed that literary art (including drama) should

incline toward characters and situations in which man's

finer aspect, his intelligence, was exploited.

V/e have said just now that its /criticism, and concom- mitantly, the art it criticize^/ duty was . . . to exalt, if possible, the importance of the ideal. Me should perhaps have said the intellectual,^^ As James saw it, then, to emphasize the intellectual in drama was not to be less real (or more artificial); it was simply

to be less common,

James objected strongly, in various writings, to any

suggestion that drama must be useful, other than as a pur­ veyor of pure truth— that it, for instance, should have any 19 moral or social utility. He was especially disturbed by

suggestions that drama could only be real in proportion as

it had such utility. He agreed with that if

an artwork were tme, it would have social or moral

James, "Matthew Arnold's Essays," Views and Reviews, p. 9 4 ,

19Examples of James's conviction that art has no neces­ sary social or moral purpose abound in his essays, articles, and Prefaces, /unong his more concise statements on the sub­ ject are such comments as; "We are by no means sure that art is vexy intimately connected with a moral mission , , ," ("The School for Scandal at Boston," Scenic Art, p, l4. Appeared originally in the Atlantic Monthly, December, 1874,); "Coarse adaptations of French comedies , , , quite_sacrificed to the queer obeisances they are obliged to malce /,in England/ to that incongruous phantom of morality which has not wit enough to provide itself with an entertainment con­ ceived in its own image," ("The London Theatres," Scenic Art, pp, 1 2 3-2 4,) If art owed allegiance to anything outside its nature as art, it was, in James's view, good taste— which had nothing to do with conventional morality or societal wisdom. 39 application, but ho agreed as veil that such vas neither the purpose of art nor the end toward which it should be directed. 20 The contemporary English (and to a lesser extent, French) predilection for drama that was real and natural was, for James, a manifestation of England’s obses­ sion for things practical to the exclusion of things ideal.

It has long seemed to us that, as a nation, the English are singularly incapable of large, of high, of general views. They are indifferent to pure truth, , , , Their views are almost exclusively practical, and it is in the nature of practical views to be narrow,21

If that wero true of the English mind, it ran in direct opposition to James’s conception of the business of art, which was "to malce truth generally accessible," and not,

"to apply it,"^^

The "exalted pitch" James preferred in drama, then, was what he elsewhere called the "high ground" on which drama owed only passing allegiance to the common concerns of day- to-day life. The greatest potential inherent to dramatic art was, for him, its capacity to shalce off the bonds of practical necessity that malce real life so routine. On that basis, he greatly admired the work of Edmond Hostand, who

20 James, "Matthew Arnold’s Essays," View and keviews, pp. 94-95.------Z^ibid.. p, 92,

Z^ibid.. p, 94, ho had, in James's view, pushed his drama beyond the real to a point where, "emotions, passions, manners have ceased to reckon with life at all, and yet have become the more 23 absorbing." lie respected Rostand's work for having that same "largeness of style and robustness of art" he found so appealing about the Theatre Français, for, in short, achiev­ ing an intellectual ideal in drama.

James was equally impressed by Georg Eliot's The Span- 2h ash Gypsy, her one foray into the realm of drama. Because it was, like Rostand's plays, a "romance," he advised that its story "should not be regarded as a rigid transcript of actual or possible fact . . the action goes on in an artificial world, , , , Therein lay its charm

23 -^James, "Edmond Rostand," Scenic Art, p, 315. Appeared originally in Comhill Magazine, and simultaneously, in Critic. November, 1901,

2hThe word drama is used loosely here, for The Spanish Gypsy was never intended for performance. It is, in fact, more a dramatic poem than a poetic drama. It alternates between dialogue and narrative and lacks any real dramatic movement. It is proper to include James's remarks about it, however, because he treats it as a romantic drama, 23 James, "The Poetry of Georg Eliot," Vicws and Reviews, p, 124, James's use of the word "possible" is curious. As has already been pointed out in this study, he believed that the possible in art was limited only by the range of the artist's imagination and that the artist proved his worth by making the possible appear "probable" or even "necessary" through expert application of his craft. He may have meant that the story of a romance like Cyrano was not possible or, at least, not very likely in real life, but he would cer­ tainly never have argued that Rostand failed to make it seem so in the play. Indeed, what he admired most about the romance, whether from the pen of Rostand or Eliot, was its ability to make the intellectually ideal seem real. kl for Jamos, By positing an artificial world, Eliot had, he felt, widened the perimeters of possible action and allowed herself the greatest opportunity to explore the finer aspects of human nature. In that imaginative world her characters could be "largely a vision of the intellect," They could thus act, think, speak, and suffer to the fullness of what might bo for man and pay not a wluLt of obeisance to the narrower limits of human capability in real life. As ideal characters Eliot's creatures could "illustrate the nobleness of human nature divorced from its smallness,and that, for James, was itself an ideal earnestly to be sought.

Two further conclusions may be drawn about James's taste in drama at this point. First, he found the artful con­ struction of a plainly artificial world to be a desirable attribute of drama and, more importantly, one it had a 27 unique capacity to achieve; and second, he preferred

^^Ibid,, p, 124. 27 In tlie essay cited above, Jamos said; "as efficient figures in gn essentially ideal and romantic drama, Fedalma and Zarca J_the leading characters in The Spanish Gypsy 7 seem vastly to gain, and to shine with a brilliant radiance," p. 124, He went on to suggest that that effect could only occur in a drama; that in a novel it would be "next to impos­ sible" to persuade readers to accept such larger-than-life characters, "In novels we not only forgive that weakness which is common and familiar and human, but we actually demand it," p, 125* The great advantage enjoyed by the drama was, then, as James saw it, that an audience would accept in it a considerable "compromise with reality" and demand no more than that "the fable be consistent with itself," p, 123» The significance of that was that it allowed drama to be animated by a wholly different system of logic than either real life or the novel. 42 representations of man's "nobleness" to those of his "small­ ness." Those two conclusions are of considerable importance,

The first invites consideration of the dramatic form, the source of drama's strongest appeal to James as an artist— while the second conduces directly to consideration of the kinds of characters and situations James found most appro­ priate in drama.

Beyond question, matters of form and technique in art were of paramount importance to James. Indeed, the solu­ tion of technical problems was very nearly, for him, the foremost pleasure to bo found in art.

Circumventions of difficulty . . . are precisely the finest privilege of the craftsman, . . . These technical subterfuges and subtleties, these indirectly-expressed values, kept indirect in a higher interest, made subordinate to some general beauty, some artistic intention that can give an account of itself, what are they . . . but one of the nobler parts of our amusemont?2S

Beyond the pleasure derived by the artist in taking the measure of a formal problem, James hold firmly to the conviction that the interest inlierent to any subject was

28 ^James, The Spoils of Poynton. p. 137. 43 vholly dependent on the form in vhich it vas presented. 29

Don't let anyone persuade you that strenuous selection and comparison are not the very essence of art, and that Form is (not) substance to that de£7ree that there is absolutely no substance without it. Form alone talces, and holds and preserves, substance— saves it from the welter of helpless verbiage* * . . There is nothing so deplorable as a work of art with a leak in its interest; emd there is no such leak of interest as through commonness of form. Its opposite, the found (because the sought-for) form is the absolute citadel and tabernacle of interest,

The more complex tho technical problems presented by an art form, the more James was attracted to it, lie was particularly proud, for instance, of his novel. The A-vvk'tv’-ard

Age, because it had demanded such close attention to formal concerns, 31 lie was convinced, however, that of all the

29 James was absolutely unequivocal on this point. The disdain with which he regarded Tolstoi's writing, because of its lack of apparent form, has been well-documented, but the same basic complaint was the source of his ill-feeling toward Swinburne, Prescott, Balzac (on occasion), Zola, and even Robert Browning, lie took pointed exception to Browning's flaunting of dramatic form in his play The Inn House ; " 'That bard's a Browning; he neglects tho form!' one of the characters exclaims with irresponsible franlcness, That Mr, Broivning Icnows ho 'neglects the form,' and does not partic­ ularly care, does not very much help matters; it only deep­ ens the reader's sense of the graceless and thankless and altogether unavailable character of the poem," ("On a Drama of Jlr, Browning's," Views and Reviews, p, 42,)

30^James, "Letter to Hugh i/alpolo," May 19, 1912, Ldel collection,;ctd p, 171,

31■James, Proface to Th o Ai/kward Age, The Art of the Hovel, pp. 106-109. The problem, as James saw it, was that the subject of Tho Aivkward Ago demanded treatment essentially in a dialogue format. How to accomplish that within the framework of a novel struck James as "wonderfully amusing and delightfully difficult." 44 literary forms, drama offered tlio most difficult technical problems,

The fine thing in a real drama, generally spoalc- ing, is that, more than any other work of lit- erarv art, it needs a masterly structure . . . lie l_ tho artist_7 must combine and arrange, interpolate and eliminate, play the joiner with the most attentive skill, . , « The five-act drama . . . is like a box of fixed dimensions and inelastic material, into which a mass of precious things are to bo packed away . . . The precious things in question seem out of all pro­ portion to tho compass of the receptacle, , , , Tho false dramatist either loiocks out the sides of his box, or plays the deuce with the contents; the real one gets down on his loiees, disposes of his goods tentatively . . . and at last rises in triumph, having packed his coffer in the one way that is mathematically right. It closes perfectly, and the lock turns with a click; between one object and another you cannot insert the point of a penknife. 32

It is unfortunate that almost all of James's explicit references to the dramatic form were, like the one just cited, highly figurative in nature. He reserved his use of technical terms, such as "scene," "picture," "intensity,"

"objectivity," "economy," for the most part, to discussions of tho dramatic novel. 33 Those discussions reveal, however.

3P James, "Tennyson's Drama," Views and Reviews. pp. 1 8 1 -8 2.

33Full discussions of James's use of technical termi­ nology may be found in Joseph Darren Reach's The Method of henry James (Philadelphia, 1934) and Edwin Marion Snell's The Modern Fables of Ifonry James (Cambridge, 1935)* Per­ haps tho most readable and concise discussion of tho sub­ ject appears in the first chapter of Joseph Diesenfarth's Henry James and the Dramatic Analogy (Hew York, I9 6 3 ). 45

a great deal about what, in James's view, constituted liter­ ary action that was dramatic; as a result, they also con­

tain much that has application, in an indirect manner, to

the dramatic form itself.

Before examining James's technical terms, however, a quick look at his analogical references to the dramatic form

should prove informative. It is interesting, for instance,

that the comparative terms he employed in describing drama

suggest an abstract and intellectually ideal quality about

its form. No human activity is more abstract or ideal than mathematics, which James frequently made analagous to the dramatic form.

The play consents to the logic of but one way, mathematically right, and with tho loose end as gross an impertinence on its surface , , , as the dangle of a snippet of silk or wool on the right side of a t a p e s t r y . 34

James's reference to the "mathematically right" struc­

ture of a play and his reference, cited earlier, to the

dramatic form as a "box of fixed dimensions" are indicative

of the ideal precision he thought not only inherent but necessary to drama as a distinct art form. Of equal signif­

icance, however, was his perception that the need for such

ideal precision required of the drama that its action, like

a mathematical solution, be "shut up wholly to cross-

34 James, Preface to The Awlo/ard Age, The Art of the Novel, p, ll4. he relations, relations all within the action itself; no part of which is related to anything hut some other part, , , , " 3 5

The supreme "beauty and difficulty" of the dramatic form, then, was that it demanded a closed world where no part existed unless required to do so by the other parts, and each part so required was present in exact proportion.

That, of course, could be said, to some extent, of any literary form; but, continuing the mathematical analogy,

James indicated that drama's special abstractive quality was that references within its action could "only be, with intensity, to each other, to things on the same plane of o ^ exhibition with themselves."

That point is critical to James's concept of dramatic form, but to fully understand it requires consideration of the distinctly different manner in which, to James's mind, the action of a novel progressed, James believed that, necessarily, the structure of a novel was divided between

"scenes" and "pictures," The scene was, in his view, the more critical component, one he defined as a unit of action proceeding from "logical start," through "logical turn," to

^^Jbid.. p. 114.

James, Preface to , p. Il4. 47

"logical finish." 37 A scene in that sense could bo either inward or outward in nature. An inward unit of action existed when the gradually emerging (through the steps just noted) thoughts or emotions of a character wore narrated by the novelist; an outward scene, conversely, was one that could progress from "logical start" to "logical finish" primarily on tho strength of the words and movements of the character himself. Tho inward kind of scene was, as James saw it, less dramatic than tho outward type because it con­ sisted perforce of narration and thus required the novelist to openly reveal himself "going behind" the character in such a manner as to speak for him. That circumstance could not be avoided by the novelist, nor, in James's judgment, should it be. it enabled tho novelist to present characters 38 in whom a fully "rounded action is embodied." At the

37 James, Preface to Tho Ambassadors, p. 323. This def­ inition should not bo confused with the "beginning," "middle," and "end" Aristotle described as the parts of a fully formed dramatic action. James regarded scenes as autonomous units, each containing its own beginning, middle, and end. Aristotle would not, of course, have objected to that idea, but he would most certainly have objected to the way in which James applied it to his plays. Specifically, James seldom based the logical start of a scenic unit on the logical finish of tho one preceding it, but rather, on the information provided by a narrative picture separating the two. The undesirabil­ ity of that formula in drama will be discussed in detail in Chapter Ti;o, as will James's difficulty with keeping a second plane of exhibition— himself— out of his plays. O O James, Tlie Notebooks of henry James, ed. F. 0. Matthiessen and kenneth II. î^lurdock, (New York; George Braziller, Inc., 1955)» p. 368. 48 samo time, however, it necessitated the introduction of a

"second plane of exhibition" into the action, tho figure

(however cleverly disguised) of tho artist himself. Tho same was true in a novel even when the scone was outward in nature, when it progressed largely through movement and dialogue. Tho inevitable "he said," or "he sat do'im," clearly revealed tho presence of a reporter who was not an inlierent part of tho action and thus constituted a second plane of exhibition.

For James, then, the sine qua non of a scene, whether in a novel or a play, was that it depict action. 39 The difference between the two lay in the fact that the action

39James considered that drama could only occur as a "small straight action," (Preface to Tho Reverberator, p. 1 8 2.) by which ho meant that the artist's idea "must resolve itself into a little action, and the little action into tho essential drama." (Notebooks, p. 1 9 8 .) The word action has been problematic in criticism since Aristotle; and James did little, really, to clear the air. While he never used it in the manner of Aristotle's praxis « he did at times use it in the sense of mythos (plot) , that is, as tho element exercising formal control over the completed whole. In that sense, he likened action to a "tense cord « . on which to string the pearls of detail." (better to Mrs. bvorard Coates, bdol's Letters, p. 210.) On other occa­ sions, however, he spoke of action in the sense of events-- the "pearls of detail" rather than the "tense cord." In any event, action always connoted for him some kind of movement or change, either internal as an idea or emotion, or external as a physical occurrence. In either case, action was the "essence of drama" and could only bo expressed as tho answer to questions like, "what will happen, who suffer, who not suffer, what turn be determined, what crisis created, what issue found." (Preface to Thc Awkward Age, p. 102.) 49 of a play reached tho audience directly, while that of tho novel did so only through continuous reference to something outside itself— the artist— who served variously to speak for the characters, relate their activities, or guide the reader's reaction to those activities.

If a second plane of exhibition was unavoidable in the scenes of a novel, it was even more so in those sections to which James applied the word "picture." A picture in a novel was simply a passage that described people, places, or things. As such, it was devoid of action, and thus non- scenic, but still necessary to supply the framework within 40 which a scene could occur. The novelist employed pictures, then, to prepare for a scene (action) in the place or by the person described.

That was the only justification James allowed for the introduction of a picture; description engaged in for its own sake was anathema to him. In that connection, his wry dosczip- tion of Harriet Beecher Prescott's writing is typical, "If tho dictionary were a palette of colors, and the goose-quill a brush, îliss Prescott would be a very clever painter," ("Miss Prescott's Azarian," Notes and Reviews, cd. Pierre de Chaignon la Rose, (Cambridge; Dunster House, 192l), p. 20.) She was not, however, to his mind, a very clover writer, 4l James also used tho word picture in reference to someone's (usually tho reporter's) synthesized impression of a character or situation. In that sense, it approached veiy nearly tho status of a narrated scone, an area of overlap of which James was aware. "To report at all closely of what 'passes' on a given occasion is inevitably to become more or loss scenic." (Preface to , p. 325») In effect, then, a synthesized impression was a picture when it came out, as it were, fully—formed in a single stroke— when it was a summary presented as a conclusion. Ifhen the inward mental or emotional processes leading to the conclusion were narrated as well, it became a narrated scene. 50

That the story of a novel could not "come out" on a

single plane of exhibition, that it had to consist of alter­ nating pictures and scenes— both of which required a secon­

dary plane— was no cause for dissatisfaction. It was simply a

fact of the novel's form that the true novelist embraced for

the advantages it offered. On the other hand, James adhered

to a "loss is better" philosophy about ai't in general, by

which ho meant that if drama offered fewer liberties than

the novel, to succeed in it would occasion greater pleasure.

James believed that the dramatic form denied the art­

ist any opportunity to extend his subject beyond the plane of

exhibition on which the action itself occurred. Neither the

characters nor the situation in a play could have reference to anything (a reporter for instance) outside themselves and tlieir

constructed inter-relationship. fuiy conclusion the dramatist desired his audience to perceive had to be apparent in, and

integral to, his invented action. The dramatist could not

employ tlie narrated scene (except of course by way of an

extended monologue— and then not to the degree available to

the novelist) or the picture. he was restricted almost entirely

to those outward kinds of scenes consisting of "Action which

is never dialogue and dialogue which is always action." h2

Z( 2 James was much given to such cryptic statements, particularly when writing about the drama. Vhat he appeared to moan by tho above was that action in a play— that is, change— must bo depicted ini dialogue not described through dialogue. In other words, it is better in a play to show action than to toll about it. That was hardly a new thought nor one likely to provoke much disagreement; it was also, however, a concept that James had difficulty realizing in practice. 51

Wliat made the dramatic form different from that of the novel vas primarily, then, that it restricted action to a single plane of exliihition— that it permitted no reference

Jo anything not intrinsically a part of that action. That fundamental requirement of tho dramatic form vas, in James's view, the source of tho

divine distinction of . , , a play . . ,_its special, its guarded objectivity . . . / vhich_7 when achieving its ideal, came from the imposed absence of that "going behind," to compass explan­ ations and amplifications, to drag out odds and ends from tho "mere" story-teller's great property shop of aids to illusion,

That kind of "objectivity" required of tho dramatist that he render, undiluted, as it were, only the high points in human conflicts. To do so required that he accept a greater

"compromise with reality" than did the novelist, but that was something for vhich ho could compensate by raising his action to a more "exalted pitch,"

In effect, James thought the dramatic form, necessarily objective and confined in its action to a single plane of exhibition, to be best served by vhat he called "the Romantic formula, the short cut of antithesis . . . / that_/ ignores shades and lives on high contrasts,"^’ Shades and subtleties were, in his view, the substance of those inward scenes already noted as more appropriate to the novel, the

2| 3 James, Preface to The Aivlciv-ard Ago, p , 110,

hhJames, "bdmond Rostand," Scenic Art, p, 320, 52 existence of vhich almost demanded a second plane of exhibi­ tion, lîy "high contrasts," on the other hand, James had in mind explicity outward conflicts that were by nature com­ putable with tho single oxhibitional plane of "Action which is never dialogue and dialogue which is always action," To consciously suborn the subtle, inward transmutations that were so much a part of both real life and tho novel was the supreme challenge facing any artist presuming to write in the dramatic form. As James saw it.

To combine as much as possible of tho theatric with as much of the universal as tho theatric will take— that is the constant problem, and one in which the maximum and minimum of effect are separated from each other by a hair-line. The theatric is so apt to be tho outward, and the universal to be the inward, that, in spite of their enjoying scarce more common ground than fish and fowl, they often^ manage to pock at each other with fatal results,

Hence, an artist who attempted to treat a truly com­ plex subject in the dramatic form was embarking on a very difficult task, James noted that critics were fond of

cautioning tho prospective dramatist

"that you have to be, supremely, throe things; you have to be true to your form, you have to be interesting, you have to be clear. You have in other words to prove yourself adequate to taking a heavy weight. Hut we defy you really to conform to your conditions with any but a light one. Make the thing you have to convey . , , at all rich and complex, and you cease to be clear. hemain clear . . . and what becomes of the 'importance' of your subject?"^u

^^^Ibid. . pp. 315-16. 46 James, Preface to TIic Awkv;ard Ago. p. 112.. 53

As much as he admired ilcnrik Urbson, James found him, in that connection,

vondcrfully a case in point, since from the moment he's clear, from the moment h e ’s amusing, it’s on the footing of a thesis as simple and superficial as that of A Doll’s House— -while from the moment he’s hy apparent intention comprehensive and search­ ing, it’s on the footing of an effect as confused and obscure as The HiId Duck.^7

The problem for tho dramatist, then, was to recognize that the "hairline" referred to above represented the extreme limit of the dramatic form’s potential, tho dividing lino between what was proper to the drama and what was proper to the novel. That limit was one to be approached as closely as possible, but not to bo exceeded. The dramatist had to recognize, in other words, that drama was a distinct "kind"— or form— of literature, and as such, had a specific ideal end toward which it should aspire. The importance of that recognition lay in the fact that

"Kinds" arc the very life of literature, and truth and strength come from the complete recognition of them, from abounding to the utmost in their respec­ tive senses and sinlcing deep into their consis­ tency . . . the confusion of kinds is the inelegance of letters and stultification of values, , ,

Each "kind" of literature had, in James’s view, advan­ tages and disadvantages peculiar to itself. The t m e artist minimized the disadvantages of his form and attempted to make

hi 'ibid., p. 1 1 3 ..

^^Ibid., pp. 110-111. 54

the most of tho advantages it offered. In the case of the dramatic form, James considered its great advantage to be that "an acted play is a novel intensified; it realizes what tho novel suggests, , , . T\/o things are important about that statement; first, and most obviously, its suggestion of the value of intensity in drama; and second, its specific reference to an "acted play." The dramatic form’s objectiv­ ity, its requisite single plane of exhibition, necessarily precluded, in James's view, the shades and subtleties avail­ able to the fully rounded action of a novel. To remove them, the dramatist had to compress his action until all that remained wore the high contrasts that would give his play its intensity. Like a dried fruit needing the infusion of water

to assume its full shape and taste, however, tho compressed action of a drama required the infusion of life provided by actors to make its Iiigli contrasts intelligible. James made that point quite clearly in writing about I;odda Cabler.

The play, on peinsal, left one comparatively muddled and mystified, fascinated, but— in one’s intellectual sympathy— snubbed. Acted, it leads that sympathy over tho straightest of roads with all tho exhilaration of a superior p a c e . 50

If, then, the actor were to lead "one’s intellectual

sympathy" from high contrast to high contrast in an

i| 9 James, "The Parisian btage," Scenic Art, p. 3»

50James, "hedda Cabler," Essays in London and Else­ where , p. 234. 55

intelligible manner, it vas essential that tho dramatist

avoid purely literary touches vhich, no matter hov beautiful,

could seorve only to deflect the actor, and with him, tho

audience, from their proper path. Hence, in reviewing Lord

Tennyson's Queen Mary. James complained about its ample

supply of

Lovely pictures of things standing, with a sort of conscious stillness, for their poetic likeness, measured speeches, full of delicate harmonies and curious cadences— these things they contain in plenty, but little of that liberal handling of cross-speaking passion and humour vhich, with a strong constructive faculty, ve regard as the sign of a genuine dramatist.51

Similarly, he deplored plays that were insufficiently

stocked with the high contrasts needed by the actor to

capture and maintain audience interest. For that reason, he advised Llizabeth Hobins not to produce Dumas fils'

Denise. calling it a

long, analytical, psychological, conversational novel, with action and movement reduced to their minimum, and discourse and the development of an idea raised to their maximum. It is intellectual, argumentative, slov-moving, copious, full of shades and subtleties, « . ,

James fotmd the converse of that situation to exist in

virtually all of Posen's plays, a fact that accounted for

their signal value.

151 James, "Tennyson's Drama," Views and Hoviews. p. 180.

James, Letter to Elizabeth Hobins, (quoted in) Friendship and Theatre. p. 155* 56

There is l_ in John Gabrio 1 Borkman ~J a positive odor of spiritual paraffin. Tho author neverthe­ less arrives at tho dramatist’s ^reat froal— ho arrives for all his meagerness at intensity.53

Intensity, of the kind achieved by Ibsen, was, as James saw it, the rich reward awaiting the dramatist with courage enough to exorcise the compression and objectivity that being true to the dramatic form required. He felt that, especially in drama,

the felicity of the artist’s state dwells less . . . in the further delightful complications he can smuggle in than in those he succeeds in keeping out.54

Tho art of drama was, for him, a process, "a squeezing out, of value . . 55 from the subject chosen. that the play­ wright gained from that process was an intensity James doomed so cmcial to the success of drama as to be "the grace to which the enlightened story-teller will at any time, for his interest, sacrifice if need be all other graces, « . ."56

55James, " John Gabriel BorJcinan, " Scenic Art, p. 293« Appeared originally in ’s feekly. I'ebmary 6 , 1897.

54James, Preface to The Ambassadors, p. 312. In fact, the kind of artist James had specifically in mind here was a novelist, not a dramatist. It is easy, however, in reading his Prefaces, to lose sight of the distinction between the two, "Hovel" almost always meant "dramatic novel," the fun­ damental requirement of which was that it "show" its story to as full a degree as possible in the manner of the drama. As a consequence, its structural requirements were essentially identical, in James’s mind, to those of tho drama. khat ho mandated for the dramatic novelist, then, was, in every important respect, what he mandated for the dramatist as well.

^^Ibid.. p. 3 1 2.

S^Ibid.. p. 3-18. 57

The chief result of tho intensity a dramatist gained by

"squeezing out" his subject was v/hat James called "a large unity," 57 that is, an. action so fully compressed that nothing remained beyond the relevant interests and inten­ tions of the characters. That "unity" uas, in turn, what allowed Ibsen, for example, to ask of his audience

so few concessions. That is for the most part tho accomplished thing in Ibsen, , • , he puts 3^ to no expense worth speaking— he takes all the expense himself. I mean that he thinks out our entertain­ ment for us and sjiapes it of thinkable things, the passions, the idiosyncrasies, the cupidities and jealousies, tho strivings and struggles, tho joys and sufferings of men, , . .5^

Tbsen achieved his admirable intensity, then, by pre­ senting an action that was "infinitely noted," that is, an action from which all but the high points "of character and conduct" had been excised— leaving only "the touches that illustrate them." 59 Significantly, the intensity Ibsen produced in that manner was, for James, tho necessary result of his absolute allegiance to tho objectivity cind single oxhibitional plane inlierent to tho dramatic form. By stub­ bornly squeezing out shades and nuances from his action,

Ibsen managed always to present his characters in the act of thinking, doing, suffering or triumphing. The reasoning

57lbid.. p. 3IÜ.

James, "iiodda Cabler. " ; is say in Inndon and Elsewhere. p. 243.

59 b i d .. p. 237. 58 why for his characters, ho accomplished in tho privacy of his study, so that idiat his audience actually saw was an intensity derived from "dealing essentially with the indi­ vidual caught in the fact" of action, not in the considera­ tion thereof.It had only, in other words, to watch Ibsen's characters do or die.

That, to accomplish that, Ibsen was required to sacri­ fice most of the shades and subtleties in character and situation that wore the delight of the novelist was, for

James, a moot point; when balanced against the effect his severely intensified action had on an audience, it was not even an important one.

] f Jolin Gabriel borkman is but a pennyworth of effect as to a character we can imagine much more amply prosonkod, and if Iiodda dablor makes an appeal enfeebled by remarkable vagueness, there is by the nature of the ease no catching the convicted, or call him the deluded, spectator or reader in tho act of a mistake. lie is to be caught at tho worst in the act of attention, of the very greatest attention, and that is all, as a precious prelim­ inary at Joast, that the pla^ivright asks of him* . .

James firmly believed that all literary art demanded an absolute rapprochement between content and treatment. For him, "'The thing done,' artistically is a fusion J_ of content and treatment^/ or it lias not been done." At tho same

^^Ibid., p. 246.

^^James, Prefact to llie Awkward Age, p. 113.

^^Ibid.. p. 1 1 6 . 59 time, however, he felt that just as there was an inlierent difference between the form of the novel and the form of the drama, so also was there a difference between the kinds of content and treatment appropriate to each. Hence, when

James admonished the dramatist to be true to his form, he meant for him to do three things: l) acknowledge the nat­ urally outward inclination of the form and thus restrict his choice of material largely to subjects fraught with those "high contrasts" that were themselves outward expres­ sions of conflict; 2) acknowledge the absolute necessity for treating his subject on a single plane of exhibition; and 3) insure that the manner in which he treated the subject bo intense— that it neither impocle, through purely narrative touches, the requisite swift progression of lively events, nor dwell too long on those subtle, inward transmutations of character or situation that were properly the province of the novel.

For James, the dramatic form was ideal because it had, by its nature, the capacity to deal with idealized subjects in an idealized manner. In combination, tho objectivity and intensity it required made tho action of a play, in effect, a world requiring no more direct relationship to real life than that of a glass statue. Shut off "wholly to cross- relations" on a "single plane of exhibition," the action of a play required not the logic of real life (as did the novel, cf. p. 4l) but rather the logic of a syllogism. It 60 was ideal, then, in the sense that it had only to be "con­ sistent with itself." James believed the dramatic form to be capable of credibly presenting a world no more real, nor, significantly, any less so, than that represented by negative numbers in mathematics. Both were real in that they were products of the human mind, and both were ideal in that they required no observable correlative in real life,

James seemed to regard Ibsen’s Iledda Gabier as a classic example of the dramatic form in operation. Its action was, besides being intense, wholly shut off on itself, requiring no reference whatever to anything outside its own fictional world,

Ve receive Hedda ripe for her catastrophe, and if we ask for antecedents and explanations we must simply find them in her character. Her motives are just her passions, THiat the four acts show is these motiveg^and that character • , , playing themselves out.

While James’s imputation about drama having only to be consistent with itself was correct in theory, it caused him some difficulty in practice. He seemed to assume that the logical requirements of a drama were satisfied so long as everything in it was possible, Ivhat he failed to recog­ nize was how closely related the logical process of a play is to that of a syllogism. More specifically, he did not take hoed of the fact that a syllogism is a reductive proc­ ess, The second promise of a syllogism reduces the collec­ tive term of the first premise to a singular and produces therefrom a necessary conclusion. For the action of a play to be analagous to that process, it must proceed—-to borrow Aristotle’s terms— from what is possible to what is probable, and ultimately, to what is necessary. That James failed to accomplish that kind of logical reduction in his plays will become apparent in later chapters,

^^James, "Hedda Gabier," Essays in London and Else­ where , p, 241, 6l

In James's view, then, the two key elements of dramatic form were objectivity and intensity. The former required of the dramatist that he avoid "going behind" his characters to speak for them in any way; the latter urged him to compress his action by passing over shades and subtleties and focus­ sing on the sharp contrasts that should be intrinsic to his subject. Drama thrived, on a swift progress of "high con­ trasts," or, to introduce yet another aspect of James's thinking, on a character's swift perception either of the contrast between his position and the situation around him or between his goals and the goals of others, James argued that

the figures in any picture, the agents in any drama, are interesting only in proportion as they feel their respective situations; since the consciousness, on their part, of the compli­ cation exhibited forms for us their link of connexion with it,°-5

To be able to fully "feel their respective situations," the leading characters in a drama had, in Jame's view, to be impregnated with a considerable dosage of sentience and intelligence. It should be noted that, although emotion and reason are frequently thought of as separate and mutually conflicting aspects of human nature, James considered them inextricably linked to one another in a cause-effect rela­

tionship, In his view, for a character to be fully engaged by a situation emotionally, he had first to be fully aware.

James, Preface to The Princess Casamassima, p, 62, 62 rationally, of its nature and implications. There were, as he saw it, "degrees of feeling-— the muffled, the faint, the just sufficient, the barely intelligent, as we may say; and tho acute, the intense, the complete, , , Those latter

"degrees of feeling" were plainly more desirable in drama, but James believed they could only exist in characters who wore, "finely aware and richly responsible." Their being so,

"as Hamlet and Lear, say, are finely aware— makes absolutely the intensity of their adventure, gives the maximum of sense to what befalls them."^^

James held, then, that drama could not bo ideally objective without characters who wore sufficiently intelli­ gent to perceive their situation and speak for themselves about it, nor could it be adequately intense unless those characters were sensitive enough to respond to their situa­ tion with the higher "degrees of feeling." In short, tho ideal elements of dramatic form demanded characters who wore themselves conimensurately ideal. James was fully aware that

the creation of such characters further complicated the already arduous task of writing a play; he believed as well, however, that

. . . a subject so lighted, a subject residing in somebody’s excited and concentrated feeling about something . . . has more beauty to give out than

^^Ibid., p. 6 2.

^'^Ibid. . p. 6 2. 63

I’ndor any otlior stylo of pressure, , , . This intelligence, an honourable amount of it, on the part of the person to whom one most invites attention, has but to play with freedom and ease, to guarantee us that quantum of the impression of beauty which is the most fixed of the possible advantages of our producible effect.

The importance of fully cognizant characters in a drama was underscored, for James, by the fact that the personages in a play constituted the most significant point of connection between the stage-action and the audience. Highly sentient and intelligent characters had thus a very practical advantage to offer the drama­ tist .

;i.t is those moved in this latter fashion j[_ as "finely aware" characters_7 "get most" out of all that happens to them and who in so doing enable us . . . also to get most. 69

The proof of that lay in the fact that, as James saw it, audiences "care comparatively little for what happens to 70 the stupid, the coarse, and tho blind."

^^Jamcs, Preface to Tho Spoils of Poynton, pp. 1 2 8-2 9 .

69 James, Preface to Tlic Princess Casamassima, p. 6 2. 70 I b i d ., p . 62. Gh

Lost the charge of rampant intellectual snobbery be

levelled at James on that point, 71 it should be added that he regarded tho existence of such characters in a drama as virtually indispensable to

. . , the general truth, for of life, that the fixed constituents of almost any reproducible action are the fools who minister, at a particular crisis, to the intensity of the free spirits engaged with them. The fools are interesting by contrast , , , and the free spirit.

71 It might be objected here that numerous characters exist in fiction, both literary and dramatic, who are not "finely aware" and yet cause audiences to care for them a great deal, James did not address himself to that venry plausible objection, but had he done so, it is likely that ho would have begun by insisting on a distinction between characters who are never seen as "aware" and those who become so, gradually, through the course of tho play. The latter situation was, in fact, one James greatly admired. That still loaves, however, characters of the former sort, those like, as a conspicuous recent example, Willie Loman, Again, though it moans speaking for James, it is quite probable that ho would have argued that the Willie Lomans of fiction can only be effective to the degree that the audience takes upon itself tho task of intelligently perceiving their plight, lie would probably have criticized Arthur Miller for, unlike Ibsen, asking of his audience too many concessions, for not making the action of his play totally self-contained. It must bo remembered that when James wrote as a critic, he was concerned almost exclusively with the ideal state of the art form, which in the case of drama, was that its action occur on a "single plane of exhibition" utilizing characters wholly shut off to cross-relations among themselves. For the dram­ atist to rely on the audience's perception of something in the leading character's condition of which ho himself remained explicitly unaware would be, in effect, to depend upon a frame of reference outside the play, and hence result in a play that, in terms of form, was less than ideal. Had he Icnown Death of a balosman, he would probably also have retrrted that the requisite awareness from within the play was sup­ plied by Biff, without whose perceptions there would be considerably less audience response to Willie's plight. 65

always much tormented . . . is heroic, ironic, pathetic, or whatever . . . only throuf>;h having remained free [_ from the actions of the fools_/. It may bo argued, then, tliat, for James, the most brilliant of "hif;h contrasts" to be dealt with in drama ( or in the dramatic novel) was that between i&noranco and intel- lif^enco. 7 3 Neither should be employed, however, as absolutes- that is— as black a^ninst white, or, as James put it,

"fishes" afTciinst "fowls." father, ignorance and intelli­ gence should be treated as twin aspects of human nature, the clash of which would reveal "the correspondences and equiv— alcnts that make differences mean something." Ih In other words, the "differences" between a foolish and intelligent character should be exposed by allowing them both to bcf^in, as it were, in twilight, from whence to move steadily toward the contrasting venues of ni^ht and day. Hence, it was important that oven intelligent characters not be made 7 5 "too interpretive of the muddle of llite." Indeed, James

7P 'James, Preface to The Spoils of Poynton, p. 130.

73It should not be inferred from that statement that James advocated plays whose action took the form, as it were, of a üocratic dialogue. As noted earlier (_cf. p. 6l), intelligence and emotional sensitivity were closely bound tof^ether in James's view, as wei’c, conversely, ignorance and insensitivity. by nature, then, an intelligent charac­ ter was one who could feel very deeply— and thus invite his audience to do so as well— while an ignorant character was marked as such by his inability, or unwillingness, to feel. 74 James, Preface to The Spoils of Poynton, p. 132.

75James, Preface to 11:e Princess Casamassima, p. 64. 66 felt that a character's ability to perceive sliould be only as complete as each occasion for perception demanded; that, while a leadin^^' charaetcr had to be capable of intelligently perceiving his situation, it was his struggle to do so that constituted the ideal stuff of drama. In James's view, the importance of that struggle was best evidenced by the fact that, in all cases, "A character is interesting as it comes out, and by the process and duration of that emergence, , , 76

If a character were most interesting when seen in the process of emergence, it would logically follow that an ideal mechanism by which to handle tliat process must exist.

For James, such a meclianism could be found in the Aristot­ elian concepts of "discovery" and "I'cversal." ilc considered his own best treatment of character to have been that accorded hambert Strether in T3ie Ambassadors, precisely because the situation in that novel was so arranged as to include, for btrethcr, a discovery that was at once a rever­ sal. As James described it, btrether went to Paris "all solemnly appointed and deputed, to save Chad," only to find him "so disobligingly and at first, so bewilderingly not lost" that Strother had, eventually, to admit the existence of an altogether now situation that had "to be dealt with in a new light.'

76James, Preface to The bpoils of Poynton, p. 127*.

77James, Preface to Trio Ambassadors, p. 318. 67

JamoG never* attempted to convert The Ambassadors into a play, presumably because its situation required too much delicacy and subtlety in treatment. Still, it is sig'nifi-

rv r> cant that ho rated it as "I'ranJcly, quite the best," '^of his dramatic novels. That vas due, in lar^o part, to the fact that it depicted a character sufficiently intelligent to discover, after some struggle, the contrast between himself and his position, which discovery— being fundamental in nature and contrar>^ to any he anticipated making— was also a reversal to vhich lie (and through him, the reader) could respond emotionally. donee, James rated I'he Ambassadors as the best of his productions in the sense that, while its subject was ideally suited to tho form of the novel, its loading character and the mctliod of treatment, the structure, of its story vefo ideally suited to the form of the drama.

James’s informed taste in drama clearly derived from his perception of the dramatic form’s ideal potential. ho man's taste on a subject as ultimately personal as drama, however, can be completely reasoned. To some degree, his informed taste will be a projection of his personality and his unreasoned moral perspective. In short, elements of instinctive taste, what James once called the artist’s

"active sense of life," 7 9 will also exist and be operative in his work.

^^Ibid.. p. 309 79 James, Preface to , p. 3^0. 68

In James's view, an artist's instinctive taste was manifested in the subjects he chose to treat and the manner in which he treated them——both of which were functions of go his singular "consciousness," or say rather, his personal­ ity, If that be true, a brief consideration of one signif­ icant aspect of James's personality must be added to this examination of his taste in drama,

James once fondly described the Stoic philosopher,

Epictetus, as a "plain-speaking old man , . • sternly rev- erent of purity, temperance, and piety," 8l He could certainly have applied the same descriptive words to himself, particularly "temperance," The pattern of likes and dislikes revealed in his essays, articles, and Prefaces, many of which have been noted already, indicates that he was deeply discomfited by excessive displays of emotion, especially those which arose from a depiction of man's baser instincts. His own fiction, not surprisingly, was remarkably elevated in tone and almost puritanical in the treatment of its subjects, Ilis writing would never, as

Edith Hamilton once said of V, S, Gilbert's work, "raise a blush on the cheek of 's most lady-like

80 James, Preface to , pp. 46-4?. 81 James, "Epictetus," Notes and Reviews. p . 182. 69 G P heroine." hven a subject as potentially lurid as that of

The Uthcr 11 ou so, involving adulterous love and infanticide, was treated by James in such a way that passion became almost the by-product of intellectual perception, not the cause of immoral behavior.

In short, James was a fastidious man, little given to excesses of any hind— and especially not to excesses of emotion. As noted before he linked man’s "smallness" inexorably to behavior so dominated by passion as to obfus­ cate the intellect. Of course, ho could not conceive of, nor did he desire, a human race without emotion; but he did envision a time when passion would become intellect’s slave.

Only then, in his view, would man be capable of realizing his potential for "nobleness," Since that ideal condition was within the range of human imagination, he considered it fitting— indeed, ideal— material for fiction,

kaging emotion, be it anger, jealousy, hatred, even love, had, in James’s view, no necessary place in dramatic literature, because the latter was capable of presenting

~;;dith Hamilton, "V;, S, Gilbert: A Mid-Victorian Aristophanes," S, Gilbert : A Century of Scholarship and Criticism, ed, John h, Jones, (kew York: Now York Univer­ sity Press, 1 9 7 0 ), p. 1 3 3. Quite predictably, James was much taken by Trollope’s fiction, largely because he con­ sistently suborned displays of passion to exercises of intelligence. See James’s essay, "iVnthony Trollope," in Partial Portraits, pp, 97-133. 70 drama" that both consisted oT and appealed to a "sublime S1 consensus of the educated." ‘ hampa^in^ passions had, for

James, the effect of lowering; man, of manifesting that aspect of his nature that he shared with tigers and apes. jJistinctly human drama, ho reasoned, could best be found in depictions of those attributes that were themselves dis­

tinctly human: man's intelligence, his conscience, and his

capacity foi' fine and sensitive discrimination.

James's remarks on killiam Morris's poetry were espec­

ially revealing of that aspect of his artistic taste:

Ilr. Mori'is is inc!ubitably a sensuous poet, to his credit be it said; his senses are constantly prof­ fering their testimony and crying out their delight. but while they take tlieir freedom, they employ it in no degree to their oiv-n debasement. Just as there is a modesty of temperament we con­ ceive there is a modesty of imagination,^pnd Mr. Morris possesses the latter distinction.'-*'

I!y "modesty of imagination," James clearly meant the artis­

tic capacity to idealize, to recognize that while passion

and intelligence were both operative in n.early every human

crisis, tlio artist, because his was a fictive crisis, was

free— if he so desired— to focus on the latter. Such,

indeed, was the admirable quality James found in Morris's


83 James, Preface to Lady barbarina, p. 203.

Pb'’'James, "The Poetry of killiam Morris," Views and keviews , p. T'o. 71

The thoroughly a^r^eable vay in which Mr. Morris tolls it is what especially strikes us. I/o feel that his imagination is equally fearless and irreproachable, and that while he tells us what we may call a sensuous story in all its breadth, he likewise tells.it in all its purity. It has, doubtless, an impure side; but of the two, he prefers the other.^5

James preferred, in all his writing, to take as his subject "the spreading field" of man's intelligence and virtue, not the quagmire of his passions and vice. he was pro-disposed, in other words, by the temperate and idealis­ tic bent of his personality to precisely the kind of sub­ jects he found drama best-suited to handle. In view of that, it might bo argued— admittedly, with some irony— that the dramatic form should have been more natural to him than the novel.

Thus the key elements in James's concept of drama were l) the komantic formula, 2) objectivity, 3) intensity, and 4) intelligence. Of those, objectivity and intensity were of paramount importance, including as they did both the single ekiii’oitional plane of drama and its requisite compression. Hn practice, of course, the two worked to reinforce one another, objectivity making intensity possible, and conversely, intensity making objectivity believable.

Neither could exist, in James's view, without leading characters v/ho were both intelligent enough to perceive

B^ibid.. p. 7«. 72 thoir situation for tlicnisolvcs and sensitive cnoug^h to respond intensely to that perception. A full measure of all tliree allowed for or, perhaps, resulted in the "hif^h con­ trasts" of the Ivoinantic formula.

for all his idealism, however, James remained a real­ ist about the practice of drama. he recognized that in an age demanding that life and art be almost indistinguishable, those things he found most delightful about drama, those things wiiich, in his view, had sustained it through all the years, were not likely to be successful. He pointed out that a drama critic

might, if he wore philosophically inclined, remark that the dramatic art requires, both in performers and spectators, a certain simplicity, a naivete. an abeyance of the critical spirit^ which arc rapidly passing out of human life.^^

To treat the "nobleness" of man apart from his "smallness" was, James realized, to treat him simplistically; to find such treatment believable required in audiences what James O ''3 once called an "instinct of enthusiasm,"'^ a willingness to respond to tlio uncommon ability of uncommon men to deal with uncommon situations. he rued the fact that both the sim­ plicity of art and the naivete of artists and audiences was 80 being destroyed by "the modern desire to be fair," the

James, "The Parisian Stage," Scenic Art, p. ^15»

C» ry '■ James, "jiatthcw Arnold's ZCssays, " Views and ]vevia:s, p. 9 7 .

"^^Ibid.. p. 97. 73 tendency not; only to make drama as complex and multi-faceted as life itself, but also to demand of tlio dramatist that he be as empirical, tJiat is, as unseloctivo in his presentation as any scientist.

Because his otm taste in drama vas firmly rooted in the naive and simplistic, ho mostly eschoved anything top­ ical or contemporary in his plays, for their subjects, he took refuge in

. . . the poetry of the thing outlived and gone, and yet in vhich the precious element of close­ ness, tolling so of connexions but tasting so of differences, remains appreciable. lie realized, apparently, that time and space have a vay of cloaking people and events in idealized garb. Thus most of his serious plays vero placed either in the past or in some indeterminate time that could pass as easily for the ^ past as for the present. Almost all his plays vere set in idyllic locales— Pai'is, the Alps, the English countryside.

In short, James attempted to make his plays compatable vith his ideal vision of the dramatic form and to prevent them from being tainted by "the melancholy of an age vhich not only has lost its naivete, but vhich knovs it has lost it."90

^^9 James, Preface to Tlio As po m Papers. p. l64. 90 James, "Aat thev Arnold's Essays," Vievs and llevi evs, p. 97. ClJAPTEl-i TWO THE YAlfLY PLAYS

James's first throe plays, "Pyramus and Thishe," "Still

Waters," and "A Change of heart,were relatively innocuous little one-act efforts written between IS69 and 1872, They were the only plays James did not intend for production, which suggests that he wrote them mainly as experiments with the dramatic form. To say that, however, is not to say that they were experimental in any avant-garde sense ; rather, all tlxroe plays were quite typical Jamesian subjects set down in what he understood to bo proper dramatic form.

Because James actually attempted so little in them, their inclusion in this study is a function more of what they portend with regard to the structure and content of his

later plays than of what they contain themselves,

Thero is some danger, however, in saying that. Criti­

cism has, for many years, been struggling with a kind of disease that might, for lack of a better term, be called

As indicated before, all fourteen of James's plays have been collected and reprinted by Leon Edcl as The Collccted Plays of Tlonry James. For convenience, all quota­ tions from the plays will be taken from that volume. Since they will all come from a common source, separate footnotes for each quotation will not be used. lasted, the number of the page on which they appear in Idol's collection will bo enclosed in parentheses at the ends of the quotations,

74 73 the "Ur-syndrome." Its most obvious symptom is a desperate desire to establish a very specific line of development between an artist’s early work and his later, more mature efforts, Vdicn the disease becomes acute, it produces delusions that, for example, a Kinft Lear has been found germinating in Titus Andronieus, or a ilodda Gabier caught lurking in the corner of A boll * s Mouse. It is an insid­ ious disease because it is spaimed by the unwarranted assumption that a pla^avright has in mind the whole of his work-legacy as ho labors over each part of it. It is mentioned here because the temptation to succumb to the

Ur-syndrome is greatest when the subject at hand is an artist’s first attempts in a given form. Especially is that true when the critic is aware (as the artist himself could not have been) of the shape and substance of later works.

If a critic allows himself to bo injected with a massive dose of the disease, it will produce in him the foolish argument that a playi.Tight writes a play with another presumably better one already in mind; in smaller dosages, however, it produces the not-so-foolish argument that the natural predispositions an artist brings with him to an art form will circumscribe or in some measure delimit what he does in it. A romantic approach to drama, for instance, was clearly natural to Shakespeare and therefore had a decided influence on the shape and substance of his plays.

Master artist that he was, Shakespeare could not, from the 76 perspective of his temperament and his understanding of dramatic form, have written a PJiaodre ; in all probability, he could not even have written an All ]''or Love. iiis natural inclination toward romanticism, in other words, was a major factor in what he did write, but just as importantly, it set limits on what he could write.

Shakespeare had at least the advantage of being naturally inclined as an artist to the form in which he most often worked. Such was not the case with James, not­ withstanding his earnest and long-pursued efforts to make his novels "dramatic." The form he knew best, and the one to which he was instinctively drawn, was prose narrative— not prose drama. hence, it is understandable that his plays would frequently evidence attempts to adapt essentially narrative techniques and structures into dramatic form.

That is not to say that James made those attempts deliberately or even consciously; indeed, the evidence of his own critical writing is largely to the contrary. Still it must bo remembered that James’s critical opinions on the drama were, to a considerable extent, co-mingled with his ideas about the "dramatic novel." An effort was made in the preceding chapter to separate the two, or rather, to set doim his thoughts on the nature and structure of drama as if they constituted, in themselves, an autonomous body of thought. In fact, his criticism of the drama was only one part of the theoretical base from which his artistic efforts 77 procoodccl; a far larger part vas directed solely toward the novel. As a result, it should not bo surprising to find that just as his novels reflected both parts of that theo­ retical base, so also did his plays. Unfortunately, while his instinct to dramatize served the novels well, the plays were decidedly marred by his instinct to novelize, Indood the one thing that most haunted James as a playiirright was his failure to recognize— in practice— the deleterious effect of narrative techniques on the presumptively live action of a drama. In view of that, it is ironic that his efforts in quest of the dramatic novel were largely directed toward inculcating into the form of the novel that very

"live-ness" his plays so often lacked.

V/]iile James could— and did— distinguish between the proper form of a drama and a novel in theory, his natural inclinations as an artist served to obfuscate that dis­ tinction in practice. James's natural inclination to cast his plays in an essentially narrative format had much the same two-pronged effect as dhakespoare's inclination to employ the iiomantic format; it both limited what ho could write and shaped what he did. James's first throe plays are revealing, then, not of specific areas of correspon­ dence with his later dramas, but of the instinctive predis­ position toward narrative to cliniques and structures that he brought with him to the dramatic form. because they were, in a sense, innocent efforts at playwriting, they present 78 thcmsolvos for study more or loss in pure form— without tho gloss and v c m c o r supplied by the larger subjects and more complex objectives iniicrent to his more mature plays. They are useful in that they provide, as it were, an unfilterod look at the basic approach and principal techniques— not to mention the generalized problems— attendant to Jamesian drama.

It may be recalled from the preceding chapter that

James described the "dramatic novel" as one that alternated, structurally, between "pictures" and "scenes." The function of the former was to "prepare . . . for scenes," while that of the latter was to "justify and croivn the preparation."

In effect, a picture was designed to set the scene, or otherwise, to introduce the characters, tho ideas, the range of events that could conceivably constitute the action of the ensuing scone. In its turn, the scene would treat "all the matter J_ that is, all the matter given it by the preceding picture_7 as by logical start, logical turn, and logical finish.

James had not yet formulated his theory of alternating pictures and scones when he wrote, "Pyramus and Thisbe," but it could well have served as the model for that theory.

The play opens with a monologue by Catherine during which she describes herself (she is a piano teacher who finds

2 James, Preface to The Ambassadors, pp. 322-23. 79 liersoir in a "droadfu.l liuraor!" on this, her twenty-sixth birthday), and identifies the problem vith vhich she must deal (a neighbor— Stephen— vhoso pipc-smolcing and late night conversations vith friends she cannot abide).

The picture thus presented sets the stage for tho play's first scene, vhich begins vith Stephen's unexpected arrival at Catherine's door bearing a spray of flowers that had been mistakenly delivered to his apartment. After relieving him of the flowers, Catherine immediately castigates Stephen for his annoying habits— an eminently "logical start" in view of tho picture she had just painted of herself and her nemesis. After expressing some surprise, Stephen provides a logical turn for tho scone by informing Catherine that he detests piano music, so much so, in fact, that he finds it virtually impossible to work (he is a writer) while she is playing. That affrontory momentarily takes Catherine aback, but after first suggesting that perhaps she should move,

Catherine resumes the initiative by, in effect, daring

Stephen to open combat. She proposes to "sit hero forever and thump out music from morning to night," in response to vhich she expects that he will fill her room "with a blind­ ing cloud of smoko" (p. 7 8). After accepting the terms of battle, Stephen judiciously retreats to his own room, thus bringing the scene to a logical finish.

Left to herself once more, Catherine embarks on a second monologue that is, in substance, a second picture. so

bho lias, to tliat point, boon altogether adamant in her

rejection of Stephen. Since, however, the play's conclusion

requires a softening in Catherine's attitude, James makes

her second monologue a beautifully balanced picture that,

without affirming any real change in her attitude, does show

her fully astride tho horns of a dilemma. Jn the first

place, she recognizes that although she could solve the

problem simply by moving, she is loath to do so because she

has "become attached to the old place" (p. 78). In the

second place, she finds Stephen’s distaste for the piano

"an odd turn of mind," but rather a fortuitous one, since

Ivhon 1play, I feel, I think, I talk, 1 express my moods, my fancies, my desires. I can imagine nothing more disagreeable than to know that some totally superfluous little gentleman may be sit­ ting behind that partition, deciphering my notes and v a r y possible enjoying them (p. 73).

At tho same time, she cannot deny that "there would be a harmless sweetness in having, once in a while, some other

auditor" than one of her pupils (p. 73).

Two things are worth noting about the substance of

that monologue. first, it presents a critical element in

the over-all shape of the play— the new information that

Catherine might regard Stephen's presence as something

other than a nuisance— in narrative rather than purely

dramatic terms. Second, and more germane to the point at

hand, James does not allow Catherine to resolve either of

the dilemmas raised during her monologue. Had he done so. SI it niifjht veil liavo depicted change— as opposed to ambiva­ lence— -and thus have assumed the form of what he elsewhere called a narrated scene. Since he does not do no, however, the monolofjue remains essentially a picture whose function it is, a^nin, to prepare for ensuing action. Its effective­ ness, even in that connection, is dubious because it actually prepares, not for the events tliat follow, but for Catherine's reaction to those events. In any case, since it simply provides a more complete description of Catherine's mind than had the first monologue, it continues tho play's alter­ nating picturo-scene structure.

James ends the second monologue by having Catherine discover a pouch of tobacco that slie concludes must have been mistakenly delivered to her apartment. That provides an excuse for Stephen to return and the second scene to be{jin. A perfunctory exchange of unpleasantries maries its lo^âcàl start, from which James moves quickly (after six linos) to what he apparently intended to be the scene's logical turn. Stephen brings with him a letter from their mutual landlord informing' them that in three weeks their rooms will bo converted into offices by a now oimer. Since none of the preceding action, pictures or scone, has pre­ pared for that turn of events, it must be regarded as one of those £x machina interventions for which logic has never been a prime requisite. The difficulty with this ex machina occurrence is not that it is unprepared for, but 82 rather, that it oifoctivoly résolves all the action for vhich preparation has been made. To this point, tho play has been entirely about the inability of Stephen and Cath­ erine to tolerate one another's customary living habits; the alternatives that have been raised as possible solutions to that problem are a test of strength (her piano playing against his pipe smoking) or voluntary relocation by one or tho other. Neither of those alternatives has any rele­ vance, hovover, once tho eviction notice requires both characters to relocate involuntarily. In effect, the evic­ tion notice solves tho only problem vita vhich the play has been concerned. hence, the incident James attempts to use as the logical turn of his second scene is, in fact, a logical finish (relatively speaking) to the events in the picture- sceno—picture preceding it. That is important because, in order to accomplish the end he envisioned for tho play,

James is forced to make further action rise from the ashes of a story vhose varchouse of combustible materials has been exhausted.

More problematic yet is the effect the eviction notice has on Catherine. She has been, through the first half of the play, clearly the initiator— or agent— of the action. Yet she responds to the eviction notice by drop­ ping the aggressive attitude upon vhich the agency of the

story's early action is based and becomes, in Stephen's vords, "quite a philosopher!" hhat she actually becomes 83 is indifferent, or Stoic, both tovnrcl Stephen and toward tho fact that she will have to move. That is problematic because nothin," in her previous behavior has sU|"£70sted that slie is capable of such a chan^ye. Still, it is not impos­

sible that the eviction notice, on top of her other troubles, would be more than she could handle and cause hex to become resigned to an unpleasant fate. whatever his reasoning mi,"ht have been, it seems clear that James intended the eviction notice and resultant chan^p in Catherine's attitude toward Stephen to ser"«/'o as the logical turn in his second


That left him, hoi/cver, with still another problem, tendering Catherine indifferent to Stephen makes it at least conceivable that she would, at some later time, accept his proffered love, but it also makes it impossible for her

to remain the agent of the play's action. Moreover, her

changed attitude does not so much turn the action from its previous direction— which had been to move the two charac­

ters apart from one another— as simply end that action and,

in so doing, make it possible for a new action to begin

that would itself require some tumin,g if Stephen and

Catherine wore to bo brought together. It thus falls

exclusively upon Stephen to effect the additional turn needed to bring about tho conclusion James desired. hence, not only does James's inclusion of the eviction notice

require that he change to what is, in essence, a now story. 84 but Catherine’s response to it demands that he also change to a neu a^pnt. To complicate the matter oven further,

Stephen’s sudden activism is no more probable in view of his previous behavior than was the appearance of the evic­ tion notice or Catherine’s sudden passivity. Nor is the manner in which Stephen accomplishes the needed turn espec­ ially probable; he merely observes that since he and

Catherine are natural opposites— her neatness providing a perfect counterpoint to his sloppiness— they should unite.

Her decision to accept that somewhat strained argument, which completely ignores the facts that he still smokes and she still plays the piano, brings the scene and the play to its finish.

Putting aside for a moment the succession of improb­ able occurrences tlaat mar the second half cf "Pyramus and

Thisbe," tlio obvious conclusion to bo drawn is that it does alternate structurally between pictures and scenes, Whether that is truly, as James believed it to be, the ideal manner of structuring a novel is material for another study; the point to be made here is that it is a structure suitable only to the novel, itndeod, it is a virtual paradigm of the plot structure Aristotle referred to as "episodic" and rejected as the worst available to the dramatist. It was his view that drama, largely because its action is live, requires a high dcgcree of causal connection between its events; hence, a plot structure that insures neither 85

"probability nor necessity in the sequence of its episodes" 3 is by nature unsuited to the drama. By contrast, Aristotle

found episodic plots admirably suited to the demands of narrative writing— Bpic Poetry, for example— "because in it

the agents are not visibly before one."^

Aristotle's point is not, of course, that actors are never physically present in an epic, Ilis point is that they

cannot be physically present there because an epic is a purely verbal description of action that is already com­ plete. Since the same thing can be said about all narrative

forms, including the novel, its implications are worth nothing. In the first place, the fact that all narrative

forms are purely verbal in nature means that the writer himself must stand between the action and the audience. in

some cases, his presence in the story is made explicit, but

it is always at least implicit. I,'hat tho reader experi­

ences directly is not the action but the writer's record

or description of the action. In the second place, because

a record or description of an action must be subsequent in

time to the action itself, the time-frame within which all narrative forms operate is simply a progression from the

most remote to the most proximate past. Hence, the fact

that an epic poet, for example, is dealing with events that

•^The Poetics. Aristotle, tr. Ingram B^nfator, (New York: Tho Iiodcm Inbraiy, 195^0 P* 236. ^'ibid . , p. 258. 86 bave happened, and that, having done so, can neither happen af^ain nor happen in some other way, f^ives him the advantage of dealin,^ with incidents that are both probable and neces­ sary, in a conceptual sense, by virtue of being faites accomplis.

Thus, in a somewhat circular fashion, the presumptive conditions of narrative writing function to induce the reader to hold his logical sense in abeyance. On the one hand, the reader must presume the writer's account to be accurate since he alone was privy to the events described; on the other hand, having presumed the account to be accurate, it becomes irrelevant for the reader to raise questions about the logic > probability and necessity) obtaining to the nature and sequence of those events. In effect, that the events of a narrated action did happen in the way and sequence described by the narrator becomes, not a thing to be demonstrated, but a given. lienee, all narra­ tive writing has, by its nature, the capacity to draw on something akin to the authority of history in order to anaesthetize the reader's logical sense. That is not to say that the narrative writer may— as the historian frequently does— include in his account incidents that blantantly violate the norms of probability and dismiss them as "Incredible but true :" To do that would be to quickly do-anaesthetize the reader's logical sense. lie can, however, circumvent that sense by injecting into his stoxg^ 87 purely narrative passages tliat substitute a plausible e::cuso for a missing: cause or a reasonable explanation for an improbable effect. Tbo presumptive conditions of narrative writing, in other vords, permit tho artist to step forvard whenever necessary in his ovn person to remind the reader that there is alvays, as Aristotle put it, "tho probability of thin,7S happenin;7 also against probability,"

Because James vas naturally inclined to tho novel as a literary form, he -cas also naturally inclined to the episodic structure and narrative techniques endemic to that form.

That had a deleterious effect on his plays because drama proceeds from a different set of presumptive conditions than a novel and hence requires a considerably different kind of inteamal structure. A play is not a purely verbal record of past (and thus completed) action for vhich the artist himself is the audience's only direct point of connection; as a result, it can neither tolerate the appearance of the artist in the action nor rely on tho authority of history

to make probable or necessary the nature and sequence of

its events.

Aristotle, nn, cit., p. 2 6 3 . Aristotle vas not argu­ ing in tlie j’oetics that Bpic foetry— and by extension, all narrative vriting— should be improbable in the nature and sequence of its events. his point vas simply that because its action is not "visibly before" an audience, because it deals 1,'ith events that presumably have already occurred, it does not require the same degree of probable or neces­ sary connection betveen events as the drama. 88

TJicrc yet remains the need to demonstrate that tho picturo-sconc formula James employs in ’l^yraraus and Thisbe” is episodic in tlio sense just described, IT so, the result­ ant structure of the play will bo one in which there is

"neither probability nor necessity in tho sequence of its episodes." The episode that most invites attention in that regard is Catherine's second monologue, which neither arises logically from the events preceding it nor f^ivos rise lo{jically to those that follow. her first monologue and tho entire first scone are, after all, devoted to establishing^ the th-.ox'Our;h-iToin,q animosity she fools toward Stephen. That she wouJ.d in her second monolofTue, and with that as back-

,qround, bo moved to suy,qcst that her previous irascibility had not evidenced the "1)est taste in the world," and even fço so far as to characterize tlio cause of her distemper as

"foolish little troubles" (p. 7e), is not lofcically impossible— but neither is it especially likely; certainly it cannot be r^jnrded as probable or necessary in view of her previous behavior. That is si.yaificant because one of

James's most persistent problems as a pla^avrifjht was his failure to distinguish between actions that were probable

(or at least highly possible) and actions that wore not impossible. That he so frequently chose the latter points, with considerable force, to his essentially narrative approach to drama. 89

The problem with Catherine's second monologue is com­ pounded by the fact that in addition to being logically disconnected from the events preceding it, it has no direct, causal relationship with the events that follow it. Its entire focus is on two questions; l) whether Catherine should move or stay; and 2) whether Stephen's ability to hear her music is an annoyance or a "harmless sweetness."

Both of those questions are effectively set aside by the eviction notice, but more importantly, they are not even addressed to the events that constitute the play's resolu­ tion.

While it is true that people frequently do things in real life for no apparent reason— and with results that outstrip the predictive capacity of logic— that fact alone does not make such actions acceptable in a play. The sheer immensity of real life often results in situations where the precise cause of a particular circumstance cannot be known, A causo may bo too far removed in time or place from its effect to be discernable, or it may consist of a myriad of events, each inconsequential in itself, but important when added together. But a play, whatever its complexity, can never be more than a microcosm of real life; it cannot even approach the complexity found in the world, Furthermore, because a play is an arti­ fact, a man-made creation, the ultimate cause of every­ thing that occurs in it is always knowable. Its 90 characters, issues, and events all spring from the mind of its author, thus rcndorinc him, in the last analysis, the sin^de, easily identifiable source from vhich everything proceeds,

hut therein lies the seed of a very fundamental para­ dox that must bo faced by every dramatist. Tho characters and events of his play are products of his mind and, therefore, are parts in a presumptively pre-determinod design. At the same time, hovover, those chai-acters and events are presumptively livirii'?: and, therefore, must appear to unfold spontaneously, that is, not according to tho dictates of a pro-determined desi.'pi. Hence, the paradox of drama is tliat vhilo it must Iiave a pre-eminently rational dosifpe, the true source of that design must bo carefully concealed. That can only be done by establishing such a close causal relationship betveen the various incidents that an appearance of design seems to emanate naturally from them. L3y insuring that each incident builds logically on those preceding: it, the pla^n/richt accomplishes tvo thin,'^s : l) he gives his action a perceptible build, a sense of grovth that an audience can easily distinguish;

2 ) he gives his action a perceptible direction, a sense that its events are moving tovard something, that the action is in tho process of assuming a final siiapo that is both necessary and, to a degree, inevitable. 91

In combination, tlioso tno factors result in a dramatic action that is, to borrow Aristotle's analogue, organic; it is spontaneous, sclf-gencrating, and directed toward a necessary end— the throe irreducible attributes of organic

life. The obvious advantage to such an action is that it resolves both elements of tlie dramatic paradox. It gives the action a clear and apparent design but, at the same time, conceals the pla^ifright as its true source by making the design appear to be inherent in the very events compris­ ing the action. Nor are the advantages to be gained by investing a dramatic action with tlie attributes of organic growth in any way gratuitous; the simple fact is that, lack­ ing such attributes, and lacking" as well the authority of history endemic to a novel or epic, the action of a play can only present itself as arbitrary (without design) or contrived (with a design imposed by the writer)— or both.

The former results in an action that is confusing or even incoherent, n/hile tho latter strips an action of its essential spontaneity and gives it a tone more narrative

t]ian dramatic.

The truth of that observation is most apparent when an incident such as Catherine's second monologue is not

logically connected to eitlicr precedent or consequent action, but is nonetheless a necessary element in tho

over-all sliape of tho play. Nothing in her second monologue could logically be said to cause (i.e., make probable or 92 necessary) the events tlxat i'ollov; it, but those events would not even be possible without some retreat on her part from the adamant attitude she evidences toward Stephen during the first half of t?ie play. To be sure, the necessary softening in Catherine's attitude could be depicted organ­ ically, through inter-action with Stephen, but unfortunately, it is not. Instead, James allox.'s her to affect the needed change unilaterally, without the slightest provocation from

Stephen or, in other words, from within the action of the play. That the insertion of a static and logically unre­ lated monologue between tho two scenes of "Pyramus and Thisbe" disjoints its action and renders it structurally episodic is important but not critical; what is critical is that in using a logically unrelated monologue as tlio sole justifi­ cation for the conclusion he envisioned, James clearly reveals himself as an ewtemal force fusing or imposing a shape on the play's events. As a result, the play assumes the appearance of a contrivance, a series of events that are neither spontaneous, self-generating, nor directed toward a necessary end. In. short, it becomes James's own narrative account of a rather unlikely situation.

If 'Pyramus and Thisbe" gives an indication of James's natural inclination toward narrative structures, 'tltill haters"provides a rather clear example of his tendency to deal with what miglit be called a narrative situation. That is, admittedly, a rather broad term with a variety of 93

possible definitions and applications. As it applies

specifically to 'litill '..'atershowever, it may be defined as

a situation in which a sin^de character is, from the start,

fully aware (or nearly so) of all the factors bearing on

that situation, but cannot— or at least does not— use that

information to advance his ovrn. interests. Pather, he uses his laiowledge to mediate the interests of the other

personages involved, assuming thereby a relatively neutral

relationship with the situation while at the same time

establishing himself as the audience's point of connection

with tbe stoxg'. In a narrative situation, the story can

only advance under the aegis of the one character who

undci'stands it, but i/lio is nonctlieless excluded from per­

sonal involvement in it. The story thus becomes, in effect,

t]ie informed character's acconnt of what the other charac­

ters are doing, fooling, or thinhing. As consequence, the

informed character is not unlike, in nature or function,

tlie familiar unseen reporter in a Dostoevski novel, or for

that inattei'’, a Jamesian novel. lie is, in fact, a perfect

expression of James's oft-stated preference for "dealing

with my subject matter, for 'seeing my stoig»-, ' through the

opportunity and the sensibility of some more or less detached,

some not strictly involved though thoroughly interested and

intelligent, witness or reporter. . . .

^James, Preface to The Golden howl. p. 327. 9h

JJriefly stated, the situation at the beginning oT "Still

Waters" is this; horace, a somewhat "squirrelish" young man loves , an exceedingly modest young lady who loves

Felix, a handsome brute who loves no one, Emma is unaware of

Horace's love and thus is not affected by him at all; Felix is unaware of Emma's love and thus is not affected by her at all; Horace, however, Icnows that he loves Emma, that she loves Felix, and that Felix is insensitive to both, liir- thermore, Emma can not signify to Felix that she loves him, nor can Felix become aware of her feeling without its being signified to him by someone. The task of acting in their interest thus falls on Horace, who has, of course, to renounce his own hopes in order to do so, Horace becomes then, both the medium through which the impasse between

Felix and Emma is most clearly revealed and the means by which it is finally resolved.

The problem with James's narrative treatment of Horace is that it separates the matter of concern in the audience from the matter of concern in the play. Whereas Felix and

Emma's first appearances reveal nothing more than that they arc aware of their individual problems, Horace's first monologue reveals the play's entire situation and thus establishes him at once as the audience's primary point of connection with the story. It is to be told, in other words, from his point of view. That in itself makes him the character to whom the audience's attention is most 95 directed, but his eventual action to brine Emma and Felix together—-which requires of him a considerable personal sacrifice~makes him as veil the character vith whom the audience is most invited to sympathize. If the nobility of his sacrifice wore not enough to insure that, James provides him with characterizations of himself, both singly ("I'm little and modest and ugly!") and in contrast to Felix

("I'm a gnat and he's a camel!") that evoke quite effectively the pathetic nature of his situation. That is Ihrther reinforced by his selfless concern for Emma's happiness.

. . . rny own cause? That's lost in advance. My love was born a cripple, to sit on a stool in a dark comer— hers with the wings of Ariel to flutter and frolic in the light (p. 9^! ) •

Seen from the audience’s vantage point, those factors com­ bine to make Horace clearly the character of greatest consequence.

As soon by Emma and Felix, however, and even (as was just noted) by himself, Horace is the character of least consequence. Even though he is the catalyst in the play's resolution, ho is never more than tangentially connected with its action— largely because Emma and Felix deliber­ ately exclude him from it. lie is twice dispatched by J.mrna to fetch medicine for her sister from the village pharmacy and once dispatched by Felix to purchase a boat ticket.

Me is called a "simpleton" by i-mma and referred to as a

"])assive feminine creature" by I'clix. To both, he is either a convenience or an intrusive annoyance, depending upon the situation. 96

;''o.r hiü o\ni part, Horace ir, almost entirely, as the later, popular-psycholocy phrase would have it, "other- directed." V.’ith the exception of his demeaning descriptions of himself, he directs the whole of his attention toward

Felix and hmrna, either separately or in combination, jdost importantly, at no time duriuj'v the play does he (jive so much as a hint about his ov.a feelings to either character, both of his private conversations with ICmma are actually about Felix, and his major confrontation with Felix is about Jmima.

lienee, except for Horace's two monologues (which serve to inform the audience about his ].ove for limma) , the only matter of concern expressed witliin the play is the rela­ tionship between Felix and y.'mma, with the result that the play's focus is badly split. The audience's attention and sympathy are consistently directed to the non-existent relationship between Horace and Hmma, but Horace's atten­ tion and sympathy are consistently directed to the similarly non-existent relationship between Hmma and Felix.

Thus in "Still Haters," James takes his best developed, most interesting character and uses him almost exclusively in what must be called a narrative capacity, as a medium through which the machinations of Felix and Emma might be both revealed and resolved. Since, however, the play's perspective remains clearly with Horace, he becomes, by analogy, a kind of mirror on which the images of Felix 97 and j;mma arc reflected to the audience, vhich demands from the latter a difficult choice. Un the one hand, changn is by nature more interesting than non-chan^o, and the reflected images (Felix and Lmma) do chanf?;e while the mirror (Horace) does not. On the other hand, i''elix and Emma are decidedly loss attractive, by nature, than Horace. The dilemma thus posed for the audience is whether to concentrate its attention and sympathy on the chan^in^ images of Felix and

Emma— as Horace invites them to do— or to focus on the static but comparatively more attractive mirror, which, since the images can scarcely be seen without it, is what

James invites them to do.

The true nature of the problem that question implies is clearer porliaps if it is worded as follows: Does the beauty of the work lie in its subject (the relationship between Felix and Junma) or in the means and manner by which that subject is presented (Horace)? It actually matters little in appraising "Still Eaters” as a play how that question is answered; that it can legitimately be asked is condemning in itself because it indicates that, as was the case i n ”ryramus and Thisbo," the structure of'btill Eater^' is more appropriate to the form of a novel than to that of a drama. 'I'he key point in that regard is that the action of a novel cannot fail to be reporter] net:i.on. because its events cannot be visibly before a reader, its action must be transmitted to him tlirough tiie medium of either the 98 novelist in his o\ra person or some kind of narrative or

recountive character acting as the author’s surrogate,

hither technique is acceptable in a novel because the reader

presumes a second-hand relationship betvecn himself and the

action. A play, on the other hand, to the extent that it

entails a "live" performance, cannot allow its action to be

"presented." kathor, its action must on its owti initiative

present itself. Thus any narrative fi,yure (whether it be

the author himself as in'^yramus and Thisbo," or, like horace, be an actual persona,ye in the action) is perforce an

intrusion on the presumptively first-hand relationship between a play’s action and its audience.

To say, however, that James allowed the matter of con­

cern within ".itill 1;aters" to be distinct from the matter of

concern without it, or even to say tliat he badly split its

focus, is more to identify symptoms than to diaynoso disease, TJie underlying problem in"otill ivaters" is the

essentially répertoriai relationship James forges between horace and the play’s action. by doing that, ho creates,

even more obviously than in "f y ramus and Thisbo," the tri­

partite arrangement that characterizes all narrative writ­

ing and is inimical (because it requires the narrative

figure to stand between the audience and the subject) to

all dramatic writing.

Ultimately, James does attempt to give horace more

than a répertoriai involvement in the play’s action. 99

Ironically, in striving: to solve one problem, ho creates another. After informing Felix of Emma's love for him and thus precipitating their coming- to^^ther, horace chooses to withdraw from the scene. As noted before, ho does so without breathing a word to hmma about his love for her.

Felix, however, tolls hmma that it was Horace who had broufjht thorn together, and, upon horace's exit, goes on to suggest that perhaps he did so because "ho was in love with you liimself" (p. 9 6 ). lmma is immediately struck by the largesse of Horace's sacrifice, so clearly strucl:, in fact, that she immediately commands Felix, "Don't touch me"

(p« 97). bin CO tlio total object of .'mma ' s existence up to then has been to gain Felix's love, tliat pronouncement signals a relevant and potentially dramatic turn of events.

Yet the play ends with Felix's next lino, "Fust I already resort to a cigar for consolation?" (p. 97)

bhile that might be regarded as an ending, it is certainly not a resolution. In effect, James ends "Still batend'much as he might have ended a middle chapter in a novel— by closing out one series of events, but doing so in such a way as to give rise, potentially, to a whole new series. 'I'he conclusion of "Still baterd' is an interesting coup de theatre, a "reversal" in Aristotle's terms, but as such, it veig" nearly demands a second act. It docs not, in otJier words, resolve as much potential for action as it introduces; as a consequence, it cannot fail to 1 0 0

leave an audience with the impression that what they have

seen is only half the story, and--very likely--not the more

interesting half,

James's first two plays do not so much develop situa­

tions as describe them. They depict as do so many of his novels and short stories, a kind of frozen moment in the lives of intelligent and generally sympathetic characters.

On a rudimentary level, they lack drama in proportion as

they lack conflict, and they lack conflict in proportion as they fail to offer characters with openly contrasting

interests and intentions. As noted earlier, James bemoaned what he called "the modern tendency to be fair" as the

great crippler of drama; yet it is certainly true that in his first two plays he gives each of the characters a

relatively equal opportunity to appear sympathetic.

Stephen's living habits are understandably annoying for

Catherine, but no more so than hers for him; Felix is a

bit insensitive, but he is never cruel or even impolite;

Horace and Emma may be foolish, but they are also quite

sincere. In all, James's first two plays are nothing if

not well-balanced, and indeed, that may be their most

troublesome defect.

To the extent that both plays are essentially devoid

of conflict, they are also devoid of any clear distinction

between success and failure. There are no losers in

"Pyramus and Thisbe," which is tantamount to saying there 1 0 1 arc no real winners either, since success cannot bo fully appreciated except in contrast to failure. In 'Still V.'ators,"

Horace's unrequited love for j.nima is exactly mirrored by, and balanced afçainst, her unrequited love for Felix. Fore importantly, however, all tliree characters appear to win and lose in almost equal measure. Horace loses Fmma but wins her respect; Fmma wins Felix but loses Horace; and

Felix wins Fmma but loses his freedom. Even though

Horace is the most sympathetic of the t]iroc characters, the one whose loss seems most significant, the other two are attractive eiiough tliat they cannot be begrudged their hol­

low victories. Overall, tlie impression left by the play is that all three characters have lost; and, again, the

effect of tliat impression is vitiated by the lack of any

conspicuous success to measure the losses against.

Against that background, 'il Ohang-e of Heart" inculcates

several changes that, while somewhat mechanical in nature, nevertheless evince a noticeable refinement in James's approach to the structuring of a play. Ihe number of

characters grows to four, which, since one of them is

something of a confidante, greatly facilitates his handling

of exposition. Asides generally replaced the long,

pictorial monologues of the first two plays and obviate

the need to clear the stage whenever one character is

required to voice private thoughts. In combination, those

two improvements enable James to divide the play into 1 0 2 fourtoon i'ronch scenes, v/liicJi not only fcivo it a variety the earlier plays had sorely lacked, but also imbue it with physical movement and a resulting tempo that is largely missing in the first two plays.

In thab regard, perhaps the most noticeable thing

James does for the first time in ”A Change of heart” is to set tjie action within a real-time frame of reference. The events of t]io play take place inside a country home, out­ side of which a laim party is winding down to its conclusion.

Even though the laim party is never seen by the audience, it contributes to the play's tempo, its sense of time, in two ways, first, it provides a tangible time limit for the action, Tepperel intends to make his proposal to kargarct as soon as she dispenses with her ,guests, which moans that Stavely has to accomplish his dissuasion rather quickly. Second, it provides ilargaret, Popporel and llartha with specific duties to attend to other than listening to Stavely, and thereby further increases the importance of time for him. As a consequence, James is able to establish an internal, gradually quickening tempo for the play while at the same time moving it toward a resolution that is demanded by the exigencies of time as well as those of plot and character. That represents a significant improvement in James's dramaturgy because there is tension— and hence a sense of conflict— inliercnt to the simple fact of urgency. Time itself can bo an 103

antagonistic force and James attempts to use it as such in

"A Change of Heart,"

The most important step forward that James takes

with 'A Change of Heart^' however, is in positing a group

of characters with clearly conflicting interests and

intentions, fopporel wants to marry îiargarot, a union

Stavely firmly opposes because he knows Pepperel to be a

scoundrel and philanderer, Margaret is celebrating her

twenty-first birthday and the freedom that that occasion

provides from the dictates of her late father's will, and

is thus determined to bo her ovni woman and make her oim

decisions, llcnco, she is willing to listen to Stavely but

not to be guided by him; nor, on tlie other hand, does she

intend to be pressured by Pepperel. Martha, who \.us sorely

abused by Pepperel before coming to Margaret's house as a

serving woman, is seen by both men as the key to their

successes, and she is well aware that whether she chooses

to remain silent or not may determine the outcome of things.

To his credit, Jam^s establishes all that in the first

two scenes, thus setting for his play a rather substantial

body of material with potential for conflict. Unfortun­

ately, in the ensuing scenes he does not so much actualize

tlie iiotential conflict as endeavor, first, to diminish it,

and ultimately, to ignore it. The diminution is largrely

a function of his treatment of Ïiarg'aret, The first two

scenes establish three things: 1) Pepperel is a cad; 104

n) Stavoly laioAip's him to bo such; and 3) Stavely wants to detach Pepperel from margaret. Puildinj on that potential,

there are two obvions directions James could have taken his story, with Margaret being, in both cases, the pivotal

character. On the one hand, he could have presented her as blindly in love with Pepperel and thus loath to hear of his faults, in which case Stavely’s efforts would have been

towai'd saving her, as it were, from herself. On the other hand, he could liave pro sented her as still undecided about

Pepperel and tiius i:i 11 in g to consider all the available

information about ]iim, in which case the conflict would have centered more directly on the efforts of both men to gain her credence. In lieu of either, James opted instead

for an odd mixture of both; Margaret is not fully committed

to Pepperel ("Your ring is beautiful but you must give me

time" p. 10’7)> but neither is she the least bit interested

in or concerned about his faults ("1’m glad to love a man with enemies. It’s a proof of a strong nature" p. 10b).

So far as she is concerned, the tiuth or falsity of Stavcly’s allegations are actually of little importance so long as no infringement is made on her right to be "my o^m mistress "

(p. lOy). Indeed, her immediate response to Stavely's first attempt at accusing Pepperel is to thardc him for having

"shaken mo into position. Do I love him? I had been asking myself that question. You’ve made me say yes"

(pp. 108-109). 105

Tlic illo,"ic (or at bost, tlio a-lo^jic) of that response is obvious, but its importance to the play ^oes beyond that.

In the first place, it firmly aliens 'lar.yarot with Pepperel,

thus answering the question with which the play had begun— will Stavely be able to unmaslc the villain and save

Margaret from him? Moreover, it provides that answer a scant five scenes into the play, thus rendering the remain­ ing nine scenes (since they in no way contradict or even amend it) functionally anti-climactic. Secondly, it aliigns

Margaret with Pepperel for a reason that is entirely wrong if, in fact, James intended Margaret's future happiness to be a matter of sympathetic concern. If it were already clear tliat she loved Pepperel, it might have been an heroic gesture for her to reject Stavcly’s charges as an offense against her love ; but to use those charges as her reason for loving Pepperel is arrogant at best. At worst, it is simply stupid, in either case, it makes Margaret a character with whom it is difficult to sympathize. In short, James’s depiction of Margaret makes her appear more deserving of Popporel’s efforts to victimize her than of btavely's to save her. At the very least, her indiffer­ ence toward the facts about Pepper'd dimish the urgency of

Stavely*s mission and, with it, much of the potential for overt conflict in the play.

The development James gives to Stavely’s attitude

toward the situation is consonant with the unappealing lo6

1 itlht in v;hich he presents; riar,'Tar

tell in.?: him that he is prepared to wa,

1 mean victory, , , , it's not a matter of forgive­ ness. .'1 can't forget! 1 might have forgiven you a dozen times any mere wrong of my own, and yet not be able to stand silent and see a woman w.'hom 1 respect and esteem think of you as a man she can decently marry (p. 1 0 6 ).

That is an important line because it not only indicates the righteous fervor w^ith which Stavely approaches his task but also his truly unselfish concern for fiargaret. Itt thus presents him as something of a knight-errant needing only a fit opponent to set the stage for an interesting conflict.

Pepperel proclaims himself willing to fill tliat role by responding to Stavely's declaration with the cynical confidence expected of a natural villain.

. . . what do your blows amount to? You can prove nothing, , , , You can't find chapter and verse without a great deal of trouble. I'iean’.vhile, 1 sliall gain time (p. 106).

That completes the preparation for scene v in wdiicli, as noted before, ivbavoly receives his fii'st private audience with Ilargaret. Prom its beginning, he is characteristically zealous and bold, telling her straight­ forwardly. 107

cr.’mo to ho3 0 cell you Jiot to th.rov.' yourself civray. Tlio man you .have honorod vitli your hand is sii'Tnally unuoi'ttiy of it, , , , ho doesn't lovo you, ho loves your money (p. lOS),

Mar.yarot, of course, responds to that char,ye by transform- iny it into a reason for dccidiny in favor of Pepporol.

She then concludes taoir discussion by allouiny Stavely "an hour" to produce proof of his alloyations, not because she cares if it erists, but because' "] want a yood round pretext for despisin," you" (p. IO9 ) .

That loaves Stavely with, as he puts it,"A prettypair of altema.tivos" (p. IO9 ) . haryaret has made it quite clear that his principle objective is unattainable, that nothiny he can do will prevent her from marryiny Pepperel, not even the production of proof that his alloyations are tnie. To underscore the point, she has also informed him that no matter wdiat he docs, "everythiny's at an end between us" (p. lOo) . Ilis alternatives, then, are cither to yivc up the cause completely or to continue prcssiny it to no real purpose. Since the former would have the disadvantage of forciny the play to an abrupt halt, James chooses the latter. l.hilo it ]ias the dual advantage of allowing the play to continue and of boin.y consistent with tJic sinylo- mindedness Stavely has previously shovm, it also carries with it a distinct disadvantage. Since Stavely cannot succeed in his mission, to continue it is to become a kind of fyiixotic character tilting wildly at windmills. To 1 0 8 bo sure, doinf^ that provoked sympathy for Cervantes’s Don, but only because the deluded follow could not recognize the windmill for what it was. Stavely, on the other hand, is fully aware that his Messianic zeal will avail him nothing, lie cannot save his Aldonza, even if he slays the dragon.

Hence, any action ho takes to that end becomes an obvious exercise in futility that is more pathetic than pitiable.

Despite that, Stavely continues his quest by turning immediately to Martha, whom, from their first meeting in scene iJ., he has suspected of knowing more about Pepperel than she has yet revealed. Characteristically, he confronts her with his suspicion directly: "If I have observed to good purpose, you and Charles Popporel have not met to-day for the first time" (p, llO). Taken aback by his bluntnoss and acuity, Martha surrenders a touching story of how

Pepperel's farewell letter, "a note of three lines, enclos­ ing the titles of a scattered remnant of my property"

(p. IIO). Stavely urgently bids her to give him the note, with which, since he has despaired of convincing Margaret, he intends to confront Pepporol directly. %hon Martha asks for what purpose he hopes to use the letter, he replies, "To bid him repent, by Jove I under pain of expos­ ure. To bid him disgorge! You're too patient by half"

(p. 1 1 0 ).

Through the first seven scones of the play, then,

Stavely is bold, direct, and steadfast in his determination 109 to unmask Pepporol and dison^ago him from Margaret, ovon though the latter*3 arrogance and indifference have ren­ dered his efforts effocti.ely pointless. By the same token,

Pepperel remains confident both that Martha will not speak and that Stavely can do nothing but alienate himself with

Margaret unless he finds "chapter and verse" to prove his allegations. lie is wholly correct in the latter notion, but Martha's decision to loosen her tongue gives Stavely the ammunition ho needs to make things extremely uncomfort­ able for Pepperel. James thus succeeds in bringing the action to the throsiiold of a promising confrontation scene between Stavely and Popporel. It is promising because even though Margaret is liardly ingenuous enough to be worth saving, Pepperel is decidc'ly villainous enough to be worth exposing.

Distressingly, however, James next embarks on a series of choices that not only obfuscate the satisfaction attendant to seeing- Pepperel unmasked but avoid as well the only other confrontation that might have yielded some dramatic interest. ]'ol 1 owing immediately upon Stavely *s speech just quoted, Martha decides that the problem is really hers and aim ounces that she will confront Pepperel and tell him that he may keep her property if he will give up Margaret. Stavely is appropriately shocked by her idea, but when she insists that it is ’unquestionably her 110 affair, ho abruptly declares, "Tliis is too much; 1 give up my cause" (p. 111).

boveral observations must be made about that sequence, none of them particularly to James's credit, first,

Stavely's disavowal of his cause blatantly contradicts everything ho has said and done thus far, a point emphas­ ized by the fact that the disavowal comes a mere five lines after ho had told fartha she was "too patient by half." A case could be made, of course, that in view of Margaret's recalcitrance, there is ample reason for him to cease his efforts on her behalf. That ar.gument does not, however, explain the timing of his disavowal. If Stavely were will­ ing to press on after the thorough rebuffing Margaret gives him in scene v, wl:]^ should he withdrai: from the fray with at least the partial victory inherent to humiliating

Pepperel all but in his grasp? The answer might bo that he does not wish to put Martha through the painful process of seeing her private grief made public; but if that is the motive James intended, he keeps it well beneath the surface. Stavely's only response to Martha's pronounce­ ment that she will take up his cause is to offer her his

"compliments" and exit. Me maizes no attempt to dissuade her from taking action, which implies that he has not, in fact, disavowed the cause but only his participation in it.

for her part, Martha's sudden decision to become actively involved is no more consistent with her previous Ill action than is Stavely’s decision to withdraw. She has, in scene _i, made it clear that she is resigned to suffer- in^T In silence. She has told Popporel quite sincerely that she wishes "to laiow nothing" about his affair with Margaret and, in scene has informed Stavely straight out that his mission of mercy is "no affair of mine, save that I admire your zeal" (p. IO5 ). hven if it bo assumed that Stavely’s

"zeal" has finally persuaded her to become involved, v/hy does not his abrvipt loss of it cause her to reconsider? No loss difficult to understand is w'hy she would unilaterally decide to strike a bargain with Popporel (especially one so distinctly to her disadvantage) when it is she who holds tlu' stronger position. 'I'jie only apparent explanation is that James felt that lier doing so might justify his deci­ sion to remove Stavely from the battle. If that was his reasoning, however, it was ill-advised because, as noted before, Stavely’s rapid acquiescence makes him appear to have disavowed his in te l'est in Martha’s welfare as well as Margaret’s.

The inconsistency or illogic in the development of dtavely and Martha are, of course, damaging to"A Change of heart"; probably more damaging, liowever, is the fact that by the end of scene v:Lii, James has effectively decimated his two most obvious opportunities for a fully developed dramatic conflict. by rendering Margaret as such a disagreeable character lie has made any conflict derived 112 from attempts to save hor essentially meaningless. In addition, lie has eliminated the possibility of conflict between pure villainy (Pepperel) and pure gallantry (Stavely) by causing the latter to withdraw prematurely from the stiriggle. Stavely's doing so throws the focus of the play ' s action on liartho., however, which leaves James with yet anotJior potential conflict to dissipate. 'iartha lays the ground;;orh for it by insisting that she will confront

Pepperel herself. Such a scene, had it been written, would

]iave been a contest between the abused and the abuser and, more importantly, would have boon a contest in wliich each had a personal stake in the outcome. Instead, James next brings Ilartlia into contact with Margaret. The problem with that is that there is no real basis for conflict between the two women ; Ilartha has nothing personally to gain by convincing Margaret of Pepperol's dishonesty, nor

Margaret anything to lose by listening to Martha. James further dilutes the scene's potential by having Martha confide to the audience almost immediately that she cannot toll her ill 11 stoi-y to Margaret. Instead, she merely hints that she had Icnown Popporel before and had done him

"more than justice" (p. Ill),

Hiat rather oblique admission, however, is all

Margaret needs to introduce a final unexpected develop­ ment into the action and destroy what little potential for conflict remains, Phe observes tliat in her "vexgr private 113

opinion," both Martîia and Stavely are acting out of jeal­

ousy, that I iartha wishes to niari'y Pepperel while Stavely wants P^r^aret for himself. The sly thinly about such an

accusation (and James surely realized this himself) is tliat

it cannot be answered; to arcue that it is false only makes

it seem more true, I iartha recofpiizes that at once and so defers to 1 iari^aret for her "happy ^ûft of fitting facts to your fantasies" (p. 111),

bith considerable dexterity, then, James successfully

manages to by-pass three potential areas of conflict and

arrive instead at an impasse. That was an unfortunate

course for him to plot, however, because an impasse— like

a c hay) t e r- end in g— is not a resolution , indeed, it indicates

that a point has been reached wire re a solution, or resolu­

tion, is no longer possible, kargaret's accusation of

jealousy leaves nothing more for Stavely or Martha to

say— but it does not answer their charges. In effect, it

ends the dispute by changing the subject to an issue

neither side can prove. To his credit, James reco,gnized

that and thus ended the play in the only logical way left,

by pairing off the characters wlio apparently described each

other— Margaret v:ith Pepperel and Martha with Stavely,

Considered as a go'oup, James's first efforts at

plajn/riting suggest the existence of two "natural inclin­

ations," one having to do wit]i structure and the other

witJi content, I'ith regard to the former, he was clearly Il4 draifn to what Aristotle called an "episodic" structure. The problem with that inclination is that an episodic structure, because it guarantees "neither probability nor necessity in the sequence of its episodes," is more suited to narrative than dramatic writing. The most obvious result of the narrative approach James took to the ordering of his first three plays is their all too-apparent randomness, the clear sense in each of them that the events and characters are being manipulated by a logic other than their own. In that connection, it is interesting to note that the only real cliange in any of the characters in"Still V;'aters" occurs at the very end when Emma seemingly decides to reject Felix.

That is also the only real change in the direction of the stoiy, an observation that can bo made with equal accuracy about the sudden changes undergone by Catherine and Stavely,

In each case, James sought to bring about a turn in his action by introducing an almost totally unmotivated change in either the basic personality of one of his major char­ acters or in the relationship between that character and the situation. In effect, he was putting the cart before the horse. Father than allowing events to require a change in tho fortunes or attitudes of the characters, he chose

to have the characters force a change in tho direction of the story and, more importantly, to do so on their own initiative, without any basis in precedent action. 115

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with allowing a

significant change in a major character to alter radically

the nature or direction of an action, but only when, in

Aristotle's words, the character change itself arises "out

of the structure of the Plot, so as to be the consequence,

necessary or probable, of the antecedents," hz Failing that,

the sequence of events that follow the change can only

present themselves as the possible effects of an uncertain

cause, and that introduces a quantum of ineffective random­

ness to the action.

The other, and probably more significant, inclination

revealed by James's first three plays was his utter refusal

to put explicitly emotional confrontations on stage.

Obviously that denies audiences the interest and excitement

inherent to passionate conflicts, but it also has subtler

effects that are, in the long run, more damaging, Tho

inconsistency— if not illogic— of Stavely's disavowal in

"A Change of Heart," for instance, could easily have been

avoided had James simply given him the scene with Pepperel

that seemed inevitable. Similarly, Horace's répertoriai

relationship to the situation in "Still Haters"could have

been obviated had he ever been brought into direct contact

with ©Tima, To say that James treated those stories the

hz Aristotle, o£. cit., p. 236. 116 way he did solely because he was unwilling to depict overt passion would be more a psychiatric than a critical judg­ ment . What can be observed, however, is that by choosing to avoid such scenes, James too often was forced to require of his characters actions that strained their .credibility and, thus, contributed to the randomness and sense of external manipulation already identified as major weaknesses in the structure of his plays.

Ironically, it was James’s very unwillingness to allow his characters to act under the full sway of their passions that made it so important that their evoiy action be pre­ eminently logical and consistent. Erratic behavior is always possible— and frequently probable— when a character is dominated by emotions; Emma's curious rejection of

Felix at the end of "otill Waters," for example, might not have been so curious had James allowed her to be more mercurial early on. But when consistency, modesty, civil­ ity, emd intelligence are the dominant attributes of a character, even the slightest deviation from that estab­ lished pattern jars the logical sense of the perceivor and causes him to question the credibility not only of the character but of the play as a whole. All in all, James's failure to depict scenes of overt passion or, to put it positively, his preference for well mannered, almost cere­ bral characters who could not, with any consistency, bo a party to such scenes, produced a succession of plays in 117 which emotional conditions like love or jealousy or hate were not so much engaged in as reasoned to and in which conflict was more often avoided than developed. ClLVPïEii THIÜD]:


The word melodrama, especially when applied to nine» teenth-century plays, calls up a vision of sneering villains, rapacious landlords, mysterious letters, ingenuous heroines, hidden indentities, thoroughbred heros, virtue abused, and virtue triumphant. It has been used pejoratively in refer­ ence to works by Pixerecourt, Scribe, Sardou, and Belasco (to name just a few), and apologetically in reference to plays by writers like Ibsen, Shaw, Odets, and O'Neill. llie recurring imputation has been that to be melodramatic is to be inferior: hence, Euripides's Plectra is inferior to that of Sophocles, Miller's Death of Salesman is "only" a melodrama, and is one of Shakespeare's lesser tragedies (i.e.., it is a very good melodrama).

Only infrequently has melodrama been used as a purely structural term designating a distinct form of literature with objectives and te cliniques that are neither better nor worse than those of tragedy, but merely different. That suggests that the playivright is decidcly ill-advised who sets out to write a tragedy on the assumption that if he fails in that he will still have a good melodrama. Ivhat ho will more likely have is a botched tragedy.

1 1 8 119

To an extent, each literary form— be it tragedy, melo­ drama, or comedy— derives from a point of view, a vision of reality, A comic writer takes a sometimes mocking, sometimes bizarre, but ultimately optimistic view of the human condition. Ho is fundamentally impressed by man's ability to survive, to endure— often in spite of himself.

Indeed, faith that man will survive is the sine qua non of the form, the presumption that allows a comic writer to laugh at man's foibles.

A tragic writer takes a view of man that is neither pessimistic nor, as is sometimes alleged, optimistic; at base, his view of man is realistic. He assumes very little about man; rather, he aclcnowledge^s— as facts grounded in experience— that man is capable of achieving great things at the price of great suffering and, conversely, that man is capable of drawing from intense suffering a deeper appreciation of his individual and collective worth. Hence, the tragedian presents man as neither impotent nor omni­ potent, but rather, as a carefully balanced amalgam of both qualities. In effect, tragedy is realistic because it recognizes man's inherent dualities, his awesome capabil­ ities for good and evil, strength and weakness, compassion and cruelty. It is also the most compelling form of literature because it concentrates a full measure of those dualities in a single character. 120

It is, in fact, the "dividednoss" of the tragic hero

that most distinguishes the tragic view from that of melo­ drama. To be sure, melodrama also recognizes the existence of good and evil, but unlike tragedy, it seldom combines the two in a single character. To the contrary, the melo- dramatist separates good from evil and invests a full measure of each in different characters. The derogatory

"good guys" and "bad guys" description of melodrama is thus not without some foundation in fact. The result is what

Robert Heilman has called a "wholeness" in the characters of melodrama,^ They are whole in the sense that they are comfortable, morally and ethically, with themselves. They are not divided against themselves as the personages in tragedy so often arc. They seldom question what must be done, but rather, how best to do it, khat they must do is predetermined by whether their function in the story is to be comfortably good or comfortably evil.

To the extent that melodrama views good and evil as mutually exclusive entities, it can be said to represent an idealistic view of man. In James's terms, it depicts a conflict between "nobleness" and "smallness" as those qualities exist in separate individuals. In large part, the longevity and popularity of melodrama is a function

^Robert Heilman, Tragedy and Melodrama, (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1 9 6 8 ), p, 79. 121 of its capacity to simplify the inlierent duality of human nature by positing its contrasting aspects in different characters. That makes for a situation where good can clearly triumph or be defeated and avoids the complexity endemic to a situation whore good (or evil) wins and loses at the same time.

It should be noted, however, that melodrama is ideal­ istic only in the sense that it simplifies the human experience. It is no more ideal in the sense of being optimistic than tragedy, and a good deal less so than comedy. The good guy does not always win in melodrama-- witness Webster’s Duchess of Malfi-~nor does the bad guy always lose— witness Heilman's The Little Foxes or O'Neill’s

Mourning Becomes Electra. How a melodrama ends, in other words, has a great deal to say about the philosophy of the playwright, but very little to say about the nature of the form.

It would not bo amiss to say that the tragic vision sees good and evil at work in individual men, while the melo­ dramatic vision sees good and evil at work in the world, with each force having its own separate and loyal following.

Hence, the melodramatist presents characters who are not only whole (and thus at peace with themselves) but also at war with one another. The agon of melodrama, then, is not within a single man, but rather, between men, or between 122

groups of mon, or oven between men and the forces of nature,

In all cases, it is "other-directed" conflict.

Tragedy, because it is essentially inner-directed,

presents a contest in principle, an opposition between what

Heilman calls an "imperative" (such as duty, honor, or

trust) and an "impulse" (such as love, ambition, or jeal- 2 ousy), But melodrama, with its other-directedness,

presents a contest in action with the imperative residing,

as it were, in one character and the impulse in another.

Just as an imperative normally pulls the hero of a tragedy

toward "nobleness" while an impulse pulls him toward "small­ ness," so in a melodrama a conflict will consist, whatever

its particulars, of opposition between an imperative that

is good and an impulse that is evil.

But adherence to an imperative, whether in tragedy

or melodrama, only entails conflict when there is an

identifiable impulse to do otherwise. To be honorable

is easy for a tragic hero so long as he has no reason or

opportunity to be dishonorable. Likewise, in melodrama

a good character is scarcely recognizable as such except

as he is given opportunities to react against evil,

Ihat suggests that the kind and degree of evil in a

melodrama absolutely determines the kind and degree

of good. What the good guy does, in other words, is

^ibid., p. 241. 123 largely dependent on vhat the bad gny does. Hence, the melodramatist is poorly served by under-developing either the degree of evil in his play or the reaction of good against it. By doing the former, ho lessens the potential for conflict; by doing the latter, he fails to realize

the potential fully.

Melodrama is usually considered the dramatic form that is easiest for writers to produce and for audiences to comprehend. But the same simplistic view of human experi­ ence that makes those assessments true also poses some unavoidable problems and limitations that a playwright must accept if he wishes to deal with the form successfully. To begin with, the inherent wholeness, or single-mindedness, of melodramatic characters demands from them a marked consistency. It limits, in other words, the variables available to them in terms of behavior. The good character may display differing degrees of goodness, but since he does not question the essential rightness of his attitudes, he cannot--as does— vacillate between nobility and ignobility, Nor may ho choose not to act when an occasion for doing good exists. He may bo defeated, or he may be compelled not to act by circumstances, but he may not, as

Stavely does, unilaterally withdraw from the situation.

To do so would be to deny the rightness of his cause, or worse, to abdicate his responsibility. In either case, 124 the result -would bo that the imporative— and thus a substan­ tial part of the conflict— would bo removed from the action,

A melodramatic vision, and the form it spasms, demands what amount to functional characters. Their primary raison d ’etre is to do, not to reason why. As Heilman has suggested,

"If our sense of reality leads us to see experience as an opposition of good and evil, or of power and weakness, we are not likely to look questioningly at the individuals 3 that embody these elements," iVnd ’embody’ such qualities of mind and soul is precisely what the personages of melo­ drama do. They give flesh and blood form to pre-conceivod notions of good and evil, and, more importantly, they present themselves as fully maturated embodiments from the start.

They do not, in other words, grow into goodness; they are that from the beginning and have only to function as such to serve their purpose in the action. They are, in effect, agents of the moral or ethical quality they represent.

They do not act to discover good (or evil) but, rather, to demonstrate its existence.

That limitation, which is inherent to melodrama, is one the playwright must recognize, because a functional character, one in which a part (good or evil) is made to serve for the whole (good and evil), has little potential

^Ibid,, p, 80, 125 for complexity, lie may grov, he may come to new perceptions about himself or those around him, but he may do so only in a manner consistent with his original function, his original goodness or badness, Nora llelmer's decision to leave her husband and children is the result of a new perception, but it is also consistent with her assigned function. She does not become an agent for evil by turning to vindictiveness, nor does she deny her duty to her family; she simply acknow­ ledges a higher duty, "My duty to myself,” The result of her consistency is undivided sympathy when she slams the door. By contrast, Vindice, in Cyril Tourneur's The Roven- gor's Tragedy, does not remain consistent with his function as an agent for good, tliilo he has every justification for revenge, the savagery with which ho carries it out and the delight ho takes in his rapacity, make him appear nearly as evil as those ho acts against. Had Vindice recognized and tried to deal with the disparity between a good end and bad means~as Hamlet does— the promise of the play's title might have been fulfilled. Lacking that, the action remains a contest between a supposed agent for good (Vindice) and an agent for evil (The Bulce) and dissolves into a hopeless muddle when the former loses sight of his original function and becomes a composite of good and evil.

The actions of a character in melodrama are limited to and determined by his function, and that function cannot substantially cliange without eliminating, or at least 126 confusing, tho lines of conflict. With that degree of limitation on the complexity of its characters, tho interest attendant to melodrama is largely dependent on the sharp­ ness of its conflict. It is seldom enough in melodrama for good to oppose evil passively; stoic postures, such as those adopted by Catherine and Horace, are inimical to the form.

Nor can melodrama abide a conflict that is too much inter­ nalized, The simplicity of its vision demands that it deal in actions, not conditions, Tho sharp conflict appropriate to melodrama is as ideal as the form itself in that it should produce clearly defined winners and losers. In a world divided between good and evil— with characters representative of each— there is little room for Pyrrhic victories. Triumph tainted by regret over what is lost in achieving it is more germane to tragedy. Heal men are concerned by such things, of course, but the forces of good and evil in melodrama are impersonal, and it is as embodiments of those forces that the characters in melo­ drama act— not as real men. Good either wins or loses in conflict with Evil ; it does not assay the consequences or mourn its losses. It does not nay-say itself and neither do its agents. To tho contrary, melodrama locks the impersonal forces of good and evil in a duel to the death.

And just as fire must either turn water into steam or be doused into extinction, so good must either extinguish evil or bo dissipated by it. The two cannot peacefully co-exist. 127

That suggests tho supremo importance in melodrama of not only fully developing but also decisively resolving

conflict. Real men are often willing to accept compromises between good and evil but, again, real men do not oxist in melodrama, l/hat exists there are human agents for the

irreconcilable forces of good and evil, neither of whom

can any more tolerate the other’s continued existence—-even

in compromised form— than fire can tolerate water. Nothing

short of total victory can satisfy either side.

Nor is it enough for victory or defeat simply to exist

in a melodrama; neither is satisfactory if it is accomplished by default. The potential of melodrama is not fully realized

simply because some characters win and others lose. To refine an earlier statement, conflict in a melodramatic world requires that there be winners and losers, but the

sharpness of that conflict— and hence, the degree of inter­

est attendant to it— is a function of how they do so. To win by default or to lose by choosing not to fight (as both Horace and Stavely do) are less than satisfactory;

similarly, to do either because the wheel of fortune

chances to turn, in that direction and, in doing so, takes

the resolution out of the hands of the principal combat­ ants , the eviction notice in 'Tyramus and Thisbë') , dulls the edge of a melodramatic conflict and weakens its

effect, Thus far, attention has been directed to the vision of human experience from which melodrama springs and to the 128 way its vision differs from that of tragedy, A distinction between the two may also be dra^vn, however, on the basis of

their differing objectives. Had Aristotle defined tragedy as merely "the imitation of an action that is serious , , , ," he would have provided no criterion for distinguishing between Oedipus the King and Tho Count of Monte Cristo,

The critical aspect of his definition, that which identifies

tragedy as a unique form of drama, is the phrase "with incidents arousing pity and fear, , , ," That is so because the form of a thing, its final shape, is a function of what it is intended to achieve. It follows, then, that

the formal distinction between tragedy and melodrama derives from the fact that they arc aimed at the arousal (and catharsis) of different emotions. Indeed, to change Aris­

totle's definition of tragedy into a definition of melodrama requires little more than that the phrase "pity and fear" be changed to "fear and hate,"^ In melodrama, the good

force is placed in a fearful situation by the actions of

the evil force, which causes the former to become the

k Op, cit,. p, 230,

^Like the words "fear" and "pity" in Aristotle's defin­ ition, the words "fear" and "hate" should be understood generically, the former including the whole gamut of feel­ ings from vague angst to abject terror and tho latter covering a similar range from slight indignation to absolute loathing. 129 object of fear and the latter the object of hate.

Unlike tragedy, then, but consistent with its polarized vision of reality, melodrama does not focus its emotional appeal on a single character, father, it divides that appeal between the agent for good and agent for evil. A melodramatist has the problem of developing fear and hate simultaneously, which he can only do by structuring his action in such a way that they reinforce one another. The more loathsome tho actions of tho evil character are, the greater will be the occasion to fear for tho good character.

Similarly, the more worthwhile tho good character is, the greater will bo the reason to hate his nemesis, Tho task of a melodramatist is complicated by the fact that fear and hate must not only exist simultaneously, they must also be resolved simultaneously through contact with one another.

It is, in other words, the final confrontation between the objects of the contrasting emotions that resolves the action of a melodrama; more importantly, while one or tho other of the objects will normally survive, the final confrontation should consume both emotions or, rather, alloy them into a compound that is distinct from either but retains elements of both. Tragedy ends on a note of pity that has fear latent in it, but melodrama ends on a note of either vindication (if good prevails) or resig­ nation/indignation (if evil prevails), with both fear and hate latent in either. The problem, as always in 130 melodrama, is how to handle the agent for evil. So long as good either wins or loses, tho occasion for fear is removed.

Dut if good wins by chance or default, or if it does so without destroying evil, it has not been vindicated. Sim­ ilarly, if good loses by chance or default, the result is more likely to bo frustration than resignation/indignation.

The polarity of the melodramatic vision, combined with the polarized emotions that signify its form, precludes, ideally, both partial victories and victories by chance or default. Neither good nor evil can properly win simply by surviving; nor should they lose without being effectively destroyed. That is not to say that a play in which good wins by default or evil loses but survives is not a melo­ drama; it is to say, however, tliat such a play does not realize tho full potential of the form because it does not fully resolve the emotions that characterize it.

Consideration of the nature of melodrama as a form is relevant to a consideration of James's plays because just as he was naturally inclined to narrative techniques, so also was he inclined to a melodramatic view of human exper­ ience. The polarities of good and evil endemic to melo­ drama are quite computable with tho "high contrasts" James admired in the "Romantic formula," The "naivete" ho missed in contemporary plays and audiences is nothing more than a willingness to engage in and respond to those polarities. Tho disparity between fools and intelligent 131 characters is James's version of the disparity between good

and evil. In view of his notions of the ideality of drama,

it is altogether fitting that James would turn to tho most

idealistic of the dramatic forms. In light of his call for

drama that depicted "man's nobleness apart from his small­

ness," no other form could bo expected of James,

The problems James experienced with the form, however,

arc both fundamental and, in a way, predictable. His first

three plays demonstrated his propensity for creating char­

acters who were susceptible to profound changes in attitude,

motivation, and relationship to situation; they demonstrated,

in other words, that he was reluctant to restrict himself

to purely functional characters. They also indicated his

difficulty both with establishing clear lines of conflict

and with fully resolving conflict. It is on those bases,

then, that James's melodramas must be examined,^

With regard to establishing lines of conflict, James's

problem in Daisy Miller is not that he failed to do so,

but that he af^ompted to create too many. What had ani­

mated the novel version of Daisy Miller was, at base, a

Tho temptation to consider all of James's serious plays under the heading of melodrama is great and would not be especially difficult to justify. The Other House and The Saloon arc in a separate chapter herein because, in both, the conflict is essentially within the central char­ acters. The High Bid « Guy Domville and The Guteiry- are excluded from this chapter because they each, in different ways, represent a curious mixing of forms. 132

clash of societal mores. Daisy vas presented as an ingen­ uous, uninhibited young American awash in a European society

that had no tolerance for either quality and eventually killed her. That "international theme" (as it has since been characterized by critics) was central to several of

James's novels and becomes, in his stage adaptation of

Daisy Miller, the first line of conflict to be introduced.

In the novel, James had presented it indirectly, that is,

through the recorded impressions of other characters and, unfortunately, he attempts to do the same thing in the play.

In other words, he allows Daisy's allegedly scandalous behav­ ior to be more often reported than depicted. Indeed, there are only two occasions on which Daisy is seen behaving badly.

The first occurs when she insists on accompanying hintor— bourne to the castle of Chilien unchaperoned, and the second, 7 when she is discovered walking unchaperoned with Giovanelli,

Other than those two incidents, the only evidence that

Daisy has behaved improperly takes the form of essentially narrative reports from other characters,

While that, in itself, makes the question of Daisy's conduct less effective dramatically than it might be, the

7 Dy today's standards, it would be easy to criticize even those incidents as rather puny examples of scandalous behavior. It must bo remembered, however, that James wrote the play for Victorian audiences that subscribed, by all accounts, to a somewiiat stricter notion of what constituted proper behavior. 133 problem is aggravated by the identity of tho characters doing the reporting. Even though it is European society

Daisy supposedly shocks, it is the other American charac­ ters who take offense, What a proper young lady ought not to do in European society is mostly cxprossod by Mrs,

Costello and Alice Durant, As a matter of fact, the only

Europeans who appear in tho play are Eugenio, who works for

Daisy's family, Madame do Katkoff, who is ultimately sym­ pathetic to Daisy, and Giovanelli, who wants to marry her.

None of these characters is ever offended in the least by

Daisy's activities, Ivhat the audience sees Daisy offend, then, is not IXiropean mores per so, but European mores as understood and adopted by Americans.

■'l'iliilo that circumstance does not destroy tho possibil­ ity of an international conflict, it does make it something of a "straw man" issue. At the very least, it renders it incapable of sustaining, for very long, the action of a melodrama. In effect, Daisy is pitted against an opponent that deals her its blows by proxy. The problem is further aggravated by Daisy's pointed lack of any personal contact with Mrs, Costello, her unseen opponent's principle sur­ rogate, From the beginning, Mrs, Costello holds firmly to the position that, "They J_ the entire Miller family_7 ^re the sort of Americans one does one's duty by not accept­ ing" (p, 1 2 5 ). As a result, the entire international conflict is able to move forward only by indirection. The various American characters deprecate Daisy's behavior, but not when she is there to hear them. Reports of Daisy's scandalous activities are delivered to tho audience— again, by the American characters— but the activities themselves are never seen; nor, obviously, are the reactions of the

Europecuis, Indeed, on the two occasions mentioned earlier when Daisy's activities are seen, she is being assisted, as it were, by representatives of the very society she suppos­ edly offends, Rintorboume is American by birth, but he has been thoroughly Europeanized by having lived on the continent for eight years, Giovanelli is not highly regarded by the other characters, but he is a member of European high society. Hence, James presents his audience with the paradoxical spectre of a woman allegedly condemned out of hand by a society whose only two representatives actually appearing in the play find her both charming and sympathetic.

The "international theme" that had formed the substance of James's novel exists, in the play, as neither a conflict between Daisy and European standards nor between Daisy and an American spokesman for European standards. In fact, it does not oxist as a conflict at all. It is reduced, instead, to a simple contrast between Mrs, Costello's pretension and Daisy's lack of pretension. As such, it serves as little more than a background against which more discernible conflicts can bo enacted. Even soon in that light, however, it represents a dramaturgical problem; a background— in a play as in a 135 photograph—-is only an asset if it focusses attention on, or throws into starker relief, the real areas of concern.

It is a liability if it seems to compete with the fore­ ground for attention, which is essentially what James's international conflict does in Daisy Miller. At base, the problem is one of proportion. Virtually all of the first act and a sizeable portion of the second are given over almost exclusively to establishing Daisy's impropriety and resultant ostracism,

James errs in failing to realize that an audience can only measure the importance ef a line of conflict in terms of the relative amount of time allotted to developing it.

By emphasizing one line of conflict at tho expense of others, the playwright invests it with a d_o facto significance ; he makes it appear probable, in other words, that tho empha­ sized line of conflict will have a noticeable impact on the play's outcome. Such is not the case with the international conflict in Daisy Miller, By the end of Act II, after

Eugenio and Katkoff have assumed active roles, the question— and the importance— of Daisy's behavior all but disappears, I'.Tiat begins as a play concerned about whether

European society in general (and Kinterbourne in particu­ lar) will accept Daisy, ends as a play concerned with whether Eugenio's foul deceits will be exposed in time.

The problem, really, is not that both lines of conflict exist in the play, but rather, that the change from one to 136

the other forces a rather precipitous change in antagon­

ists; with no preparation at all, Mrs, Costello goes from

the center of action to the periphery and Eugenio comes

from the periphery to the center, What results is not

merely a change in emphasis but a radical change in the

direction of the story. Mrs, Costello’s objective is to

effect a marriage between Alice and Winterbourno, while

Eugenio's is to facilitate a marriage between Daisy and

Giovanelli, Mrs, Costello's plan calls for the exclusion

of Daisy, but Eugenio's requires the reverse, Katkoff is

of absolutely no importance to Mrs, Costello, but she is

crucial to Eugenio's design. In sum, virtually everything

that is significant to Mrs, Costello in the first half of

the play— including the propriety of Daisy's behavior— is

insignificant to Eugenio in the second half,

A change of such magnitude cannot oasiy be accom­

plished in a play. At the very least, it must be just­

ified; some apparent link must be established connecting

the new direction with the old, James could have

created an adequate lihltage by allowing Eugenio to use

Daisy's social transgressions— the source of Mrs,

Costello's antagonism— as a moans to his oim end, but

he eschews that possibility completely, Eugenio never

comes into contact with Jlrs, Costello and, in fact, remains 137 oblivious tlaroughout tho play to the complaints she voices about Daisy's behavior. Instead, James attempts to use

Winterboume as his means of forging the necessary connec­ tion. Since ’Winterboume figures in the plans of both antagonists, that is, to be sure, an obvious alternative.

And, indeed, it could have been a very workable one.

If, for instance, Winterboume were to reject both Mrs.

Costello's prejudices and her plans for him by deciding to marry Daisy, it would then be quite logical for Eugenio, who wants Daisy to marry Giovanelli, to offer a totally different kind of obstacle. If the social disapprobation embodied by Mrs. Costello were not to be the key factor in keeping Daisy and Winterboume apart, then it should have been somehow closed off and resolved in such a way that the second lino of conflict centering on Eugenio would become not only logical but necessary.

What follows in lieu of that is a queer mish-mash of events that sees Winterboume close Act I by rejecting his aunt and marching off to Chilien with Daisy and then begin

Act II by rejecting Daisy as well for reasons that appear, on the surface, to have come directly from his aunt. He tells Katkoff that, "She l_ Daisy_J7 Is making herself terribly talked about" because of her behavior, and calls her "a little American flirt" (p. 142). At the same time, however, he bemoans the fact that her lovely eyes "look at too many people" (p. l43). The hint of jealousy revealed 138 by that comment is so obvious that Katkoff twits him with an immediate rejoinder, "Should you like them to fix them­

selves on you?" (p. 143) He denies that, of course, but

the upshot of their conversation is that Kinterboume is at least strongly attracted to Daisy; that, despite what he

says, he really does not care a whit about the propriety of her behavior; and that, if he has rejected Daisy, he has done so not because of Mrs, Costello, but because he fancies himself in love with Katkoff, In other words, James's solution to tlie problem of linking two unrelated lines of g conflict together is to introduce a third one,

Eugenio's machinations do not begin until II iv, which suggests that, perhaps, James hoped that linking

Winterboume to Katkoff prior to that, would make their later relationship seem probable, Wliile it does that,

it also makes Eugenio's crucial action to come— that of

forcing Katkoff to lure Winterboume away from Daisy— almost redundant, Dy announcing, some eight scenes earlier, that he prefers Katkoff s company to Daisy's, Winterboume

places himself precisely where Eugenio wants him. More

importantly, however, Winterboume ' s reasons for rejecting

8 It has been established earlier that Winterboume is infatuated with Katkoff, but not until the scene just described is there any suggestion that the infatuation was strong enough to draw him away from another woman. 139

Daisy completely icnoro the questions raised in Act I about her conduct, which, so long as they remain unanswered, Ccin only sei*vc to obscure the significance of events yet to come •

In any case, since the so-called international conflict is not used as material from which Eugenio's activities might logically spring, the second half of Daisy Miller becomes, in effect, a new play, IJhile it usos the same characters and essentially the same situation, there are radical changes in tho relative importance of the charac­ ters and in their relationship to the situation, Mrs,

Costello, for instance, changes from a dominating and potentially disruptive figure to a harmless cuimrudgeon with considerable potential (well-utilized by James) for humor,

Alice is transformed from a potential romantic obstacle for Daisy into an almost antic role as the object of 9 Reverdy's desire, Daisy and V^interboume go from tenta­ tive suitors to estranged antagonists (an especially radical change in view of the fact that it occurs between acts) who speak to each other only twice between the end of Act 1 and the final scene of tho play.

9 Reverdy has, in fact, desired Alice from the begin­ ning, but she has shown no inclination to allow him to consummate that desire. Somewhere between Act 1 and Act 111, but not in Act 11, her attitude toward him clearly changes, which allows her to spend much of the final act trying to make it possible for Reverdy to propose. l4o

The characters who fill the void created by those changes are Katkoff and Eugenio, who thus become the principal sources of interest in the second half of the play. Indeed, the two of them are— albeit in different ways— among the most interesting characters in the whole Jamesian canon.

There are, however, problems with James’s treatment of both.

In one sense at least, Eugenio is the most important character in Daisy Miller; he is the only thoroughly evil character, tho only one whose bad actions are fully inten­ tional, To his credit, James ai^parcntly recognized the need to somehow make overt what had been a subtle, almost psychological conflict in his novel. To do that, Eugenio is made into a totally self-serving, inglorious, almost

Machiavellian character who is out to advance his own interests at any cost. He manipulates Mrs, Miller, surrep­ titiously assumes control of Daisy's future, blackmails

Katkoff, uses Giovanelli, and abuses Ivinterboume, The action is cleverly arranged so that, until the very end, the only two characters who Imow about Eugenio's machina­ tions are Giovanelli and Katkoff, and they both have good reason to keep their knowledge to themselves, Katkoff knows Eugenio is using her as a wedge to keep Kinterboume and Daisy apart, but she cannot extricate herself from that situation without his making public her past indiscretion;

Giovanelli Icnows that Eugenio's efforts on his behalf are Ihl

less than honorable, but ho Icnovs as well that without

Eugenio his chances of marrying Daisy, and thus availing himself of her money, arc practically nil.

Doth Katkoff and Giovanelli, although they function as disruptive forces, are in fact rather sympathetic charac­

ters. Katkoff acts disruptively, but does so quite against her will and chooses, finally, to sacrifice her oiiTi good name for Daisy's welfare. Even though Giovanelli is unquestionably a gigolo, he possesses, as it were, a gol- den-heart. lie has a conscience, and while he would

probably not bo interested in Daisy were it not for her

money, that she has some does not prevent him from gen­ uinely falling in love with her. lie is capable of saying

quite sincerely of Daisy that, "She's an angel, and 1 worsliip the ground she walks on" (p. l46) . After Daisy becomes ill, he is truly agitated and says, again with

obvious sincerity, "If I lose her, I shall never try again.

I am passionately in love with her" (p. l6l). There is,

in sum, a kind of beguiling simplicity about Giovanelli

that gives all his protestations of love for Daisy a ring

of truth and, perhaps more importantly, makes him appear not so much Eugenio's partner in malefaction as yet another

victim of the latter's diabolical cleverness, James

allows Eugenio, in effect, to compound his villainy; not

only does he practice it outright himself, he bends other­ wise likeable, well-intentioned people to his evil will as 142 well. Throughout the play, L'ugonio remains a sinister figure who wheedles, insults, manipulates, and defios without ever exposing himself to public scrutiny. It is hateful to see a villain effectively practice his villainy in the open, but it is doubly hateful to see him act effec­ tively from a concealed and seemingly secure position. It is exciting to watch both hero and villain risk life and limb, but it is exacerbating to see a villain deal his blows, as it were, from behind the arras.

In functioning, then, as an easily identifiable object for hate, Eugenio becomes the center of conflict, the single force against which the good characters have to struggle most directly. That has the effect of reducing the play's magnitude, of talcing it from the presumably loftier plane of either a clash of societal values or an affaire du coeur, and placing it rather firmly within the traditional preserve of melodrama, a simple confrontation between good guys and bad guys. That observation is not a criticism of the play, but it is a factor that must be considered in assessing it because there is a kind of inverse ratio between how complex the conflict initiated by the agent for evil is and how intense— that is, how sharply defined— the treatment of it can be. It is not reasonable to expect a conflict between broad aspects of political or societal value to be as tightly focussed, clearly delineated, or 143 decisively resolved as one between cops and robbers. The same is true of a purely romantic action where what is right and what is wrong, who is good and who is bad, may, in the long run, be a question of individual perspective.

The larger and more complex the subject, in melodrama as in life, the greater will be the potential for "gray" areas that do not easily lend themselves to precise definition.

It would be unfair to expect the same purity of motive and intention in Desire Under the Elms as exists in The Miller and His Men,

But the converse is t m e as well. The simpler the conflict, the closer it comes to a basic man versus man situation, the greater is the playiirright • s responsibility to throw the action into sharp focus, to clearly delineate

the lines of conflict, and most importantly, to resolve the

conflict decisively. As always, the task before the playwright is to realize fülly the potential inherent to his material, however large or small that potential might be.

In view of the fact that Daisy Miller was James’s

first full-length play, his decision to move away from the

rather abstract international theme that had been the soul

of his novel was probably a wise one. By doing so, he

reduced the play’s complexity, and thereby its potential,

but he also made it more manageable in terms of stage

action. To say, however, that a subject is more manageable 144 means only that the number of variables it contains is reduced; it makes no claim for any relaxation in the precision with which those variables must be handled.

A jig-saw puzzle with five pieces is certainly more man­ ageable than one with five hundred, but the five pieces still must be properly aligned before they will yield a clear picture, Idiat James did in converting Daisy Miller from a novel to a play was to reduce the almost limitless number of variables inherent in a clash between sets of societal mores to four persons— Eugenio, Katkoff, Daisy, and Wintorbourne. That would seem to be a manageable number of pieces from which to form a clear picture but, unfortunately, James does not manage them well.

The natural antagonists in that group are Eugenio,

Daisy, and Wintorbourne, but the action is arranged in such a way that their fates are almost wholly dependent on whether Katkoff decides to function as an agent for evil or an agent for good. The problem, and indeed the major structural defect to the second half of the play, is that

James allows her to do both. As a result, she becomes what has been referred to earlier as a "divided" character.

To put it in Heilman's terms, she is invested with both an impulse and an imperative, but, more importantly, she is presented as a character who is fully aware of both attributes and in a position to choose between them. 145

Sho first functions to separate Daisy and Vinterboume

(in II x) by convincing the latter that she is, at long last, prepared to requite his love. She does that, of course, because of Eugenio's assurance that he will malce public the incriminating letter he possesses if she does not. She real­ izes at once that Eugenio is asking her "To break a young girl's heart— to act an abominable comedy , , ," (p, l48), but relucteintly agrees to his demand because doing so seems

"easier, perhaps, than paying out half one's fortune" (p, l49)«

She accedes, in other words, to the impulse to protect her fortune and her reputation,

A crisis arises for Katkoff, however, in III v, when for the first time she and Daisy meet. She is immediately taken by Daisy's beauty ("One doesn't know how pretty you are till one talks to you," p, l6?) as well as by her curious mixture of strength ("She's as proud as she is pretty," p, l6?) and vulnerability ("You trust the wrong people," p. 167), Most importantly, she is convinced that

Daisy's agitation at the mere mention of Winterboume • s name shows clearly that "She adores him" (p, 168), Having divined all that, Katkoff voices her awareness of the tnily ethical dilemma she faces in an aside to the audience:

I can hardly tell her that I want to make up to her for the harm I have done her, for I can't do that unless I give up everything (p. l67)«

By the end of her interview with Daisy, Katkoff is convinced that her "position is odiously false" (p, 168) . More 146

Importantly, she realizes that "I hold her J_ Daisy ' s__7 happiness in my hands" (p. l68).

By acknowledging that reality, Katkoff sets the stage

for the performance of her second function, that of bringing

Daisy and Vinterboumo back together again. In determining

to do the honorable thing, she is in effect renouncing her

earlier impulse in favor of a higher imperative. She rejects what is expedient for what is ethical, and James underlines the nobility of that decision by making the road from one to the other as arduous as possible. The result is that attention is further drawn from the external conflict between good and evil and is focussed more tightly on Katkoff’s internal dilemma. She begins what is by far

the most dramatic scene in the play by trying to make

Winterboume admit that it is Daisy that he really loves.

That would be an easy way out for her, were it successful, because sho would not have to reveal her duplicity. It

does not succeed, however, so she takes a harder tack,

telling Winterboume that what he thought was happiness with her was only the "novelty and excitement" of discover­

ing that "after all, I had a heart in my bosom" (p. 170),

When Winterboume rejects that argument as well, she tries

to return to her original position; but she ends by hinting

that she has deceived him:

You don't really care for me, your heart is some­ where else* * * * You are restless, discontented, unhappy. You are sore and sick at heart, and you 147

havG triod to forget it in persuading yourself that I can cure your pain. I can cure it; but not by encouraging your illusion (p. l?l)!

But Winterboume rejects that argument, too, and Katkoff realizes that she must either give up or reveal the entire plot and her complicity in it. She opts for the latter course because

Ifhen I met that poor girl just now, and looked into her face, I was filled with compassion and shame. She is dying, I say, and between us we are killing her! , , . I am sick of the ghastly comedy, and I must tell the miserable t m t h (p, 17l) .

Hence, Katkoff serves two functions, which, by being inherently contradictory, require her to undergo a radical change in attitude. In philosophical terms, the change involves moving from acceptance of the expedient to accep­ tance of the ethical, but in dramatic terms, it simply involves movement— which is inherently more interesting than

stasis— in the direction of self-sacrifice— which is inherently more compelling than self-protection. Moreover, the interest and attention inherent in those factors are augmented and made more arresting by at least two other circumstances in the play.

First, there is an almost total absence of either factor in the other characters, Eugenio undergoes no change, nor, certainly, does he make any sacrifices. There is no change in Daisy from start to finish, and even though she seems to choose Giovanelli when it is Winterboume she loves, that is less self-sacrifice than an act of spite.

It might even be regarded as self-protection, Winterboume 148 fully accepts Daisy in th.o ond after seemingly rejecting her, but that is not so much a change in attitude as an acknowledgement of the feeling he had for her all along.

And there is nothing in ¥interboume ' s behavior that even hints of self-sacrifice. Hence, Katkoff has, independently of the other characters, the interest attendant to being a divided character, and that is enhanced by the fact that she is the only such character. The relative wholeness of the others throws her dividedness into sharper relief.

The second thing augmenting Katkoff’s stature in the play is the positions James assigns her relative to the action. During the first half of the play, she moves about on the periphery of events as a vaguely mysterious, imper­ ious, and alluring woman with more than a hint of a past.

The fact that she is regarded with either awe or admiration by everyone except Eugenio (and even he treats her gingerly) searves not only to give her commanding focus whenever she speaks, but also to increase the aura of strength surround­ ing her. In performing her functions, however, she is forced to move from the periphery squarely into the center of the action. Even though she is dratm into the center of things rather unwillingly, once she is there she assumes almost total control of the action. By III vi

(the scene just described between Katkoff and Winterboume), she is the only character who can make the play end the way it does, but,just as importantly, she is the only character who could maize it end otherwise. At that point. 149 she alone can tell Vinterbourno that he has boon deceived

(and vho it was that deceived him); she alono can reveal

Daisy’s love for him; and she alone can persuade him to roquito it, With all that responsibility resting solely on her shoulders, the only way Katkoff could have been more important, more the center of attention and interest, would have been for her to have been in love with Ivinter— bourne herself. Fortunately, James does not go that far.

Seldom is a playifright criticized for creating a char­ acter as interesting and attractive as Katkoff, The prob­ lem, again, is one of proportion. A play\fright errs when he allows a character whose role in the overall design of the play is clearly subordinate to overshadow, by virtue of her personality and her pivotal position in the action, the characters whose roles were intended as primary. For all the interest Katkoff generates, the play is not about her.

In a sense, James allows Katkoff to become a kind of Shy- lockian monster that he cannot or, at least, does not control. He clearly intended her to function, not as an end, but as the means to an end. The problem is that the tasks she must perform in order to serve as the means to an end arc themselves so dichotomous that they cannot bo undertaken by a purely functional character. The same person cannot be both a paim and a queen without undergoing a considerable transformation in both shape and importance.

To James’s credit, he gives Katkoff sufficient depth and 150 intornal complexity to justify her change. Vhat ho does not do, however, is give comparable depth and complexity to the characters about whom the play is written. As a consequence, his principal characters, Daisy and 1/inter- boumo, cannot fairly compete with Katkoff for audience interest and attention. Instead of intensifying his mater­ ial and bringing the major lino of conflict into sharper focus, James's treatment of Katkoff tends to oxtensify the material, to create yet another area of conflict— centered in Katkoff and largely internal— that is fhlly capable of drawing attention to itself. At the very least, his treatment of Katkoff results in a blurring of the lines of conflict— almost a super-imposition, in fact— that makes her a necessary element in any satisfactory resolution.

Her contradictory functions may have been a mistake in terms of the play's structure, but her resultant internal complexity makes her such an arresting character that her personal stake in the outcome of things has to be dealt with.

There are several things James might have done in that respect. Having put Katkoff into an apparently hopeless situation earlier (her reputation is lost if sho defies

Eugenio, her self-respect if she does not), ho could simply have allowed her to lose, to have her reputation destroyed by revelation of the letter. Since she had defied Eugenio with full expectation that sho would "give 151 up everything" by doing so, allowing that to happen would probably have been the most consistent thing for James to have done. It would also, however, have focussed even more attention on Katkoff and destroyed the already uneasy balance that exists between her and the young lovers as agents for good. Indeed, any resolution in which Katkoff suffers for her nobility would almost certainly have made

Daisy LÜller a play about her.

The question, then, is not whether Katkoff should win or lose, but how sho should win. That constitutes a problem, however, because the only way she can tnily win is to get her letter back from Eugenio. Since he is not likely to give up his hold over her voluntarily, there is no way, short of physical violence, that Katkoff can accomplish that by herself. There is an unfortunate degree of irony in the fact that Katkoff foils Eugenio’s designs on Daisy and Winterboume singlchandedly, but cannot escape his clutches herself without outside help. Indeed, the flac- cidity that severely mars the conclusion of Daisy Miller is directly attributable to the fact that none of the victors (Daisy, Winterboume, or Katkoff) manage their triumphs themselves, Daisy and Winterboume come together because Katkoff defies Eugenio; they have no contact with him at all. More damaging to the play than that, however, is the indirection by which Katkoff prevails. Given that 152 she cannot pummel Eugenio into giving her the letter, the most obvious alternative is for t'intorboume— who, in fact, has already promised her he would get it— to do so. That is a particularly obvious alternative in that it offers the dual advantage of both being within an established scheme of probability and being the one course of action through which Eugenio could have been openly and decisively beaten.

Those advantages wore apparently outweighed, in James's mind, by the fact that they required a direct, mano a mano. confrontation between Winterboume and Eugenio, To avoid that, James opted— as he had in his first three plays— for an improbable, indirect, and indecisive course of action.

In spite of the facts that Winterboume knows everything about Eugenio's evil actions, that he has promised Katkoff he will punish him for them, and that Daisy is lying uncon­ scious in his arms as a result (at least indirectly) of

Eugenio's machinations, Winterboume speaiks to Eugenio just once during the final scene and then only to tell him to fetch Daisy's mother. He never mentions Katkoffs letter, nor any of Eugenio's other devilry for that matter.

The fact that Winterboume has been, throughout the play, a man of integrity who would never forsake a promise freely given is simply forgotten.

However improbable Winterboume's non—action might be, however, it pales to insignificance when compared to the action taken by Eugenio, When it becomes apparent to him 153 that Katkoff has reneged on their arrangement, he tolls her that he will destroy her giving the letter to

Winterboume « an incredibly stupid threat that, in view of the cleverness Eugenio had previously displayed, is neither probable nor in character. Virtually every other character in the room (and they arc all present) would be more likely to use the letter against Katkoff than Winter­ boume , who is, at the very moment Eugenio issues his threat, cradling Daisy in his arms and preferring her his undying love,

To complete it all, Katkoff*s response to Eugenio's threat insures that the conflict between them will come to a non-conclusion; she simply calls him "Coward!"— which, since he makes no response, he apparently takes as her admission of defeat. Lest anyone else take it that way, however, Katkoff tums immediately to the audience and says in an aside, "Mr, Winterboume will give it to me" (p, 1%6),

The absurd thing about that exchange is that Katkoff gives her announcement to the audience, which already Icnows what

Winterboume will do with the letter, but does not give it to Eugenio for whom it would presumably be a crushing piece of information, Eugenio could have made the discovery himself, of course, had James actually allowed him to give

Winterboume the letter, but that does not happen either.

The play thus ends on a thoroughly indecisive note,

Eugenio has been totally defeated at every turn, but he is 154 just as totally unseat lied. He has lost Daisy and, more importantly to him, his share of her fortune, but that leaves him with no less than he had at the start. He has lost his leverage on Katkoff, but he does not know that and so cannot suffer (in the play) because of it. He no longer has his position with the Miller family, but they have not fired him; he has simply decided that they are no longer useful. Indeed, except for the one occasion when

Katkoff calls him "Coward!", there is not a single harsh word spoken to Eugenio in the entire final scene, "What emerges most clearly from the scene is a sure sense that while Eugenio may have lost a battle, his war will certainly go on. Immediately after he is spurned by Katkoff, he agrees to find Giovanelli another heiress "with my next family" and "on the same terms" (p, 1?6), Quite obviously, he has neither been converted nor prevented from practicing his villainy on another day.

Hence, the problem with James's resolution of Daisy

Miller is that he accomplished it in a manner more appro­ priate to comedy than melodrama. Because comedy strives to affirm the regeneration or, at least, the continuity of life, its resolutions typically maximize the positive and minimize the negative. They celebrate good and pretend that evil no longer exists. That stratagem works in comedy because the comic form does not purport to present a to-the-death struggle between good and evil. Melodrama 155 does present such a struggle, however, and as a consequence, its action cannot he fully resolved— or even satisfactorily resolved— until both good and evil have been properly dealt with. As noted at the start of this chapter, melodrama rests on the assumption that good and evil cannot cohabitate, that the moment they touch, a conflict begins that cannot end until one or the other is destroyed. In Daisy Miller,

Daisy and Winterboume are united and Katkoff is released from torment; but Eugenio, for all his foul deeds, is allowed not only to walk away unpunished, but to walk away with fresh plans for more villainy as well. That is not to say that James errs by failing to incorporate "poetic justice" into his conclusion; poetic justice is, by definition, an artifice, a contrivance, a sure sign of inferior craftsmanship. 1/here James errs is in not dealing fully with the agents for good and the agent for evil in his action, Ifhile he resolves the fear engendered by his situation, he does not resolve the hate, and thus, does not fully realize the potential inherent to his material.

After Daisy Miller, James turned away from drama completely for seven years, concentrating instead on enheincing his reputation as a novelist. He accomplished that very nicely, but his next play. The American, did little to further his reputation as a dramatist. In a formal sense, the single most damaging thing about The

American is that, like Daisy Miller, its resolution is 156 accomplished in a manner that tends more towaixi comedy than melodrama. Once again, James refused to deal adequately with the agents for evil and compounded his felony by rewarding the agents for good through a most improbable contrivance, James did eventually re-write the last act, but did so for entirely the wrong reason and ended up with g a revision that was worse than the original.

Discussion of the last act must be held in abeyance, however, because there are several structural problems in the play that should be dealt with first. If two thousand years of Greek tradition has counted for nothing else, it has left V e s t e m man oriented toward thought processes that are essentially linear, Ivhon an event occurs, its cause is sought; when an action is contemplated, its effect

g Under pressure from his producer, Edward Compton, James completely revised the last act. Although a fragment of the revision exists and, indeed, is printed (for the first time) in Edel's Complete Plays of Henry James, it will not be; included in this study. The reason for its omission is simply that the play as originally written is the play James intended to write. He changed the fourth to make it more "in a comedy sense" only because Compton insisted that he do so. That James considered the revised version inferior is evidenced by the fact that he never allowed it to be printed. In addition to that, several of the changes in the revised fourth act are of such a nature that James would have had to make changes in the third act as well (Valentin lives in the revision, for example), and there is no evidence of how those changes were accomplished. In any event, since the revision is only James’s attempt to doctor the original according to Compton’s prescription— with which he heartily disagreed— there is little point in analyzing it here. Suffice it to say that it does not improve the original. 157 is pondered, Ever>- word spoken in a play, every action taken, creates a sense of expectation in the audience. In sti*ucturing a play, then, the playivright ' s task is to insure that he satisfies ever)"^ expectation he arouses and, conversely, that he avoids creating any expectations he is not prepared to satisfy. That is a fundamental principle of dramatic structure that James violates at least ti/ice in

The American,

The play opens with a scene between Lord Deepmere, an

English noble, and üoemie, a young woman who earns a living by making copies of famous paintings in the Louvre, The two pieces of information the scene dispenses are that

Deepmere is comething of a rake, who is more than a little interested in Noemie, and that she is something of a tease, who has arranged to sell a large number of her copies to a wealthy American, They are interrupted by a ring at the door which Noemie assumes to come from the American,

Deepmere is sure, however, that it signals the arrival of

Valentin do Bellegarde, whom he fears is his rival for

Noemie*s attentions. She unintentionally fans that fear by insisting that Deepmere step into the vestibule, and then sneak out once her visitor has come into the room.

The visitor turns out to bo Valentin, a charming member of the idle aristocracy, who refuses to take him­ self or anyone else seriously, IIo clearly enjoys Noemie's 158 company, but tlioirs is just as clearly a casual relation­ ship. Their conversation reveals Christopher Nevman to be the American in question and further establishes his enormous wealth,

Newman then arrives with Nioche, Noemie's father, and after announcing that he wishes to buy all of Noemie's copies, falls into conversation with Valentin, They take an instant liking to one another and Valentin agrees to show Newman around Paris, Of greater importance, however, is that Newman reveals his desire to get married, Valentin excuses himself to help Noemie in the kitchen, leaving

Newman free to chat with Nioche, From him he discovers the noblesse of Valentin's family and the existence of his

"beautiful sister," Claire de Cintré, Ho also learns that

Claire was forced into an unhappy marriage by her mother, and that, upon her husband's unlamented death, she had returned to live "in great seclusion" with her mother,

Newman asks Nioche, rather bluntly, "Why did she return to the old woman if the old woman sits on her?"— and Nioche's reply seems significant; "Those are the traditions, sir"

(p, 201),

Newman and Nioche then exit together to another room and Noemie delivers a brief monologue, the crux of which is that she has discovered from Valentin that Deepmere is hoping to gain his sister's hand in marriage. She also reveals that while Valentin "doesn't favour him as a 159 brother-in-law. . . , 1^ do favour him a little" (p. 202),

She resolves, however, to "keep dark" her interest, presumably until a more propitious time, Deepmere then bursts into the room and angrily announces his conviction

"that Count Valentin is on the premises," Noemie denies that he is, but Deepmere insists on being shown who is in the other room, Noemie swears it is only one of her pupils, and Deepmere challenges her to prove it by producing him,

Ifhen she replies, "I can’t bo bothered with you any more.

Good-bye," he informs her that, "if I go now, I shall never come back" (p, 203), Faced with that possibility, Noemie carefully opens the door and asks Newman to step into the room. He does, and the act ends as Deepmere exits angrily and with some embarrassment.

In the act-closing sequence Noemie appears as quite a capable schemer, adept at keeping her "interests sepa­ rate" and apparently intent on making things happen accord­ ing to her design. Her decision to "keep dark" for awhile her interest in Deepmere suggests that she envisions a time when she can reveal that interest to her own advantage or, perhaps, to someone clse's disadvantage. The amount of time James allots to establishing her credentials as a wily schemer suggests that she will play an important role in events to follow. To the contrary, however, she l 60 does not even appear in the second or fourth acts, and appears only briefly in the third. In other words, the first act begins and ends with events that have virtually no signficance to the rest of the play. Buried between those two sequences is significant information that is de­ emphasized by being dispensed through a series of relatively static conversations, while the opening and closing sequences consist of dialogue rather skillfully blended with physical action.

The important information about Newman's situation and intentions is not completely lost; however, the positioning of the information and the manner in which it is presented are such that it appears no more important, and probably less so, than the actions'emanating from Noemie, Even assuming tliat Newman's stature as a title character effects a balance of importance between himself and Noemie, the structure of the act insures that nothing more than that is achieved.

There would bo no problem with such a balance if

the play’s principal line of conflict were to be, as the

events presented in the first act suggest, a struggle for

Claire between Newman and Deepmere with Noemie as the

critical factor in its outcome. Since that is not the

case, however, the events and structure of 'the first act

raise expectations that are not satisfied; worse yet, l6l attention is called to the false expectations by a sizeable problem of logic.

The act begins with Deepmere expressing a strong interest in acquiring Noemie's affections, an interest underscored by his jealousy of Valentin, It ends with

Deepmere demanding that Noemie prove to him that her "pupil" is, indeed, a pupil and not Valentin, Sandwiched between those two events is the information that Deepmere is seriously engaged in persuading Claire's mother to grant him her daughter's hand in marriage. The logic of that combination of events is muddled in two ways. First, it is difficult to reconcile Deepmere's obvious possessivenr ris toward Noemie with his apparently simultaneous pursuit of

Claire, Even if that be put down to acute hypocrisy, however, it is nonsensical for Deepmere to demand an opportunity to show his interest in Noemie to Valentin when the latter is a member of the very family from which he must gain permission to marry Claire,

The logical problems that dogged James's early plays have already been noted, but, unlike this one, each of them arises at (or near) the play's conclusion. The effect a logical problem has on a play's structure is often a function of whore in the action it occurs. An illogical event in the final scone of a play (especially a serious play) is almost always disastrous, and is more likely to engeider ridicule than empathy. At the very least, such an 162

ovont tends to persuade an audience that it has been delib­ erately misled, that it has been made the butt of a cap­ ricious hoax. That is so because, by the end of a play, an audience knows what it has seen and heard and boon led

to believe, and, hence, it is in a position to assess rationally the logic of the playivright ' s resolution.

At the beginning of the play, on the other hand, an audience does not know what it is going to see, hear, or bo led to believe. An action or situation may seem illog­ ical, but if it occurs early enough in the action, the audience does not have sufficient data to form an absolute

judgment, By the same token, however, because a play is presumptively a logical construct, anything that is even potentially illogical draws immediate attention to itself.

Since, then, at the beginning of a play, an audience can neither form an absolute judgment about, nor fail to take notice of, a questionable action, it is forced to reserve

its judgment, to hold the apparent illogic in abeyance until subsequent events either confirm that it is illogical

(by using it as the basis for further complications) or

reveal clearly that it is not.

Hence, an apparently illogical action inserted early

in a play’s action is not necessarily a mistake; to the

extent that it makes an audience anticipate future possi­ bilities, it may, in fact, bo a definite asset to the play’s structure. The problem is that expectations, once 163 generated, cannot bo ignored. In the case at hand, there is no immodicitely discernible logic in Deepmere’s desire to pursue a commoner and an aristocrat at the same time, and there is oven less in his willingness to reveal his duplicity to Valentin, On the face of it, that last seems such a potentially disastrous (and hence, illogical) thing for him to do that it can only bo assumed that there is a definite reason (either his own or the playwright's) for him to do it. It engenders, in other W’ords, a definite feeling that the triangular relationship between Noemie,

Deepmere, and Claire is being deliberately emphasized and an equally strong expectation that the apparent illogic of that relationship either will be explained away or will have some significant impact on subsequent events.

As it happens, neither assumption is true. Indeed, there is nothing in the last three acts of The American that happens as a direct result of Deepmere's interest in

Noemie or that could not have happened just as readily with­ out it. Nothing in the rest of the play would have been affected if all that the first act had indicated was that

Deepmere and Newman both have designs on Claire, The incongruous but carefully established relationship between

Deepmere and Noemie (which is all the more visible because of its incongruity) simply ceases to exist after the end of Act One, It is bad when a play loaves behind a "loose end;" it is worse when it begins with one. l64

Tlie second example of The American * s structural flabbi­ ness is the duel episode involving Valentin and Deepmere, which begins near the end of the second act and carries over into the third. Because a duel is not an activity that intelligent men engage in without good and substantial reason, it must be solidly motivated. Beyond that, a duel is an activity that commonly ends in death, which, espec­ ially when it occurs to a principal character, is presump­ tively a significant event. Hence, the minimal require­ ments for a duel in a play are that it be well-motivated and that its outcome have some noticeable impact on sub­ sequent action. The duel James includes in The American satisfies neither of those requirements.

With respect to its motivation, the problem is basically dramaturgical; Valentin has a reason for challenging Deepmere to fight, but the audience never sees it, Deepmere becomes enraged when he discovers that, after sending him to England to document his ability to support Claire sumptuously,

Mdm, de Bellegarde has accepted Newman's proposal behind his back. Ho sets off to corner her and, upon doing so, showers her with reproaches and abuse. That is, at least, what Valentin later reports to the audience and what

Deepmere confirms with his oim report. The confrontation itself occurs off-stage and the reports are singularly vague, Valentin is upset that Deepmere is "raging over 165 the place like a young vindictive archangel” and Deepmere boasts that "they Mdm. de Bellegarde and Urbaine__7 will not soon forget the five minutes I ’ve just had the honor of spending with them” (p. 212). The details of what

Deepmere said are never revealed, the linos just quoted are the only references made to what happens off-stage.

In any event, Valentin takes offense at whatever Deepmere said and challenges him to a duel.

The fact that the precipitation of an event as signif­ icant as a duel takes place off-stage is, at best, questionable dramaturgy; it is bad dramaturgy in the present instance, however, because it is Valentin who initiates the duel. His sudden willingness to brave death in defense of his family's honor represents far too strik­ ing a departure from the attitudes ho has previously evinced to be justified by something the audience never sees.

At one point, his mother calls him "incorrigibly profane” and, indeed, that is an apt description of his expressed regard for the trappings of the aristocracy. Ho calls his family's home a "temple of staloness and stagnation” (p. 204) and regards its inliabitants as being "as sociable as a pyramid and as cheerful as your tailor's bill" (p. 195)«

He has few illusions about how innately honorable his mother and older brother are. He describes them as people who, having given their woixi, can be counted on "to take it back" (p. 195)• That is not to say that there is 166 anything bitter about his attitudes. Quite the contrary, he spends the better part of two acts presenting himself as a thoroughly affable, flippant young man whose only serious intention is to seek out the "Bohemia" in Paris and amuse himself there by gently and, at times, self- mo ckingly disparaging the life-style to which the rest of his family clings. As a result, something much more tangible than a vaguely reported off-stage diatribe is needed to justify his substantial change of attitude,

What is inadequately motivated, in other words, is not so much the duel itself as the change in basic attitude required of the character who initiates it. If Valentin were presented as a mercurial young man, consistently jealous of his family's honor and zealous about defending it, then an off-stage affront might have sufficed. Since, however, he is presented as the antithesis of all that, his sudden insistence upon a traditional aristocratic solu­ tion to a traditional aristocratic grievance is more than a little jarring.

It would probably be an overstatement to say that

Valentin's action, like Deepmere's in the first act, is illogical; it is certainly uncharacteristic, however, and the result is much the same. In other words, just as the incongruity of Deepmere's relationship with Noemie amplified expectations about its future significance, so the uncharacteristic nature of Valentin's action malces the 167 duel and, more especially, its outcome talce on even more apparent significance than would normally attend such an event. Like the Deepmere-Noemie relationship, the duel and

Valentin's death count for nothing in the third and fourth acts.

In all, three things happen during the third act,

Mdm, do Bellegarde disavows her commitment to Newman,

Claire resolves to enter a nunnery, and Valentin is wounded in the duel (which also occurs off-stage) and dies, Mdm, do Bellegarde's action is expected since it merely executes the intention she announced at the end of Act Two, Claire's action is not expected, but it is not seen either; and, in any case, it occurs as a direct result of her mother's action. Significantly, both Mdm, do Bellegarde's disavowal and Claire's reaction take place independently of Valentin's duel and, indeed, in ignorance of it. Hence, the duel itself is unrelated, either by cause or effect, to either event,

It happens, however, at the same time; and its immed­ iate result— Valentin's mortal wound— becomes knoivn to

Claire during the third act. As soon as he is carried into Newman's house, Valentin demands that Claire be brought to him so that he may prevail upon her to defy their mother. He assures Newman that he can "clear up her fears" and "give her back to you" (p. 224). Newman gladly arranges for that and, very shortly, Claire appears. 168

Newman demands that she explain why she has allowed her

mother to reject him, but she only begs his forgiveness

and assures him that "My repentance will bo all my future"

(p. 225). That line plainly suggests that she lias already

made her decision to enter a convent. She then goes to

see her brother, but re-enters almost immediately and wails, "He's gone--he's gone! . . . For ever and everI"

She then reinforces her earlier statement by adding, "So

shall I go too" (p. 2 2 5). Thus, what Claire decides to do

prior to Valentin's death (to seek refuge in a convent) is

precisely what she does after it. Neither his death nor

the duel that caused it has any impact on her actions,

just as neither has an influence on Mdm, de BeHagarde's,

That continues to bo the case in the fourth act, where,

aside from a few perfunctory obsequies, Valentin's death is

treated as little more than an historical fact.

The play gains nothing, therefore, from the whole duel

episode. It is not an incident that preceding events make

inevitable; indeed, Valentin goes against the evidence of

his previous behavior by initiating it in the first place.

Similarly, the only thing it causes is Valentin's death.

Had he chosen to take a vacation instead of fighting a duel,

Mdm, de Bellegardo would still have broken her compact with

Newman, and Claire would still have reacted to that by

renouncing the world,

A possible justification for the duel episode is

that through Valentin's impending death it provides an excuse 169 to introduce tlie vital fact that Mrs, Bread Icnows a terrible secret about the Bellegardes that will “bring them down” (p, 224), On his deathbed, Valentin tells

Newman that “Mrs, Bread can help you. She knows something 9 about my mother, , , , There was some foul play— some­ thing took place" (p, 224), l/hen Newman asks what differ­ ence his knowing the Eellegard secret will make, Valentin replies, "It will shame them— it Avill shame them. As it shames me now?’ (p, 224)^

There are a number of problems raised by that exchange and what follows it. Even assuming that Valentin does not know the specific details of the "foul play," if he knows enough to be ashamed, why does he not tell Newman that much himself? He docs say that his mother's offense was

"base," which suggest that he Icnows, at least in a general way, what it consisted of, Tho exchange goes on, however, and James attempts to justify the whole duel episode by having Valentin end his colloquy with Newman by character­ izing the secret as "so base that if 1 mention it now, it's

9 Although James's dialogue is generally good and appropriate, tho lines following the one just quoted are absurdly inappropriate for a deathbed scene in a serious play. Indeed, they seem almost to have been lifted from Gilbert and Sullivan: NEl’^iAI',' : About your mother? VALENTIN: About my father, NEl'/MAK: About your father? VALENTIN: About my brother, KE\vI'lAN: About your brother? (p. 224), 170

only because I'm going" (p. 224). That line indicates

that James wanted to portray Valentin's death as the cause

of his revelation, while at the same time using what he

revealed to give meaning to his death. That would have

been a clever pioce of dramaturgy had he pulled it off, but

it fails in two ways. The first, that Valentin clearly knows more than he reveals, has already been mentioned.

If imminent death is sufficient cause for him to reveal the

secret's existence, why is it not sufficient cause for him

to reveal all that he knows about it? If there is a

problem with what Valentin's death causes him to reveal,

how^ever, thore is an even bigger problem created by using

what he reveals to justify his death.

In the first place, given Valentin's obvious affection

for Newman and Claire, his equally obvious lack of affection

for his mother, and tho fact of her blatant betrayal of the

two people he loves most, it is difficult to believe that

Valentin would refuse to reveal what little he does if he

were not near death. Everything about his previous behavior

suggests that he would do so even if he were in the best of

health. In the second place, and probably more importantly,

there is nothing in what he says that could not just as

easily (and with more logic) have come from Mrs, Bread's

oim lips. The latter is deeply concerned with Claire's

welfare and is horrified at the thought of seeing her enter

a convent. She characterizes Claire's intention as being 171

"too hideous" for words and pleads with Newman to "holp me to prevent it" (p. 226), Ne'ivman, of course, has all tho motive in tho world for wanting to do so, but no moans.

Mrs. Bread has the means and, since she Icnows that Mdm. do

Bellegardo is the cause of Claire's unhappy resolve, she has every motive to offer Newman tho ammunition he needs.

In other words, Valentin's death and what it causes him to reveal are an intrusion on what would appear to be the natural flow of events.

In a curious way, then, James fails to justify the duel episode because he allows Valentin to say too much and too little at tho same time. Since Valentin reveals nothing that could not have come more logically from Mrs. Bread, what little he does reveal only calls attention to the pointlessness of his duel and death. There are few events in a play— -any play— «that have more inherent capacity to command attention than the death of a principal character, particularly one with whom the audience is generally sympathetic. Moreover, the very fact that death is such a compelling event malc.es it an event that, if poorly handled, can seriously damage a play's effect. Simply put, Valentin's death in The American, like the relationship between

Decpmere and Noomie, is irrelevant; but the duel episode is more than just a loose ond, Noemie and Decpmere dominate tho

first act, but their domination is more situational than 172 emotional. Very little is revealed about them as individ­ uals; hence, they do not emerge as especially sympathetic or unsympathetic characters. As a consequence, the fact that the expectations they engender never materialize is essentially a dramaturgical weakness that an audience might be inclined to overlook as it becomes emotionally involved in the affairs of Newman and the Beliegardes, Tho irrelevancy of their relationship, then, is a weakness in the play's structure, but one that is more likely to leave an audience perplexed than frustrated.

The irrelevance of tho duel episode is a source of frustration, however, because it nags at tho heart as well as the mind. A groat deal is revealed about Valentin as an individual before he dies, and it is all sympathetic.

Moreover, ho precipitates his oivn death for reasons that are honorable if not particularly in character. Such a character's death, especially when it turns out to be functionally irrelevant, cannot be overlooked by an audience.

Indeed, it becomes a matter of supreme concern.

By definition, an irrelevant action cannot, as

Aristotle put it, "contribute to the whole." The

Deopmere-Noemio relationship is irrelevant in that sense.

Seen in tho light of subsequent events, it is simply

superfluous. Its saving grace— if an irrelevant relation­

ship in a play can be said to have one— is that its

inherent insignificance makes it easily forgettable. As 173 just noted, however, Valentin’s death does not enjoy that

saving grace. To the extent that it has inherent signifi­ cance (that it is not forgettable) Valentin’s death does more than simply not "contribute to the whole*; by being irrelevant, it actually diminishes the idiole.

As pointed out at the beginning of this discussion, the biggest formal problem with Tho American is that James resolves its action more in the manner of comedy than of melodrama. Specifically, he resolves tho fear it engenders by allowing Claire and Ne-iman to emerge triumphant— that is, together— but does nothing to resolve the hate that is equally endemic to the situation. Indeed, it would not be difficult to argue that the lot of the older Beliegardes is as much improved by the events of the fourth act as is that of Newman, His overriding objective is to regain Claire’s hand and that of the Beliegardes is to preserve their pretense of respectability, Tho key to both objectives is

Mrs, Bread’s evidence, a letter written on his deathbed by

M, do Bellegardo that accusses his wife of carrying on an affair with the man she was forcing Claire to mariy, and worse, of murdering him (M, do Bellegardo) by pouring into the fireplace the medicine needed to sustain his life,

Newman reasons, logically enough, that his possession of the letter might induce Mdm, do Bellegardo to give up whatever hold she lias on Claire and return her to him; the

Beliegardes realize, with equal logic, that Newman's 174" possession of the letter could destroy their precious social prominence.

To be sure, Newman enjoys a distinct advantage because he has already received the letter from Mrs. Bread before

the Beliegardes Imow of its existence. Tho strength of his position is mitigated, however, by tho fact that tho public humiliation he could visit on the Beliegardes by publicizing

the letter would profit him nothing. To destroy Claire's

family wantonly might make Newman fool better, but he

could hardly expect that it would bring her back to him.

It would more likely have the opposite effect; in any event,

the exaction of an eye for an eye would be inconsistent with the high moral standards Newman sets for himself

throughout the play. Seen, then, in tho context of his

limited objective (the recovery of Claire), the way in which Newman precipitates his confrontation with the

Beliegardes is absolutely correct. He demands of Mdm. de

Bellegardo that she

Call back hero this instant tho woman you've wrenched out of my arms, recant your incantations and reverse your spells, and your incongruous darlcness may close round you again, never again to be disturbed (p. 225),

While that is not the most gracefully worded piece of

Jamesian dialogue (". . . again, never again" grates a bit),

it is a marvelously functional line. It succinctly identi­

fies Newman and Mdm. do Bellcgarde as the abused and the

abuser, states the offense, and indicates how the offense 175 was perpetrated. It begins with a demand and ends with a promise that is both compensâtoiy and threatening. If

Newman's demand is met, he is willing to be magnanimous; if it is not, he is prepared to be destructive. Most importantly, however, and quite unlike the way the resolution of Daisy Miller was set up, Newman's line makes it clear that the agent for evil will have to do something painful in order to get something beneficial. In short, Neifman offers Mdm, de Bellegardo a choice between public excori­ ation and private humiliation.

Having sot the terms of the play's resolution effectively, it is the more frustrating that James refuses to follow them through. Instead, he contrives to spare Mdm, de

Bellegardo any sort of humiliation at all by simply accom­ plishing the resolution without her. Although he causes one of the Beliegardes to suffer the agony of begging Newman to surrender the letter, the sufferer is not Mdm, de

Bellegarde or even Urbaine, Instead, it is Claire who does

the begging, even though she professes not to know what is in the letter. Hence, in little more than the blink of an eye, James changes a confrontation Newman could not lose into one he cannot win. To cause anguish in a woman he has every reason to hate is one thing, but to cause it in the woman he loves is quite another. Thus, when Claire abjectly reminds him that "You’ve offered me innumerable

services , , , how can you refuse the only one I over 176 asked of you?" (p. 237), Newtnaji crumbles and hands the letter to Urbaine.

Incredibly, Mdm, do Bellegarde does not hear a single word of Claire's pleading or of Newman's accession. Even more incredible is the fact that having been clearly put in a position of certain defeat, Newman wins anyway. By the same token, Claire, who scarcely a minute before could not have been dissuaded from her intention to renounce the world by all the powers of heaven and earth, unilaterally decides to renounce instead both her family and the convent and to marry Newman, Since Mdm, do Bellegarde does not re-enter until after the happy couple has left, she does not hear Claire's profession of love either; but her final lino makes it clear that, for her, the triumph of acquiring the letter is far more important than the defeat of losing her daughter. As she throws the letter into the fireplace, she says, "May they never come back~may they never come back" (p, 228),

The resolution of a comedy may safely ignore the perfidies of the antagonistic character because they are either not malicious (that is, more the result of an ill- humour than an evil design) or not inherently dangerous.

In effect, the conflict in a comedy is between a character who is good and a character who is ridiculous or inept.

While the former deserves rewarding, the latter does not, as a rule, require punishment. In melodrama, however, the 177 actions of the evil character aro malicious. Whether his

actions ultimately do so or not, they are intended to

seriously endanger the good character. In real life,

society demands that anyone who attempts murder bo punished,

regardless of whether tho attempt was successful. The

fact that the intended victim survives does not persuade

society to forgot that an attempt was made to harm him.

The same principle applies in melodrama. It is reassuring

that Mdm. do Bellegarde’s efforts to harm Newman and Claire

are unavailing, but that in no way lessens her liability

for attempting them; nor does it persuade an audience to

forgot that she did. By allowing her to emerge unscathed,

James implies that her actions were not malicious, and thus,

like the blocking actions of the antagonist in a comedy, were not demanding of punishment. Since the rest of the

play does not support that implication, it must be concluded

that James erred in failing to provide punishment.

Like Daisy Miller, The American is a melodrama without

a loser. Ifliile, as noted at the beginning of this chapter,

it matters little who wins and who loses in a melodrama, it

matters a great deal that there be both a winner and a loser.

It would have been altogether proper, for instance, for

Newman to have surrendered both the letter and Claire.

Had he done so, Mdm. do Bellegarde would have won, Newman would have lost, and his punishment would have been obvious.

Whenever good faces evil in a melodrama, one or tho other 178 force must lose, and the loser must pay somo price for having done so. It is clear that Newman and Claire win in

The American, but there is little satisfaction in that resolution because Mdm. de Bellegarde either wins as well or pays no price for having lost. Just as he had in Daisy

Miller, then, James fails to resolve fully both of the emotions (fear and hate) that are engendered by his action and, hence, fails to realize fully the potential inherent to his material.

In his "Note," appended to the publication of Tenants and Disengaged (Theatricals : IVo Comedies), James described the two plays as "experiments in comedy pure and simple,

That James should have called Tenants a comedy is ironic because it is, to a far greater degree than Daisy Miller or The American, a nicely crafted melodrama. It is especially ironic because what made Daisy Miller and The

American more comic than melodramatic, in terms of form, is that James virtually ignored the agents for evil in resolv­ ing their actions. In Tenants, on the other hand, the agents for evil are not only included in the resolution, they are dealt with quite decisively. Unlike the situation in The American, there is no question about who the winners and losers are, nor is there any question that the losers

^^Op, cit.. Edel (Complete Plays). p. 255. 179 pay a price for having lost. In other words, Tenants does not succeed as a comedy because James does in it what he should have done in Daisy Miller and The American if they were to work as melodramas.

It is difficult to imagine how James convinced himself that he could mold the subject of Tenants into comic shape in the first place. Scarcely a single ingredient of the traditional formula for romantic melodrama is missing from its story line, Mildred and Norman are presented as young lovers being kept apart by Norman's father. Sir

Frederick, His reason for doing so is simply that he has accepted guardianship of Mildred at the urgent request of her dying father and has accepted as well his charge to be solicitous "of her unprotected youth, her unspotted honor, and her very considerable fortune" (p. 2 6 3)» He is, thus, determined that Mildred will marry no one until she passes out of his guardianship at the age of twenty-one (four years hence), particularly not his o^m son. It is not that Sir Frederick finds Norman objectionable; as he explains to Norman, he simply does not feel he can assume that Mildred's father "would have wished his daughter-— simply because you're my son— to bind herself to you before she has had a glimpse of another fate" (p, 2 6 3), Sir

Frederick also thinks that it would not look very good if he allowed his son, who has "no prospects to speak of," to marry Mildred and her "considerable fortune," As a 180 result, Sir Frederick is not at all unhappy that Norman is due to report for shipment to a civil service post in India in five days.

All of that information paves the way for the entrance of Mrs, Vibert, the play's central character and one of

James's most impressive creations. She has come, ostensibly, to lease the small house Sir Frederick has put up for rent.

Her real purpose, however, is to resume a relationship they had carried on clandestinely years before while their spouses were still alive, which had resulted in an illegit­ imate child (Claude), Sir Frederick is shocked, elated, and depressed all at once by the sudden spectre of his old lover, but Mrs, Vibert skillfully rekindles the flame and persuades him that they can now indulge themselves openly in the love they had previously been forced to keep secret.

He agrees to rent her the house; and she assures him that

their son knows nothing of his illegitimacy, a condition of ignorance that she very much desires be allowed to continue.

She also reveals that a certain Captain Lurcher has been Claude’s tutor almost since infancy, that her son is vexy much under his sway, and that Lurcher is travelling with them even now. Though she makes nothing of that immediately, it soon becomes clear that Captain Lurcher is

the key figure in a dark design hovering behind Mrs, Vibert's renewed interest in Sir Frederick, Indeed, it is later revealed that Lurcher was hired by Mrs, Vibert's late 181 husband, who, in order to punish her for her adultery, made certain that Lurcher knew all the details of Claude's

conception. Armed with the ability to tell Claude of his bastardy. Lurcher proceeded to make himself a permanent

fixture in Mrs, Vibert's life; and now, to cap off his

exploitation, he is forcing her to use her old relationship with Sir Frederick as a means of bringing Claude together with Mildred and her money. Although Claude knows nothing

of Lurcher's plan, he unwittingly oils its machinery by

falling in love with Mildred the instant they meet,

■While the scheme is not fully revealed until Act II,

James plants a hint of it in the first act. After a brief meeting with Norman, Mrs, Vibert is left alone to muse, "So that's the son, and that's the suitor? He's not a trifle. But neither are seven thousand a year! He must go tonight" (p. 269). Not only does that line suggest rather plainly the existence of a scheme, it also indicates

that Norman or, more specifically, Norman's actions will be

crucial to its success or failure. That early hint is

amplified later in the act when Mrs, Vibert persuades Sir

Frederick that, since Norman obviously dislikes her, it would be bettor if he and Claude did not meet right away;

indeed, it would be better if Norman were gotten out of tho house at once. Sir Frederick accepts that and gives Norman

"half an hour" to leave for India, Norman agrees to gp, but

begs one last audience with Mildred, during which he orders 182 her to cable him at the first sign of any "danger," Ifhen she asks what he means, he only replies vaguely, "I don't know what it is— I only seem to scent it in the air" (p. 271).

Thus, James assembles in his first act a pair of young lovers, a father's opposition to their marriage, a mysterious woman's sudden and unexpected arrival, an earlier illicit relationship, an illegitimate child, a sinister sounding scheme, a vague sense of impending "danger," and, though he does not appear, news of a tutor to whose wishes the illegitimate child is totally subject. Pixerecourt himself would have heartily approved. Indeed, the wonder is that James manages to make such formula stuff seem fresh. That he does so is largely the result of two things.

First, he avoids the overt emotionalism which typically characterizes that kind of story-line, giving it, instead, a kind of epigrammatic tone. The characters are serious but, in general, they are wryly rather than romantically so.

More specifically, the characters consistently begin their exchanges with tho traditional romantic trills, but end them with a wry twist. For example, when Sir Frederick and

Mrs. Vibert first meet, their opening lines sound like vintage Sardou:

SIR FREDERICK; You rise before me— after all these years— like the ghost of mj'- youth! MRS. VIBERT: And you stand before me, my friend, like the hope of my future ! 183 They pull back from those thrilling emotions immediately, however, to slyer observations:

SIR FREDERICK: You’re not perhaps, so young; and yet you're somehow-—so new! MRS, VIBERT: I've boon revised and improved: I'm the latest edition! Let mo reassure you--I'm better reading than I was (p. 266),

Later, when the subject of Mrs. Vibert's late husband and his awareness of her relationship with Sir Frederick is first discussed, the same pattern emerges:

SIR FREDERICK: Did your husband ever leam? MRS, VIBERT: Ho learnt everything. SIR FREDERICK: And what did he do? MRS, VIBERT: Ho made me pay. SIR FREDERICK: (Vague, helpless, compassionate) Dearest friend--! MRS, VIBERT: I'm paying still. SIR FREDERICK: Yet Claude's now of an age to be something of a compensation; h e 's—- MRS, VIBERT: ( he^ hesitates ; with ^ sad smile) ^ remember! He's twenty (p. 266).

Still later, when Norman is informed that he must leave at once, he begins his protest on a soaring note that is quickly brought back to earth in a mildly cynical fashion:

NORMAN; It's liberal of you, sir, to give me "half an hour" to start for the other side of the globe— for arduous work, for a detestable climate, for an absence of many years! SIR FREDERICK: If you'll give me your word of honor that you wish to linger for m£. I'll withdraw my pressure on the instant! NORMAN: (After a moment) It's not altogether for you (pp. 270-71).

James's persistence in grounding incipient romantic flights with wry rejoinders has the effect of concealing 184 the true age of his venerable story-line. It does not, however, make the play a comedy. However cleverly she speaks and dissembles, Mrs, Vibert's scheme is both serious and potentially dangerous. When Mildred ends the first act by saying of Mrs, Vibert, "She i^ the danger!" (p, 272), there is no hint of bemusement in her attitude. She is truly alarmed and, as it turns out, with good reason. How­ ever much the play’s dialogue runs against the traditions of romantic melodrama, its events remain squarely within the formula,

So, with the exception of Mrs, Vibert, do its charac­ ters, The frequency with which they indulge themselves in sardonic cleverness may keep them from fitting the classic melodramatic molds perfectly, but it does not make them comic characters, Norman and Mildred are quite typical young lovers, Claude a m t h e r ordinary juvenile. Sir

Frederick almost a classic dupe. Lurcher a traditional villain, and Miss Dyer a standard comic servant (actually, she is Mildred's "companion" but she functions like a servant),

To say that all the characters in Tenants except Mrs,

Vibert are stock melodramatic characters, however, is not to say that they are poorly done. To the contrary, they arc all interesting characters with functions and personalities that are clearly defined and sufficiently different to give them eacli, within the context of the play, a certain 185 uniqueness, Norman and Claude aro both essentially romantic characters, for instance, but Norman is imbued with the manly, active qualities of an heroic figure, while Claude is a more passive, sensitive, almost lyric character. The contrast in their personalities is important because there is no contrast in their objectives; they are both in pur­ suit of Mildred, Likewise, Mildred and Miss Dyer are both ingenuous young women, but Mildred is very positive about what she wants, while Miss Dyer is tentative and vacillat­ ing, The catch-phrase James gives her, "I'm not quite sure

I ought!", is repeated perhaps too often, but it is most expressive of her personality. Again, the contrast between the two young women is important because it individualizes them and throws their respective characters into sharper relief.

Sir Frederick presents the familiar figure of an older man who does not quite understand the machinations going on aroimd him and would prefer to ignore them. He is a com­ pletely straight-fon^rard, honorable fellow who is confused and, ultimately, injured by the concealed objectives and deceitful ploys of the other characters. Most of those iniquities are authored by Captain Lurcher, who is veiy nearly evil personified. Like Eugenio before him, he does his maneuvering from behind a smokescreen of good intentions and impeccable decorum. He is a model of studied subser­ vience toward Mrs, Vibert when they are with others, but a 186 vituperous bully and blackmailer when they are not. He

oozes charm for poor Miss Dyer when it suits his purpose,

then haughtily spurns her innocent affections when it does not. He ingratiates himself with Sir Frederick publicly, but mocks him privately. In short, he has a face for every

occasion and regards the other characters as little more

than feelingless puppets to be manipulated according to his

own insidious designs,

Mrs, Vibert, however, is far removed from any of the

"types" associated with traditional romantic melodrama, and

it is James's treatment of her that most "freshens" the old

formula. In stark contrast to the basic one-dimensionality

of the other characters, she is a strikingly complex crea­

tion reminiscent in many ways of Mdm, de Katkoff, Like

Katkoff, Mrs, Vibert is an attractive, charming, and intel­

ligent woman who is surrounded by a vague air of mystery

that serves to make her all the more alluring; like Katkoff,

she is presently being tormented because of a past indis­

cretion by an insidious employee ; like Katkoff, she is

obliged to play both an active and a passive role— that is,

to manipulate others while being manipulated herself; like

Katkoff, she is an essentially good person being forced to

perform an evil function; and finally, again like Katkoff,

her response to what she is being forced to do is a deep

and intensely felt internal conflict. For all the similarities between the two women, however, there are two important differences that prevent Mrs, 187

Vibert from doing the kind of damage to Tenants that Katkoff did to Daisy Miller. As noted previously, when Katkoff is doing evil things, she is responding to the "impulse” of

self-protection. Her motive for acceding to Eugenio's demand is essentially selfish. In effect, she performs

ignoble actions to achieve, at best, a less than noble end.

In contrast, when Mrs. Vibert performs evil actions, she is

responding not to the impulse of protecting her reputation, but rather, to the "imperative" of shielding her very

sensitive son from the potentially shattering knowledge

that he is a bastard. In effect, then, her ignoble actions are directed toward a noble end. That is, admittedly, a

subtle distinction, but it has a significant result.

Because Mrs. Vibert•s evil actions spring from the ethically good objective of protecting her son, she is locked into

that itinc ti on.

And therein lies tho second, and certainly more obvious, difference between the two women; both experience internal

conflict, but for entirely different reasons. Katkoff

cannot reconcile what she is doing (her function) or why

she is doing it (her objective) with her own code of ethics.

Thus, her options are rather simple; she can continue doing what she knows is evil or she can begin doing what

she knows is good. More importantly, perhaps, since she

can harm no one but herself by changing from wrong action

to right action, she is free to change both her 188 function and her objective. The problem for Mrs, Vibert is infinitely more complex. She knows that what she is doing (her function) is evil, but she also knows that why she is doing it (her objective) is good. Her choice, if it can be called that, is between two incompatable right actions; doing what is right for her son or doing what is right for

Sir Frederick, Norman, and Mildred, In truth, of course, she has no choice because Claude is her son. She cannot, in other woixls, change either her objective or the function that supports it, oven though the probity of the latter troubles her deeply. As a consequence, she continues to function as a whole character (£f, p, 120)— an agent for evil— from beginning to end,

In that sense, she represents a quantum leap forward in technique for James, One of the major difficulties with melodrama as a dramatic form is that whole characters tend to be simple, and simple characters tend not to be especially interesting, With the exception of Katkoff, James attempted to overcome tliat problem in each of his earlier plays by creating characters who gained interest largely through abrupt turnabouts in their behavior, Valentin, Martha,

Emma, and Catherine aro all examples of that approach, and in each case, what was gained in complexity was lost in credibility. In effect, James attempted to give divided functions to essentially whole characters, with the result that, while their functional changes are interesting, the 189 interest they generate does not endure. Like an earthquake, the changes simply happen; they re-arrange the play's land­ scape, leave behind a now set of givens, and cause the interested observer to be momentarily fascinated by the now vista but ultimately incredulous that so much could have changed so quickly and with so little apparent provocation.

If is not delighted by the complexity inherent to chance, he is not likely to be delighted at all,

Mrs, Vibert represents a leap forward, then, in the sense that her complexity does not derive from any sudden upheavals in her function. To the contrary, it derives from the fact that, oven though she loathes what she is doing, the rectitude of her objective makes it impossible for her to change. She is, thus, an essentially divided character who is burdened with an undivided function that she can neither avoid nor reject. But because her inner feelings cannot or, at least, do not infringe upon her assigned function, her internal conflict complements and even contributes to the external clash between Lurcher and

Norman that is the play's true focal point. It does not, however, blur the lines of that conflict, as was the case with Katkoff in Daisy Miller, What will happen to Mrs,

Vibert as a result of her dilemma is a matter of genuine concern, but never more so than what effect her dilemma will have on the other characters. Throughout the third act, especially, the overriding question is not whether 190

Mrs. Vibert will unilaterally renounce her function (she has made it quite clear that she will not), but whether

Norman's onslaughts will make it impossible for her to

continue it. In other words, her internal conflict adds to

the interest she generates as an individual without in any way obscuring the true nature of her function or distracting

attention from the principal lino of conflict.

To be sure, Mrs, Vibert does eventually reveal Claude's

genesis to him herself, but not because she has renounced

the objective of keeping that knowledge from him or no

longer cares if ho is destroyed by it. To the contrary,

she does it to prevent what she considers the greater evil

of having her two sons do physical battle with one another

in ignorance of the fraternal bond between them. In truth,

her hand has boon completely forced by that time anyway,

Norman has taken an adamant stand against her marriage to

Sir Frederick and has demanded, as the price of any

rapprochement between himself and her, that she send Claude

away immediately. Beyond that, Mildred has made it clear

that she will never requite Claude's affections. Of

greatest importance, however, is the fact that Lurcher,

too, is forcing her liand. He demands that she not only

refuse to send Claude away, but that she also persuade Sir

Frederick to, once again, order Norman to leave, Mrs,

Vibert tolls him that that will not work, that their plan

is doomed, but— lilte Norman— Lurcher is adamant, To 191 quicken her resolve. Lurcher assures her that if she does not succeed in salvaging their schome— whether the failure be her fault or Norman's— he will immediately inform Claude

"that he's a creature of shame, eui indubitable, a provable- bastard" (p. 289).

Hence, by the time the heat of anger disposes Norman and Claude to square off against one another, Mrs, Vibert

Is painfully aware that she has run out of options. There

Is no hope that Norman will bow out gracefully, nor that

Mildred will ever accede to Claude's desires. There is nothing she can do to prevent Lurcher's scheme from failing, nor is there any way she can prevent him from retaliating by informing Claude, no doubt in the grossest terms possible, about his parentage. The only tiling she can do is act to

Insure that Claude hears the dreadful tiuth from her own lips Instead of an outsider's. Far from being an act of renunciation, then, her disclosure is really a continuation

of the objective she has been pursuing from the start. She

Is still trying to protect Claude, not only from physical

combat with his brother, but also from the ignominy of being

told he is a bastard by Lurcher, Significantly, her

first words to Claude after the disclosure are, "Forgive me" (p, 292), after which she flees the room in despair and

takes with her all the sympathy inherent to a situation in which she could do nothing more than choose the lessor of

two evils. 192

Although Ml'S, Vibert's behavior throughout the play is consistent with her stated function and objective, she does undergo noticeable change. Unlike the more complex characters in James's earlier plays, however, Mrs, Vibert does not change completely on her own initiative, nor does she over change as suddenly as do, for instance, Valentin or Katkoff, Instead, her behavior changes subtly, in precise response to changes in the situation around her and always in relation to her fixed objective and imposed function, Evezy change in I-Irs, Vibert, no matter how slight, is preceded by a careful paring away of available alternatives so that, in each case, she is not so much choosing to change (as Katkoff and Valentin do) as select­ ing the best option left to her. The most dramatic example of that, her disclosure to Claude, has already been noted, and it is typical of her behavior throughout the play. It is also a distinct improvement, dramaturgically, over the approaches James had previously taken.

Probably tho most notable improvement in James's dramaturgy, however, is that he fully resolves the play's action, which is no mean feat in view of tho complex ele­ ments he has to deal with, Norman and Mildred clearly must be handled as heros and Lurcher as a villain, but that leaves Sir Frederick, Claude, and Mrs, Vibert, all of whom are good characters who must lose if Norman and Mildred arc to win. 193 The least problematic of the three is Sir Frederick,

He shuffles about on the periphery of the main action

through most of the third act and, hence, has no effective

voice in the play's climactic moments. Indeed, James does

well by having Sir Frederick end the play the way he began

it, as a confused and somewhat put-upon dupe, James's

triumph, however, is in his handling of Claude and Mrs,

Vibert, He recognized that the decision on which the nature

and direction of the play's resolution depended had to be

made by Claude, That things should have worked out in that way was itself a deft touch, since every other decision

affecting Claude had been made by someone else. In the final

scene, however, Claude knows the truth about himself and,

more importantly, about his mother. The decision he is

left with is whether to forgive Mrs, Vibert or reject herj

and the fact that, so far as making ethical choices is

concerned, Claude has been such a tabula rasa to that point

adds a note of tension to the scene, l.bat Claude will

decide, in other words, remains a very real question up to

the moment at which he actually does so. While his obvious

affection for his mother might seem to tip the scales in

her favor, it is also true that Claude has been nothing if

not a moral innocent for whom the news of his own bastardy

and his mother's adultery might easily be too crushing to

be forgiven. Of greater importance than the tension that

Claude's freedom to select either alternative engenders. 194 however, is the fact that no matter which decision he makes, he suffers no loss of credibility.

The play as a whole might well have suffered a loss of

proportion, however, had James allowed Claude to reject his mother. Had he done so, Tenants would have suddenly become

the tragedy of Mrs, Vibert, It is to his credit, then,

that James eschewed the opportunity to muddle the play’s

form and allowed it, instead, to end the way it had begun— as a romantic melodrama. According to James's stage dir­

ection, Claude embraces his mother "with unspeakable

compassion," then turns immediately to Lurcher, her nemesis, and says, "I think I shall bo happier. Captain Lurcher, when you and I are severed" (p, 294), Hence, through the agency of Claude, Mrs, Vibert's essential goodness is rewarded; and, more importantly, the man who had tormented her for so many years and embroiled her in the painful

proceedings just completed, is summarily turned out and

rejected. Significantly, if James had allowed Claude to

reject his mother, it would have been she who lost totally, while Lurcher, the detestable villain, would at least have

had his vengeance. As it is, however. Lurcher has no

choice but to leave the house, saying, "(, , , with a

sarcastic flourish of his hat) I wish you all a merry

Christmas and a veiy intimate Now Year!" He is thoroughly

beaten and his exit line shows that he knows it. If there is anything vaguely unsatisfying about James's resolution of Tenants, it is what he does to Mrs, Vibert's 195 prospective marriage to Sir Frederick or, more precisely, what Claude does to it. Having been magnanimous and having forgiven his mother, Claude then effectively proceeds to take possession of her. He tells Sir Frederick that the marriage cannot take place, that "my mother is mine n o w - only mine" (p. 29h)\ Why he does that, and why Sir Freder­ ick makes only a perfunctory objection, is not altogether clear. Perhaps James considered it fitting that Mrs,

Vibert reap not just the sweet fzuit of her essential goodness but the bitter fruit of her lies and deceptions as well. If so, however, he would have boon better served to let her levy that punishment on herself. It is unchar­ acteristically assertive for Claude to do it.

In any event, their disengagement provides Mrs, Vibert with an excuse to beg "one last favour" from Sir Frederick— that ho allow Norman and Mildred to many. His immediate granting of her request completes the last piece of unfinished business so that all ends happily. For a change James leaves no loose ends either in the action itself or in the emotions it engenders. The fate of each of the characters is clear and, more importantly, is appropriate to the nature of his behavior. No one is ignored and nothing is contrived to visit an unjustified reward or punishment on any of the characters.

There is, then, almost no evidence in Tenants of the looseness and flaccidity that marred the structuring of 196

James's previous efforts. There are no sudden turnabouts to strain the credibility of the play's characters and no expectations aroused that are not satisfied. All of the characters (including Mrs. Vibert) are vhole -with respect to their functions and, as a result, the line of demarca­ tion between good and evil is easily discernible and the play's form is clearly identifiable as melodrama. finally, the play's resolution delivers what its action promises and thus realizes the potential inherent in its material. All of which is not to say that Tenants is a great play; it is, quite simply, a well-crafted one. CHAPTER FOUR


In vhat has survived of the Poetics, Aristotle’s principal reference to tho nature of comedy is that it is based on and directed to man’s sense of the "ridiculous," which he defines as a "mistalee or deformity not productive of pain. From that it can be deduced that comedy deals, in all its manifestations, with those aspects of human experience that are patently non-serious, that is, not likely to result in permanent or irreparable harm.

Even assuming that the ridiculous does form the essence of comedy, however, Aristotle's definition of it is too cryptic to do more than point critics in the right direction.

All drama deals with human mistakes and deformities, and, while the qualifier— "not productive of pain"— clearly separates comedy from tragedy, it is a less than useful aid in distinguishing between comedy and melodrama. To be sure, the mistakes and deformities presented by those melodramas in which evil is allowed to prevail must be considered productive of pain— and thus, not comic— but what of the vastly larger body of melodramas in which good

^Op, cit,, Aristotle, p. 229,

197 198

prevails? The mistakes and deformities presented in such

plays do not, in the last analysis, harm the central char­

acter and, thus, cannot be said to produce pain* Are they,

then, to be considered examples of the ridiculous? It

might be argued, of course, that even though the heroes of

those plays do, through some contrivance, manage to over­

come their perilous circumstances, they nevertheless are

subjected to situations clearly calculated to produce death,

infirmity, or some other abject form of suffering; and

since it is difficult to laugh at, or perceive as ridiculous,

such situations, they cannot be regarded as comic*

By the same token, however, it is a fact that comedy

often presents situations that are, on one level at least,

of precisely the same sort* With almost monotonous regu­

larity, the heroes of comedy, like those of melodrama, come within a hair's breadth of losing their lives, their for­

tunes, or their one true love, any one of which is a situa­

tion more than capable of producing pain* Indeed, such

situations recur so frequently in comedy that Northrop Frye has given them a place in his schomatization of the form, 2 referring to them as the "point of ritual death*" The word "ritual" is appropriate because the comic hero does not actually die or suffer grave loss, but neither do the heroes of most melodramas* 'Ivliorc, then, is the essential

2 Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton; Princeton University Press, 1957JT pl 46. 199 difference between the two forms; or must it be concluded

that there is no such thing as melodrama— that there is only tragedy and comedy?

Doubtless, a case could be made— in the abstract— to

support that conclusion. In practice, however, it would

then be necessary to say that there is no essential dif­ ference between a play by Moliere and a play by Sardou, that there is no formal distinction between The Count of

Monte Cristo and Barefoot in the Park# To say that, of course, would be to neglect not only the counsel of common sense, but more importantly, to neglect the importance of perspective and objective in questions of artistic form.

There are, in other words, intrinsic differences between melodrama and comedy, but they are mostly differences in how a subject is treated, not in the subject itself.

Melodrama operates from the perspective that good and evil are natural enemies locked forever in mortal combat; its objective is to stimulate the emotions of its percep-

tors— to make them feel for, with, or against the characters embroiled in that combat. To accomplish that, it places its emphasis on the danger— real, threatened, or imagined— with which the hero is confronted. Typically, it throws

its spotlight less on tho hero than the villain because it is the latter who chiefly constitutes the source of danger.

The sense of danger in a melodrama is enhanced by the fact

that all the characters, evil as well as good, tend to look 200 upon their situation as fraught with peril; they are prone

to seeing danger or, at least, the possibility of danger in

even the most innocent of circumstances* As a result,

melodrama posits a milieu of emotion that is perhaps most

clearly evidenced by the penchant its heroes have for

assuming that if their condition is to change at all, it will probably do so for the worse* To the extent, then,

that the characters (especially the good characters) in

melodrama consistently fear the worst, audiences have little

choice but to do likewise, and, of course, to hate the villain for making the worst so apparently unavoidable*

Comedy also presumes a natural enmity between good

and evil, but, unlilce melodrama, it operates from the

perspective that good is pre-destined to prevail* As a

result, it seldom presents its situations in such a way

that there seems to be no hope of avoiding calamity* In

comedy, there is always something that makes it appear

probable— if not altogether logical— that a beneficent

result will ensue* That "something" may be some aspect

of the situation itself, some factor that has only to be

revealed or discovered in time, or it may reside in the

person of the hero— his resourcefulness, his intelligence,

his unflagging capacity to survive* In most cases, it is

a combination of both; the hero's cleverness brings about

the needed discovery* In any case, there will always be

something about the manner in which a comic action is 201 presented that engenders optimism— and even a degree of confidence— about the happiness of its outcome* As noted at the beginning of the previous chapter, the most distin­ guishing characteristic of the comic hero is his ability to survive and, correspondingly, the most distinguishing thing about the comic form is the prominence it assigns to that ability.

Comedy, then, focusses far less on the pain which the dangers inherent in its action are capable of producing than on the hero’s certain ability— through one stratagem or another— to avoid that pain. Inciting the hero to fear is not an end in comedy, it is a means to an end. The rushing together of perverse circumstances may give the comic hero reason to be afraid, but it also provides him with an occasion to display his cunning, devise a virtuoso escape, or launch some incredible scheme. Thus, while melodrama places its emphasis on the ability of the villain to entrap the hero, comedy concentrates instead on the ability of the hero to avoid entrapment. By making his ability to do so at least reasonably apparent from the start, comedy invites its perceptors rather more to think with the hero than to feel with him.

It can be argued, then, that a second intrinsic differ­ ence between melodrama and comedy is that the latter’s objective is to stimulate the intellect, not the emotions, of its audience. Curiously, however, comedy makes its 202

Intellectual appeal by focussing on promises and situations that, while ideally possible, are less probable by normal standards than those found in melodrama. It is possible, for example, for so thorough-going a hypocrite as Tartuffe to exist, but not probable. It is possible that a Pinch- wife could so fear cuckoldry as to lock up his wife; it is also possible for so elaborate a ruse as Homer's to be concocted, but neither is within the ordinary scheme of things, Likewise, it is possible that all the women of two warring nations would band together in an alliance against sex to induce the cessation of hostilities, but such uniformity of mind and purpose is unusual to say the least.

In each of those cases, however, given the existence of the premise, everything flowing out of it is at least as probable as the premise itself. It may be unlikely that Tartuffe could a) exist, and b) come into contact with someone as gullible and rich as Orgon; but assuming that both of those unlikelihoods occur, nothing else in the play drops below that level of probability. Seen in that light, comedy is no less a logical construct than melo­ drama; it is, however, a logical construct of a different kind. The governing factors in the logic of tragedy and melodrama are the limitations imposed on human endeavor by common sense, practical necessity, and immutable natural and physical laws. The governing factors in the logic of 203 comedy are tho unlimited capacities of human nature to deviate from established norms and the inherent capacity of chance to disrupt the orderly operation of fixed lavs and rational processes. As Aristotle said, "There is the 3 probability of things happening also against probability,"

In effect, comedy takes the position not of violating ordinary logic, but rather, of distending it, of postulating vhat the result might be if an exception were substituted for the rule.

And therein lies the key to the treatment and structure of comic action. All drama to one extent or another deals with exceptional people, exceptional circumstances, or both. Serious drama asks that those exceptions, in effect, be taken for the rule, Hamlet's circumstances and behavior, for example, are hardly of the kind ordinarily experienced by ordinaiy people. Yet, for "the two hours traffic"

Shakespeare treats Hamlet and his problems as if they were the true stuff of life and, more importantly, does so in such a way as to invite his audience to do likewise— to feel with Hamlet as though, from experience, it can under­ stand his problem. In other words, Shakespeare persuades his audience to accept the exceptional nature of Hamlet’s actions as the rule of its own.

3 Op, Cit,. Aristotle, p, 263, zoh

Comody, on the other hand, asks tliat for the same

"two hours traffic" it bo allowed to substitute an exception for the rule. It does not ask its audience to mistake the exceptional behavior of tho characters on stage as being at all lilce the rule of its own; to the contrary, it asks its audience to be exceedingly aware of the difference. To accomplish that, the comic playr^right treats his action in such a way that audiences are simultaneously aware of two things; first, that the i-ules of behavior and circumstance in the play would be exceptional in their oim lives; and second, that their oivn rules of behavior and circumstance would be exceptional in the play. At base, comedy strives to create— through the treatment and structure of its action— an obvious disparity between the logic of experience and the logic of the play. By doing so successfully, it sets up an atmosphere of incongruity, a sure sense on the part of the audience that what it is witnessing is a situ­ ation that both violates and satisfies its logical sense at the same time.

Comedy accomplishes that paradox by accepting as its first principle tho fact that while ordinaary logic can establish what is improbable, it cannot establish what is impossible. It is supported in that conceit by Aristotle's dictum, "what has happened is manifestly possible, else 4 it would not have happened," Using that principle as its

4 Ibid,, p. 235. 205 basis, comedy operates from the presumption that the pos­

sible (what could happen), since it is not precluded by

the probable (what should happen), is always capable of

occurring. The comic playwright has, then, a two-fold

task. First, he must persuade his audience members to

accept that premise as true, and second, he must persuade

them that, once they do so, they must also accept a whole

new standaixi of logic that owes no more than passing

acknowledgement to the kind of probabilities that statistics,

normal (that is, commonly observed) patterns of human

behavior, common sense, or even the laws of nature can

establish. Indeed, comedy offers as one of its chief

delights the spectre of things happening as they almost never do— but conceivably could— in real life.

All of which is simply to say that comedy represents

a greater abstraction from the practical world than either

of drama's serious forms, that its world is one step further

removed from the world of experience. Tragedy and melodrama

both gear their actions to the kind of probabilities that

exist in life, even when they are dealing with situations

that are markedly unlife-like. It effect, a serious drama

attempts to depict what would probably happen were the

situation it presents to occur in real life. Comedy, on

the other hand, gears its action to what is theoretically

possible in human affairs and, thus, presents what might

happen if its situations were actually to exist. 206

It is in tho area of its characters, however, that comedy's greater degree of abstraction is most apparent.

To a considerable degree, comic characters do not possess human characteristics, they embody them, A truly comic character is far less an imitation of real men than he is an imitation of a particular quality in real men. It is more appropriate, for example, to describe Moliere's IIa3?pagon as greed in human guise than as a man who is greedy. To say the latter is to say that his greed is simply first among the various traits that normally constitute a human personality; but, in Harpagon, there are no other traits.

Take away his greed and he ceases to exist.

The Harpagons of comic literature are "humour­ ous " characters. They have been staple ingredients of comedy since tho form began, reaching the zenith of their later popularity in the works of Moliere and the English

Restoration writers. In a strict sense, they appear less often in modern comedy, but their place has been talcen by

"types": the harried husband, the shyster, the ne'er-do-well, the liberal, the conservative. In their way, each of the m o d e m types is as much of an abstraction, a general­ ization, as a purely humourous character. In either case, the result is characters who are exaggerated. They embody only one or two of the traits that normally constitute a human personality, those parts, as it were, being exagger­ ated to such an extent that they stand for the whole, Tho 207 general shape and form of a man are there; but a real person is not, because one feature has been made to dominate all the rest.

However the word ridiculous is defined, it always connotes incongruity, a sense that the way things are is not the way they should be or, at least, not the way they usually are. Comedy is based on the ridiculous, then, in the sense that it posits a world that looks real but, in fact, is not—-a world that is real in form, in other words, but not in content. Its characters may look like persons, but they are actually personifications. They are better described by a predicate nominative (Harpagon is greed) than a predicate adjective (Harpagon is greedy), Similarly, comedy posits a situation that appears for all the world to be capable of producing pain, but presents it in such a way that actual pain is effectively precluded. Comic action has, in other words, the appearance of danger but not the sub­ stance, Correspondingly, comedy accepts the principles— that is, the form— of conventional logic, but turns its substance, its processes, upside-down. The verdict of the conventional logical process on, for example, Wycherly's

Pinchwife and Horner is that both are improbable; they should not exist. Comedy's retort is that they do exist and are, therefore, possible. Conventional logic argues that since the existence of Pinchwife and H o m e r is improb­ able, so also is their meeting. Comedy's response is that 208

since both characters are possible, so also is their meeting.

Conventional logic argues that an improbable confluence of

improbable characters can only result in further improbable

occurrences. Comedy agrees, but points out--a bit waggishly,

perhaps— that the reductive process of conventional logic has just declared the improbable to be probable. By

insisting on the hegemony of the possible, comedy invests its action with a pattern; and a pattern is all that conven­

tional logic requires to initiate its reductive process and produce a statement of probability. It is of no consequence

to the form of logic that the pattern presented to it is a

pattern of improbability; it is st-.ll a pattern, and thus

it is amenable to the process of reduction. In effect, then,

the logic that binds comic action together is like a

syllogism that proceeds with perfect logic from a false premise to a conclusion that is at once formally tiue and

substantively false.

It is not uncommon to see comic action, because it

seemingly ignores logic, referred to as a—logical. In a

strict sense, that designation is inappropriate; it implies

that comic action is neither logical nor illogical. In

fact, it is both logical and illogical and, as such, would be better described as sur-logical, Like the pictorial

art that prefix calls to mind, comic action rivets atten­

tion on the inherent dichotomies it contains— the normal in

contradistinction to the abnormal, the real in juxtaposition

to the unreal, form in disagreement with content. To the 209 extent that comedy's characters, situations, and logic have the appearcince of reality, they engender an emotional reaction; to the extent that they lack the substance of reality, they demand a cerebral response. Thus, comedy meshes together a physical world in which mistakes and deformities are known to produce pain with an intellectual world in which they may, with relative facility, be imagined not to.

Typically, comic action rests on a single question and a separate, but related assumption: the question is what courses of action can be conceived, and the assumption is that whatever can be conceived can also be executed. To be sure, the assumption may not in every instance prove correct, but it is made, nonetheless, and it remains operative until it is discredited by events. As a consequence, that assump­ tion has important implications with respect to the treat­ ment and, ultimately, the structure of comic action.

In the first place, it implies that the conceived course of action is relatively certain to succeed; at the very least, it implies that even if the plan should fail, nothing more painful will result than the bother of invent­ ing a new plan. That does not mean that obstacles to a plan's execution cannot arise, nor does it mean that comic characters do not, in conceiving their plan, take into account both foreseeable obstacles and the possibility of unforeseeable ones. To the contrary, it means simply that 210 they assume, no matter what the obstacles, that the plan vi.ll work. Thus, by excluding failure or, at least, the suffering that normally accompanies failure from its list of real possibilities, comedy quite simply refuses to offer an audience anything that might incite it to emotional responses such as fear, pity, sorrow, or hate. In effect, the question comedy presents to an audience is not whether the hero will succeed, but how. To ask the former is to invite an audience to feel with the hero; to ask the latter is to invite it to think with him.

Obviously, however, the latter question cannot be posed until— or unless— a plan is formulated. It is, therefore, incumbent on the comic playwright to insure that his hero settles on a plan and reveals at least its broad outlines to the audience early in the action. Until he devises a scheme, and does so with full conviction that it will succeed, an audience cannot fail to wonder whether things will work out— and feel whatever emotions are appro­ priate to that doubt.

The importance of a comic hero confidently revealing that he has a plain is also discernible from another perspective— this one more purely structural in nature.

Just as attempting to divine the "punch line" is half the fun of listening to a good joke, so half the delight of a good comedy lies in attempting to discern beforehand what new improbable twist of plot the pattern of previous 211 improbabilities has made probable. To extend the analogy a bit further, a joke is well^structured when an obvious, but somehow befuddling clue to the punch line is contained in the set-up. Similarly, a comedy is well-structured when it allows audiences to see, in a general way, where the action is going, while, at the same time, challenging them to figure out how exactly it will get there and what will happen when it does. That observation may seem simplistic, but it must be remembered that comedy cannot rely, as tragecty and melodrama do, on emotional involvement to generate— or even to sustain— audience interest. Its action must, therefore, be structured in such a way as to pique the curiosity of its audience, to challenge them on an intel­ lectual level, if it is to maintain their interest.

To say, finally, that comody appeals to man's sense of the ridiculous is to pre-empt for it both a right and a responsibility. Its responsibility is to prevent the ridiculous from becoming the macabre by persuading audiences not to relate to the stage action emotionally. On a rudi­ mentary level, a pie in the face is only humorous when an audience is convinced there is no reason to fear for the receiver's nose. On a more complex level, Tartuffe's pre­ tentious piety is ridiculous so long as the audience believes no real harm will come from it; to the extent that an audience does not believe that, to the extent that it becomes concerned about the welfare of Orgon and his family, 212

Tartuffe's actions take on a sinister aspect and he becomes no longer an object of ridicule, but rather, an object of hate*

To discharge its responsibility, then, comedy requires the right to "distance" both its characters and its situa­ tions from the world of common experience, to present them as something less than substantively real* The word "less" denotes a reduction and, indeed, comedy’s requisite right to distance its characters and situations from reality is essentially the right to pass off characters who are reduced to one or two exaggerated traits as normal, complete per­ sonalities, and the right to reduce the norm of human action from adherence to what is probable in a practical sense to pursuit of what is possible in a non-practical sense*

The emphasis comedy places on intellect, both internally

(within the action itself) and externally (between the action and the audience), and its concommitant lack of emotional content and appeal, malte it a form that would seem to be well-suited to James’s strengths as a playwright*

In the final analysis, Daisy Miller and The American failed as melodramas because James refused to deal with the passions that the actions of both plays had rendered necessary* In moving to comedy, however, James was moving to a form that allowed him to concentrate on the manifestations, the out­ ward trappings of dangerous situations and emotion-based 213 behavior without serious regard for the practical necessi­ ties they imposed.

Disengaged is tho first of the comedies to be considered here and, conveniently, it serves as an excellent example of the point just made. It relates the story of a naive young aiTny officer named Prime who becomes enmeshed in the machinations of a devious group of sophisticates and is trapped by them into an ill-advised engagement to a witless young lady knoivn, appropriately, as Blandina, The engage­ ment is desired by Blandina's mother, Mrs, Wigmore, a headstrong bull of a woman, but its real architect is Percy

Trafford, a totally unsciupulous fellow bent only on fur­ thering his own selfish interests. His self-seeking is encouraged by Lady Brisket, who is indulging herself in something resembling an affair with him in order to spite her husband. Sir Montagu, whom she is convinced is having an affair with her old friend, Mrs, Jasper, In truth. Sir

Montagu would like to be having an affair with Mrs,

Jasper— to spite his wife for having one with Percy— but

Mrs, Jasper will not allow it; nor will she allow the equally persistent suit of Charles Coverly, the other character of importance.

On the face of it, the comic potential in such a crazy-quilt of intrigue and counter-intrigue is obvious; it is no more obvious, however, than the case with which those same characters and relationships could be made to 214 form the basis of a melodrama. Prime and Blandina are

laughable innocents in the play, but they could easily be

innocent victims; Percy is an amoral rascal and }Irs, Vigmore

a raging Vallcyrie in tho play, but both could easily be

immoral villains; Lady Brisket and Sir Montagu are foolish

in the play, but their situation could easily be pathetic.

Not surprisingly, the one character who would doubtless

remain the same no matter how the subject was treated is

Mrs, Jasper, for tho veiy simple reason that she is a char­

acter of substance as well as form. The other characters

and their inter-relationships are comic because they lack

real substance; if the emotional underpinning appropriate

to their various personalities were added, they would

quickly taJce on tho melodramatic qualities noted above.

To treat the story of Disengaged in comic fashion, then,

James needed to establish quickly that the actions, atti­

tudes, and relationships of its characters would be real

only in appearance. He does that by opening the play with

a series of conversations that fairly bristle with insults

and insinuations that vary from witty to snide, but more

importantly, are doggedly ignored by the person to whom

they are addressed. For example, Mrs, Wigmore begins

things by chastizing Sir Montagu (who is her brother) for

allowing his country home to "tumble to pieces," When he

answers good-naturedly that "the pieces serve our purpose,"

she replies pointedly, "Your wife's purposes, yes" (p. 301). 215 Mere there any substance to the concern Sir Montagu later professes about his wife's behavior, he would surely react to the obvious implication of Mrs, Wigmore's remark.

Instead, he blithely replies, "That of coming over, with a few friends, to spend a happy day" (p. 302), Later, when

Lady Brisket and Percy arrive. Sir Montague takes no notice of the fact that they arrive together (after what has apparently been a long absence, also together), but makes small talk with Trafford about the pile of photographic equipment he has been lugging about for Lady Brisket, That does not mean that Sir Montagu is unconcerned about his wife's behavior; it means simply that he is only concerned when it suits his purpose to be so--in Mrs, Jasper's presence, for instance.

There is a similar lack of substance in what is revealed of Blandina's personality during the play's open­ ing moments. Her first dialogue is with her mother and begins with the latter's imperious, "Blandina, come here!"

In the conversation that follows, Blandina has thirteen lines, the first four and last four of which are, "Yes, momma," with another, "Yes, momma," and three dim-witted questions in between (p, 303)• Her responses, in other words, are those of an automaton. She has the appearance of a timid young woman being tyrannized by her mother, but there is nothing to suggest that she is either mentally aware of that or emotionally troubled by it. It is simply 216 a fact of her existence about which she is no more disturbed than would be a robot. There is, in effect, no human substance beneath her human appearance.

The constant danger in comedy is that the necessary exaggeration and abstraction of its action will be carried so far that no recognizably human connection with the audience remains. There must survive something to which an audience can relate, some standard of normality against which it can measure, and be amused by, the prevailing abnormalities. As a rule, the standard is borne by one of the characters in the action, and he is designated the raissonoure.

Whatever the derivation of such normative characters

(their existence could probably be traced, in one fomi or other, to the Greek parabasis), they became an integral part of comic structure concurrently in France and England during the seventeenth century, but with a significant dif­ ference. In l^ench comedy, the raissoneure is generally a

"reasonable man" in the sense that he reacts to the bizarre char­ acters and events of the stage action in much the same -way as most people would react to them in real life, He stands apart from the comic action and views it with an objective and conventionally logical eye. Thus, the raisonneuro in a

Moliere comedy is usually a minor character— of ten a friend or confidante (Philinte in The Misanthrope is a good exam­ ple)— whose chief function is to remind the audience of the disparity between its sense of reality and that of the play. 217 In English, drama, howover, tho reasonable man is

more likely to be the character who best uses reason to

manipulate the other characters. Thus, the raissoneure in

English comedy is often the central character. He is no

less objective and rational in his view of the other char­

acters and events than his French counterpart, but he is

much less aloof. He makes no pretense of reacting to the

other players as the majority of men would in real life;

to the contraiy, he reacts as the cleverest of men would by

bending the dim-wittedness and shallowness and eccentricity

of others to his own advantage, Homer, Mirabel, Volpone

(in a peiverse way), Hastings, and Undershaft are all

examples of what might be called the "typically English"

raissoneure, Whereas the French raissonoure tends to be an

observer and an ethical conventionalist, the English

raissoneure tends to be a participator and an ethical prag­

matist, The French reasonable man is worldly wise in the

sense that he perceives the weaknesses of his fellows and

is concerned by them; the English reasonable man is worldly- wise in the sense that he perceives the weaknesses of his

fellows and makes use of them,

Mrs, Jasper is James's first attempt to cast a char­

acter in the typically English mold and, while not perfect,

she is remarkably well—formed. She is clearly the central

character in Disengaged, tho hub around which the action

and, in differing ways, each of the characters revolve. 218

Directly or indirectly, she is involved in eveiy character relationship and every major action in the play, even though, as a person, she longs for nothing so much as to possess

"The art of passing unperceived" (p, 305). Unfortunately, she is so cursed by the twin devils of beauty and wit that, quite without meaning or wanting to, she arouses ardor in the play's men and anguish in their women. Since they all need something from her (her presence or her absence), while she needs nothing from any of them, Mrs. Jasper is in an ideal position from which to manipulate. Significantly, however, all of her manipulating is done at someone else's request and to advance interests other than her own. As a consequence (and unlike many of her fellow English raisson- eures ) she remains from start to finish a totally sympathetic character who pushes and pulls the strings of her less clever comrades for their own good.

Her first occasion to manipulate comes from Sir

Montagu. Partly in the hope of gaining her sympathy and partly out of injured pride. Sir Montagu begs her to tell

Lady Brisket that "I justly resent her behaviour" (p. 306).

Mrs. Jasper quickly points out to him that Lady Brisket's

"behavior" with Trafford is, in large measure, a response

to "Your propensity to draw me into comers. . . ."

When he insists, however, that his wife's actions are a

threat to "the family honour" (p. 3 0 6), she agrees to intercede in his behalf. Before she can do so, Coverly 219 corners her and begins instantly to press his oim suit.

Recalling that Coverly has "influence with Mr, Trafford"

(p* 309)» she urges him to persuade Percy to return to his post in Copenhagen, Seeing in her request a chance to curry favor, Coverly readily agrees,

Mrs, Jasper's attempt to solve one problem, however, makes her unknowingly the source of creating a second, which forms the basis of the play's remaining action,

Coverly attempts, as he had promised, to prevail upon

Trafford to quit his relationship with Lady Brisket, Before he can do that, however. Lady Brisket and Trafford have recognized that Mrs, Wigmorc "suspects something" about their meetings, and thus, have determined "to keep her occupied with Blandina's marriage" (p, 30?). In short, they hope that by showing Mrs, Wigmore that they are "work­ ing for her," they can persuade her to leave them alone,

Trafford, therefore, decides to "make ^"Prime_y propose"

(p, 307)* Hence, when Coverly urges Trafford "to leave

Lady Brisket alone," ho is met with a counter-proposal;

Trafford agrees to leave (though he has no intention of doing so) if Coverly will assist him in forcing Prime to propose,

Coverly never actually agrees to Trafford's sugges­ tion, but when, shortly thereafter, Blandina and Prime return from an overlong stay at some nearby ruins, he finds himself participating in the entrapment nonetheless. 220

Between the two of them, they convince the honest, but gullible. Prime that his long, unchaperoned walk with

Blandina, in combination with the photograph Trafford had earlier taken, which showed him with Blandina's "head on his bosom," put him in the unequivocal position of having

"compromised" the young lady. They then convince him that he can rectify his abominable behavior only by "marrying your victim" (p. 315)i which, in a state of total bewilder­ ment and distraction, the hapless Prime sets out to propose.

As soon as Prime leaves to find Blandina, Coverly is filled with remorse for his part in the deception and exclaims, "it isn’t fair!" Before he can do any more, however, "a loud, droll shriek proceeds from the house," signifying that Prime has "come to the point" (p. 316),

As Coverly turns away in anguish. Lady Brisket and Trafford take the opportunity to slip away together, much to the vexation of Mrs, Jasper who re-enters a moment later. The first act ends with Mrs, Vigmore jubilantly dragging the

"pale and breathless" Prime and vacuously blissful Blandina out of the house to announce their engagement. Prime turns

"with smothered anguish" to Mrs, Jasper for consolation, but she can only offer "a hearty congratulation!"

Having gotten Prime engaged, James devotes the rest of the play to filling the promise of its title, that is, to getting him disengaged. If Mrs, Jasper was indirectly responsible for the former, she assumes direct responsibility 221 for the latter* Once again, however, she does so only upon being askod~this time by the penitent Coverly— to do so#

After some insistence on his part that Prime is a “snow- white lamb," a “knight of romance" whose “fastidious sense of honour" has doomed him to spend his life with a "parrot"

(p* 321), Mrs, Jasper agrees to try and save him. In recompense, she reimposes on him his committment to disengage

Trafford from Lady Brisket, which results in his spending the rest of the play darting in and out, in marvelously comic fashion, trying to keep track of his quarry,

l/hat follows during the remainder of the second act is, structurally, the play's weakest segment. Specifically, once Mrs, Jasper learns of the problem, it becomes her responsibility to formulate from it an objective from which to derive a specified course of action. In strict, mechan­ ical terms, the play's action cannot advance until she does.

Complications can be added, character relationships can bo refined and deepened, but the story cannot progress from problem to solution until Mrs, Jasper defines what the solution should be and how it should be brought about.

She takes the correct first step by agreeing to take on the problem with a confidence that precludes the possi­ bility of failure. She announces simply that she will

"find a way," and Coverly reinforces her conviction by responding matter-of-factly, "Yes, why else should you be so clever" (p, 322), The problem, simply stated, is that 222 her next step is a long time in coming; indeed, the rest of the second act goes hy before any hint of Mrs, Jasper's objective emerges, and, even then, there is only a hint.

Because she fails to settle on an objective, moreover, there is no suggestion of a plan, no plainly expressed statement of where the action is heading. As a consequence, the potential for delight attendant on allowing an audience to know the destination and approximate route of the action is less than fully exploited. More importantly, however, Mrs,

Jasper appears not to be acting to a purpose, but rather, to be improvising, to be taking things as they occur and dealing with them according to the inspiration of the moment.

For example, after telling Coverly that she will do what she can to aid Prime, Mrs, Jasper proceeds immediately into a confrontation with Lady Brisket, The latter is upset about the relationship she thinks exists between Sir Montagu and

Mrs, Jasper, and says so in relatively plain terms. To alleviate this new problem, Mrs. Jasper informs Lady Brisket, somewhat percipitously, that "I j[_^ will__7 bring my visit to a close" (p. 323), That satisfies Lady Brisket but, after she leaves, Mrs, Jasper recalls her pledge to Coverly and realizes that she cannot leave the Brisket home and help

Prime at the same time. She decides, therefore, to "first see him" (p, 323)* She then enters into a scene with Sir

Montagu, informing him of her decision to leave and brushing aside his various objections. She ends their interview by 223 telling him that she will allow him to see her again before she leaves if he will "Go and take Blandina out . . . into the garden— for a little talk" (p. 324), thus demonstrating her expertise at improvising by using Sir Montagu to clear the way for her ovm talk with Prime.

In the conversation that follows, Mrs. Jasper is so struck by Prime's innocence and simplicity that she amelio­ rates his anxiety by assuring him tliat she will not leave for awhile. In their next mooting, however, alarmed by his blunt confession— "I hate Miss ¥igmore"~she changes her mind yet another time and tells him, "The difficulty is that

I'm (after an instant) going away" (p. 329). He then pleads for at least one more day of her presence and she back­ tracks again, agreeing to remain at Brisket for another day.

The problem engendered by Mrs. Jasper's recurring about-faces is not jus t that they make her appear tentative and inconsistent (although they do), but that the story cannot move along on a horizontal plane until they end. It cannot progress from point A to point B until Mrs. Jasper determines where point B is and how she intends to get there. The story achieves some vortical movement (a deep­ ening of the relationship between Prime and Mrs. Jasper) but that kind of movement is more a hindrance than an aid in the development of a comic action. It runs 224 the risk, if not the certainty, of infusing into the action the kind of substance that makes characters, events, eind relationships too real to be ridiculous. It tends, to move the play toward the emotive level on which melodrama operates. At the very least, it slows the progres­ sion of events to a pace that is more in keeping with real life, which has also the effect of inviting audiences to see and respond to substance as well as appearance,

Mrs, Jasper's second-act ambivalence is a weakness in the play's structure, but it is essentially the result of another, more fundamental defect. Simply stated, she has no reason not to bo ambivalent. There are basically two ways of compelling a dramatic character to act purposefully; the first is to provide him with information and experiences that enable him to form a conviction upon which he is obliged to act; the second is to posit in the situation an exigency— usually of time— that requires him to act either immediately or not at all. Melodrama may, with certain modifications, use either method, but tragedy is tied rigidly to the first and comedy to the second. For a tragedy or a comedy, in other words, to attempt to employ elements of the other's method is to move inexorably in the direction of melodrama, James's fundamental mistake in

Disengaged, then, is that for the whole of the second act he concentrates on motivation— the tragic method— rather than action. That is especially disconcerting in view of 225 the fact that something so obvious as fixing a date for

Prime's marriage immediately (instead of waiting until

Act III) would have simultaneously provided motivation and required action.

James's failure to introduce any such time limitation into the events of the second act makes the first conversa­ tion between Prime and Mrs, Jasper critical. What is needed desperately is an objective for Mrs. Jasper, which, since it does not exist in the situation, can only come from the lady herself in the form of a personal commitment. The interview with Prime is her first chance to observe closely the extent of both his anguish and his innocence and is, thus, the perfect opportunity for her to shed her "indif­ ference" and derive from his condition an objective of her

Dim. Prime enters the scene, "Pale, constrained, agitated" and, without any prompting, begins to express his miseiy.

He tells Mrs, Jasper that he feels "heavy," that her voice is "a blessed change," and that he feels as if he "had been married ten years" (p. 324). The critical moment comes, however, with the following exchange:

PRIME: I want to be absorbed— I want something to talce hold of J MRS. JASPER: Talce hold (vaguely) take hold— i (Suddenly checking herself.) PRIME: (All attention.) Yes? MRS. JASPER: (T o herself, turning away.) I really can't tell him to take hold of me! (pp. 324-24)

With that, she draws back to safer ground and changes the tone of the conversation by suggesting that his 226

"profession" should absorb him. As a consequence, the moment passes and Mrs, Jasper emerges from the scone with, perhaps, a deeper appreciation of Prime, but with no more of an objective than she had when it began. The irony is that by allowing her to come so close to forming one, James succeeds in accentuating the fact that she does not. By causing her to stop short of a commitment that would have been perfectly consistent with the appearanco-oriented context of prior events, he leaves room for at least the suspicion that there is real substance to the relationship between Prime and Mrs, Jasper,

It is not until the very last scene of the act that

Mrs, Jasper appears to decide what it is she wants. Even at that point (which is already too late), she avoids stat­ ing it plainly, however, as witness the following dialogue ;

PRIME: Mrs, Jasper, I adore you! MRS, JASPER: You can*t— not yet! PRIME: TJhen can I then? Toll me when! MRS, JASPER: I must look about me— I must see! , , , PRIME: Do you like me? MRS, JASPER: I like you! PRIME: Would you marry me? MRS, JASPER: I ’ll toll you tomorrow! (p, 330)

She then ends the act by shoving him out the door, then turning to the audience and laughing as she says, "Lamb!"

It is easy, admittedly, to infer from that set of lines that Mrs, Jasper’s objective has become to rescue Prime from Blandina by marrying him herself. It may legitimately be asked, however, what artistic purpose is served by not having her simply say so. One thing is certain: since 227 she docs not say so, the play is no closer to solution at the end of Act II than it was at the beginning.

Mrs, Jasper dispels the enigma of the second act closing at the very beginning of the third. She tells

Prime that she now has "a better conscience" (p, 33l)» but, more importantly, she announces that she is prepared to

"advance together" with him, "step by step and armed to the teeth" (p. 331)• Significantly, she makes that assertion in response to Prime's announcement that Mrs, ¥igmore has

"fixed the day," Her hand forced by the (tardy) arrival of that new element, Mrs, Jasper immediately formulates her objective— to lead Prime "to a different altar" (p, 332) — and her plan for achieving it— to "find a different

J_ husband_7 l'or Blandina" (p, 332), With equal alacrity, she reckons that Trafford is the best candidate, the more so since pairing him off with Blandina would have the addi­ tional benefit of mollifying Sir Montagu and patching up his relationship with Lady Brisket, She also reasons that since Trafford is "in love with everyone" (p, 332), he might even be persuaded to love Blandina, Within the first fifty lines of Act III, then, an objective, a plan, and a time­ limit have all been established. As result, the sense of urgency, of compression, that animated the first act (and was sorely missed in the second) returns with a vengeance.

Prime's wedding date acts as the ultimate time-limit against which Mrs, Jasper must work, but it is aided immeasurably 228 in compressing the action by James's skillful inclusion of more proximate time factors. For virtually the remainder of the act, someone's imminent arrival is constantly antic­ ipated, Even before that process begins, however, Mrs,

Jasper recalls that Trafford is scheduled to leave for

Copenhagen that day, which, if he is to be her sacrifice to

Mrs, îïigmore, ho must be prevented from doing. To that end she decides to "send Coverly after him," She then recalls that Sir Montagu has cabled her his intention to stop at her house for lunch, which means that Prime must leave at once. He protests that idea, however, offering instead to hide himself in the den, Mrs, Jasper is forced to accede when a knock on the door signals (she assumes )

Sir Montagu's arrival.

Fortuitously, the caller turns out to be Trafford, who explains that his desire to see Mrs, Jasper once more has prevented his leaving on schedule. Their conversation is eventually interrupted by another knock at the door.

Assuming again that the knocker is Sir Montagu, Mrs, Jasper mcikes ready to hide Trafford--only to find that the caller this time is Coverly, She takes advantage of that surprise by charging Coverly to "secure Mr, Trafford" and keep him available, Coverly is understandably confused by his new instructions, but agrees to execute them. His exit with

Trafford in tow allows Prime to emerge from the den for a short love scene with Mrs, Jasper, Naturally, just as 229 they are about to embrace, the long-avaited Sir Montagu finally arrives, having let himself in without knocking.

To avoid repetition, suffice it to say that the pattern of precipitate and unexpected arrivals at Mrs. Jasper's door continues throughout the act, reaching its climax when

Mrs, ¥igmore thunders into the room with Blandina trailing vacantly at her heels. In establishing the pattern James could hardly be credited with devising a new technique for comic action, but ho should be credited for employing it well. Particularly noteworthy is the adroitness with which he orchestrates the various entrances, positioning them so that the relative length of contiguous scenes is constantly varied and so that each new arrival occurs just slightly sooner than anticipated (or desired) by the characters in the scene-in-progress, The result is an appearance, at least, that the pace of the action is constantly accelerat­ ing, sweeping the on-stage players and the audience toward the conclusion.

Unlike the over-long and over-vague attempts James made at ending his first melodramas, the conclusion of

Disengaged is handled with considerable neatness and pre­ cision, The play contains three problems requiring resolu­ tion: l) pairing off Trafford with Blandina; 2) re-uniting

Sir Montagu and Lady Brisket; 3) bringing Mrs, Jasper and

Prime together. Of those, the first is certainly the trickiest. By the time the final scene begins, Trafford 230 has been persuaded that he must atone for his sins by

marrying Blandina, but neither she nor her mother has yet

been consulted. To his credit, James expedites the solu­

tion to that problem by laying the groundwork for it in the

preceding scene. In it, Mrs, Jasper causes Trafford to

tell Sir Montagu that he wishes to marry Blandina, which

precipitates the following exchange;

SIR MONTAGU: And what will Mrs, Vigmore say? MRS, JASPER: "You must take what you can get," SIR MONTAGU : And what will Blandina? tlRS, JASPER: (Very sweetly, ) "Yes, momma," (p, 3^l)

By predicting their reactions, Mrs, Jasper establishes a

scheme of probability. Thus, in the final scene, when Mrs,

Wigmore looks from Trafford to Blandina and says, "you must

take what you can get," and Blandina replies, "Yes, momma,"

the effect is devastatingly fdnny because an improbable

probability has occurred exactly as predicted.

The second problem is also handled succinctly, Mrs,

Jasper leads off the tricking of Mrs, Vigmore by telling

her that Trafford "has conceived a respectful passion for

Blandina," lifhen Mrs, Uigmore asks, "Since when?"— Mrs,

Jasper replies, "Since the first day he beheld her, (Then

after an instant) He made dear J_ Lady Brisket_j^ his con­

fidant" (p, 342), That last sentence catches Sir Montagu's

attention, since it plainly indicates that Lady Brisket's

relationship with Trafford was platonic. Lady Brisket, of

course, says nothing to disabuse him of that assumption,

so they are re-united. Bringing together Mrs, Jasper and 231

Prime becomes, then, the automatic result of having dis­ pensed with the other two problems. Thus, the play ends, as all romantic comedies should, with the three couples happily united.

To say that, structurally. Disengaged is a failure would be misleading; it would bo fairer to say instead that its structure is not a triumph. The first and third acts rapidly advance the play's action, gloss over the emotional substance of its events and relationships, and generally proceed according to a logic that is properly comic (proba­ bility is derived from a pattern of improbability), The second act, however, advances the story hardly at all, is almost wholly devoted to deepening the relationship between

Mrs, Jasper and Prime, and proceeds according to a logic that is very nearly conventional. In a more technical sense, nothing of structural significance is added to the play during the second act. As a result, the play's structure is weakened by the fact that James allows the second act to plod along in a different direction according to different rules and at a different pace than the acts that surround it,

James's second comedy. The Album, is at once his most successful and his most problematic. It is natural for comedy to place form in opposition to content, but only figuratively— that is, in the sense that it depicts an action that is real in appearance but not in substance. 232

In The Album, however, James accomplishes a literal kind of form-content opposition. Specifically, he takes an inher­ ently melodramatic subject (content) and endeavors to mold it into comic shape (form), The story tells of a very nice young man (Mark), who swindled out of his rightful inheritance by his unconscionably pretentious older cousin

(sir Ralph), meets a very sincere young woman (Grace), a dilletantish young woman (Maud), and a grasping older woman

(Lady Basset), lives for a while in abject poverty, and, finally, is rescued from that poverty by the sincere young woman— with whom he falls in love. That is a much simpli­ fied outline of the story, but as more of the details James includes are added, its essentially melodramatic nature becomes ever more apparent.

Particularly is that time with respect to Mark and

Grace, who, in the best tradition of melodrama, emerge not only as whole characters but as characters whose wholeness is of a kind entirely capable of engendering sympathy.

That last is important because it distinguishes them from characters like Prime, who, in the best tradition of comedy, are whole but are also too lacking in real substance to engender any sort of emotional response, Mark and Grace are honest, unselfish, caring characters who happen also to have a lively intelligence and the ability to perceive— and be amused by— the eccentricities and pretensions of others.

Of greater importance, however, is the fact that James 233 causes them to fall in love, which leaves him with the dramaturgical problem of how to deal with a real relation­ ship between two relatively real characters who are surrounded on all sides by a collection of zanies.

In their first meeting, the quite serious tone of their relationship is firmly set, Grace’s employer, Mr,

Bedford, is dying as the play begins and has not included

Mark in his will because he thinlcs him to have been killed in America, When Grace discovers that he is not only alive but on the premises, she is immediately struck by Mark's unwillingness to trouble his dying cousin with the happy news. She tells him that Mr, Bedford wants to include him in his will, but Mark insists that he has "neglected , , .

J_ Mr, Bedford__7 too long to have rights" and that he does not "want to be remembered as a beggar" (p, 366), With Sir

Ralph in mind, Grace points out to him that "There are people who are not here for sentiment," When he responds,

"You take a kind view of me. Miss Jesmond," she reveals her genuine concern by replying, "1 want you not to be sacrificed" (p, 366),

There follows, in the second act, a touching little scene in which Grace, destitute as a result of her employer's death, comes to Mark's ramshackle flat to see if he might employ her as a model (he is a painter), She details for him how she has been all over London seeking a job, but

"there's nothing to be had," She goes on, haltingly, to 234 explain that she has "heard of girls viio earn money~how- ever little!— by sitting to painters, . . , I’m perhaps not clumsier— nor uglior!— than some; and if i t’s only a question of keeping still— Oh, I Ccua do that; so still— so still!

(Then after an instant, brave, simple,) Anything to boil the pot" (p, 379). This time it is Mark’s turn to be moved, but since his poverty is as great as hers, he is forced to tell her he cannot help. Not wishing to burden her with his problems, however, he tries to ascribe his refusal to his oivn incompetence as an artist, not her undesirability as a model. He tolls her she has "the appearance , , , of an angel," but with his poor talent, "I see you perfectly— I place you— I catch you. Hut (with a sad smile and a slow head-shake) I lose you again" (p, 379)* He quickly agrees to give her the names of other artists who might use her, however, and as their conversation continues, she draws out of him the fact that he has had no income since they last met. Thus, when she asks him point-blank, "Mr, Bemal, are you very poor?"— she precipitates perhaps the most poignant exchange of dramatic dialogue that James had yet written;

BERNAL; Do you suppose if I were not I would decline your splendid offer? The stupid, sordid truth. Miss Jesmond, is that I can’t affoird a model, GRilCE: (Grave,) I see, (Then with infinite gentle­ ness. ) I ’m very sorry, BERNAL; You can’t be sorrier than I! It was awfully nice of you to come; but you’ve brought your empty pitcher to a thirsty land! GRACE; (After an instant,) You’re as poor as I am? 235

BERNAL; You malce mo feel much poorer! And it's the first time my condition has seemed to me (brin^in# out the word with expres­ sion, resentment) ugly I GRACE: It's the first time mine has seemed to me endurable! (p. 380)

A short while later, Mark's burgeoning relationship with Grace takes on a deadly serious aspect. Before Grace leaves his flat. Sir Ralph arrives to sit for a portrait and she seizes the opportunity to request a moment for a private conversation with him. For reasons yet to be explained. Sir Ralph mistakes something she says for a proposal, which, when she leaves the room and Mark re-enters.

Sir Ralph announces he has decided to accept. According to

James's stage directions, Mark is at first "amazed," then unable to "got over it," then "ironic." and finally "deri­ sive " as he tries to dissuade Sir Ralph, Then when Sir

Ralph asks Mark if he is "in love with her" himself, Mark is evasive, but finally admits that he is. Sir Ralph then asks Mark if he wants to make Grace "The partner of your misery?"— to which Mark responds, despairingly, ", , , I'm too deadly poorJ (Then after an instant,) But I do know what I want, I want to prevent you" (p, 386), With that, both men call Grace back into the room, and, before Sir

Ralph can say anything, Mark orders her to "walk out of the house!" Tdien she hesitates, he adds, "(Feverishly peremptory; pointing to the open door,) This moment"

(p, 387)# Still confused and visibly hurt, she hurls a sorrowful, "Good-bye!" at Mark and exits, ending the second act. 236

The progress of the final act eventually brings Mark and Grace together, but, significantly, there is no sense of inevitability about that. Their first meeting is dampened by professions of mutual regret, Mark attempting to apolo­ gize for ordering her to leave and Grace apologizing for her inability to explain fully why she has just come to Sir

Ralph’s house. It is tinged as well with those mildly acrimonious exchanges, followed by expressions of regret, that are typical of serious— and suffering— young lovers.

Hence, the following;

BERNAL: • . , but what’s to console me? GRACE: (After an instant «) For what, Mr, Bernal? BERNAL: For seeing Sir Ralph Damant again stand between us ! GRACE: Excuse me if I don’t perceive how it should matter to you where Sir Ralph Daman t s t and s, BERNAL: You saw how it mattered the other day! GRACE: (Quiet,) I saw the fact but not the reason. (Then with a sad smile.) You ask me, I think, for more explanations than you give ! BERNAL: (Admitting this ; speaking very kindly,) You must be generous with me, for I am much troubled, (p. 392)

In any case, Grace finally admits that she has come to

Sir Ralph to get money for Mark’s "relief," She knows that

Sir Ralph bilked Mark of his inheritance, a fact Mark is unaware of. Before they can finish their conversation. Sir

Ralph arrives and requires Mark to leave the room. Reluc­

tantly, he does so, saying good-bye to Grace as he goes for what he obviously believes is the last time. It is not until the final scene of the play that they are alone again. 237 By that time, Grace is sure that she has failed in her mis­ sion and Mark no longer cares how or why she intended to achieve it. Hence, finally, they throw reserve to the winds and profess their love for one einother.

Ivhat is obvious from the history of their relationship is that Mark and Grace are not the typical young lovers of romantic comedy. Although their affection for one another is obvious from the time of their first meeting, it is not overtly expressed until the last possible moment. As a result, a genuinely emotional desire to see them overcome the obstacles that separate them is engendered. That desire is abetted by the fact that their next-to-last meeting has an air of apparent finality about it, Grace does not intend, at that point, to see Mark again, and he does not expect to see her again. That, when viewed in the context of their natural goodness, is ample reason for an audience to feel sympathy, if not fear, for their plight.

They are pulled even further toward being melodramatic heros by the nature of their relationships and activities with the other characters, Mark's nobility with respect to his dying cousin has already been noted, but with Sir Ralph, with Maud and Lady Basset, even with the vacuous Teddy Ash­ down, he is from start to finish a model of generosity and civility. Although he is aware of their weaknesses and eccentricities, he never attempts to exploit them. Despite his own poverty, he shares his flat with Teddy, humors the 238 two women in their pretensions, and gives free lessons in art to all three. More importantly, perhaps, he never com­ plains about his condition (even though he is acutely aware of what it i s ) or presents a less than cheerful countenance to the world, ^Vhat he values is his "freedom" and, as he sees it, his poverty cannot rob him of that. At the same time, he can say to Maud, "Don't try to get on without love” (p. 377)* When she asks if he has tried to do so, he replies, "Not for a single hour! I've loved, though I've lost! So, bare as you see me, I dispense with a lot of things. I'm rich in faith," For all his optimism, however, he is far from naive, IVhen Maud asks if he thinks her capable of "bringing down Sir Ralph," he responds matter- of-factly, "I believe almost any woman can experiment successfully on almost any man," Ifhen she asks if that means she can "Make him love her?"— he answers, "Yes, and make him hate her for doing it" (p, 377)# In comic terms, then, Mark is a reasonable man, but he is also, in melo­ dramatic terms, a good man— wise in advice, free in spirit, and unselfish in attitude. He is witty without being glib, clever without being devious, and innocent without being ingenuous, lie has, in other words, all the qualities a virtuous melodramatic hero should have, and, just as impor­ tantly, he has them in more depth than a typical comic hero.

There is, however, one significant respect in which he remains fully a comic character, or at least, a character 239

appropriate only to comedy; he is absolutely devoid of fear,

of self-pity, of any inclination to view himself or his

situation seriously. In a sense, James makes that easy

for him by insuring that, until the very last moment, Mark never knows how much of an inheritance he has lost— or how

and why he lost it. As a consequence, he never regards anyone or anything in the play as his enemy, and he is,

therefore, able to maintain a relatively altruistic, non-

emotional posture from start to finish,

Grace Jesmond, on the other hand, is a different story.

Her attitudes towaard the other characters range from indif­ ference toward Teddy, to mild distaste for Maud and Lady

Basset, to quite a strong dislike for Sir Ralph, It is equally important that, except for Teddy, each of the other characters lodes upon her as a threat. Of greatest impor­

tance, however, is the fact that, by nature, Grace is a

serious-minded person. She has little of Mark's tongue-in-

cheek cheerfulness. Her first utterances in the play are an expression of genuine concern for Mr, Bedford's condi­

tion, and the seriousness she exhibits then sets what

continues to be the "tone" of her character throughout the play. Idlere Mark is amused by the pretensions of the other characters, Grace is offended by them; and, indeed, her right to take offense is accentuated by the stark contrast between the motives and intentions they ascribe to her and

those she actually displays, Maud and Lady Basset, for 240 exampley are convinced that she has "expectations" of her own, that she anticipates being included in Mr. Bedford’s will. They are also certain that "she's dangerous « that she intends to "lie in wait for Sir Ralph," hoping thereby to ensure her expectations. Sir Ralph has precisely the same convictions about her, and, although he finds nothing funny in it, his presumption that she wants to marry him becomes the play's most consistent source of humor.

In actuality, Grace has no expectations of her own.

That is evidenced both by the disdain with which she regaards the characters who do and by the fact that, with the excep­ tion of Mark, she is the only major character who wants Mr,

Bedford to live. In addition, although she works unflag- gingly on Mark's behalf, she never lets him see her doing it. She refuses to do so because, as she finally admits, she wants Mark to "never be able to say of me that my effort was half for myself" (p, 398), She is not, in other words, fighting Mark's battles for future compensation. Indeed, when Mark asks her why she is so bent on his gaining a share of the inheritance, she replies, "(With genuine intensity.)

Because it costs me too much , , , to believe you're too late" (p, 371)• In plain terms, she is personally offended by Sir Ralph's acquiring, through lies and deceit, more than is his due.

Unlike Mark, Grace is able and willing to fight the iniquities perpetrated by Sir Ralph and to do so not because Zhl it strikes her as an amusing diversion but because she genuinely cannot abide frauduLent behavior* Irtiereas Mark can look at his poverty and see "freedom," Grace looks at it and sees unnecessary suffering* Her actions are prompted by her feelings— about Sir Ralph, about Mark, about the desirability of good over evil— and, as a result, she func­ tions like a melodramatic hero* She pities Mark and hates

Sir Ralph, and, correspondingly, her actions are calculated to reward the former and punish the latter*

It is difficult not to wonder whether, as he was writing The Album* James fully realized how melodramatically he was treating its protagonists— both individually and in their relationship to one another* If he did, he is due a great deal of credit for posing and successfully resolv­ ing a technical problem of impressive magnitude* Despite the facts that Mark and Grace are substantive characters, that theirs is a substantive relationship, and that sub­ stantive doubt about the outcome of their relationship persists until very late in the action. The Album works very well as a comedy* It does so for several reasons.

First, James never allows Grace's seriousness to intrude on or impede the fully comic aspects of the play*

Shakespeare has often been lauded for his use of a comic character (£*£., the Fool in King Lear) as a means of providing "comic relief" to an otherwise deadly serious action* Tliough the analogy is not exact (Grace is a far 242 more central character than Lear's Fool), Grace could be said to provide the othorifise farcical action of The Album with "serious relief," In effect, her comparatively somber mien serves to complement and enrich, by way of contrast, the play's overtly comic elements. The marvel in James's treatment of Grace is the degree of substance she attains without overburdening the play's structure or overshadowing its other characters,

James accomplishes that by tying her appearances very closely to the play's developing action. He makes her the medium through which the play's major complications are revealed. When Mark makes his first appearance, for example,

Maud and Lady Basset mistake him for Sir Ralph and hustle him out to the garden. He leaves behind a sketch-book (his album), which is subsequently discovered by Teddy,

Mark's name is inscribed on the flyleaf, but it means nothing to Teddy, who eventually shows it to Sir Ralph, thus reveal­ ing to him that Mark is alive and on the premises. This revelation comes after Grace has asked Sir Ralph if he has any knowledge of Mark, She is then pointedly present a bit later when the Vicar asks him the same question and receives the same answer— that Mark is "Believed— universally" to be dead, A few moments later, Grace encounters Teddy and dis­ covers from him that Mark is very much alive. Her suspic­ ions aroused, she interrogates him further and discovers that Sir Ralph Icnew he was alive when he made his denial to the Vicar, 243 The remainder of Grace's participation in the first act consists of her unsuccessful attempts to persuade Mark

to assert his rights and, more importantly, to get Sir Ralph

to admit his perfidy. The latter is especially significant because she does not reveal to Sir Ralph that she knows what he has done. Instead, she merely hints at it; and when

Sir Ralph refuses to admit his lie, she ends their conver­ sation with a vaguely worded threat, When Sir Ralph asks her what she means, she only responds, "Can't you guess?"

(p, 369) and exits. In the second and third acts with the ' exception of her love scones with Mark, Grace's appearances are directed to malting clear for Sir Ralph what she meant by her threat and to getting for Mark his rightful inheri­ tance.

Hence, Grace's seriousness is revealed exclusively through her close involvement with events that, viewed objectively, are themselves serious. Her substantive development as a character is accomplished simultaneously with the horizon­ tal development of the play's action--and at the same pace.

As a consequence, her seriousness talces on the appearance simply of reasonableness, which has the effect of throwing into sharper focus the non-reasonableness— and hence, the comic nature— of the other characters and the events they are party to.

That would not be true if the other characters were themselves to evince the slightest hint of seriousness. 244

Teddy, Maud, Lady Basset, and, especially, Sir Ralph, are all totally serious characters, hut are such in the grossly exaggerated fashion that is an unmistakable hallmark of comic figures. Teddy is a sycophant whose desire to serve is exceeded only by his vacuity. Lady Basset is a grasping society matron who has the desire, but not the wit, to be a villainess. Maud is essentially a younger and, thus, somewhat more ingenuous version of Lady Basset. Each of them is dedicated to a goal (Teddy wants Maud, Lady Basset wants Sir Ralph, and Maud wants anyone who will take her) but pursues it in a totally bumbling manner. Taken as a group they constitute the wholly farcical element of the play's action, serving thereby as an effective balance against Grace's seriousness.

That balance is perpetuated by Mark, who is serious in his relationship with Grace but something of a truewit in his relations with the other characters. The character who upsets the balance and shoves The Album firmly in the dir­ ection of comedy, however, is Sir Ralph, Though he is not a military man, he is, in every other respect, a quintes­ sential miles gloriosus. He is pretentious, unscrupulous, a braggart, a fool, and beneath it all, a bit of a coward.

He is also the best drawn and best utilized comic character in the Jamesian dramatic canon. His persona consists entirely of two ingredients: a desire to accumulate wealth and a desire to avoid women— with the latter proving 245 ultimately to be the stronger motivation. Actually, the two are connected in his mind, his "position" and wealth being what place him in "the highest peril" of being regarded by women as "a match, a catch, a swell" (p. 369)*

As Lady Basset describes him early on, "lie has a terror of eminent women--the fascination of the abyss. It's a fixed idea with him that if he neglects his defenses he may some­ day take the jump, , , , Find himself legally married"

(p. 358), Sir Ralph himself confides to Mark, "My neives are gone to pieces— I live in a state of siege! , , , It's the modern methods of j_ femininely attack— they've reduced it to a science" (p, 369)# The general tenor of Sir Ralph's behavior is perhaps best typified by the following exchange:

BERNAL: The real way to escape, my dear man, is to marry, SIR RALPH: (With a start,) Marry whom? BERNAL: (Diverted, staring,) Any one you like! SIR RALPH: (With his hand to his heart,) I thought you meant Miss Jesmond! (Giving him his hand,) See how my pulse throbs ! BERNAL: (Feeling the hand while Sir Ralph pants,) You're indeed a wreck! (p. 370)

The allusion to "Miss Jesmond" is significant because, although Lady Basset and Maud do everything they can to justify Sir Ralph's "terror," Grace can scarcely stand the man. Sir Ralph presumes, however, that Grace, like all the others, is out to entrap him; and therein lies the key element in the play's comic structure. As noted earlier,

Grace confronts Sir Ralph in the first act and gives him an opportunity to admit that he lied about Mark, She describes 2ke vhat he told the Vicar as "fatal" to Mark's inheritance, but Sir Ralph (guided at this point by his desire for wealth) responds blandly, "If it was fatal, madame, it was at least perfectly natural" (p. 369). "When she answers,

"So is Mr, Bernal's disappointment," ho becomes a bit alarmed and adds, "Ifhich it's in your power, doubtless, to exacer­ bate," Her threat, such as it is, follows when she replies,

"I don't know what's in my power. Sir Ralph! Ve never know until we try, " ^üien she refuses to explain her mean­ ing any fürthcr. Sir Ralph is left alone on stage for the following;

SIR RALPH; (Alone, staring, wondering; then as if th a sudden vision o f the truth,) By all that's portentous, I can guess! She wants to make me propose! (p, 369)

In a quite skillful manner, James proceeds to derive the play's serious complications (the tenseness of Grace and Mark's second-act confrontation and the strain of their third-act reconciliation) from the fact of Sir Ralph's mis- assumption, while at the same time using its cause (his exaggerated sense of self and fear of women) to establish the play's overall comic tone. Sir Ralph is presented, in other words, as two things ; first, he is an exaggeration, a caricature rather than a character, and is, therefore, ridiculous; second, he is the single source of antagonism in the play— ho cheats Mark and then attempts to stand between Mark and Grace, Since Mark and Grace are presump­ tively good characters, it becomes obvious that The Album 247 consists of conflict between the good (Mark and Grace) and the Ridiculous (Sir Ralph), which is, as noted in the pre­ ceding chapter, the essence of a comic action. Sir Ralph has enough greed to function as a villain, but he also has enough doltish braggadocio to appear as an ineffectual fool.

He therefore causes complications, but not pain; put another way, what he does is evil, but how and why he does it is ludicrous,

James structures the action so all of that is apparent from the start. Even before Sir Ralph arrives. Lady Basset has described him as being possessed of a "peculiar atti­ tude" and has indicated that Mr, Bedford is leaving him more money than he already has (thus making him an even grander

"catch"), "To increase his terror— the harmless joke of the dear man" (p, 358), Before he has said a word, then, the audience knows that Sir Ralph is eccentric and in the process of becoming the unwitting butt of a joke. Upon his first entrance, he not too subtly inquires if Mr, Bedford is

"much worse" yet, then explains that he has stayed away from the Bedford mansion for five years because, "There have always been too many women" around it and adds pointedly,

"I hate to be the subject of manoeuvres" (p, 360), Sir

Ralph's opening comments are made to Grace, who is, at the same time, informing him that she "had nothing to do" with summoning him to the house and generally making it clear that she has no intention of dealing with him in other than 248 her professional capacity. That last is important because it accentuates his impercoptiveness, the exaggerated nature of his pretensions about himself and women. Had his first scene been with Lady Basset, his fears would have appeared far more grounded in fact and he would have appeared far less pompous and foolish,

James also takes care to insure that Sir Ralph's scenes present him alternately as a villain and a fool.

Following the foolish scene just described is the villain­ ous scene in which he learns that Mark is alive but tells the Vicar he is not. That is followed immediately by a delightfully ridiculous scene with Lady Basset, then another villainous scene in which he attempts to deceive Mark into thinking him his friend, and then another bout with Lady

Basset and Maud, His next scene is the critical one with

Grace, and it is followed by another comic scene with Mark, which ends Sir Ralph's participation in the first act.

The same general pattern repeats itself in the second act and again in the third, with two results. First, the hate engendered by Sir Ralph in each of his villainous scenes is mostly dissipated in the scene immediately follow­ ing by his foolishness. Hence, the cumulative effect of his badness is mostly to add substance to the goodness of

Mark and Grace; in the best tradition of comic structure, his halting attempts at being evil serve to emphasize Mark and Grace's consistent efforts at being good. Second, the 249 doltish aspects of Sir Ralph's behavior have the effect of

stripping away any notion that he might be clever enough to

be an effective villain, particularly in view of the fact

that he is pitted against two characters as obviously

clever and intelligent as Mark and Grace. It is clear from

the start that, in terms of resourcefulness and determina­

tion, Sir Ralph is barely a match for Lady Basset, much

less for Mark and Grace. As a consequence, and also in the best tradition of comedy, even though some of the things he does are serious, there is never any reason to doubt that

Grace and Mark are capable of overcoming them.

Taking both the above factors in combination, it becomes obvious that Sir Ralph provides precisely what good

comedy must have~namely, the appearance of evil without

the substance. Vith the exception of the lie he tells about Mark in Act I, his bad actions come not from innate

malevolence but from ludicrous conceit or simple dim—witted- ness. The lie m i ^ t have given substance to his villainy were it not for the fact that Mark remains unaware of its

occurrence and unconcerned by its effects. Indeed, since

Grace— who is not personally affected by the lie at all— is

the only character who is concerned about it, the same

appearance-without-substance description is applicable to

the play's central problem. It is a problem only because

Grace chooses to make it one* As for Sir Ralph's other

villainies, the confrontation he occasions between Mark and 250 Grace at the end of Act II, for example, they spring entirely from those aspects of his character that make him ridiculous, not hateful. His decision to accept Grace's proposal comes out of his obsessive conceit, not out of any malicious desire to harm Mark,

Still, if James had allowed Sir Ralph to persist in his greed, he might yet have emerged as a villain— the kind appropriate to melodrama instead of comedy, James negates

that potentiality, however, by turning one aspect of Sir

Ralph's personality (his fear of marriage) against the other (his greed), providing thereby both a punishment suitable to his crime and a markedly delightful comic resold ution to the play's action. As a result of a few indiscreet questions Sir Ralph had put to Lady Basset in Act I, she had extracted from him a promise to show her his "personal regard," which, for her, could only consist of proposing marriage. She reminds him of that promise in Act II, then arrives at his home in Act III to demand its execution.

Finding himself trapped, he begs the others in attendance

to "Wait for me," and exits to another room. Sensing that

she has won. Lady Basset declares, "He'll not be long," and

follows him. During their absence, Grace and Mark finally

profess their love and Teddy and Maud arrive to announce

theirs. After that Sir Ralph and Lady Basset re-enter, the

former looking, "Wliite, haggard, almost ravaged," and the

latter appearing "radiant" (p, 398), Sir Ralph begins by 251 announcing that he lias "accepted Lady Basset," but goes on to say that he intends to perform "an act of enlightened justice." Grace perks up at the word "justice," while Lady

Basset becomes visibly uneasy. Gathering steam. Sir Ralph proceeds to announce that he desires to make over "to Mark the inheritance I've hold in trust for him" (p. 399)* The lines that follow, ending the play, are worth quoting in their entirety. They comprise, unquestionably, James's best--and most theatrical— resolution,

BERNAL: (Amazed, bewildered) The whole property? I might have had a little! SIR RALPH: (Uplifted by the assurance of his success, while he looks at Lady Basset,) You shall have all! You have nothing of your oim, and I have enough, LADY BASSET: (Almost shrieking in her derision and dismay,) Enough? SIR RALPH: My dear, in having you! LADY BASSET: (Ovenfholmed, indi,'?aant, with a gesture of outraged retraction,) You haven't me! (Vith the violent motion of clearing her path, throwing up the whole thing, she goes rapidly up. Then at the door to the hall, with concentratod repudiation,) Betrayer ! ( Exit Lady Basset to the hall,) BERNAL: My dear Ralph, you're too splendid! GRACE: (To B e m a l , ) ¥ait till you get it! MAUD: (On Teddy's arm; demurely to Sir Ralph,) You'll never see her again! SIR RALPH: It's cheap! (p, 399)

From whatever angle The Reprobate is approached, the description that comes most readily to mind is "untidy"; a problem arises, however, in trying to describe why that is so, Uhether he intended it or not, what James attempted in

The Reprobate is a kind of "ensemble" action— that is, one 252 in which all the characters share more or less equally in the generation of interest, While that is (by m o d e m standazxis, at any rate) an admirable idea, it is also an inordinately difficult one to carry off effectively, espec­ ially in a comedy. It requires that all of the characters be treated as relative equals in importance, which, in turn, requires that a relatively equal amount of time be allotted to developing each of them. Specifically, it requires each of the characters to have, whether individ­ ually, in concert with others, or both, a particular objec­ tive. The result, at least in The Reprobate, is a tangle of purposes and cross-purposes that is Byzantine to say the least. Consider the following: Mrs, Freshville desires a husband. Her target is first Captain Chanter, then Paul, and finally Pitt Brunt, Captain Chanter desires a wife.

His current target is Mrs, Doubleday (Paul's step-mother), but he has previously run out on an engagement to Mrs,

Freshville, whom ho now desires to prevent from coming between himself and Mrs, Doubleday, Mrs, Doubleday wants to marry Chanter, but she is burdened by an additional objective, imposed on her by her late husband, of repressing

Paul's instinct to give "rein to his passions" (p, 4l4),

Sharing in that objective is Mr, Bonsor, the late Mr,

Doubleday's best friend, but it is also his objective that

Pitt Brunt should marry his niece, Blanche, Brunt has that as his objective as well, but Blanche's objective is to 253 acquire a relationship with Paul, which Mrs, Doubleday and

Mr, Bonsor regard as part of their duty to forestall— though for different reasons, Paul, whose enforced propriety is the result of his having dallied with Mrs, Freshville ten years before, wants only to obey his guardians during the first two acts. He makes a discovery at the end of Act II, however, that sparks a remarkable transformation of character during the intermission, and leads in the last act to his espousal of a variety of separate but related objectives.

To all that must be added the patently bizarre premise upon which the whole action rests, Paul had run off to

Paris ten years earlier with Mrs, Freshville (who was then a singer named Kina) and had there been discovered,

"steeped to the lips in vice" (p, 4l4), by his father and

Mrs, Doubleday, His father "died of the scandal," but before doing so, he forced on Mrs, Doubleday and Mr, Bonsor a sacred charge "To prevent a recurrence" (p, 4l4), To that end, they have spent the ten years leading to the present in a determined vigil intended to "organize ^Paul's_J7 hours , , , regulate his thoughts , , , control his imagination , , ,"— to see to it, in other words, that Paul acquires ", , , no pocket money , , , no tobacco, no wine, no female acquaintance" (p, 415)* As a consequence, Paul enters the play as a model of docility and propriety with no (or very little) will of liis own. His existence or, more accurately, the existence of his incredible condition. 254

is the premise from which the play's principal line of

action is derived.

Even if allowance be made for the natural incredibility

of comic premises, however, there are significant difficul­

ties inherent in this one. First, it places in the struc­

tural center of the action a character who, by his nature,

cannot act. For Paul to do anything on his own initiative

(or even to do nothing on his own initiative) is to betray

the premise on which the play is based. The problem is

that from the beginning, as Mrs, Doubleday puts it, Paul

"sees himself as he is" (p, 4l4), He does not come into

the action, in other words, as a character resentful of

the condition imposed upon him; rather, he comes into it

convinced that his instincts are "vicious," that they must be repressed, and that nothing less than the extreme

measures talc en by his guardians can accomplish that. For him to change, then, he must either be led to a new level

of awareness by another character or discover, quite without

meaning to, that his instincts are not vicious. Had James

chosen one of those alternatives, to the relative exclusion

of the other, a great deal of the confusion and labrynthine

intrigue that muddles the play could have been avoided.

The play would then have had a discernable core, a central

mass around which subordinate characters might have orbitted

as satellites rather than as competing planets.

As the play unfolds, unfortunately, Paul is both acted

upon by several of the other characters and allowed to 255 discover, more or less by accident, that he is not the abominable creature that he and they had assumed. The characters who act upon him do so not out of concern for his condition, but to further, or even to consummate, their own objectives, Mrs, freshville, for example, tries to convince him to become her husband by reminding him of the pleasures they had previously enjoyed. That involves him not only in her objective, but in Chanter's as well. He wants desperately to be rid of Mrs, Freshville lest she jeopardize his financially attractive union with Mrs,

Doubleday, and thrusting her off on Paul is an obvious solution. To do so, however, he must persuade Mrs, Double­ day to turn over Paul's guaardianship to him (since re—unit­ ing Paul iid-th Mrs, Freshville would hardly be consonant with

Mrs, Doubleday's objective), and, to do that, he must convince Mrs, Doubleday to accept his marriage proposal quicky. To accomplish those goals, he has also to placate

Mrs, Freshville in order to gain time,

Hhile all that is going on, Blanche is becoming increasingly intrigued by Paul's presumed evilness and obvious simplicity and takes tentative steps to establish herself as his confidant and ally. By thus revealing a relationship with Paul to be her objective, she sets her­ self and Paul at cross-purposes with Pitt Brunt (who wants

Blanche for himself) and with Mr, Bonsor (who i/ants her for

Pitt Bnint), 256

As a result, throughout the first two acts, Paul is bounced about from character to character, all of whom see him as either an end or the moans to an end of their o^m. likings. They are not, in other words, attempting to lead him to any new awareness of himself; to the contrary, they are acting on the presumption that ho is, in fact, naturally wicked— which presumption makes him either poten­ tially useful, romantically attractive, or terribly buzxien- some, Mrs, Freshville is drawn to him by remembrance of their earlier odyssey; Chanter is certain that, given a moment's freedom, Paul will run off with Mrs, Freshville again; and Blanche sees in his evilness the makings of a

"hero," Ivhat emerges from that vortex of conflicting pur­ poses is Paul's amazed discovery that, "upon my honour.

I'm good" (p, 4 3 8 ), Chanter succeeds in acquiring respon­ sibility for Paul and proceeds immediately to offer him tobacco, brandy, cards, and a novel by Zola, Paul is naturally confused but discovers that resisting each of those temptations is remarkably easy. At the same time.

Chanter begs Paul to save him by "squaring Mrs, Freshville"

(p. 4 3 3 )* He no sooner leaves than Blanche arrives to find

Paul surrounded in "lonely grandeur" by his temptations, a scene she considers to have "something magnificent in it"

(p, 4 3 3 )# Mrs, Freshville, after having nearly despaired of accomplishing anything with Chanter, then arrives and urges Paul to "come to Paris" with her again, this time to 257 be married, lie defers, insisting that he needs "more time," at which point she exits, giving him until "tomorrow," It remains for Paul, then, quite on his oivn and in spite of everyone else's presumption that he is bad, to end the act by rhapsodizing, "I ^ free and I ain't bad" (p, 438).

Ivhat follows in the third act amounts to a rather good one-act play that is based on the events of the preceding acts and that utilizes the same characters, but in a wholly different set of relationships. With just a bit of exposi­ tion added, it could very easily be played as an entity unto itself, Ifhereas the first two acts depict Paul dancing limply to the tugs and jerks of six puppeteers, the final act shows him having summarily reversed the roles and having set his former masters to performing a comic--and confusing— pas de six.

Between the acts, he apparently formulates what becomes, finally, the controlling objectives for the play's remaining action— namely, to insure that his, mother marries Captain

Chanter, that Mrs, Freshville is disposed of, and most of all, that Blanche is reserved for himself. Because of the ensemble structure of the first two acts, however, there remain a substantial number of purposes, objectives, story- fragments, intrigues, and counter-intrigues lying about that Paul must somehow dispose of in the process of achiev­ ing his own ends. The most obvious of those is the ultra-piotective attitude taken toward Paul by Mrs, Doubleday and Mr, Bonsor, 258

Their determination to keep him pure has, after all, been

the principal motivating factor in the play’s action since

the beginning. Fortunately, James does not trouble himself unduly about the probabilities involved in their renunci­

ation. As the act opens, Paul has hied himself to London

for what they all presume to be anotlier spree with Mrs.

Freshville. Captain Chanter has been dispatched to bring him back, but has just sent a wire saying that he has been unable to locate Paul, who has "evidently sunlc to bottom"

(p. 439)* Mr. Bonsor's reaction to that is that "The cap­

tain requires the equipment of a diver!" 1/ith one line of dialogue, however, Mrs. Doubleday scotches that notion and

establishes a sufficient degree of probability that Paul will, upon his return, be released from bondage. She says

simply, " (Decided. ) ire'll have no more diving; Ho

^”chanter__7 must come back without him! Paul will have

dropped to lois natural level" (p. 44o).

1/hen Paul returns (and reveals that his "spree" was merely of the shopping variety), he first seeks out Blanche

to assure her that he has recovered and that "confound it, you know. I'm all right" (p. 44l). Blanche finds that a

little disappointing since she still fancies him her

"splendid Satan," but before she can work further on that

dilemma, Mrs. Doubleday and Mr, Bonsor enter. Toward them,

Paul adopts a totally dominating attitude, telling them

first that "I aspire to ^Bloncho_y myself," then announcing 259 to his guardians that it is time "we settle, , , . I'm of age" (p. 444), Ihen Mr, Bonsor tries to object, Paul warns him firmly, "I've ceased to be a pin-cushion,"

Having thus established his dominion over them, Paul turns his attention next to Captain Chanter, who has just returned from London, After counseling him not to "let

/ Blanche__7 find out that I ain't what I thought," Paul offers as recompense to "direct Freshville's_/ activ­ ity into a different channel" (p, 445)— that is, away from

Chanter, As final evidence of his transformed personality,

Paul ends their dialogue by peremptorily commanding Chanter to "Do as I tell you. Go to your room" (p, 445),

It is good that James accomplishes Paul's transforma­ tion so expeditiously, because what follows is a labi^Tith of complications that Scribe himself would have taken two acts (if not a full play) to work out, Mrs, Freshville arrives and, finding Pitt Brunt alone, engages him in con­ versation, during which she accuses Chanter of being

"engaged up to his eyes" to her. She does not use Chanter's name, however, and Pitt mistakenly assumes that she is referring to Paul, Thus, when Mrs, Freshville requests him to "hand her these , , , letters" (p, 446) containing avowals of love, he also mistakenly assumes that "her" is

Blanche, not Mrs, Doubleday, He gladly accepts the charge, thinlcing he has found a way to regain Blanche, and proceeds immediately to hand them to her, Blanche is at first 260 disconcerted but then decides to "reject tbe warning" and

"give them back to the writer" (p. 447). They are, after all, indications of the evil she finds most attractive in

Paula Paul then enters, but before she can do anything.

Chanter enters as well, causing her to withdraw, Paul then reports that he has just seen Mrs, Freshville and learned

that she has gotten Chanter's infamous letters to Mrs,

Doubleday* The latter then enters in apparent high dudgeon and commands Chanter to get from her maid "a precious packet of letters , , , of grave importance," Chanter is paralyzed by the ominous prospect, but Paul orders him to do as he is bid, when Chanter leaves, Paul begins trying to dissuade his step-mother from attaching any significance to "those trashy papers" (p. 448), It then comes out that she is referring not to Chanter's letters but to Mr, Double­ day's final instructions on the process of "chucking up" his son.

No fool, Mrs, Doubleday alertly presses Paul to tell her, "That abyss you have ungmidedly opened," He declines,

so she exits proclaiming, "I'll get it from him ^f”chanter__7"

(p, 4 4 9 ), Chanter then re-enters and Paul tells him Mrs,

Doubleday has not got the letters, Mrs, Doubleday then

re-enters along with Pitt Brunt, who announces that "The

fatal letters exist" but goes on to tell Chanter "that I don't attribute them to you," Seizing the opportunity,

Paul declares, "The fatal letters are mine’"— then orders 261

Mrs, Doubleday to talcc Chanter aside and "beg his pardon" (p. 450), Blanche, who has heard all this, then tells Paul that she has the letters and that she forgives him for having written them. He urges her to bring them to him, and she no sooner leaves to get them than Mrs,

I'reshville arrives and is informed that her letters have had no effect, Paul then suggests that she join Pitt Bzunt for his daily row on the river. He tells her that he is

"Not engaged" and that he is quite a "swell," the papers referring to him as "The Idol of the North" (p, 451), To that, Mrs. Freshville responds, "PerfectionI"--and goes off to join Pitt,

Blanche and Chanter then come in, and when she attempts to give the letters to Paul, Chanter grabs for them, insist­ ing that Paul "is not the writer," that, "He took them on himself to save a friend" (p, 452), Paul is thus obliged to admit to her, "I'm so much less bad than you want me’"

Blanche, however, is immediately struck by Paul's "glorious lie" and tells him, "I don't want you any worse than that" (p, 4 5 2 )— precipitating thereby the play's closing sequence of loving embraces.

It must be said that James weaves his way through the intricate goings-on of the third act with masterful sure­ footedness, Even though he is forced to rely a good deal on pronouns that have no (or very indefinite) antecedents, he minimizes the audience's potential confusion by following 262

up each pronoun scene vith one that supplies the correct

noun# The audience loiows, of course, that the letters

Blanche takes from Pitt Bnont cannot be the same letters

that Mrs* Doubleday sends Chanter to fetch from her room#

Thus, the last act is nicely constructed to ensure that

the audience generally loiows more about what is happening

than most of the characters— a time—honored technique of

farce #

Til ere in, however, lies the play’s major structui*al

weakness# 1/hat had been for two acts a rather dark and

character-oriented comedy becomes in the last act a full­

blown farce# Given the exaggerated nature of the charac­

ters and situation, the events of the first two acts move

ahead on a relatively plausible level, their complications

emerging naturally from the conflicting objectives of the

various characters# To an extent, all of that is "chucked up” in the final act, the action descending, as it were,

to the maze of mis-constructions, mis-interpretations, and

mis—understandings described above# In short, the play’s

ending is not consonant, in terms of structure, with its begin­

ning# That is not to say that comedy demands of its action

a degree of consistency equal to that of tragedy or even of

melodrama; it does not# Comedy cannot, however, ignore con­

sistency altogether# Not even the welter of crazy happen­

ings to which The Reprobate subjects its audience in Act III

can be expected to make that audience forget the characters 263 and character relationships it had previously gotten to know, nor their apparent importance and intransigence,

Tlius, Mrs. Doubleday’s sudden willingness to accept Paul at his "natural level," albeit necessary to the structure of Act III, malces a mockery of what had largely animated

Acts I and II, Likewise, for Chanter to function as a witless coward in Act III, after functioning as an insouci­ ant "master of deceit" during the preceding acts, cannot fail to give an audience pause, to malte it wonder if he is really the same character or if they arc really watching the same play.

The Reprobate is "untidy," then, in üie sense that its structural parts— though effective in themselves— have little relation to one another, V.hat is good in the first two acts (broadly painted characters and conflict emanating from their relationships) is all but ignored in the last act. The characters are, in fact, summarily tumed around and their relationships reversed. Correspondingly, what is delictful about the third act (its truly farcical chain of misapprehensions and fickle reversals) is altogether lacking in the preceding acts. In effect. Acts I and II are, in their own way, nicely done; so also is Act III, but in a totally different way. The result is a play that, while commendable in its separate parts, fails in the end to coalesce as a unified whole. CIL/IPTER FIVE


The plays to be considered in this chapter have in common conclusions that are, in varying degree, disastrous for the central characters; beyond that, however, it is dif­ ficult to generalize about them. The Saloon is probably the most successful of the tliree in terms of producing a clear effect, but in structural terms it represents a return to the "picture-scone" formula of James’s earliest plays, with most of the same unli.appy results, Guy Domville is struc­ tured along the lines of traditional romantic melodrama, but treats of a subject that is tragic in implication. As a result, its action centers on a protagonist who is neither melodramatically whole nor tragically divided, and the effect it ultimately produces is correspondingly equivocal.

The Other House is marred by a similar incompatability between structure and subject, but its real problem lies in the seemingly deliberate manner in which the motives, the intentions, and even the objectives of its principal char­ acters are concealed and all too frequently contradicted.

As noted above, Guy Domville posits a situation with considerable potential for serious treatment, Guy is presented initially as a young man whose whole life has

264 265 been a "preparation" for abjuring tbe world and accepting

"holy orders." It was his mother’s dying wish that he "be bred up a priest" (p. 489), and he has accepted that wish as

"an honest vow" which is imminently to be "fulfilled,"

Significantly, it is not a vow that lays heavily on Guy’s spirit; to the contrary, he looks forward to "The relinquished ease— the service of the Church— the praise of God; these things seem," he says, "to wait for me" (p. 489).

IVhen the play begins, Guy is serving as a tutor to the young son of }Irs. Pevercl, who is quite obviously nurturing a chaste and hopeless love for Guy. Mrs. Pevercl herself is in ti.ixrn the object of Frank Humber’s affection. Franlc is a benevolent and somewhat pitiful fellow, a friend of

Guy’s since childhood, and he is fhlly unaware that Mrs.

Peverel’s putting off of his suit is the result of her affection for Guy. In truth, he is no more aware of Mrs.

Peverel's feelings than Guy, who gives evidence of his ignorance by agreeing to plea Franlc’s case with her. Their mutual ignorance is due, of course, to the nobility with which Mrs. Peverel has concealed her passion; like Guy, she is convinced that his vocation is real and, hence, has refrained from allowing herself to become a temptation to forsake it.

That bittersweet situation is shaken at its roots, however, by the arrival of Lord Devenish. He brings news that Guy’s only male kinsman has recently been killed. 266

leaving Guy as the sole potential perpetuator of h.is

family's "ancient name»" Lord Devenish. urges Guy to

recognize that "Your duty is » » » first to the name you

bear. Your life, my dear sir, is not your own to give up.

It belongs to your position— your dignity— your race" (p, ^l).

There consequently emerges for Guy, a conflict that is

truly ethical in nature. On the one hand, he must consider

the vow given to his mother consigning him to the priest­ hood; on the other hand, he has before him the plain fact

that the centuries-old name he bears will cease to exist

if he honors that vow. Lord Devenish accentuates the

gravity of the dilemma by telling Guy, "You hold in your hands, sir, the generations to come" (p, 4p2), Guy cannot,

in other words, renounce the world for himself without

renouncing it as well for future generations of a family

that has in its blood the "treasure" of history.

At that point, Guy is faced with a choice that is

potentially tragic in both nature and magnitude. There is

ample ethical justification for either of his alternatives,

but since they are mutually destructive, he cannot make a

choice that is ethically defensible without at the same

time making one that is ethically reprehensible. In like

manner, either choice he makes has implications extending

considerably beyond his personal existence. By choosing

the priesthood, he denies continued life to the Domville name and all it stands for; by choosing the Domville name. 267 he breaks faith with his mother and, through her, with whatever claim the dead have on the living.

What follows, however, is rather a hasty retreat from the lofty level of those concerns, Guy chooses to perpetu­ ate his family name (and hence, to renounce the priesthood), but he appears to make that choice for reasons far less noble than the terms of his dilemma— as originally stated— would suggest. All of Lord Devenish's appeals to Guy’s sense of familial responsibility fall on deaf ears; he is told by Guy, "The hour is too troubled, your nows too strange, your summons too sudden" (p. 492). Taking a different tack, then. Lord Devenish declares to Guy, "I ’ll take leave of you on the spot, sir, if y o u ’ll declare to me, on your honour, that y o u ’re dead to the pleasures of life,

I shall be happy to introduce you to them all" (p, 492),

That appeal seemingly finds its mark, for Guy answers, "^Tio are you, what are you, my lord, that you have come here to trouble me— to tempt me?" (p. 492) That Lord Devenish’s mention of the "pleasures of life" should prompt Guy to use the word "tempt" is significant (a fact Lord Devenish makes note of in his next line) if only because he had not used it or anything like it in response to Devenish’s first approach. What emerges is the clear impression that , while Guy is unmoved by an argument on ethical grounds, he is sore beset by one aimed at baser instincts. That suspicion is given additional conformation during Guy’s 268 ensuing scone vith. Mrs, Pevcrel, He tells her bluntly that

"I don't care a button for my name!--" that it entails

obligations "too great for me to carry." When she suggests

that he should be loath to cast off "so great a tradition," he counters by asking, "Then why have you always spoken to me of renouncement?" (p. 493) She then points out the false­ ness of his position by replying, "Because, when I did so,

there was nothing to renounce"; and she then adds a clinch­ ing blow by pointing out that now he has a chance "to live

in the world with importance." Without further remonstra-

tion, Guy announces quietly, "I'll tell you— when I come back— evelything that's base and ill of ^t h e world_7"

(p. 493).

That last is an ill-conceived line in several respects.

First, it constitutes the whole expression of what is

supposed to be, for Guy, a momentous decision. It articu­

lates his choice of alternatives without acknowledging that,

in fact, a choice is involved, Guy does not say that he

renounces the priesthood, nor does he say that he intends

to carry on the Domville name. Instead, he passes over

the two propositions he had been debating for two-thirds

of the act and says only that when he returns from the world, he will deliver a report on its wickedness. In

effect, he alludes to his decision instead of plainly

stating it. Indeed, were it not for the fact that Mrs,

Peverel catches his allusion and replies with some 269 animation, "Yes~vh.en you come back!--,” an audience might well be excused for missing completely a pivotal swing in the play’s action. In any case, Guy’s line is a most undramatic way to express a decision that is rife with dramatic implications.

If what Guy does not say in that line is important, so also is what he does say. He tells Mrs, Peverel that he will report on everything "that's base and ill" in the world, which, unless he already envisions seeking them out, he would have no necessary reason to discover; there has been nothing in the play to suggest that carrying on the

Domville name and discovering what is "base and ill" in the world are synonymous. Nevertheless, those are the terms in which Guy couches his decision. To be sure, he accurately foreshadows what will happen in Act II by doing so, but he also demeans, if not destroys, the ethical plane on which the action of the first act had begun.

To complete the precipitous withdrawal from the tragic potential of the opening episodes, James ends the first act with some dramaturgical sleight—of—hand involving Mrs,

Peverel, After her conversation with Guy, Franlc presses her to make an answer to his proposal of marriage. Nhile she admires Franlc a great deal and would have answered him affirmatively had Guy continued in his intention to become a priest, his decision not to do that— plus his revelation that he will be expected, in his new capacity, to marry 270 and produce heirs-~has changed her position radically. Thus, she tells Frank that she refuses him "utterly" and begs him not to "return to the question again" (p. 495)* Confused and hurt, Frank finally divines, "By all that's monstrous-- you love Guy_7! " Equally distraught, she begs him once more to leave, which, "making a violent effort," he does.

Lord Devenish then reappears to take his leave of Mrs,

Peverel £ind, almost in passing, informs her that plans are already in progress for Guy "to lead a young lady to the altar . , , a Catholic, a beauty, and a fortune" (p, 495).

Thus devastated, Mrs, Peverel is left, at the act's end, quite pitiably alone while Guy dashes through the room and out exclaiming, "Long, long live the Domvilles!" That constitutes, of course, a neatly executed coup do theatre, but it is surely a sensationalized way of ending an act that had begun with deliberations of a t m l y grave and ethical nature.

For a character whose every previous action has evidenced, in Frank's words, "an air of the cold college-- almost of the cold cloister" (p, 489), to end the act with an outburst such as the one just quoted is indicative of the ambivalence that mars not just the first act but the play as a whole, James seems never to have quite decided what kind of play he wanted Guy Domville to be. The premise with which it begins (a young man is forced to choose between two compelling and ethically correct 271 obligations) is potentially tragic, Tbe manner in -which the premise is treated and structured, however, is explicitly melodramatic, With respect to Guy, the first act serves primarily to diminish his stature, to show him resolving his dilemma by ignoring the ethical dichotomy it presents and by focussing instead on a third factor, the "pleasures” of a wordly life. More importantly, there is nothing from

Guy to justify or even to explain the incredible change in his attitude and behavior. A "cold," "austere," thoroughly ethics-bound scholar for three-fourths of the act, he becomes, in scarcely the blinking of an eye, an incipient hedonist given to passionate outbursts.

The deeper problem with the act, however, is that its action diminishes in both magnitude and universality in proportion as Guy diminishes in ethical stature. From a dramaturgical perspective, it opens with incidents that have about them an almost classically tragic tone of auster­ ity and restraint, but it closes with a scene that is fraught with the kind of theatrical chicanery that typifies

Pixerecourtian melodrama. From the standpoint of content, it begins with a problem that is ethical in nature and universal in scope, but it closes with a problem that is emotional in nature and of concern only to the characters directly involved. Both those factors converge and are made manifest in the actions of Guy, with the result that as his behavior changes from nobility to ignobility, the 272 play switches tracks, as it were, from the high road of tragedy to the comparatively lower road of melodrama.

Significantly, that descent (if such it might be called) is neither smooth nor properly motivated; to the contrary, the action proceeds apace along the higher road until Guy abruptly derails it with his sudden announcement that he will report back on all that is “base and ill" in the world.

Before the shock of that derailment has abated, moreover,

Guy jostles the action rudely onto the lower road by shout­ ing, "(w ith a complete transformation and a passionate flourish,) Long, long live the Domvilles!—-Away, away for

London" (p, 4$4), The action does not so much descend a well—prepared gradient, in other words, as plunge precip­ itously into an abyss.

If the strained transformation from tragic to melo­ dramatic tone and structure begins in the first act, it is fully accomplished in the second. Gone is any hint of the ethical concerns and inteznal conflict that dominated the opening moments of the play’s action. Indeed, with the exception of Guy and Lord Devenish, even the cast of char­ acters is completely changed. It might, in fact, be argued that Guy and Lord Devenish should not be counted as excep­ tions, because they are also presented in entirely different lights; Guy’s hedonism is no longer incipient and Lord

Devenish, far from the principled petitioner he appeared in

Act I, is now an archetypal melodramatic villain. Rounding 273

out the cast are Mrs, Domville, widow of Guy’s deceased

cousin and a villainess of some proportion herself; Mary,

Mrs, Domville’s ingenuous daughter and the girl she and Lord

Devenish intend for Guy to mariy; and George Round, a not

entirely scrupulous young naval officer with whom Mary

(unbeloiownst to Guy) is deeply in love.

As that list of its characters suggests, the second

act is a distillation of the traditional ingredients for

romantic melodrama. Lord Devenish, it turns out, is nearly

banlcrupt and so has entered into a conspiracy with Mrs,

Domville to effect a marriage between Guy and Mary, Mrs,

Domville desires their union in order to perpetuate the

family name and has agreed to marry Lord Devenish as soon

as that is insured. She is motivated as well by the fact

that Lord Devenish is Mary's natural--albeit illicit—-father, whose silence on that subject she guarantees by marrying him. Getting Guy to the Domville estate is, thus, only half

of Lord Devenish's mission, the other half being to steep

him in the pleasures attendant thereto and arrange for his

marriage to Mary, With respect to Guy, the second half of

Lord Devenish's mission is relatively effortless. He reports

to Mrs, Domville that Guy has shoivn himself a "bom man of

pleasure" (p, 492), and Guy confirms that assessment by

confessing that since his arrival, "There's scarcely a rule

I haven't utterly abjured— there's scarcely a trust I haven't rigidly betrayed— there's scarcely a vow I haven't 274 scrupulously broken" (p, 499)» As for his willingness to

marry Mary, Guy tolls her, "1 came hero stammering and

stumbling; but when I saw you it was as if I had caught the

tune of m y song" (p. 500), At the same time as he is doting

in his affection toward Mary, however, he unabashedly admits

to Mrs, Domville that he has quite recently engaged in a

game of cards with a certain Lady Mohun and endeavored to

lose "almost the clothes that covered me," He did that, he

explains, because "that kind of ill-fortune malces another kind of good," which Lord Devenish correctly identifies as

"Good fortune in love" (p, 498), Within five minutes, in

other words, Guy presents himself as both a willing phil­

anderer and a sincere bridegroom-to-be*

Since Mary's heart still belongs to George, she is not

ecstatic about the idea of marrying Guy, She has, however, yielded to "a voice that cried to me to make a sacrifice of my affections" (p, 506), and agreed to go through with the wedding, llie "voice," of course, was Lord Devonish's and

the reason for its strange power over her was that, unbelaiown to her, it belonged to her father. Only later,

very near the end of Act I, does she discover Devenish's

relationship to her.

The purveyor of that significant piece of news is

George Round, who appears tliroughout the act as the only

serious obstacle to the success of the conspirators' plan,

lie opens the act in conversation with Mrs, Domville, during 275 which it is revealed that he has previously been a suitor for Mary's hand, that he has already been summarily sent packing once, and that, in view of Mary's impending marriage to Guy, he will not be allowed to see her now. The scene is unquestionably necessary, not only to introduce George and

Mrs, Domville, but also to malce known the new set of cir­ cumstances described above, none of which had been mentioned in Act I, Typical of the play's haphazard construction, however, the scene alloifs George to receive the presumably cjrushing information that his beloved is about to wed some­ one else, to be insulted by Mrs, Domville, and as a final measure, to be haughtily snubbed by Lord Devenish, without so much as a straightforward allusion to the fact that he has discovered the scandalous truth about their extra-marital relationship and its progeny, George remarks that he has

"been long in discovering the source_J7 of the authority you 2 Lord Devenish_/ appear to enjoy in the private con­ cerns of this house," but when Mrs, Domville responds that

"Everyone loiows his dear Lordship is our oldest friend— and our most affable" (p, 496), he immediately drops the subject; this, despite the fact that Lord Devenish proceeds at once to inform him that Mary's wedding is to take place "tonight,"

To that, George retorts only, "Curse your chaplain," and exits,

George's reticence constitutes another of those prob­ lems of logic with which James wrestled throughout his 276

career as a playwright. The structure of Guy Domville's

second act is such that thero is little question that George

Imows about Mrs, Domville and Lord Devenish before it begins. After his initial conversation with them, he leaves

the house for awhile, but then returns and connives a private audience with Mary, By his oivn admission, he spealcs to no one of consequence while he is gone; but just as importantly, once he returns, he is in constant contact with Guy and Mary, After two full scenes with each of them, during which he reveals nothing, he finally tells Mary that

Lord Devenish is her father. Since he clearly does not acquire that information after the act begins, it can only be concluded that he has had it all along,

llie question that raises is simply this; why, since

George is desperate to have Mary for himself, does he not immediately confront his antagonists with either a threat

to make their secret public, a threat to reveal their secret to Mary, or a threat to reveal their secret to Guy? It might be argued, of course, that he was momentarily traum­ atized by the news of Mary's engagement and thus could not logically be expected to attack his nemeses immediately; that does nothing, however, to explain the fact that he

subsequently meets Guy, and then Mary, in private--but still says nothing that either of them could reasonably be expected to recognize as pertinent information. Admittedly, his reticence with Guy might be because, for all he loiows. 277

Guy may also bo a member of the conspiracy; but that does nothing to explain why ho waits so long to tell Mazy#

Especially is that true in view of the fact that Mary tolls him, in their first meeting, that Lord Devenish’s "appeal

to me pressed hard," and that she yielded to its force because "He’s the oldest friend we have— he has ever studied to please mo" (p# 5 0 1 )• Thus, despite the fact that George is faced, on the one hand, with the news that Mary is to become a bride that niglat and, on the other, with the announcement that she is doing so out of deference to and respect for a man he laiows to be a scoundrel, George pleads ignorance of "what poison has worked in you" (p. 50 l), and offers only an urgent entreaty that Mazy "escape" with him while escape is still possible.

The problem is exacerbated by what happens in the scene that follows. Specifically, there ensues the famous— or infamous— "drinlcing scene," which started the commotion

that culminated in the play and its author being hissed on opening night, George initiates the scene by proposing to

Mazy that she leave him alone with Guy in order that he might set the latter drinlcing and "lay him on the floor,"

thereby making their marriage that evening impossible.

That is, on the face of it, a preposterous notion to which, incredibly. Mazy agrees; even more amazingly, Guy also

submits to George's seductions and becomes incredibly dzunk incredibly quickly. The crowning absurdity, however, is 278 that the whole thine turns out to be pointless, Guy docs not end up on the floor, he simply exits in what seems to be no condition to do anything, much loss survive a wedding ceremony, Even more astonishing than the rapidity with which Guy becomes drunk, however, is the speed with which he regains his sobriety. As soon as he exits, George reveals to Mary his long-overdue information about Lord Devenish, which only requires sixteen lines, Guy then returns without a hint o f drunlcenness in either his speech or his manner,^

Ho is, in fact, totally in control of himself and highly lucid. He perceives immediately that George "is attached to this lady Maiy__7" and that the lady is "unhappy" (p. 505),

With scarcely a question as to why or wherefore, Guy very nearly gives Mary over to George immediately, A few moments later he does so when Maiy informs him of Lord Devenish's perfidy.

It seems fair to conclude that James \fanted the infor­ mation George eventually reveals to constitute a second coup de theatre. It is that, of course, but its effective­ ness is minimized by its being either too long delayed or too stubbornly concealed, George has too many logical occasions and too much logical justification to reveal

To his credit, James cut the entire drinking scene after the first performance. In testimony to its total superfluity, cutting the scene did not require a single additional change in either the play’s dialogue or the arrangement of its incidents. 279 his information sooner than he does. Just as importantly, he has no particularly compelling reason to reveal it when he does. As a consequence, what he finally says presents itself not as a piece of information whose time for revela­ tion has arrived naturally, but rather, as one that has been artificially delayed with an eye toward intensifying its impact. The coup de theatre becomes, in other words, recognizable for what it is: a conscious, perhaps even a self-conscious, theatrical device,

liThen Guy receives the information about Lord Devenish from Mary he has already entered into something of a con­ spiracy with her and George by hiding the latter in his room to prevent him from being discovered. After receiving

Mary's news, he passes her into his room as well with a key

"that opens a door on the river" and instructs her to flee with George, There follows a sardonic scene between Guy and Lord Devenish, during which Guy reveals nothing of what has transpired. He then exits and Mrs, Domville enters, much alarmed by the fact that she cannot find Mary, A footman then enters and tells Lord Devenish that he has just seen Mary get into a "great boat, J_ with__7 a gentleman close beside her and throe watermen to pull" (p, 50?)•

Ascertaining immediately what has happened and seeing his oivn hopes on the brinlc of destruction. Lord Devenish instantly devises an alternate plan. He tells Mrs, Domville that Guy "can still have heirs," that he is "in love with 280

Mrs* Peverel," and that "through the blessed lady of

Porsches" his end of their bargain can still be carried

out* He professes further to be absolutely convinced that

"from this moment forth Mrs. Peverel is__/ the only voman"

(p* 5 0 8 ) Guy will look at; to insure that Mrs* Peverel

returns Guy's glance. Lord Devenish proposes to hurry at

once to her home* He then exits, leaving Mrs* Domville

alone to face Guy, who stops with her only long enough to

tell her that he lenows her secret and to end the act by announcing, "I’m going back" (p. 508)*

In structural terms, the overall problem with the first

two acts of Guy Domville is that their actions have, at best, a tenuous relationship with one another* The first

act focusses primarily on Guy's internal conflict and

secondarily on the romantic aspirations of Mrs* Peverel

(toward Guy) and Franlc (toward Mrs, Peverel)* Lord Devenish

performs a crucial function in the first act but, like a

Greek messenger, his importance stems from the news he

delivers, not from any suggestions as to his personal

motives or ambitions* In those respects ho remains a blanic

slate* Insofar as his moral posture is conceraed, the only

basis upon which to judge him is the nature of his appeal

to Guy; and on that basis, he would have to be proclaimed

an upstanding character*

The presentment of Guy and Lord Devenish in Act I is

significant because they are the only two characters whose 281 roles continue into Act II, Far from serving as a bridge, a thread of continuity between the two acts, however, their behavior draws attention to the essential lack of continuity.

Lord Devenish emerges immediately in Act II as a self- serving schemer who is not the least concerned with the perpetuation of the Domville line but, rather, is dedicated to saving himself from bankruptcy. To that end he is m t h - less in his abuse of George, calloused in his treatment of

Mary, and devoid of scruples in his deception of Guy, In short, he is the reverse of the concerned and principled petitioner he presented himself as in Act I,

The change effected by Guy in Act II (unlike that of

Lord Devenish) is more a change in appearance than substance, but it is no less striking. Indeed, the fact that Guy remains, at base, a man of integrity makes the radical changes in his behavior all the more troublesome. Fundamen­ tally, he is no less concerned in Act II about doing the right thing than he was in Act I, Until he decides to help

George and Mary, however, he is unexplainably content to allow Mrs, Domville and Lord Devenish to define for him what the right thing to do is. He unilatemlly abjures any responsibility for his own actions. As a consequence, his behavior in Act II is markedly inconsistent with his behav­ ior in Act I, not just in terms of its outward manifesta­ tions (the things he actually says and docs) but also in terms of the strict sense of personal responsibility he displayed through most of the earlier act. 282

The salient point vith respect to both characters is that they undergo conspicuous changes, not within the presented action, but between the acts. Lord Devenish's behavior is entirely proper and ethical in Act I and entirely improper and unethical in Act II; Guy has a deep sense of responsibility in Act I and almost no sense of responsibil­ ity in Act II, Parallelling the discontinuity in the devel­ opment of the characters who physically bridge the two acts is the discontinuity of the action itself. Indeed, the two acts are so individually autonomous that, except for the references to Mrs, Pevcrel, an audience member who entered the theatre at the beginning of the second act would have no reason to suspect that he had arrived late. He might, in fact, be better off for having done so since he would not then be faced with the problem of figuring out at the end of Act II what had become of the ethical concerns and elevated tone with which Act I is permeated. Moreover, looking ahead to the events of Act III, he would have the opportunity to watch Guy's behavior change, but to do so according to a relatively steady pattern of increasing ethical awareness. From another perspective, were an aud­ ience member to become comatose at the end of Act I and revive himself at the start of Act III, he would, in all probability, be unaware of having missed Act II, The structure of Guy Domville is such that, on the one hand,

Acts I and III fit together in a consistently somber sort of way, while, on the other hand. Acts II and III coalesce 283

to present a consistent upward progression from the expedient

concerns of melodrama toward the ethical concerns of tragedy.

Even though Act III meshes, as it were, with either of

the preceding acts, that does not mean it is devoid of

internal problems. Like its two predecessors, it is also

beset by logical and structural weaknesses that severely limit its effectiveness. It opens with a short scene between Mrs, Peverel and her maid that establishes the

former's desolation at thinlcing Guy is to be married that day. It establishes as well the fact that Frank has taken

Mrs, Peverel's earlier repudiation quite seriously and has not spoken to her since. Scarcely has she voiced her

exasperation, however, than Franlc arrives— but with an

announcement that is so lugubriously serious as to be

almost comic. He tells Mrs, Peverel forthwith that he is

"leaving the country, , , , For the ends of the earth,"

li/hen she, astonished, reminds him that he has an estate,

a lovely house, he retorts, "V/hat use have I for a home— a home empty and barren?" (p, 509) Being alone abroad, he

tells her, is "better than alone hero: close to you, yet

separate" (p, 5IO), Stunned by his desperation, Mrs,

Peverel begs him to "forsake this wild plan , , , don't

give up the sweet, safe things you love," Thinking he

perceives in that request a faint ray of hope, Frank

responds, "Don't give you up— is that what you mean?"

(p, 510) Ivhile Mrs, Peverel stammers to find an answer,

her maid announces the arrival of Lord Devenish, 284 Tine to the villainous image he presented in Act II,

Lord Devenish rudely insists that his business vith Mrs,

Peverel is more pressing that Frank’s, IThen the latter exits, he proceeds to inform her that Guy's "wonderful marriage is off," that "he has been mis-used, , , , By practices most underhand" (p. 5H)# That much is true, of course, but he then tells Mrs, Pevcrel that Mary was the offending party, and accuses Mary of being "clandestine,"

Coming to his point, ho tolls Mrs, Peverel that he is cer­ tain Guy will come to her home, that he loves her and worships her but that, in his misery he may again enter­ tain notions about entering "the cruel profession he forsook" (p. 511) • 1/hen Mrs, Peverel asks why, if Guy loves her, he "was so ready to wed another woman" (the very question an audience might easily be disposed to ask).

Lord Devenish explains that Guy "never dreamed that with you , , , there was the smallest human hope for him. The way to save him is to give it to him" (p. 5II). To put the crowning touch on his villainy. Lord Devenish then begs a private audience with Franlc, Mrs, Peverel calls him in, whereupon Lord Devenish informs him that Guy loves Mrs,

Peverel and that, "through his coldness at the last" (p, 5L2), he caused his fiance to withdraw from the marriage plans in misery, Franlc remembers immediately that, in his nobility, Guy "spoke to Mrs, Peverel_^ for n^, when, never supposing, never dreaming, I pushed him to't Î , , , 285

For mo— poor wretch.— when ho loved her himself" (p, 512),

Filled with remorse, Freuilc determines at once that "Tliero is only one way! Not to talk of absence, but to practice absence" (p, 512).

Before Franlc can leave, however, Mrs, Peverel re-enters to announce that Guy’s carriage has just "entered the gate,"

That is disconcerting to both men, but especially so to

Lord Devenish, Unable to leave without encountering Guy, he begs to be hidden and I^lrs, Peverel obliges by passing him into an adjoining room, Guy then enters, Mrs, Peverel excuses herself to see about his luggage, and Guy seizes the opportunity to approach Franlc directly;

GUY: (After precautions ; in eager suspense,) lias she accepted you? FIIAI'IK: She has not accepted me! GUY: Tlien, since I helped you, spoke for you, did everything I could for you, I tell you that she’s dearer to me than life, that I'm not bound but free, and that I ’ve come back to tell her so! (p. 513)

Franlc then leaves as Mrs, Peverel returns, clearing the way for a romantic, somewhat nostalgic scene between her and Guy, Just as Guy is about to profess his love, however, he espies a pair of gloves on the table and recog­ nizes them as Lord Devonish’s, i/hen he demands an explan­ ation, Mrs, Peverel replies that Lord Devenish came "To see Mr* Humber," Suspecting the purpose of such a visit,

Guy insists upon another conversation with Frank, Reluc­ tantly, I^trank admits that Lord Devenish had convinced him that it was his "duty" to leave England "forever," That 286 sends Guy into a fit of bitter self-recrimination, ending with, the dire question, "For me these things are done, and for me another good man suffers?" He begs Franlc not to believe "that I do a damage wherever I turn! I was called into the 'world'— but I didn't come for sorrow! I cost no pang as I was" (p. 515)•

It is difficult not to believe that, at that point,

James's intention was for Guy to malce another sudden turn­ about and become again a wholly ethical character— to have him climb back out of the abyss, so to speak, and re—assume the tragic dimensions he evinced in the beginning, Guy turns once more to the idea of "renouncement," of giving up his life in the world to become a priest, Khile that would have been an admirable action earlier, the conditions surrounding it are now considerably different. Primarily,

Guy is now aware that Mrs. Peverel has a vezy definite stalce in his decisions. For him to have renounced "the world" in Act I would have been entirely a personal sacri­ fice and any suffering it entailed would have been entirely his. As things exist in Act III, however, he Icnows that to renounce the world is also to renounce Ilrs, Peverel and thereby to dash the hopes he so recently raised in her.

Aggravating the problem is the noble magnanimity with which she accepts his decision, Vith simple dignity, she professes herself willing to "give him" to the "Church" (p, 516),

Amazed, Lord Devenish immediately articulates the perverse 287 irony of the situation. In a sarcastic tone, he says to

Guy, "I hope you do justice to this lady's exemplary sacri­ fice !" To his discredit— and the play's--Guy responds,

"(Blankly.) Sacrifice?" (p. 516)

That exchange suggests two things of importance. First,

Lord Devenish perceives that Guy's decision to become a priest is far more costly to Mrs. Peverel than to himself, Guy has already "looked at life" and decided that it has no attrac­ tion for him. He is, thus, giving up nothing of consequence to himself in that respect. From one perspective, admittedly, he is giving up the woman he loves, but from another point of view, he is not so much renouncing that affection as exchanging it for one that is equally deep and of earlier origin. On the other hand, in losing Guy, Mrs. Peverel is losing everything. She still can have Frank, of course, but he is— as he always has been for her— a poor substitute for

Guy. Lord Devenish is correct, then, in implying that Guy's sacrifice is puny in comparison to hers, Especially is that tiue in view of their relative innocence, Mrs. Peverel has been patient, forgiving, nobly silent, and now, magnanimous.

She has done nothing to deserve the blow she is receiving,

Guy, on the other hand, has already had an opportunity to make the very decision he now embraces, and rejected it for reasons far less praiseworthy than the steadfast devotion offered him by Mrs. Peverel.

Secondly, Guy's surprise at hearing the word "sacri­ fice" applied to Mrs. Peverel leaves the clear impression 288 that, at best, he has made an impetuous decision, that he has not talien all the relevant factors into account. At worst, it suggests that Guy is so determined to salve his own conscience as to be unmindful of the pain his decision might inflict on others. In any case, the combination of these two factors makes it easy to agree with Lord Devenish again when he says that Guy "doesn't desearve to know" the extent of Mrs, Peverel's love (p, 516), As a result, the effect of Guy's belated decision to join the priesthood is to throw sympathy (if not outright pity) toward Mrs, Peverel, and to bring disrespect (if not outright shame) on himself.

Moreover, the acuity with which Lord Devenish perceives the ignobility of Guy's action and the sympathy he shows to Mrs,

Peverel in articulating his perception allow him to exit the action as a wiser and more humane character than Guy,

Even Franlc, by virtue of the indignity he suffers in having it made clear publicly that he is, at best, a barely accept­ able alternative to Guy, achieves a relatively higher degree of sympathy. Thus, the play ends in a kind of emotional muddle, Guy makes, perhaps, the right decision, but he makes it at the wrong time and for the wrong reason; Lord

Devenish, albeit the villain, gains a measurable degree of respect; and Mrs, Peverel and Frank, although subordinate characters, appear less blameworthy and more injured than Guy,

The overall effect of the play's resolution, then, is neither fhlly melodramatic nor fully tragic, Guy does not triumph, certainly, but neither does he suffer the greatest 289

loss nor make the greatest sacrifice. Lord Devenish's villainy is foiled, but the fact that he a villain is almost obscured by the concern he shows for Mrs, Peverel's

loss and the lack of concern he shows for his own. Those

two factors combine, in effect, to divert attention away

from the principal antagonists (Guy and Lord Devenish) and direct it instead to Mrs. Peverel, She emerges as a kind

of sacrificial lamb, the innocent victim of a conflict she has no hand in creating and no way of controlling.

In addition to its purely structural weaknesses, then,

there is a singular degree of emotional ambivalence about

the ending of Guv Domville. To say that it arouses and resolves fear and pity is to invite the question; "Pity

for whom?" Certainly not for Guy, whose final action is not only unnecessary and selfish, but patently ineffectual in the first place. Similarly, to suggest that the play arouses and resolves fear and hate is to invite the ques­

tion: "Hate for whom?" It is difficult to revel in Lord

Devenish*s defeat when it is he—-not Guy— who both perceives

and expresses concern for the character who is most

grievously injured. Thus, while the action is finally resolved— as is the fear it generates— the potential objects

of pity and hate are so blended together and intermingled with one another as to preclude effectively any adequate

resolution of either emotion. As a consequence, the play

leaves a perceiv r with a sure sense that he is not sure 290 of what he feels (or is supposed to feel) about any of the major characters.

In many ways--some laudable, others not so— "The Saloon" is a remarkable one-act play. On the praiseworthy side, its final scene is among the most overtly and effectively passionate scenes to appear in any of James’s plays. It contains as well James’s best effort at utilizing technical effects (light and sound) to dramatic purpose,^ Like Guy

Domville, it takes up the theme of renunciation, but, unlike that play, it treats the theme in a manner consistent with its tragic potential. On the less than praiseworthy side,"The Saloon" is an inordinately "talky" play and, as a result, is almost ponderous in its movement toward conclu­ sion, It is further buardened in that respect by a glut of relatively superfluous characters who do little more to justify their existence than provide expository infonnation that is, in several cases, also superfluous, Mrs, Julian,

Mrs, Coyle, and Lechmere, though distinct enough in their individual personalities and in their relationships to the action, add nothing to the play as three characters that could not as easily and with greater economy have been

2 In one scene, a character’s off-stage piano playing is used to underscore the on-stage action. In the final scene, a wind effect is used to signify the passing out of the house of the ghost, or the presence, that has haunted it, James also includes specific directions as to how light should be used to create a kind of chilling atmos­ phere during the last several scenes. 291 added by one* To the extent that it is cin author’s right to determine the kind and number of characters he will employ, that is, of course, a specious complaint. To the extent, however, that certain of the characters he employs are possessed of neither singular, compelling personalities nor of a function in the action that could not logically be performed as well by any other character, it is a valid criticism. Especially is that t m e when an author feels compelled, as James apparently did, to provide information about their background and geneology that, although necessary in order to legitimize their involvement in the play, is irrelevant to the main line of action. It is, for instance, of no importance to the play’s action that Lechmere resides in Woolwich, that "He’s the best little sort going," or that he is a "third cousin twice removed" of Owen Wingrave, the central character. Nor is there any significance to the fact that Mrs, Julian’s brother was, until "shot through the head, a few years ago, on the Afghan frontier," bethrothed to Owen’s aunt. The fact is that both characters are simply acquaintances of Owen’s; neither has any privileged rela­ tionship with him eind, as a result, neither does or says anything that could not with equal facility and logic have been done or said by the other, or, for that matter, by

Mrs, Coyle, Their collective function is to provide neces­ sary exposition, and although they perform that function well, what they add to the play as separate individuals is mostly unnecessary length. 292

With respect to the infonnation they provide, it can fairly be said that, in combination with Kate and Mr* Coyle, they provide a good deal more them the action requires,

Mrs* Julian, for example, despite the fact that Owen’s aunt never appears in the play, supplies an extensive description of how "sadly shaken" the poor woman is by the current sit­ uation* Mr* Coyle, Mrs* Coyle, and Lechmere reveal in conversation that Kate and Owen have, since childhood, been intended for one another* That is an important piece of information, but it is so garnished with tangential data

(£*£*, Owen's having been taken in by his grandfather and

Kate's having been taken in by Owen's aunt) that, in all, twenty-one lines of dialogue are expended in delivering it,

A similar profusion of unnecessary and, to an extent, confusing detail exists in individual speeches, as witness the following from Mr, Coyle:

That proud old Sir Phillip, and that wonderful Miss Wingrave, Deputy-Govemor, herself, of the Family Fortress— that they, with their immense Military Tradition, and with their particular responsibility to his gallant Father, the Soldier Son, the Soldier Brother sacrificed on an Egyptian battlefield, and whose example— as that of his dead Mother's, of so warlike a rac^ too— it has been religion to keep before him [_ Owen_J^: that they should take his sudden startling action hard is a fact I indeed understand and appreciate (p. 653). While it might surely be assumed that one speech of that sort would suffice for any play, Coyle’s is followed in short order by this from Kate: 293

Your daughter's view. Mamma, is that of the Daughter of a Soldier— as hÆ was the Son of so many before him. And it's not so different from the view of our Friend and Benefactor, Owen's greindfather— grand grim old Warrior and Gentleman as we know and admire him— who • s the Son and the Grandson and the Great-grandson, and anything else you like, of Soldiers, and who, as he was Father, till his loss, of one of the bravest and best, had hoped, up to this strange hour of a Break so unprecedented, that he might believe in the Temper of the Race to the last genera­ tion (p. 65U),

Disregarding (if that is possible) the tangled syntax of those two speeches, the simple fact is that the details of geneology and relationship they provide are unnecessary.

It is necessary for an audience to know only that Owen is

Sir Phillip's grandson and that Sir Phillip is the aging custodian of the Wingrave family's long military tradition, which, incidentally, the audience has already been told before either of those speeches.

The amount of repetitiveness and inconsequential infor­ mation in the first half of the play consitutes a drama­ turgical problem, but it is actually only symptomatic of a deeper structural weakness. To return again to terms used earlier, the first two-thirds of The Saloon comprise a very large "picture" unit, the whole purpose of which is to prepare for the "scene," or action unit, that is the final third of the play. Not surprisingly, the picture portion of the play is almost entirely oriented toward the past, toward events that have transpired and relationships that have existed. The talk is mostly of traditions long extant 294

and ancestors now deceased. For that to be the case prior

to Owen's entrance (about one-third of the way into the play)

is understandable because the other characters are each, in

different ways, conscious advocates of the way things have

been. The bacla^ard-looking pattern continues, however,

even after Owen's entrance. His first conversation is with

Mr, Doyle and consists of their recalling how Owen gradually developed the "scruples" that are responsible for the present

crisis. He then talks with Mr, Coyle about the gruesome 3 family legend, after which he converses with Mrs, Julian

about the history of his relationship with Kate, That sets

the stage for the first long scene between Owen and Kate, which is, in effect, a rehash of all the past-tense conver­

sations already held, Owen's ancestry, its long military

tradition, and, most of all, the legend of its murderous

ghost are all expostulated upon for a second, third, or

fourth time.

The problem, then, is that by concentrating almost

exclusively on the past, the play essentially ignores the

present; and it is only in the present that dramatic action

(that is, movement or change) can occur, James allows

3 The Wingrave ghost is a distant ancestor of Owen’s who became so irate when his son backed away from a fight that he beat the child to death. He later returned to the room in which he had done the horrible deed and there expired. Since that time, the legend has been that he haunts the house and that every male Wingrave has had to face his terrifying visage in order to prove his worth. 295 two-thirds of the play to go by without effecting a single change in the situation with which it began. To be sure, he paints a beautifully detailed picture of a family caught in the throes of a clash between old values and new; but it is, at base, just a picture— and a still picture at that.

Though it contains actions, it has no action, no movement or change; and to the extent that it lacks action, it lacks drama.

The situation that does not change through the first two—thirds of The Saloon is, simply stated, that Owen

Wingrave has decided to cast off the long military tradition of his family and pursue another, presumably more humane, career. As the play opens, he has already reached that decision and is waiting for the results of having delivered it to his ailing grandfather, the family patriarch.

There are two factors in the positing of the situation that contribute heavily to the play's remaining for so long

"a lovely picture of things standing," The first is that

Owen enters the play with his mind already fixed on breaking the family tradition. That he will not take up soldiering as a profession is, therefore, not an issue to be decided in action but a pre-ordained conviction to be accepted as a given. The second is that any conflict generated by that conviction, whether it be conceived in personal or philo­ sophic terms, can only properly be between Owen and his grandfather. Sir Phillip, The latter, however, is 296 bed-ridden and never appears in the play. As a consequence,

Owen’s conviction can be described (which it is, in great detail), as can the areas in which it conflicts with the position represented by Sir Phillip, but Owen cannot test his conviction under fire because he cannot subject it to direct confrontation with his grandfather*s opposing view.

Unfortunately, that ciucial test of Owen’s conviction, like its formulation, occurs before the play begins.

It is treacherous business, admittedly, for a critic to suggest that a playwright ought to have put into his action events or scenes that, presumably, he made a con­ scious decision not to include. Likewise, it is difficult to demonstrate that a non—existant scene would have measur­ ably improved a play. It can be said with relative certainty, however, that by choosing to include in his action neither the formulation of Owen's conviction nor a direct confrontation between Owen and his grandfather, James created a situation that is virtually bereft even of potential for the kind of change and movement that consti­ tute dramatic action. Since it is a given that Owen will not voluntarily retreat from his position, and since he cannot be compelled to do so by a confrontation that does not occur, there is nothing he or the other characters can logically do but wait to see whether Sir Phillip will retreat from his position— which is precisely what, for

two—thirds of the play, they do. The problem, then, with 297 the first two—thirds of 'The Saloon!'is not just that it an actionless picture, but that, given, the manner in which

James conceived its situation, it cannot be otherwise.

It is not until Owen receives from Mr. Coyle the news of his grandfather's decision— that he has been "Disowned"

(p. 667)—-that the properly dramatic action of "The Saloon" begins. That information shatters the stasis of the situa­ tion, changes it, and requires of Owen that he stop discussing his conviction and start acting on it. The calmness with which Owen accepts the news, the fact that he seems not to be troubled by the loss of an enormous estate, confirms perhaps that he is a man of principle. That same calmness, however, has also the effect of mitigating the dramatic impact of Coyle’s announcement. In any play, the impact of an incident is a function of, and proportionate to, its significance. The precise nature of a given inci­ dent is, of course, an objective measure of its significance

(murder is sui generis, an action with greater potential significance than a walk to the grocery). The actual (as opposed to the potential) significance of an incident, however, will always be determined by the context in which it occurs, Owen's blase dismissal of the news that he is disowned has the effect of turning what Coyle clearly regards as devastating information into an announcement of minimal consequence, which has two deleterious effects on the play. 298 First, it adversely effects Owen.*s stature in the action, not in the sense that it makes him appear had or even less noble, but in the sense that it denies him the opportunity to "grow,” as it were, for having given up something of great consequence. In effect, it compounds one of the problems already discussed. Not only is Owen prevented from displaying whatever anguish he may have experienced in arriving at his decision to break with the family tradition, but he is also prevented from showing any sign of suffering as a consequence of that decision. The clear imputation of those two factors is that, despite all the talk to the contraiy, the whole process of Owen’s revolt is, for him, relatively easy. That may, of course, not be at all what James envisioned in conceiving the play, but it is what he allows an audience to see. In proportion, then, as Owen’s actions are easy, that is, devoid of painful decisions and consequences, he becomes less heroic as a character. To put it in Aristotle’s term, he loses magni­ tude.

The second result of Owen’s reaction is more difficult to describe, but no less important than the first. It stems from the fact that the situation in "The Salooi^" as originally posited, has only two potential areas of confrontation;

Owen versus Sir Phillip (or the family traditions personi­ fied by Sir Phillip), or Owen versus himself. His calm acceptance of the news from Sir Phillip effectively 299 dissipates both# It indicates clearly that he will not challenge Sir Phillip's decision, and,at the same time, it bespeaks the fact that he is comfortable with his own decision and its consequences; he is not, in other words, divided in his attitude about what he has done or about what has been done to him. The action can continue, there­ fore, only by changing its focus and bringing to the center of things an area of conflict that had, to that point, been entirely peripheral; rejection of Owen by Kate,

James makes that change, but, in doing so, causes the play as a whole to lose magnitude. Specifically, Owen and

Kate embark upon a series of relatively petty recrimina­ tions, he accusing her of being more attracted to the

Wingrave estate than to himself, euid she retorting that he has succeeded only in proving himself a "coward," Admit­ tedly, were either of those charges true, they would not be petty; they are not true, however, and both the audience and the two characters know they are not true. They are delivered, moreover, not as reasoned assertions, but as deliberately over-stated and spiteful rejoinders. Because she reveres his family heritage, Kate is hurt by Owen's rejection of it; in a similar fashion, Owen is hurt by

Kate's unwillingness to acknowledge that, right or wrong, he has acted on principle. As a result, their confronta­ tion becomes, in fact, a name-calling contest between two headstrong young people who are so determined to assuage 300 their oim egos that they each fail to recognize the Ailly ethical basis of the other's position. The action descends, therefore, from overt concern over what is right to an acrimonious exchange of half-truths, misconstructions, and deliberate attempts to cause pain.

The irony is that, considered apart from the rest of the play, the clash between Kate and 0\fen works very nicely.

The scene has little of the indirection, the refusal to address a conflict straightforwardly, that so often mars

James's confrontation scenes. Moreover, there is a discern­ ible build in the intensity of the scene, its climax being reached viien Kate bluntly tells Owen, "this house is no home for a coward" (p, 669), The problem with Kate's dramatic declaration is that its strength calls even her attention to its falseness, which puts her in the position of having either to retract or retreat. At the same time, her charge leaves Oiiren utterly defenseless; there is no way of logically responding to an accusation so lacking in truth. In effect, then, both characters arrive at a point where nothing is resolved but nothing is left to be said.

As a result, the action grinds to a second awkifard pause, during which Kate and Owen attempt to regroup themselves for a third— and final— attempt at pushing through to resolution,

Kate begins the pause by withdrawing to her room, presumably to retire for the night, Owen agonizes alone 301 for a moment, then leaves for his own room. Kate re-enters momentarily, having decided apparently to have one last go at persuading Owen to change his mind. Whatever hope she had of doing so is dashed, however, when Owen returns to the saloon prepared to leave the house. The pause ends with their first exchange of lines, which also sots the tone of the final scone %

KATE: . . . Truly then you can*t face anything. OWEN : ïfhat creature has this poisoned air made of you— and kept you? (p. 6?l)

Owen*s reference to "this poisoned air" has the effect of redirecting attention to the atmosphere, the environment, the oppressive legacy of the Wingrave family, and thereby enables the death-dance between himself and it to begin.

For her part, Kate takes her cue and launches immediately into an impassioned explanation of how "a year ago tonight- on this spot— at this hour," she became "consecrated" by literally facing in palpable form the murderous ghost of the before-mentioned legend— and surviving. Disgusted not only by the experience she describes but also by the almost religious fervor with which she describes it, Oifen replies,

"(, « . with the fullest force of his own passion.) You double then my joy that I*m not ^consecrated_y— to so stupid and so hideous a god" (p. 6?2). With a note of genuine alarm in her voice, Kate admonishes Owen to "Talce care how— here !— you blaspheme him!" To that, Owen replies,

"By Jove, if I thought that would hurt him— " (p. 672). 302 Owen proceeds then to hurl imprecations at the "Voices of visions that pretend to keep me a slave" (p, 673)* grow­ ing bolder with each new blasphemy and climaxing his assault with, "Ivhat do I care for the Demon himself except for the joy of blasting--" (p, 673)* He never finishes that sen­ tence, because simultaneously with a shriek from the now terrified Kate, the stage is plunged into a total darkness that is pierced only by the muffled sound of a whirlwind which signifies the ghost’s departure from the house, Ifhen the light returns, Owen is prostrate on the stage, dead, Kate is overcome with grief, as is Coyle, who, awakened by the noise, enters almost immediately. To him falls the task of articulating the deadly irony that adds the final poignant touch to an already intensely dramatic scene, Owen, he points out, for all his determination to throw off the military tradition of the Wingraves, has fought his family’s greatest battle, and died the death

"Of the soldier" (p. 674).

Thus, even though two-thirds o f ’The Saloon" is devoid of action; even though, within the final third, there are two distinct levels of action; and even though Ov/en’s steadfast serenity denies him the kind of internal conflict normally associated with tragic characters— the play does, in the end, engender the tragic emotions of fear and pity.

It might be argued that the ponderous pace of the early scenes is evidence of James’s conscious desire to construct 303 the kind of gradually thickening atmosphere of oppression and doom that conduces to the arousal of fear. Intention and execution are not necessarily synonymous, however, and

the fact is that the structure of "Ihe Saloon"— excepting the

final scene— is more tedious than suspenseful. It can be correctly argued, however, that the degree of fear emanating from the events of the final scene is more than adequate to the demands of the situation, Unfortunately, that does not obviate the fact that perhaps five minutes of concentrated action are preceded by thirty-five minutes of non—action, a decidedly disproportionate ratio. It is unquestionably

true that a play can be destroyed by one bad scene, but it is rare for a play to be fully saved by one good one.

In any case, the conclusion of"The Saloon" is fearful, and the fear it arouses is resolved in the tragic manner—

that is, by becoming the material from which pity emerges.

The key incident in that process, of course, is Owen's death. Fear is a curious emotion in that it is never a

product of what ^ happening (in the immediate present), but rather, of what may happen (in the immediate future).

Hence, it is not the deprecations Owen hurls at the Wingrave

ghost that produces fear; rather, it is the thought of what might happen to him at any moment as a result of his

blasphemies. As soon as the catastrophe his challenge

makes possible occurs, there is no longer any reason to

fear for him; his death, in effect, resolves the fear his 304 previous actions engendered. In suffering the ultimate defeat of death, Owen also achieves a cro^ming triumph. He exorcises the Wingrave ghost that had "bullied" the family for generations and, in so doing, cleanses his family of the

"Hounds that prowl like unclean lieasts" (p. 673). He becomes a fitting object of tragic pity, therefore, not because he dies, but because of what he achieves in dying. Death in itself is simply a loss of life; witnesses to it are sad­ dened either by the reminder it offers of their oim mortal­ ity or by a sense that they, as well as the deceased, have been deprived of something. In that negative sense, death is conducive to sorrow, to compassion, perhaps even to sympathy— but not to pity. For the latter to exist, there must be something about the death that renders it more than just a loss of life. Ihe re must, in short, be something about it that transports the perceiver out of himself and causes him to be aware, not that he himself has lost something, but that the deceased has been denied an opportunity to revel in what his death has brought to pass. Tragic pity requires more, in other woixis, than that a life be lost; it requires that a good life be lost the service of recognizably greater good, which is precisely what occurs in "The Saloon,"

For all its structural shortcomings, "The Saloon" man­ ages to achieve, through the power of its concluding scene, a modicum of truly tragic effect. Had James allotod less time to describing Ch/on • s nobility and given him instead 305 more opportunity to demonstrate it, the play might well have become a noteworthy addition to the tragic canon.

For all their structural problems, Guy Domville and The

Saloon are at least blest with relatively simple subjects.

Such is not the case with The Other House, vdiich is not only

James's longest play but also his most complex. It relates a tale that, with the intricate inter-relationship of* its characters and, especially, the enigmatic quality of its heroine. Rose Armiger, can only be described as Xbsenesque.

Unfortunately, while it has the style and something of the substance of a Rosmersholm or a Hedda Gabier, it has not the craftsmcuiship. If most of The Saloon was, to use James’s words again, "a lovely picture of things standing," The

Other House is a picture of things changing— c ons tant ly - -and too often without apparent cause or logical justification.

The questions it raises are legion; the answers it provides, however, are few in number and too frequently contradictory in nature. Indeed, when James said of Ibsen that, "from the moment he’s by apparent intention comprehensive and searching, it’s on the footing of an effect as confused and obscure as The 17ild Duck ..." (cT» p. 53), he wrote the perfect epitaph for The Other House. In it, James is

"comprehensive and searching," but he is also so "confused and obscure" as to make The Wild Duck seem a child’s fable by comparison. The play is divided into a Prologue and three Acts, the former taking place at the home of Tony Bream, a 306 country banker, and the latter three at the "other" house,

that of Tony's senior partner in the banlc, Mrs, Beever,^

The two houses are separated from one another only by a

small stream which is spanned by a private bridge that malces

for easy passage from one to the other. The bridge and,

especially, the stream are of critical importance to the

play's action.

Hovering like a pale spectre over the entirety of the

Prologue is Tony's wife, Julia, She has recently given

birth to a daughter, Effie, and since that time has been

bedridden with an ailment that defies the best efforts of

Dr. Ramage at diagnosis or cure. She has become convinced

that her death is imminent, and it is in the context of

that self—prognosis that the events of the Prologue tran-

pire. It opens with a scene between Rose and Jean Martle

that serves mainly to establish the fact of Julia's

mysterious illness and to introduce the two young women.

Specifically, it sets forth the significant differences

between them* Rose is older than Jean, has been staying at

the Bream house for some time, and is distinctly less

ingenuous. For her part, Jean is the daughter of an old

The word Prologue is somewhat misleading; the segment of the play to which James applies it is actually longer than Acts II and III and is as full of incidents and signif­ icant information as any of the acts* James referred to it as a Prologue apparently because its action occurs four years prior to the remainder of the play. 307 friend of Mrs, Beever’s, has just arrived for a visit at the

"other" house, and has all the engaging enthusiasm and

spontaneity of youth. The tone of their conversation is such that Rose emerges as noticeably the harder, that is,

the less sympathetic of the two, as witness the following exchange relative to Effie;

JEAN: (Simply.) Is she very lovely? ROSE: "Lovely?" Do you think small red squalling infants are ever lovely? JEAN: (Pulled up a little* embarrassed and rather snubbed.*) Veil, those I've seen--! ROSE: ( JF^ranicly. ) Those I've seen I've not adored, (pp. 683-84.)

Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of

Mrs. Beever, who presents herself immediately as the one character neither deceived nor impressed by Rose. She provides Rose with an occasion, however, to explain that she is at the Bream house because of her close relationship with

Julia. She explains further that Julia's "detestable step­ mother was, veiy little to my credit, my Aunt" (p. 684),

The aunt, it turns out, upon the death of Rose's parents, had taken her in. As a result, she and Julia grew up almost as sisters and formed a lasting affection for one another and an equally abiding hatred for the step-mother-aunt.

Rose remembers mostly that her aunt "took me to torment me— or at least to make me feel her hand," and that, whereas

she was able to take care of herself, Julia only "bowed her head and suffered" (p. 685). Indeed, Rose fears that the recent visit of Julia's step-mother "reopened old wounds"

and is, thus, the real cause of Julia's present distemper. 308

There follows a brief scene between Mrs, Beever and Dr,

Ramage that further establishes the mysterious nature of

Julia's condition, Tony enters at its conclusion and shows himself to be all the pleasant things the other characters have described him as being. He is a handsome man, generous

and kind to a fault, and is devoid of any pretension. His

temperament is perhaps best described by Dr, Ramage, who

speaks of him as a man who seems always to have "a hundred

charming things to think of" (p, 686), He has also the happy gift of seldom thinking of anything too deeply and is,

therefore, able to maintain in almost any situation a cheer­

ful countenance and an unjaundiced eye. The unhappy corol­

lary to those faculties, however, is that he often fails to

perceive people, their motives, or their relationships as

they really are. He is, thus, a terribly malleable creature

in the hands of forceful characters like Mrs, Beever and

Rose Armiger,

The important thing established in Tony's first appear­

ance is that he thinks of Rose as a "comfort," a charming young woman whose long association with his wife enables her

to give him sorely needed counsel as to her present behavior.

That Rose might misinterpret or even exploit the solicitous­ ness he shows to her does not seem to occur to him; of

greater importance, however, there is nothing about Rose's

behavior to suggest that it should. She gives no hint that

she thinks or dreams of Tony as anything more than the 309 husband of her best friend and an altogether congenial host*

That is not, as it happens, the true gist of Rose’s feelings, but Tony cannot be faulted for failing to realize it; nor, for that matter, can an audience. In fact, Rose's apparent lack of selfish interest in Tony is at least perpetuated by the fact that she is, through all the opening scenes, awaiting the arrival of Dennis Vidal, with whom, it is commonly assumed, she plans to be wed* Rose does say, prior to his arrival, that their romance has not been "love's young dream-—it's rather an old and rather a sad stoiy* * * *

We ' ve come a weary way" (p, 689)* She leaves the clear impression, however, that the chief obstacle in their path to the altar has been his lack of means * When Tony asks,

"... isn't this the end of it?", she replies, "Why— that's just what he's to settle" (p. 689), thus implying that if he has corrected his lack of means, they will many.

Coincident with that remark, Dennis enters, and, upon seeing him. Rose malces no pretense of maidenly modesty. She

"throws up high, fluttered arms with the clearest cry" and rashes into his arms so that "the pair are locked an instant in an ardent embrace" (p, 689), Tony takes his cue and exits, leaving Dennis and Rose alone for a short reunion scene that, if not exactly idyllic, is certainly touching in its sincerity* Though Vidal is clearly overjoyed at seeing his lover again, it is Rose who does most of the 310 talking* She tells Dennis that he looks "so absurdly young * * * so very extraordinarily fresh," that he seems to have been "polished by life," and that he possesses "a quiet little something that our long, tiresome time has made perfect, and that--just where you've come to me at last— makes me immensely proud of you" (pp. 689-90)* She tosses him a few other bouquets as well, but the salient fact is that everything about the actions of both characters conduces to a sure sense that they share a deep, mature love for one another* It is, therefore, somewhat befuddling when Rose follows all that by appearing suddenly "disconcerted" at the idea that they should "go out and be married this minute" (p* 690), Dennis ignores her complaint, however, and rushes off to procure from his luggage a letter which he assures Rose will demonstrate that he has, indeed, "come back richer*"

Coming, then, at the end of an otherwise loving scene with Dennis is the first clue that Rose may have aspirations she has not yet revealed* Aside from the incongruity of that juxtaposition, it remains very much in question what those plans might be and, more importantly, whom they might involve* To all appearances, the opportunity to shed a clearer light on those questions arises in the next scene*

Tony enters and announces that he has just come from Julia, who pressed on him a strange and, in his view, "porten­ tous * * * solemnity*" Rose immediately theorizes (almost 311 in jest) that Julia wants Tony "to allow her to name her

successor" (p, 691). She is pulled up short, however, when

Tony replies, "To the contrary! She wants me to promise

that she shall have no successor" (p. 691). Accoirding to

James's directions. Rose "instantly checks any show of the

quick, perceptible impression made by this" and says simply,

"I see" (p. 691). i/hat James intended, clearly, was for

Rose to react physically to the disagreeableness of Julia's demand, thus conveying to the audience that she finds it not just generally unpleasant but in some way painful to herself. As always, however, an aidience can only half­

judge a character's attitudes by what it sees; it has also

to contend with what it hears. It is significant, therefore,

that after her "momentary loss." Rose returns immediately

to conversing with Tony in the same detached, objective manner she evidenced earlier. She concludes, at length,

that "the simplest thing . . . is to give her your word"

and then exhorts him to "Enter thoroughly into her ^ Julia's^/

idea" (p. 691). Tony accepts her advice and declares his

intention to assure Julia that he will "never, never, never

so much as look at another woman," to which Rose replies,

"You've got it, my dear Tony! Say it to her that way" (p. 691).

Thus, while Rose's physical reaction to Julia's demand

seems to imply that she has thought of herself as her

friend's "successor," what she actually says to Tony 312 suggests exactly the reverse. It is possible, of course, that James intended Rose's lines to be delivered ironically, that he wanted her tone to indicate that what she is really telling Tony is not that he should accept Julia's demand but that he should make her think he is accepting it. In support of that argument is Rose's statement "the thing is to convince Julia who will be much more deeply convinced if you strike her as really fixing your eyes on what you subscribe to" (p, 691), That is the last sentence, however, of the line to which Tony responds, "never, never, never , , , ," and it is worth nothing that James's stage direction calls for him to deliver that assertion, "With passionate vehemence and sincerity," If, therefore. Rose is urging Tony to delude Julia rather than accede to her, he clearly misses the point. Given his total lack of guile, that is entirely possible; it is inconceivable, however, that Rose— who is amply imbued with guile— would fail to perceive his lack of perceptiveness. She replies immed­ iately, "You've got it, my dear Tony , , , ," when clearly he has not "got it," James's stage direction for Rose's line calls for her to be "Approving with the eager gesture of sending him to the act," The not effect of the scene is not so much to clarify Rose's attitudes and ambitions as to render them more of a mystery than before.

It may be that James viewed the scene in a different light and intended it for another purpose altogether. In 313

the course of their conversation, Tony tells Rose that he

is convinced Julia's step-mother is "at the bottom" of her mordant resolve, "She has," he says, "filled Julia with the

vision of my perhaps giving over our child to a step-mother,"

Rose readily agrees, and goes further to tell Tony, "if you had known Julia's childhood— as I laiow it!— you'd do justice

to the force of that horror. It possesses her whole being—

she'd prefer the Child should die" (p, 691), Bnphasis added.She reinforces that idea a moment later when she

says, "If you should lose Effie, you see, 2"Julia's_y reason would fail— " (p, 691), Since killing the child is precisely the course of action Rose eventually takes, it may be that James conceived the entire scene as a pretext for allowing Rose to: l) establish the possibility of Effie dying; and 2 ) establish that in a perverse sort of way, she would be doing Julia's will by murdering her child. If

that was his intention, however, it is questionable drama­

turgy to place the foreshadowing two fUll acts apart from

the event and in the middle of a scene replete with other

significant implications, A play is, after all, an ongoing progression of live events that does not provide respites

for leisurely analysis and recollection. As a result,

there are limits both to how much information an audience

can reasonably be expected to sort out during the course

of a given scene and to how long it can be expected to retain information it had no compelling reason to believe was significant in the first place. 314

¥hat does not happen in the scene between Rose and Tony

some clear statement of Rose^s intentions) malces what does happen in the next scene the more confusing. After

Tony exits, Dennis re-enters and after a rather pointless conversation about Tony, he steers Rose back to the subject of marriage. He insists that she read the letter from his superiors, which, somewhat distractedly, she does. Still assuming the inevitability of their marriage, Dennis then points out that the position offered him will require their going to Hong Kong and inquires if she can "accept that too?" (p. 694) Rose seems to respond affirmatively—-both to the question of marriage and to going to the Orient— when she replies, "T/hy, it's only for two years" (p. 694). With her very next breath, however, she reveals the source of her distraction to be the fact that Tony has not yet returned from Julia's room, which means, she frets, "that something must have happened" (p. 694). Undeterred, Dennis reminds her that the subject at hand is their marriage, the date for which he insists must be settled "this minute." Ifhen, however, she responds by begging for "a little more time. . . to . . . at such a critical hour, turn round" (p. 694), he loses patience and the following exchange ensues:

VIDAL: . . . I don't know what it's Rose's hesitation__7 for— you're beyond me; but if it's to back out I'll be hanged if I give you a moment! I'm here for you with all my soul, and I'm here for you now or never! ROSE: Dennis— ! 315

VIDAL; You do back out? ROSE: (After a moment ; putting out her hand,) Good-bye ! (p, 69^)

With that "Good-bye," there emerges the first of several unanswerable questions that severely mar the play: Why does she say it? By imputation, it could be argued that she rejects Dennis because of her stronger attraction to

Tony; if that is her motive, however, it is neither logical nor consistent with anything she has said to that point.

It is illogical because she knows Tony to be a paragon of integrity who, not ten minutes earlier, unequivocally declared his intention to proffer Julia a solemn vow of celibacy. Is she, then, despite all her cleverness, reject­ ing a man for whom— not fifteen minutes earlier— she showed deep affection in order to save herself for a man she knows will "never look at another woman"? An ingenuous young girl of archly romantic bent might do such a thing, but

Rose is neither ingenuous nor given to compulsive romantic­ ism, In like manner, it is inconsistent because it was she who advised Tony to assuage his wife's quite genuine fears by offering her his solemn pledge.

The cimx of the problem, however, is that at the point

Rose refhses Dennis, an audience cannot help guessing at, or, at least, attempting to infer her reason for doing so.

For her voluntarily to give up a man she apparently loves is, on the face of it, a significant event, one that cannot be ignored or talcen as a run-of-the-mill occurrence; it is. 316 however, inherent to the linear nature o f dramatic action

that a patently significant event must either proceed from

an apparent cause or be aimed at a plausible effect.

Ideally, it should do both, but in no case may it do neither— -unless it is the playwright's intention to confuse

his audience deliberately . If Rose had earlier given some

clear sign that she suffered from a consuming passion for

Tony, her refusal of Dennis would be justifiable on the basis that it proceeds from established cause. If, on the

other hand, there were anything to suggest that by remaining unencumbered she might someday get Tony, her refusal of

Dennis would seem a logical movement toward an attainable

effect. As things stand, however, Rose has revealed nothing

moz;e than a vague yen (explicitly she has not even revealed

that much) for Tony, nor has she any reason to suppose that, whether she is married or not, Tony would ever do anything

to satisfy that yen. Her refusal of Dennis constitutes,

therefore, an event that, while clearly significant, has

justification neither in what has gone before it nor in

what seems likely to come after it. It has, in other words,

no integral place in the play's linear development, and

stands thus as a thoroughly confusing piece of action.

In any event, Tony's re-entrance ends the scene between

Rose and Dennis, the latter excusing himself abruptly.

Unaware of what has happened, Tony obsearves that he is much

impressed by Dennis, Far from saying that she has rejected 317

Deimis, Rose allows herself to erupt into a torrent of tears.

Caught off guard by that reaction, Tony asks the obvious question; "You don't mean to say that he doesn't keep faith?" (p, 696) Significantly, her only response to that is a mumbled, "Oh God, oh God, oh God," which allows Tony to continue in his impression ttiat it is she who has been sorely abused. She completes the effect by bravely pulling herself together and imploring him earnestly not to "let

Julia know , , ," (p, 696), Her evasion of the truth confirms the suspicion that, indeed, she had a reason for rejecting Dennis, but it also makes it even more perplexing that there are at best only vague clues as to what that reason might be.

Having composed herself, Rose exits as soon as Mrs,

Beever arrives. The latter is fresh from a conversation with Dennis and stops with Tony only long enough to inform him that it was Rose who broke the engagement, Tony pro­ fesses confusion as to why Rose said the opposite, but characteristically, he sees nothing sinister in the fact that she did, Mrs, Beever then leaves to visit Julia, clearing the way for a scene between Jean and Tony, The scene is important only in that it establishes Tony's attraction to Jean and her attraction to the baby. The latter is based on the fact that they share the same birth date. Their colloquy is interrupted by the reappearance of

Rose and Dennis from the garden, followed by the sudden 318

emergence from the house of Dr. Ramage and Mrs, Beever, ¥iüi

somber mein they teike charge of the assemblage and Mrs,

Beever announces that Julia ’’wishes it as generally known

as possible that Mr, Bream , , , has assured her on his

sacred honour that in the event of her death, he'll not

marry again,” Vith the preciseness of a scientist. Dr,

Ramage promptly adds, "in the lifetime, that is, of her

Daughter" (p, 700), Hence, the vow Tony would certainly have honored no less had it remained private, becomes a

public commitment. The prologue then ends when Dr, Ramage

pulls Tony aside and informs him (for the first time) that

Julia is, in fact, "exceedingly ill,"^

To end an act (or what amounts to an act) on such a

grimly portentous note is a standard way of achieving a

coup de theatre, Replete with implications and possibilities,

it is a way of "hooking" an audience, of insuring the main­

tenance of their interest through an intermission. It may

be recalled that James ended "Still Water^' with a similar

twist (cf, p,99) that served the play ill because its

implications almost demanded a second act. Much the same

thing can be said in the present instance. Coming immed­

iately after the public announcement of Tony's vow, the

The attitude consistently expressed by all the char­ acters, including the Doctor, until the final line of the Prologue is that Julia simply imagines herself ill— that, physically, nothing is wrong with her. 319

news that Julia is "exceedingly ill" is rife with potential

significance. The key word, however, is potential. The

fact that she is between death and life means that the

Prologue ends, not with an answer, but with a question for which, as yet, no answer exists. The clear implication of

deliberately ending one major section of a play with an unanswered question is that the first order of business in

the next major section will be to explore the terms of that question and resolve it. If that is not to be the first

order of business, or is to be no part of the business at all, ending the first section with a question is poor drama­

turgy in tliree ways; first, it offers no recompense for

sacrificing the dramatic strength of a clear declaration

(that Tony’s wife and Rose’s best friend is dead, for

example) and the audience satisfaction endemic to a sense

of finality; second, it leaves the playwright open to

charges of indulging himself in contrived theatrics; and

third, it has the effect of arousing expectations that are not to be satisfied.

In the case at hand, the question with which the

Prologue ends is answered, but the answer occurs between

acts, lYhen Act I commences, Julia has been dead for four years, Dennis has returned to China, Rose has gone back to

London, and Effie is no longer an infant. Hence, the question that should form the basis of first act action

becomes instead an historical fait accompli that constitutes. 320 not the substance of the act, but the background against which the remaining incidents are played out. Thus, since the expectations aroused by the ending of the Prologue are not dealt with in action, the ending smacks strongly of contrivance. More importantly, the play loses irrevocably the raw emotional impact of Tony receiving the devastating news of his wife’s death. In short, nothing substantial is gained by the enigmatic ending of the Prologue, but a great deal is lost in both dramaturgical and substantive terms.

During the four years that transpire between the pro­ logue and the first act, the various characters have gone their separate ways and nothing, apparently, has come of whatever tensions and complications relative to their inter­ relationships may have existed. Rose departed for London immediately after Julia’s death and, aside from sporadic short visits from Tony when he had business there, has had no dealings with any of the characters for four years, Mrs,

Beever*s son, Paul (whose imminent arrival was noted in the

Prologue), has returned home, and Jean, who elected to remain with Mrs, Beever, has developed a close relationship with Effie; other than that, however, it is as though a four-year winter separates the planting of dramatic seeds in the autumn of the Prologue from their emergence in the spring of the first act. The arrival of that spring is signalled by Rose's return from London, She has, just before the action begins, accepted an invitation from Mrs, 321

Beever to visit at the latter^s home, and it is precisely her reappearance on the scene that re-spins in an even more complex design the spider's web of potential— and poten­ tially destructive— relationships depicted in the Prologue,

She is aided immeasurably in that function by the fact that, coincidentally, Dennis also arrives just as the act begins.

Ironically, Mrs, Beever sets the first act in motion by flatly declaring what was far too vaguely hinted at in the Prologue— that Rose is "insanely in love" with Tony,

Her voicing of that opinion raises two obvious questions.

If she really believes it to be true, why does she invite

Rose to visit her? Indeed, Dr, Ramage raises just that question and the explanation she offers is worth examina­ tion, She tells Dr, Ramage that since Paul's return, she has been working to arrange a maarriage between him and

Jean, a marriage she feels is somehow threatened by an attraction between Jean and Tony, Thus, her motive for inviting Rose to visit is quite simply that she looks upon her as a diversion, someone to keep Tony occupied and away from Jean until Paul's future is safely insured. Dr,

Ramage is properly shocked that she would so crassly unleash a temptation as formidable as Rose on Tony, but

Mrs, Beever assuages that concern by assuring him that whatever Rose's feelings might be, Tony will "Never in the world , , , break his vow and marry again" (p, 702), Thus, 322 as Mrs* Beever sees it. Rose may well become frustrated, but

In the process, she will insure that Paul and Jean are

"protected" and saved for one another*

While Mrs* Beever*s plan serves as a convenient pretext for returning Rose to the scene, it involves a serious abridgement of logic* On the one hand, she is certain that

Rose poses no threat to Tony because it is inconceivable that he would ever break his vow to Julia. On the other hand, she thinks it necessary to use Rose as a means of precluding an affaire du coeur between Tony and Jean* On the face of it, those are irreconcilable conclusions; Tony is either capable of indulging in a romantic escapade or he is not* If he is, then he is as likely to do so with Rose as with Jean; if he is not, there is no reason to deploy

Rose as a diversion* Beyond that, for Mrs* Beever to evi­ dence such a nonchalant attitude toward Rose in Act I is wholly inconsistent with the active dislike and extreme suspicion she displayed toward her in the Prologue*

The second question raised by the opening sequences of

Act I is equally significant* If Rose is "insanely in love" with Tony, how is it that she has managed to stay completely apart from him for four years? It could be, of course, that she has deliberately suffered her passion alone to prevent herself from doing damage to Julia's last demand*

If that is so, however, why is it that she, in Mrs, Beever's 323 words, ”jumped” at the first invitation extended her to return to the Bream environs. Conceivably, she does so because she has conquered her passion and no longer has any reason to fear proximity to Tony, Her own actions give the lie to that possibility, however, not just in Act I, but throughout the remainder of the play. The other possibility is that she has stayed away from Tony for want of an invi­ tation to join liim, but nothing in her behavior, during the

Prologue or during the main body of the action, suggests that she is a woman inclined to stand on ceremony in the face of something she truly wants.

The question thus posed (and inadequately answered) is why, after four years of total hiatus, should Rose return to the Bream environs and immediately trigger a renewal of all the problems and complications depicted (or, at least, suggested) in the Prologue? If the answer to that be that during those four years, nothing essentially has changed, then another question arises: Hhy does four years go by without any of the characters making so much as an attempt at fulfilling their deepest desires?

The problem engendered by all those unanswered (or unanswerable) questions is that they produce a fragile, if not altogether unstable, foundation on which to base a veiry weighty action. Nothing in the Prologue requires Rose to leave after Julia dies, but since she does, the action must

"hang fire" until she returns, Mrs, Beever's invitation 3Zh provides a pretext for her doing so, but the invitation itself is illogical with respect both to who extends it and to why it is extended. That vagary is exacerbated by the fact that Rose accepts the invitation and then acts as she does. It is conceivable that she would leave after Julia's death and return four years later with no designs on Tony or his child. It is also conceivable that she would remain with Tony after Julia's death (or even return after a brief departure) with the express intention of making him her own. It is not conceivable, however, that she would leave for four years only to return at the first convenient opportunity and display attitudes and ambitions that are not only identical to those she evidenced before she left, but which also constitute the only logical reasons for her having remained away so long. Since that is, in fact, what happens, the play as a whole appears to proceed from a premise the logic (and hence, the believability) of which is unclear to say the least. In much the same way as the tensile strength of a chain can never be greater than that of its weakest link, neither can the degree of logical integrity in a play be greater than that of its most implaus­ ible incident. "When it happens that a play's most implaus­ ible segment is the initial promise upon which all that follows is based, it is obvious the entire play must suffer; and that, indeed, is the case with The Other House.

The first act actually begins with Dr, Ramage ushering the newly arrived Dennis into Mrs. Beever's presence. The 325 latter greets him with the news that Rose is currently visiting with her and that she anticipates her return from the village at any moment. Dennis appears relatively non­ plussed by that information, so Mrs, Beever puts a question to him directly; "You mean to see her then?" (p. 705)

Dennis declines to anaver directly, begging her instead to

"tell me two or throe things first. Then . . , I'll decide" (p. 705)« After several relatively inconsequential questions about Rose and her relationship with Tony, Dennis announces, like a bolt from the blue, that it is really

Effie he has "come to ask about. . . . iiow she goes on. I raezm in health." Slightly bemused, Mrs. Beever replies that, although she presently has a slight cold, "In general she's splendid." Dennis continues with, "You feel she won't pop off," to which Mrs. Beever replies, "I can't guarantee that. But till she does— well, it's a comfort to see her" (p. 707).

Putting aside the tastclessncss of asking whether a child is likely to "pop off," James obviously conceived the exchange as yot another foreshadowing of Effie's death in

Act II, but there is a difference between foreshadowing an event and announcing it. Jirs. Beaver's insistance that she cannot "guarantee" how long Effie will live would be under­ standable if Effie were already a senior citizen; she is, however, a child of four about whom nothing has been 326 suggested that would indicate a precarious hold on life*

Nevertheless, James causes Mrs, Beever to answer a question about Effie's life expectancy by reminding one and all that life is finite* Despite the fact that she is exceedingly fond of Effie and unquestionably wishes her a long life,

Mrs* Beever responds to Dennis's question not by saying,

"Effie is alive and well," but by saying "Like all of us,

Effie will certainly die," Moreover, her next line, "But till she does l_ die_J7 « . * ^" reinforces the negative content of her initial statement*

The heavy-handedness of tirs* Beever's remarks might not be so apparent if it could be argued, for example, that she is merely tiying to avoid telling Dennis a truth he does not want to hear. The fact is, however, that if there is anything Dennis does not want to hear, it is any intima­ tion of Effie's mortality* Her life makes Tony totally inaccessible to Rose, and if Dennis has any legitimate rea­ son to inquire about her health, that is it,

Ifhether there truly is any logic to his asking that question is the second problem with the episode* Admittedly, there is nothing to preclude Dennis's asking about Effie's health, but there is no compelling logic to his doing so either* Rose rejected him in the Prologue while the consensus remained that Julia would recover nicely and before the public announcement of Tony's vow* The clear imputation of Rose's action at that point was that she 327 would prefer to live alone than to meirry anyone but Tony,

It had to have been apparent to Dennis that Rose's rejection

of him sprang from her feelings toward Tony, not from any ambitions excited by the condition of his wife or child.

Inasmuch, then, as Dennis has not seen Rose during the ensuing four years, and has, moreover, just been informed by Mrs, Beever that Tony is "in love" with someone other than Rose, what possible logic can there be to his implica­ tion that the pivotal element in effecting a reconciliation with Rose is Effie's continued good health?

Because of the two problems just described, the whole episode smacks of contrivance, Dennis asks questions that are inappropriate to his situation, and Mrs, Beever gives answers that are inappropriate to hers. The whole exchange is thus incongruous, which has the effect of drawing an inordinate amount of attention to the information being dispensed. As a result, Effie's death is not simply fore­ shadowed; it is established as a virtual inevitability.

The central concern in Act I is the relationship between Paul and Jean, Paul is a cuddly bear of a young man with an ever docile demeanor and a heart of gold. He has been pushed, to some extent, into an informal engagement to Jean by his mother when the act begins, a situation he finds neither disturbing nor especially exciting, Mrs,

Beever, however, is anxious that the engagement be formal­

ized and is insisting that Paul make his proposal that day. 328

The time, she feels, is propitious since it is Jean's (and

Effie*s) birthday. For her part, Jean is no less ambivalent

about the match than Paul; indeed, their engagement is

informal because, six months earlier, she had begged Paul

to grant her more time to consider. It vas, then, that deferment which convinced Mrs, Beever that Rose might be useful as a means of separating Jean from Tony,

Since her arrival, however. Rose has ensconced herself

as Paul's ally and confidant with the result that, although he denies it for a time, Paul has become more attached to

Rose than to Jean, Ifhile Rose is genuinely fond of Paul, her purpose is hardly to entice him away from Jean, To the

contrary, her efforts have been entirely to promote their union. It is clear to Rose that if Jean marries Paul, she will no longer be available to Tony, Rose intimates as much quite strongly to Paul when she says;

I've an idea that's become a passion with me. There's a right I must see done— there's a Wrong I must make impossible. There's a loyalty I must cherish— there's a memory I must protect. That's all I can say! (p, 710)

The "Wrong" she intends to malce impossible, of course, is

a marriage between Jean and Tony, and the "raemoiy" she wishes "to protect" is that of Julia's last request, Ifhile

that comes close to being a clear statement of intention.

Rose spends the rest of the play ignoring or contradicting it.

In any case, having urged Paul in plain terms to make

his "appeal handsomely," Rose turns her attention next to 329 Tony* As if to establish her absolute objectivity in the matter, she assures him, “If I was here before as Julia’s friend. I ’m here still as Julia's friend now" (p, 713)*

There is a troublesome quality about that line because

Tony has pointedly done nothing to indicate that he thinks of Rose in any other terms* She then draws from him an assertion that he thinks very highly of Paul* That admission is important to Rose’s design, but it brings with it an unexpected and unwanted bonus * Tony thinlcs so much of

Paul that nothing would give him "greater pleasure" than to see consummated a match between him and Rose* She brushes aside that idea by reminding Tony that Mrs* Beever desires a union between Paul and Jean, Tony recollects that "The

Queen-mother used to talk about it," but then adds, "she hasn’t, I think— has she?— talked of late" (p* ?l4)* Seiz­ ing her advantage. Rose responds, "She talked, my good man— and very hard, indeed’— no more than half an hour ago" (p* 714)* That elicits a perceptible wince from Tony, but Rose continues apace, arguing that since he thinks highly of Paul, and since a marriage to Jean would be so much to Paul’s advantage, Tony must undertalce to convince

Jean to accept him* Tony is evasive, even reluctant, at first, but Rose presents her case so well that, to avoid revealing his oim feelings for Jean, Tony is obliged to accede to her demand* He proceeds, then, to make a brave appeal to Jean on

Paul’s behalf, only to hear her respond flatly, "% shall 330 never marry / Paul_7” (p, 717), Puzzled, and more than a little disconcerted, Tony withdraws as Paul enters. In a poignant little scene, Paul makes his bumbling proposal, and

Jean, with great gentleness, refuses him. Their scene is cut short by Tony's re-entrance, at which Jean excuses herself to fetch Effie, Mrs, Beever then enters and is immediately dismayed to see that Paul still has the ring intended for Jean, To forestall a confrontation with his mother, Paul exits to the house. There follows a heated exchange between Tony and Mrs, Beever stemming from his admission that he had spoken to Jean about Paul, Mrs,

Beever admonishes him that he "should have carefully let

2 Jean_y alone, , • , Because you alone are madly in love with her, , , , Your plea was not for my Son--your plea was for your own danger" (p. 719),

Tony denies that charge, but he pointedly does not deny being in love with Jean, Rose then returns from the house and marks her arrival by announcing, in a highly signifi­ cant tone, that she will "take the child," She means only, in the immediate context, that she will watch the child while Mrs, Beever talks to Jean, but the line also has a deeper significance. To that point. Rose has made a delib­ erate point of having nothing to do with the child. She has, for example, gotten Effie nothing for her birthday, and has twice overtly refused even to associate with the child. So strong have been her refusals, in fact, that 331 after the second one Tony observed, "It's as if she couldn't trust herself— " (p, 715)* For her now on her own initia­ tive to announce that she will take charge of Effie is a striking change of attitude.

It comes about, apparently, because Rose detects a subtle change in the situation. Perhaps because it mirrors her own action in the Prologue, she discerns in Jean's refusal of Paul an implied declaration of love for Tony,

She tells Tony, in fact, "I knew how much you love her.

Now I Imow how much she loves you" (p. 721), Acting in accordance with the dictates of the "memory" she must

"protect," then. Rose feels she must declare war "On anyone, on everyone, who may be likely to find that small child , , , inconvenient" (p, 72l),

All of that seems logical enough on the surface and suggests a hi^i degree of moral commitment on the part of

Rose, The problem is that, placed in the total context of what has transpired to that point, the issue Rose seizes on has a definite "straw man" taint to it. Her clear imputa­ tion is that Jean has declared war on Tony's vow to Julia and thus has become a threat to Effie, The facts, however, are these: l) Jean's affection for Effie is not only sincere but unselfish and of long standing. She displayed it before she had even met Tony, and there has been nothing in the ensuing action to suggest that her devotion to Effie was, or is, a ploy to ingratiate herself with Tony; 2) every 332 action of Jean's has exuded genuine gentleness and warmth.

There has heen nothing to indicate that she is capable of doing violence to anyone, and particularly not to a child she loves; 3) Jean and Tony have lived in close proximity to each other for four years and have done nothing even remotely improprietous; k ) even though Jean has only now overtly refused Paul's proposal, she has never been under any formal obligation to him. She is, therefore, no more free to pursue Tony now than she was before. In short, the only real change in the situation is that the possibility of Paul and Jean marrying has been removed, but that gives rise to no potentialities that did not already exist.

In real life, it is a principle of law that a person in authority may be held responsible for anything he should, by virtue of his position, be aware of. His liability, in other words, is not mitigated by his failure to ascertain or comprehend the facts available to him, }fuch the same principle obtains in drama. An audience presumes that, unless there is specific indication to the contrary, a character loiows 8ind comprehends everything he is in a posi­ tion to know and comprehend; more importantly, an audience presumes a character's actions to be predicated upon the facts and information he has experienced. In the case at hand, all the facts listed above are unquestionably avail­ able to Rose; she must then be presumed to be aware of them and, again more importantly, to be acting on the basis 333 of her awareness. Since the conclusion she reveals in declaring war on Jean is not supported by the facts, it must be presumed that she is either too dim-witted to per­ ceive the facts or is deliberately distorting their meaning so as to draw from them a conclusion convenient to her pre-conceived design. In effect, she is declaring war over an issue— a threat— that does not exist. Moreover, since she has hardly shown herself to be dim-witted, it must be presumed that she knows the issue does not exist.

That she appears to be acting hypocritically, however, is not the problem; villains have acted hypocritically to achieve their own ends from time immemorial. The problem is that, even though it seems clear she is acting duplicit— ously, it is by no means clear that she is a villain. Nor is it clear what she hopes to accomplish by her abrupt change of attitude. There is nothing villainous, certainly, about acting from the motive of protecting Julia's "memoiy,"

Since, however. Rose must be presumed to know that Julia's memory is no more threatened now than it was before Jean rejected Paul, its protection malces a doubtful motive for so precipitous an action as Rose talces, Similarly, there is nothing villainous about wanting to protect Effie from harm— except that Rose knows Effie is not in danger or, at least, is in no more danger than she was when Rose would have nothing to do with her. The dilemma, then, is that Rose explicitly offers two motives for her action, both of 33h which, taken at face value, malce her out a hero. Under closer scrutiny, however, neither of them has much basis in logic. If they are not her motives though, something else must be, which means that she is not only lying, she is lying in order to divert attention away from the real truth; and that makes her out a villain. It also makes the ques­ tion of what she hopes to accomplish by taking charge of the child all the more pressing. Clearly, she has something in mind for which custody of Effie is a necessary pre-requi­ site, At issue is whether the end she has in mind is selfish (to separate Jean from Tony in order to save him for herself) or unselfish (to separate Jean from Tony in order to preserve Julia's dying wish). As with the question of Rose's motive, the question of her intention has signif­ icant implications with respect to the play's structure and, ultimately, its form. If the answer to it is that both of her possible objectives are at work— and are relatively in balance— there is obvious potential for tragic dividedness. If the answer is that her objective is predominantly selfish, she becomes a melodramatic villainess acting according to an evil "impulse," If the answer is that her objective is predominantly unselfish, she becomes a heroine of romance willingly following the "imperative" of sacrificing herself to the memory of a revered friend.

The fact that none of those answers (nor any other) is ever provided is symptomatic of the structural and formal 335 confusion that marks and mars the play's final effect.

Rose never becomes clearly a villain, a heroine, or a tragic composite of the two; she remains, instead, an enigma.

Worse ÿet, the confusion surrounding the end of Act I is enhanced by the events of Act II, Dennis, who has been rowing on the river and thinlcing since his conversation with Mrs, Beever, returns just as the first act curtain falls. When Act II begins, he. Rose, and Tony are almost in the same positions and are caught, as it were, in the midst of preliminary greetings to one another. Almost immediately, Tony announces that he must leave Rose and

Dennis for awhile because he has a business appointment in town. That has a curious zing to it because his daughter's birthday party is just about to. begin, and he had been eagerly anticipating the festivities just a few minutes earlier, Ifhile that is, in itself, a minor inconsistency, it proves an accurate harbinger of things to come. In fact, Tony follows that lapse with another that is stranger yet. There are repeated references in Act I to the fact that Effie has a "slight cold," To each of those refer­ ences, Tony's reaction was one of blithe dismissal; in his view, the child was clearly fit to attend her party. Now, however, despite the fact that he has not seen the child since he last pronounced her healthy, ho announces that he must also "stop at the Doctor's" and ask him "to see

Effie" (p, 723), That would also be an unimportant 336 inconsistency were it not that Dr* Ramage, in answering

Tony’s request, becomes the person who discovers the dead

child’s body* Moreover, the fact that Tony had asked the doctor to visit Effie becomes the all too convenient pretext

that allows him to protect Tony by putting it out that Effie died of natural causes*

The real problems begin, however, just as Tony is about

to embark on his hastily contrived enrands. As a parting courtesy, he asks Rose to "Let me hear . , * that in my absence you've been all right for our friend J_ Dennis__% here *" Rose pounces on that pro forma request immediately,

telling Tony to listen and he will hear "exactly how ’right’

I shall be" (p. 723). She then proceeds to deliver a long, elaborate, and thoroughly abject apology to Dennis* She acknowledges that what she had done four years earlier was

"wanting in consideration for such a man as you," assures him that in the years since she has often desired to make

"some reparation— some open ," and ends with an urgent entreaty that she be allowed to "sincerely express my regret and very humbly beg your forgiveness" (p* 724)*

Tony is surprised by her line, but Dennis is very nearly dumbfounded. He is also a little disturbed, since

it is not clear to him whether Rose's speech was for his benefit or Tony's* Mhen the latter leaves, he puts that question to Rose directly, but she passes over it and tells him, "Four years ago, I was the biggest fool in England" (p. 728)* 337

She goes on to explain that four years ago she "had an idea" about Tony, but has since come to grips with the reality of her situation and decided to "give it up," She then interrupts her conversation with Dennis in order to tell Effie's nurse that she may return to Tony's house.

Having dispensed with her, Rose continues to astonish Dennis,

She tells him, "I'm simply at your feet. I'm yours to do what you will with— to take away or to cast away" (p, 726),

Totally distracted now, Dennis is saved from attempting to respond to that pronouncement by the arrival of Jean, He excuses himself, eind Rose proceeds at once to stun both the audience and Jean by announcing that "I'm engaged to be married to Mr, Vidal" (p, 727)*

Considered as a unit apart from the rest of the play, the scene that follows between Rose and Jean is as finely crafted as any James wrote. It fairly drips with vituper­ ation as the two women pour out their previously unspoken animosities. Hie aggressor in the exchange, as always, is

Rose, but Jean manages to score a hit or two of her 01m,

The climax of Rose's argument, and the raison d'etre of the scene, is her declaration, "I'm disinterested in J_ Tony's future__7— I shall marry , « « without having to thinlc at all of impediments or failures. That's the difference between us , , ," (p, 729), She then exhorts Jean to "deny to me on the spot that you've but one feeling in your soul.

Repudiate and utterly renounce it , , , and you may then 338 do what you like" (p. 729). Recognizing that Rose wants her to deny that she loves Tony, Jean admits she is "incap­ able" of doing so. She caps her defense by saying, "I

'deny,' I 'renounce,' I 'repudiate,' as little as I hope, as I dream, or as I feel I'm likely ever to utter again-—"

(p. 729)* She does not deny her love for Tony, in other words, but neither does she harbor any hope of consummating it. With that. Rose moves rapidly to fetch Effie, does so, and exits with her saying, "It’s as your dear dead mother's, my o \ m sweet, that~if it's time— I shall carry you to bed" (p. 729). Instead, she carries Effie to the river and dro\ms her.

After a brief scene with Paul, Jean also exits— much distraught by the confrontation with Rose— in the direction of the river. Her place is talcen by Mrs, Beever, and a few moments later, Tony enters. He is soon perplexed to l e a m from Paul and Mrs, Beever that Effie is at his house, which, since he has just come from there, he Icnows to be untrue. He is even more perplexed that she is not at

Mrs, Beever's either. Most perplexing of all, especially

for Mrs, Beever, is that Paul has already told her what

Jean told him— that Rose left some time ago to take Effie home. Before any frightening conclusions can be draim, however. Rose is seen coming toward them from the bridge and they all relax, assuming that Rose will report the child safely delivered. To the contrary, she denies having seen Effie and expresses total amazement at hearing 339 what Jean reportedly said. More than that, she claims that

Jean "begged so hard" for the child that she felt compelled to turn her over. ^Irs, Beever does not for a moment accept that Jean would lie to Paul, nor Paul to her, but since there is no proof on either side, she orders Paul to go to

Tony's house and search for Effie. Things remain at that impasse for a moment, during which Hose attempts to say good-by to Tony on the pretext that Dennis is talcing her away that night. Tony labels that idea "preposterous" and Rose accedes, agreeing to stay until "tomorrow," Just then. Dr.

Ramage bustles into the scene with the grim announcement that he has discovered Effie "drowned." Hardly has the shock settled before Rose accuses Jean of the foul deed.

Almost as quickly, Tony declaims firmly that it was "Not

Miss Martie." Then slowly, painfully, he lets it out that

"I was with 2"Effie_y— and I was with her alone. And what was done--I did" (p. 738). On that unsettling note, the second act ends.

One thing is certain about Rose at this point: she is guilty of premeditated murder. Even though Tony takes the ghastly deed on himself, there is no doubt that Rose is the guilty party and that Tony is accepting responsibility for the crime in order to protect the real perpetrator. Vhat is not clear is why he does that. Since he loves Jean, he has some reason for wanting to protect her, but she has so far been incriminated only by Rose's testimony, the 34o

credibility of which— even from an objective standpoint— is

lessened by the fact that Rose has herself been incriminated

by Paul’s version of events. If, then, Tony loves Jean and

does not love Rose, it would surely be more natural for him

to assume the innocence of the former and the guilt of the

latter. That being so, why would he talce immediate action

to shield the murderer of his only child? The issue is

further muddled by the fact that Tony’s total adoration of his daughter has been well established. Thus, even if it

be granted that he loves Jean but believes Rose’s accusa­

tion, it is difficult to accept that his first thought would

be, not to avenge the muider, but to safeguard the


That Effie’s murder is, for Rose, a premeditated act

is apparent in the steps she takes to remove herself from

suspicion. Her abject apology to Dennis, deliberately

rendered— as she later admits— in front of Tony and more

for his benefit than Dennis’s, followed by her almost

brazen attempt to seduce the latter, and capped off by the

blasts she levels at Jean, are all transparently designed

to make it clear that she has no motive for harming Effie

(and conversely, that Jean has every motive). The "alibi"

she thus sets up, however, is so sketchy and, therefore, so

inconsistent with the cleverness she othenfise exhibits in

the play that it cannot fail to raise significant questions

of its own. The most obvious of those are: l) why does 341 she not secure an official engagement from Dennis before the murder?—-and Z) why does she allow Jean to see her leave with Effie? As things stand, Jean can at least challenge the credibility of Rose’s story, and Dennis can unhinge it altogether by revealing that they never were engaged# As a result, another irresolvable dilemma arises to obfuscate the play’s effect. On the one hand, Rose’s actions prior to the murder are so patently fatuous that they must be perceived as attempts to keep suspicion off herself. On the other hand, a character as clever and well-disciplined as Rose would never settle for an alibi so flimsy and so subject to external vicissitudes. In effect, James causes Rose to do either too much or too little, and creates, thereby, the confusing impression that she has deliberately set up an untenable alibi. Since that is, sui generis, an illogical thing to do, it brings up another question— lYhy does she do it?— for which there can be no fully credible answer. There is also the related problem of reconciling Rose’s oft-stated desire to preserve Julia’s memory with the fact that she immediately accuses Jean of murder. It may be recalled that in the Prologue, Rose pointed out that Julia would

’’prefer the child should die” rather than be subjected to a step-mother. Seen in that light, there is a distinct— if somewhat peiverse— nobility to Rose’s action. She is both committing a noxious deed and sacrificing her own future to insure that Julia’s dying wish is maintained, Julia's last 342 request, however, is fully satisfied by Effie's death. Thus, when Rose accuses Jean of the murder, she is going far beyond any charter she has (or presumes to have) from Julia, She is inviting, moreover, the suspicion that her true motive has nothing to do with Julia, but rather, is directed solely toward inflicting pain on Jean, and through her, on Tony,

Either one of those motives, the noble or the ignoble, would be perfectly acceptable in any play; the problem in The

Other House is that because they both exist, neither is totally convincing. As a consequence. Rose cannot be comfortably regarded as either a hero or a villain, nor can the exact nature of the conflict being presented be defined.

More importantly, those two factors in combination leave the play essentially without identifiable form; it remains neither ihlly tragic nor fully melodramatic.

Prolonging confusion as to motives and objectives is a familiar device in what have been referred to as "mystery" plays. It is a workable device, however, only when the mystery writer uses his last act to snap into clear focus everything he has deliberately blurred before. It is unlikely that James ever thought of The Other House as a mystery play, but the analogy is appropriate because he might have salvaged some effect from it if he had used the mystery play approach in his last act. If, for example, he had settled on one of Rose's several possible motivations,

thus allowing her to become clearly a hero or a villain. 343 or even if he had allowed her to acknowledge that her conscience— and therefore her motive— is divided, the play might yet have taken on some recognizable form. Unfortun­ ately, the contradictions and confusions in Act III are at

least the equal of those already discussed.

The characters have all repaired to the interior of

Mrs, Beever's house when the act begins, and the first conversation is between her and Dennis, Through a lengthy interrogation, she draws from him two significant facts ; l) that Rose had not as she reported left Mrs, Beever*s house with Dennis; and 2) that Dennis— being distraught after his scene with Rose— had walked along the riverside away from the bridge and, on his return, had seen Jean approaching the bridge from Mrs, Beever’s side without the child. He had then engaged Jean in another walk upstream and so could account for every second of her time, Mrs,

Beever, who has not for a second believed Tony's story, is

of course delighted to find that Jean is guiltless as well.

She is on the verge of discovering that Rose and Dennis were never engaged when Rose appears and insists on a

private audience with Dennis, Curiously, in a manner not

at all consistent with her usual straightforwardness, Mrs,

Beever eschews the opportunity to confront Rose directly

over her lies and leaves the room. Though it is absurdly

late to be doing so. Rose then demands from Dennis a

promise "to see me through, , , , to support me. If I say 3hh things, it’s for you to say them" (p. ?44). She does not expect him actually to marry her, hut she does expect him

"to make people believe that you moan to" (p. 744). Though there is little about her argument that is compelling--and a lot about it that is repugnant— Dennis does not reject it.

That is the more odd in view of the fact that he tells her

Jean was with him during the critical period and that he saw her (Rose) "On the bridge, distinctly. With the child in your arms" (p. 745)» Rose is genuinely alarmed by that until Dennis admits that he "saw no more." Seeing that she can no longer press her accusation of Jean, Rose then tells

Dennis point-blank that Tony murdered Effie to enable himself to marry Jean.

Dr. Ramage then enters and, with some ceremony, locks

Rose in the adjoining room and gives Dennis the key. He has come to complete the interrogation begun by llrs. Beever.

He begins by asking whether Dennis is engaged to Rose, and

Dennis responds, without much consideration, "I am." Dr.

Ramage then expresses his deep concern over the fact that

"Tony cries on the housetops that h£ did it!" As if to put the matter right, he quickly adds that Tony does so "To cover Jean." Ifhen Dennis asks, "But if she is covered?"

Dr. Ramage answers " (With a vengeance.) Then to shield Miss

Armiger" (p. 749) li,'hat emerges from their conversation is a clear indication that the play is destined for a non­ conclusion. Even though both men are convinced that Tony 3h5 is protecting Rose, neither of them shows any inclination to either force Rose to admit her guilt or dissuade Tony from protecting her. Instead, they discuss in detail how to cover over the fact that a murder was committed. As noted earlier. Ramage seizes on Tony's having asked him to look in on Effie as "the Salvation,” the fortuity that will lend to his announcing that the child died suddenly of natural causes.

There follows a relatively pointless scene between Tony and Dennis that mainly rehashes the content of the previous scene. It is significant, however, that Tony expressly states his awareness of Rose's guilt and his perception of her motive. In horrified tones, he says, "she murdered, she tortured my child. And she did it to incriminate Jean."

With equal bitterness Dennis replies, "She forced her in.

She held her down. She left her." Incredibly, after conjur­ ing up such a horrendous picture of Effie's death, neither man is moved to demand that the murderer be punished. To the contrary, they return at once to a calm discussion of how Rose is to be gotten safely out of the area.

Dennis then exits to the room where Rose has been and

Jean enters in a state of total distraction. Effie, she wails, "knew— she knew! . . . I was close, I was there— she must have called for me in her terror! I didn't listen— I didn't come--I only gave her up to be murdered" (p. 75l)«

Tony informs Jean that he has taken the crime on himself. 346 that if it becomes necessary, he will say he did it for her.

Dumbstruck, Jean points out that that will make her seem an accomplice to Effie*s murder. Overriding her objections,

Tony insists that he will say he did it "To enable us to marry. . . . It won't be of any consequence that we sha’n’t, that we can't; it would only stand out clear we can. So I shall save— whom I wish to save" (p. 752). In total desper­ ation now, Jean exclaims, "You wish to save her / Rose_7?"

Calmly, Tony replies, "I don't wish to hand her over" (p, 752).

With an anguished shreak, Jean raves, "I wish to hunt her to death! I wish to b u m her alive! You mean she's not to suffer? . . . How can anything be enough? I would tear her limb from limb. That's what she tried to do to me" (p. 752). After a moment, Tony replies, "Her doom will be to live" (p. 752). With some conviction, he argues that Rose's atrocity was committed in order to set him and

Jean "free." Jean, however, puts the right name on it;

"It's her triumph!— that our freedom is horrible" (p. 753)*

After a short scene between Tony and Paul, the only significance of which is that Tony's mood grows curiously brighter before he exits. Rose enters to begin the play's concluding scene. She appears extremely calm, which prompts

Paul to ask, "lifhat in the world is it you fear?" As though she has already considered that question deeply. Rose replies, "In the sense of the awful thing— that you know

that she murdered Effie_y. Here in the spot nothing. 347 About those things I*m quite quiet. There may be plenty to come; but what I'm afraid of now is my safety. There's something in that--" (p, 755)• She goes on to say, "I've failed— but I did what I could, , , , I mean— to make him

take her," Her biggest regret, she tells Paul, is that

"I've lost you. And you were the thing I might have had, , * , He Tony_7 tried to put me off on you. That was what finished me," She ends by opining, "Of course, they'll mariy," to which Paul replies, "Oh yes— they'll marry, , , , Not soon. But sooner than they think" (p, 757)*

Rose then returns to the subject of her safety, declaring that, as she feared, Dennis has not returned for her. To that, Paul responds, "I'll go with you," which causes Rose virtually to collapse with gratitude. Her need for Paul is dissipated a second later, however, when Dennis does arrive and bids her "Come," She stands frozen between the two men for a moment, then, throwing a last glance at Paul, she exits with Dennis and the play ends.

There are so many contradictions and inconsistencies in the last act that it is difficult to know where to begin a discussion of them. It is, for example,wholly inexplic­ able that Mrs, Beever disappears from the act after her opening interview with Dennis, It is well-established by then that, aside from Rose, she is the most determined and dynamic character in the group (a fact attested to by her nickname: "Queen-Mother"), It is also well-established 348 that she detests Rose, that she loiows Tony is lying, and that she strongly suspects Rose is lying too. In spite of all that, she passes up the opportunity to confront Rose, with Dennis present, over her alleged engagement. While it is puzzling that she exits the room so willingly at that point, it is completely unbelievable that she would send the hapless Dr, Ramage back to complete Dennis’s interroga­ tion.

Almost as inexplicable is Jean’s behavior. She enters her scene with Tony screaming for Rose’s head, but then, without ever explicitly acquiescing to his arguments, she exits with scarcely a murmur. In like manner, Dennis shows himself repulsed by what he loiows Rose has done and even more repulsed by what she wants him to do. Nevertheless, without a word of explanation, he supports her story in his interview with Dr, Ramage and acts ultimately to "save" her without a hint of a doubt or second thought.

As for Tony, the fact that his first thought would be to protect Jean, whom he loves, rather than to demand the head of Effie*s murderer is perhaps vaguely conceivable.

That he would maintain that attitude after he receives definite information that the murderer is Rose, whom he does not love, is decidedly less so. The real problem is not so much that he maintains his benevolent attitude, however, as that he makes no attempt to explain or justify it. The root cause of his clearly unnatural behavior 349 remains, therefore, like so many other things in the play, an unresolved mystery.

Perhaps the most obvious inconsistency, however, is the contrast between Jean and Tony's appraisal of their situa­ tion and that offered by Rose and Paul. Jean and Tony brand their freedom to marry "horrible" and leave the clear impression that, with the knowledge of what evil their affection for one another has wrou^t, they will no longer be able to love even in silence. From that perspective, the grotesqueness of Rose's action is compounded; not only has she murdered Effie, she has also murdered a true and innocent love. Moreover, since Jean and Tony both declare their positive conviction that Rose's action was deliber­ ately designed to punish them, they ascribe to her inten­ tions and objectives that are decidedly villainous and present themselves as unfortunate victims of that villainy.

In the final scene between Rose and Paul, however, the matter is presented in a different light. The sense of the scene is that Rose realized she could never have Tony for herself when, in Act I, he suggested that she marry Paul,

She then removed Effie from the picture, she claims, in order "to make him / Tony / talce her j_ Joan__/," At least the possible implication of that remark is that, since

Rose knew Tony would never love her, she murdered Effie to make it possible for him to find happiness with the woman he did love, When Paul asserts that Jean and Tony 350 will marry. Rose concurs, adding, "It will come* And I

shall have done it for him" (p. 757)* If all that is true.

Rose becomes a kind of perverse heroine. The problem, of

course, is that she has tried desperately to blame the murder first on Jean and then on Tony, which surely is a

curious thing to do if the real reason she committed the murder was to enable them to marry. As noted earlier, Rose's exact motive for killing Effie is never made clear in the first two acts, but the idea that she did it to bring Jean and Tony together is not even among the implied possibil­ ities, Rather than clarifying the issue by settling on one of the motives previously expressed. Rose further confuses

things by espousing an altogether new one, which, not insignificantly, contradicts the substantial bulk of what she has said and done to that point.

Besides further confusing the issue of Rose's motive, what she and Paul say about Jean and Tony's future has the

effect of dulling the edge of whatever feelings an audience might have for them as victims. The prognosis offered by

Rose and Paul is that, in the long run, they will not only

survive but find happiness; if that is tiue, it constitutes a strong rational argument for putting aside emotional

concern over the pitiable spectre they both presented at

their last exit. Worse than that, since what is said by

Rose and Paul flatly contradicts what is said by Tony and

Jean, the crucial matter of the effect of Rose's action is. 351 at the end of the play, still very much an open question to which there can be no specific audience response, except, perhaps, puzzlement.

Apart from the inconsistency between Rose's last scene dialogue and the earlier portions of the play, there is also a lack of consistency within the scene itself. Rose says she killed Effie to make Tony "take" Jean, but she prefaces that remark with the simple declaration, "I've failed," Assuming for the moment that her intention really was to bring Jean and Tony together, and assuming further that the pitiful picture they paint of their future together is accurate. Rose has, indeed, failed, A brief moment later, however, she declares matter-of-factly, "Of course they'll marry," a judgment with which Paul instantly agrees.

If that is true, and if making their marriage possible was Rose's intention, how has she failed? More specifically, at what has she failed? If they inevitably will marry, the only thing she could have failed at is incriminating Jean, but if that was her purpose, she could not at the same time haT)-* been working to facilitate their marriage. The net effect of the apparent contradictions in

Rose's statements is to malce it apparent that she is lying about something; it remains impossible, however, to determine what that something is. As a consequence. Rose remains to the end a thoroughly inscrutable character.

That is unfortunate because no audience can respond fülly 352 to a character whose motives and intentions are carefully and, it would seem, deliberately kept hidden, Rose's inscrutability represents, in fact, a doubly unfortunate choice on James's part. Since she is the play's central figure, if her action and attitude cannot be understood and responded to, neither can the play as a whole.

The ambivalence surrounding Rose's motives is at least matched by the ambivalence surrounding the effect of her actions on herself, Tony has earlier asserted that "Her doom will be to live" with the knowledge of her crime, and that appears to be the point James envisioned the play making. The point is considerably obscured, however, by the fact that nothing is said or done by Rose in the final scene to indicate that she is aware her doom will be to live. She says, in fact, that there is "nothing" about the act of murdering Effie that unduly concerns her. On that subject, she is "quite quiet," V/hat does concern her throughout the final scone is her immediate "safety," Like a thief in the night, she wants mostly to quit the environs of her crime before any punishment can be exacted.

The play ends with a situation in which three entirely sympathetic characters (Tony, Jean, and Effie) have been utterly destroyed by the willful act of a character whose motive for that act may have been either noble or ignoble and who may spend the rest of her life suffering in a kind of private hell or who may spend the rest of her life 353 suffering not at all. As a consequence, while the play elicits a kind of generalized sadness, it is a sadness b o m of the fact that each of the major characters appears to be suffering. At the same time, the play's structure and development make it impossible to say with any certainty what the specific nature of their suffering is, whether it is permanent or temporary, and, most importantly, whether it is deserved or undeserv'^ed. The play ends, in short, by generating questions instead of specific emotional responses. CHAPTER SIX


It is difficult to thinlc of a Victorian author who did not at some point in his career address himself to a topical or societal "issue." That is hardly surprising since

Realism, with its proscription to depict "life as it is," had by then overtaken both the drama and the novel. Given the natural expansiveness of real life, it was almost inevitable that playwrights would begin looking for current issues that they could transpose from life to the stage.

Such issues had the treble advantage of being suitably real, naturally intensive, and possessed of depictable areas of conflict. They served also to satisfy the clarion call- dating back to Zola, but trumpeted during the Victorian years by such luminaries such as Shaw, Granville-Barker, and

Galsworthy— that drama assume a useful function; specifically, that drama be used to instruct the masses in everything from morals to personal hygiene. James was aware of which way the winds of artistic fashion wore blowing, but for the most part ho remained determined to tack against those winds rather than drift with them. He held fast to the view that art, especially dramatic art, should fix its gaze on life as it might be and take as its sole purpose the pursuit of universal truth, 35h 355

There was, however, one issue on which James apparently

felt compelled to write not once, but twice. How pressing

an issue it was in the minds of most Englishmen is debatable,

as, for that matter, is the question of whether it was truly

a societal issue at all. The problem to which James addressed

himself was the despoiling of England’s (and indeed, most of

Western Europe's) cultural and artistic heritage. He was

disturbed both by the willingness of England's ancient fami­

lies to let go of their treasures and by the propensity of

foreigners (mostly newly rich Americans) to purchase them,

lie treated the subject first in a one—act piece entitled 1 "Summersoft." A few years later, he expanded that play some­

what, turning it into a short three-act work called The 2 Hifch Bid, In both versions, the subject is the willingness

James was also working at about the same time on The Spoils of Poynton, a novel treating a very similar subject. It should not be considered, however, that the preservation of ancient treasures and values was a concern that came to James only circa 1895» As noted in Chapter Tifo, James's sense of a more graceful past was an abiding aspect of his personality and one which surfaced in many of his earlier literary and critical works.

^Summersoft" was written for Ellen Terry, who never found time to produce it, James finally recovered it from her and converted it to a short story, which he called Covering End and published in The Tifo Magics as the "white" magic companion to the "black" magic of . Ironically, it was Sir Jolinston Forbes—Robertson's reading of Covering End, not "Summersoft" that prompted him to ask James for a full-length adaptation. Because there is so little difference between the one-act and three-act versions (even in'regard to their lengths), the latter will be used as the basis for the present analysis. 356 of a certain Captain Yule to çive up his family's "show" home and the cultural heritage it represents, Tlie home is saved, ironically, by a rich American, who, it turns out, is more English than the English, James took up essentially the same issue fourteen years later in The Outcry, but in that treatment the American character is the problem rather than the solution.

Taken all in all. The High Bid is one of James's better dramatic efforts. It suffers, however, from several drama­ turgical and logical problems, most of which are related to the treatment of its issue. Dramaturgically, it suffers most f m m what might be called a suspension of the concerns appropriate to the melodramatic form with which it begins.

Logically, it suffers in a variety of ways as a result of that suspension. The play opens with Chivers, the butler, in conversation with Mrs, Gracedew, who is, however, off­ stage at the time. She is not identified by name during the conversation, but her ebullience and enthrallment with the house are clearly defined. The conversation is ended by the arrival of Cora Prodmore, a much distraught young woman, who, after establishing that her father has not yet arrived, dismisses Chivers and lets in a young man. It is immediately made clear that they are secret lovers. Their conversation reveals Cora's genuine fear of being discovered by her father and her extreme subservience to his demands, "When the young man asks Cora why her father has summoned her to 357 this ancient house, she replies with great dismay, "I never know till I see him——I have to come to find out: he wires me an order, when I'm away, as he presses a button for a clerk" (p, 556)* Before she can say much more, a ring at the door signals her father's arrival, which throws Cora into a terror. Hurriedly, she implores the young man to "Go away, go, go, go!" (p. 557) Then, as Chivers goes to answer the door, she intercepts him and frantically instructs him that

"If it's my father, I'm not here ! . . . Not here, not here, not here! Understand?" She then zrushes to the doon/ay into the garden and informs Chivers as she leaves, "I come hack­ but I've not arrived!" (p. 557) Completely at sea, Chivers nods in helpless agreement and proceeds to let in Mr,


Prodmore is, by James's description, "A massive, impor­ tant, vulgar man" who immediately inquires of Chivers if

Captain Yule lias arrived. Informed that he has not, Prodmore makes clear that it is his intention to impose his will on

Yule, to "ta]

Immediately, there is another ring at the door and Chivers admits Cora, who pretends that she has only just arrived.

She abjectly explains that her train was late and she was forced to walk all the way from the station to the house,

Mr, Prodmore's demagogic nature is well-established by the fact that, although he accepts her explanation, he severely admonishes her for having kept him waiting. In fact, her arrival is no more than two minutes behind his. 358

Prodmore is also irritated to discover that Cora has not

come, as he instructed, with her maid for escort. His

distress provides Cora with a pretext for revealing that she made the acquaintance of a "wonderful American widow” on the

train and that, as the American lady was also coming to the house, she can count on having an escort hack to the station,

Prodmore is irritated by that piece of news since he does not want anything to Interfere with his business with Yule,

Having come thus to his point, Prodmore tells Cora that he

is "expecting Captain Yule" and, further, that he is expecting her to do her limited best to make a favorable impression on him. In deliberately offensive tones he says

to her, "You’re not tremendously clever, Miss Prodmore, so you’ll permit me to demand of you a slight effort of intel­ ligence, Make one as you’ve never made it" (p, 56O),

He then explains that her role in his grand design

is to serve as the price Yule must pay in order to retain his family homo, With his remarkable business acumen,

Prodmore has managed to buy up all the outstanding liens

on the house so that, even though Yule is the legal heir to

the property, he cannot take possession of it without

settling with Prodmore, The return Prodmore intends to gain from his investment is a share in the Yule name— its

tradition, its heritage, and its peerdom. Not incidentally, he plans also to use the enormous political influence of

the Yule name in the surrounding area to his own advantage. 359

As he succinctly puts it, "1 propose . . . to do all with

J_ the Yule name_7 he hasn * t done, and I further propose, to

that end, first to get hold of it” (p. 561).

Providing Cora can manage to present herself as ’’neither a minx nor a milksop"(p. 560) and refrain from looking at

Yule "like a sick cow" (p. 561), Prodmore is aware of only one possible complication. Yule, it seems, has completely divorced himself not only from his family heritage but also from its traditional Tory politics, H® has espoused a

"radical programme" of "social revolution." He has been so dedicated to politics, in fact, that even though the house became legally his three months earlier, he has not seen it as yet. Besides marrying Cora, then, the other demand

Prodmore intends to make of Yule is that he renounce his wretched ideas and become the Tory gentleman his forebears have always been.

The scene makes of Prodmore an unequivocal villain.

The terms with which he addresses his daughter, for example, are derisive if not cruelj he chides her for her "unmistake— able resemblance to the estimable but far from ornamental woman" who bore her and reminds her that if he has spent

"hundreds and hundreds of pounds" on her education, "it was just that you should have, damn you, what we want of you today" (p. 561). Moreover, as that remark suggests, Prod­ more 's every utterance belies the fact that he regards Cora,

Yule, and even Yule’s political ideas as so many chattels to. 360 be bought, sold, or traded one for the other. There is nothing in his behavior that smacks of deliberate exaggera­ tion, nothing to indicate that he is to be taken as a comic caricature of the tyrannical businessman. To the contrary, it is clear that he ^ a tyrannical businessman with all the potential that connotes for wreaking real injury on his vic­ tims.

That image of Prodmore is substantiated during his ensu­ ing scene with Yule, Fie begins by reveling in Yule’s acknow­ ledgement of the financial bind in which he finds himself by chortling, "Well, Captain Yule, if an honest man or two , , , didn’t take care to know what h e ’s about, where should we any of us be?" (p. 562). He then disparages Yule’s political views by snidely proclaiming, "I , , , hold that you’re extravagant mainly because you’ve nothing at stake, A man has the right opinions as soon as he finds he has something to lose by having the wrong" (p, 563)» Prodmore goes on to insinuate that Yule is doomed to wallow in the "lower regions" of politics so long as he remains both penniless and "the most unnatural of bachelors," Callous to the end, Prodmore con­ cludes that all Yule needs to fix his "political house" is a

"heap of gold, , , , In the lap of a fine, fresh lass" (p, 363),

In view of the names he called Cora just a few moments earlier, the fact that he would now describe her for Yule's benefit as a "fine, fresh lass" is ample testimony to his pragmatism, if not his hypocrisy. Beyond that, his entire 361

approach to Yulo is predicated on the assumption that prag­

matism is the rule of human conduct, that there are no

values that cannot, for the right price, be turned round.

He is, therefore, genuinely taken aback when Yule's

initial response is to suggest that he might just "let the

whole thing slide, , , , If I can afford neither to live on

the property__7, to work it, nor to free it, 1 can at least

let it save its own bacon and pay its own debts, I can say

to you simply: 'Take it, my dear sir, and the devil take

you" (pp. 663-6^), It is a measure of Prodmore's callow

regard for human nature that he is deterred only momentarily

by Yule's blast, Vith calculated shrewdness, he proceeds to

talk about the house and the advantages to Yule it represents as though the latter's taking possession of it were, in

fact, inevitable. In a similar fashion, he brings Cora back

into the discussion, now describing her variously as "a

smooth sheet of blank, though gilt-edged paper" and as a

"Rose on its stem," Though Yule shows no real sign of weak­

ening in his resolve, Prodmore succeeds in getting him to

agree to reserve final judgment until he has inspected the

place. Exuding confidence that Yule's concession is the

first step to capitulation, Prodmore withdraws.

There follows a short scene between Yule and Chivers,

When Yule asks, "to whom do you beautifully belong?" the old

servant replies touchingly, "if you could only just tell me,

sir!" Chivers ends the scene by unintentionally adding to 362 the pressure Prodmore has already applied when he says, with poignant simplicity, "Indeed, sir, I hope you won't give up anything" (p. 56?). Yule's subsequent exit into the garden clears the way for the entrance of Mrs* Gracedew from the upstairs region.

She is without question, a fascinating creation, James calls for her to enter (down a long staircase, appropriately enough), "With beautiful laughter and rustling garments ; as if approaching amid an escort with music" (p, 56?), Though

James was prone to describing his characters rather more the way he conceived them than the way he realized them, his description of Mrs, Gracedew captures perfectly the ambiance she radiates throughout the play. She is a bubbling fountain of gaiety, wit, diarm, compassion, intelligence, and warmth.

From the moment of her first appearance, she is clearly the focal point of the play's action.

At the core of her character are two things; an amazing abundance of energy that draws people to her and a trans­ cendent sort of affection for the tradition, the heritage, the keen sense of the past that old homes such as Yule's represent. She has come from America not just to see England's historical treasures (and certainly not to carry them off) but to experience them and all that they signify. Never one to say less than she feels, Mrs, Gracedew fairly captivates each of the other characters as she meets them with her almost naive enthusiasm for things about which they have become blasé. 363

She comes first upon Chivers and so turns him around with her Niagara of superlatives about him and the house that the doddering old fellow drops and utterly destroys the fine china piece she entrusted to him on her arrival. When he mumbles despairingly, "Mercy on us, mum— I've brought dis­ grace on my old gray hairs" (p. 569), she rhapsodizes about how much the "very type" of a perfect English butler he is.

She goes on to recall that on the train she had met another type, "'the awfully nice girl' of all the English novels," who had said she was coming to the house also. Chivers informs her that Miss Prodmore is on the premises and goes on to reveal that Yule has arrived also. That piques Mrs.

Gracedew's curiosity, especially when she discovers that this is his first visit to his ancestral home.

After Chivers exits. Yule waders back in from the garden and is greeted in characteristically exuberant fash­ ion by Mrs, Gracedew who warns him that unless he is care­ ful, "I'll grab everything." When Yule admits that he is poorly acquainted with what is in the house, she implores him to "let me show it to you" (p. 571)• He finds that a delightful idea, but just then Chivers enters to announce the arrival of a tour party. Mrs. Gracedew insists on showing the house herself, promising the old man she will turn over her tips to him. Yule objects, however, demanding that she give him a private tour as she had promised. While

Chivers goes to let the party in, Prodmore and Cora re-enter and introductions are made all around. Ifhen poor Chivers 364 returns with the party and attempts to begin his spiel, however, Mrs, Gracedew cannot refrain from interrupting him over his numerous errors. In short order, she assumes control of the party and waxes so eloquent over every nook and cranny of the main hall that Prodmore, ever sensitive to self-interest, seizes the opportunity to impress upon

Yule the priceless nature of the house. The whole sequence approaches a climax when Mrs, Gracedew exclaims that the house is "worth anything you like" (p. 574), and the party begins attempting to guess its monetary value. They lun through twenty, thirty, forty thousand pounds before Mrs,

Gracedew suggests, with great authority, that "Fifty Thou­ sand, Captain Yule, is what I think I should propose" (p. 574),

At that, Prodmore stands forth and announces, as though he had the authority to do so, that Yule would "never part with the dear old house" at any price, Discomfitted at being thus publicly committed, Yule begs Mrs, Gracedew to return the party to Chivers and fulfill her pledge to him.

She agrees to do so, but Prodmore, exercising opportunity again, draws her- quickly aside and urges her to "pile it on" (p. 575)* 'ihen she appears a bit confused, Prodmore explains that Yulo is not "half enough" in love with the house and presses her to "Bring him round," After a momen­ tary pause, she declares that she will do so. As Mrs,

Gracedew again starts toward Yule, Cora detains her and with great urgency begs an audience for herself, which, with 365 some wonderment, Mrs, Gracedew agrees to grant "In ten minutes” (p. 575)» Prodmore hears all this but, thinking

Cora means to enlist Mrs. Gracedew’s aid in snaring Yule, confidently allows it, With that, the first act ends.

What should bo apparent from the preceding description is the overtly melodramatic structure of the first act. It begins by introducing two ingenuous young lovers, then adds an invidious villain, a principled hero, and an insouciant

(if somewhat mysterious) heroine. In terms of conflict, the act consists entirely of the villain's plan to bend both the hero and the young lovers to his hateful will.

Finally, it establishes the heroine as the key to either the villain's success of his defeat,

While all that is fLne as far as it goes, there are two problems of substantial proportion lurking just beneath the surface. The first is that the melodramatic (that is, the external) conflict between Prodmore on the one hand and Yule and Cora on the other is inextricably linked to the larger

"issue" of the cultural heritage represen ted by the house.

The second is that, whether James intended it or not. Yule is astride the horns of a dilema for which no expedient .

(hence melodramatic) resolution is possible. If ho accepts the house and the heritage it and his name impose, he must, as he puts it, turn his "political coat" and abjure the principles he has steadfastly proclaimed. If he holds fast to those principles, he must denigrate the legacy that has 366 made fighting politically for anything in England worth­ while, The issue at stake in The High Did has implications, in other words, that overrun the natural limitations of melodrama as a dramatic form. While melodrama is certainly capable of dealing with issues, it can deal effectively only with those that are amenable to relatively black and white depictions. It can take up an issue like prostitution, for example, and be quite successful in depicting its exis­ tence as evil and its abolition as good, or vice-versa. As noted in Chapter Three, the essential requisite of melo­ drama is that it presents its situation in such a way that the line of demarcation between good and evil is clearly and inflexibly draim. It is, therefore, the ideal form for the depiction of dastardly deeds and thrilling heroics; its capacities can be stretched to include legal, societal, and even moral problems, but only when everything in the action proceeds from an a priori assumption that one side of, say, a societal issue is right (hence, good) and the other is wrong (hence, evil). The moment a character in a melodrama is allowed to doubt the rectitude of the assumption upon which his actions are based, the moment he is allowed to fear, or oven to suspect, that certain of liis actions may be as much evil as good, his confusion as to motive or objective will engender in an audience at least an equal degree of confusion as to what its response should be. Even more inimical to the form of melodrama is a situ­ ation, like that in The High Bid, where the central issue 367

is presented in a way that precludes the making of any a

priori assumptions as to which of its sides is right and which is wrong. By placing Yule in the position of having

to choose between two right actions (maintaining his prin­

ciples or his family heritage), James created just such a

situation. 1/hero he erred was either in not deciding what he wanted the form of the play to be or in not realizing

that it could not have two forms at the same time. If he wanted the point of the play to be Yule's ethical dilemma,

then Prodmore's machinations are intrusive. If ho wanted

the point of the play to be the foiling of Prodmore (or the

glorification of Mrs. Gracedew), then Yule's ethical dilemma

is intrusive. The first possibility virtually demands a

tragic structure and the latter unquestionably demands a

melodramatic structure.

In view of what happens in Act II, it is entirely

possible that James never really thought about The High Bid

in formal terms. It may well be that what drew him to the

writing of the play was just his concern over the fact that

England's ancient families were showing themselves willing

to dispose of England's past for their own convenience. He

may have been guided in his shaping of the play not so much

by what was required for a fully realized dramatic action

as by the ideas, the issue, he wanted to treat. In Aris­

totelian terms, he may (consciously or unconsciously) have

emphasized thought at the expense of plot. 368

In any event, the ethical dilemma that lies just

beneath the surface of the melodramatic events and structure

of Act I comes bubbling to the surface at the very begin­

ning of Act 11. In doing so, it submerges and effectively

obscures the ccnicems raised in Act I so that the action

begun in,that act is placed in abeyance. The second act

begins by allowing Yule and Mrs, Gracedew to become

acquainted with one another. In addition, it gives Mrs,

Gracedew a chance to establish further her brilliant radi­

ance and allows Yule to let show his fascination with the

strange American woman. Presently, however, James brings

them round to the point. Yule tells Mrs, Gracedew that

after he left the army, he discovered the real enemy "every­ where in force. . « . Misery, ignorance, and vice. Injus­

tice, privilege, and wrong" (pp. 377-78). He goes on to

explain that he hopes to combat those enemies "in the next

House of Commons. My electors have wanted me" (p, 578),

Their needs and his hopes, he continues, have conspired to

prevent his coming to the house "for all this later time,"

Having established the self-imposed portion of Yule's

dilemma, their conversation moves to revealing its opposite horn. Yule asks Mrs. Gracedew if she "absolutely meant a

while ago there that this old thing / the house_y is so

precious?" (p, 578) She sots the tone of the debate that

follows when she answers, "Do you literally need 1 should

say it? Can you stand there and not feel it? It's a place

to adore" (p. 578), 369 Faced with that response, Yule has no choice but to reveal to Mrs, Gracedew his impossible situation, the con­ text of which is that he lacks the personal means of main­

taining the place, VHien Mrs, Gracedew asks if some

"arrangement" could not be made. Yule admits that one has already been proposed, but declares that it "rather sticks in my crop" (p, 579)» Mrs, Gracedew presses him to be more specific and, reluctantly, he confesses that the arrangement calls for him to gain clear title to the house in exchange for giving up his "liindamental Views,"

liHiat follows is unquestionably the play's weakest segment. Given the previously established sincerity (and logic) of Yule's position, its weakness could hardly be avoided, Mrs, Gracedew responds to Yule's statement by declaring tliat while she imagines she has as many "Funda­ mental Views" as anyone, she would sacrifice them all "for

that old fire-back with your arms" (p, 380), Her imputation is that Yule is seeing an ethical problem where, in fact, none exists. The problem, of course, is that an ethical dilemma does exist and that, by suggesting it does not,

Mrs. Gracedew is presenting herself as either dim-witted or deceitful, Gy that point, an audience would itself have

to bo dim-witted to believe either of those things, but

that raises the spectre of an equally unpleasant alterna­

tive; that the situation is such that the position being

taken by Mrs, Gracedew (which is clearly the one James 370 supports) is inherently the weaker of the two. For her to

say that Yule's politics are not worth fighting for, she would have to argue that misery, ignorance, and vice either

do not exist or are not deserving of attention. Yule

succinctly articulates the woalmess of her position by

asking, "Aren't you then a lover of justice?" (p. 58I)

firs, Gracedew makes the best answer she can, though it

clearly amounts to a non-sequitur when she replies, "Where's

the justice of your losing this house?" (p, 58I) She

continues tliat line a moment later by telling Yule that if he can only keep the house by changing his political atti­

tudes that is what he must do. It is his duty, she says,

to run for office "As a genuine Yule, What business have you to be anything else?" She then further compromises herself by telling him that if he does run "in the Tory interest. , , , I'll be your canvass" (p, 58I), When he admits that heightens the temptation, she retreats a bit and

tells him to look instead "at this sweet old human home and

fool all its gathered memories. Do you luiow what they do

to me? They speak to me for Mr, Prodmore" (p, 58I). That last intimates the problem with Mrs, Gracedew's whole line

of argument. Everything she says to that point could very easily have come from Prodmore, which, in a d^ facto sense at least, puts her in the ungraceful position of supporting a character the audience loiows to be a scoundrel. That, in combination with the fact that she has clearly avoided the 371 real question, has the effect of rendering her vhole argu­ ment as unwelcome as it is unconvincing.

James exacerbates the situation by making Yule's next line extremely telling, lie says to Mrs, Gracedew, "I see something else in the world than the beauty of old show- houses and the glory of old show-families. There are thousands of people in England who can show no houses at all, and I don't feel it utterly shameful to share their poor fate" (p, 58I), The strength of that declaration pushes Mrs, Gracedew to a new level of argument that is itself somewhat stronger. She replies:

We share the poor fate of humanity whatever we do, and we do much to help and console when we've something precious to show » What on earth is more precious than what the ages have slowly wrought ? They've trusted us— the grave centuries'—- to keep it; to do something, in our turn, for them. It's such a virtue in anything to have lasted; it 's such an honour, for anything, to have been s pared « To all stragglers from the Wreck of Time hold out a pitying hand! (p. 581)

She makes her strongest appeal a few moments later, however, when she imputes to the house and its keeping a transcen­ dent significance :

What do politics amount to compared with relig- gions? Parties and Programmes come and go, but a duty like this abides « Tliero's nothing you can break with that would be like breaking here, Tlio very words are ugly and cruel— as much sacrilege as if you had been trusted with the key of the Temple, This ia the Temple! Keep up the old altar kindly— you can't raise a now one as good. You must have beauty in your life, don't you sec?— that's the only way to make sure of it for the lives of others. Keep leaving it to them, to all the poor others, and heaven only 372

laiows what will become of it! . . » \lo /_ Ameri- cans_y know what wo haven't frot« worse Inck so that if you've happily got it you've got it also for us. You've got it in trust, you see, and oh wo have an eye on you ! (p. p82)

Yule's conviction is shaken by that oration, but only to the extent that he agrees to think further on the sub­ ject, He excuses himself finally to have a look at the house, which clears the way for a scene between Mrs. Grace­ dew and Cora, The scene is important mostly in that it marks the end of the play's structural ce sura ; unfortunately,, it cannot also be said that it marks a return to the melo­ dramatic concerns and structure of Act I, To the contrary, it signals the beginning of a series of comic mis-under— standings and reversals that dominate the remainder of the play's action, Cora reveals straight-away the marriage condition of Prodmore's arrangement with Yule (which the latter had not mentioned to Mrs, Gracedew), but does so in terms that make her seem eager for the marriage to take place. She says to Mrs, Gracedew, "I go with the house_y.

Does he care? , , , If he does care he'll propose" (p, 58U),

Mrs, Gracedew is a little taken aback by this new informa­ tion, but just then she espies Yule coming purposefully down the stairs and intuits that her appeal has had the effect she intended. She thus whispers to Cora, "He does care! He'll propose" (p, 58^4), As if frightened by Yule's presence, Cora hastily solicits a further word with Mrs,

Gracedew and withdraws. What follows is another of those 373 abrupt turnabouts, the actual process of which occurs off­ stage, that have previously been seen to impart a bewilder­ ing sense of randomness to the action of James's plays.

Yule announces immediately that he has just "closed with Mr.

Prodmore" (p. 584), a decidedly precipitous move for a man whose every previous action has been in the opposite dir­ ection, If Yule's decision is poorly motivated, however,

Mrs, Gracedew's reaction to it is simply incredible. Far from being delighted by Yule's announcement, she is distressed. Amazed, Yule reminds her of her recent "rap­ tures . . . about my old home," to which she replies, disinterestedly, "Oh yes, your old home. It's a nice, tattered, battered old thing! It has defects of course—— there would be many tilings to be said. But there's no use mentioning them now" (p. 585). In truth, Mrs. Gracedew's reaction is perfectly understandable when viewed in the context of the whole play: she is in love with Yule herself and is naturally dismayed that by settling with Prodmore, he has consigned himself to marrying Cora. The problem is that an audience, viewing the play in performance, cannot be presumed to Imow the whole context of the play. What it knows at tliis point is that Mrs, Gracedew has argued in favor of Yule's keeping the house, that she has reason to believe Cora wants to marry Yule, and that she has given every appearance of agreeing to help Cora achieve that end.

Within the context of what the audience is aware of, then. 374

Mrs, Gracodew should bo elated by Yule's announcement. In structural terms, the problem is that, while Mrs, Gracedew is surprised by what Cora tells her in the previous scene, there is little to suggest that she is disturbed by it and nothing to suggest that she is strongly inclined toward

Yule herself,

James attempts to soften the shock of Mrs, Gracedew's reaction by causing her to begin speaking to Yule about having to return to her empty house in America and describ­ ing herself as a "lone, lone woman" with a "great big Empty

Life" (p, 5S6 ), Although those lines give a hint of Mrs,

Gracedew's feelings, they are decidedly clumsy efforts for a woman who has previously been so eloquent. Nevertheless,

Yule seems to grasp what they allude to and begs her not to leave until he returns from further conversation with

Prodmore, His exit allows her time for further allusions to her own desire to marry Yule,

Her reverie is interrupted by Cora, who reveals in short order that she has no intention of marrying Yule and that, in fact, what she wants from Mrs, Gracedew is help in persuading Prodmore to allow her to marry the young man of

Act I, Mrs, Gracedew is both confounded and delighted at this new turn of events and agrees at once to help Cora,

She does so with all the confidence of success that comic action requires, telling Cora that she will not only malce

Prodmore accept her young man, but she will also "make him 375 say he docs" to Cora's face. On that appropriately comic note, the second act ends.

The lack of structural synchronization between the first two acts is apparent in. the fact that, after dominating Act

I, Prodmore does not appear in Act II, That is a mechanical thing, of course, but it is symptomatic of the fact that the concerns and, indeed, the directions of the two acts are distinctly dissimilar. Of concern in Act I is the evil embodied by Prodmore and the injury that evil is capable of visiting on Yule and Cora, Those are clearly the concerns of melodrama. At issue in Act II is, first. Yule's ethical dilemma and, second, the tactical dilemma confronting Cora and Mrs, Gracedew, Yule's problem is outside of formal considerations altogether, btit the one faced by the two women is essentially comic. Although Prodmore remains an antagonist, by the end of Act II he has been reduced from a villain who represents real danger to a mere obstacle who can easily be removed by Mrs, Gracedew, That is not an impossible transition, to be sure, but it is one that demands

Prodmore*s presence to be dramaturgically convincing. At the veiy least, there must be some change in the situation radical enough to strip him of the power he previously had to cause suffering.

Admittedly, Mrs. Gracedew's eloquence and wealth make her a formidable challenge to that power, but they do not alter the fact that, so far as the audience knows, Prodmore 376 still ouvris Y u I g 's house, still dominates his daughter, and is still determined to exploit both those advantages. The play would have maintained a fuller measure of structural integrity had James allowed Mrs. Gracedew to express some degree of doubt as to what she could accomplish when she accepted Cora's plea for help. Because she does not,

Prodmore's defeat becomes, ante facto, a certainty, which leaves very little more than the dotting of i's and the crossing of ^'s to be done in Act III, More importantly, it renders the serious conceius of Acts I and II irrelevant at best; at worst, it makes them appear deliberately mis­ leading, Since those concerns constitute half the play's action, it is less than ideal dramaturgy to pretend in the other half that they count for nothing.

Not surprisingly, the events of Act III are entirely predictable, Prodmore puts up a minimal amount of fuss when Mrs, Gracedew confronts him with Cora's defiance.

Indeed, she does not so much plead with him for Cora's freedom as present it as a fait accompli that he has no choice but to accept. Once Cora's happiness is achieved,

Mrs, Gracedew moves to the task of removing Yule's house from Prodmore's grip. The one task bears on the other, of course, because Prodmore has no need for the house if he cannot have Yule as well, lie succeeds in getting a bit of his oifn back by informing Mrs, Gracedew that he will only turn over liis liens on the property for seventy thousand 377 pounds. She blanches a little at liis figure, but when she

agrees to pay it, Prodmore screams "Done," and stomps off in

a huff. Yule then enters and Mrs, Gracedew informs him that

his house is now unencumbered. He is shocked to learn that

she has purchased the place, but, when the shock wears off,

he begs her to accept "in return the only things I have to

give— I offer you my hand and my life" (p, 60l), which,

’’naturally, she accepts— thus ending the play.

There is really little to be criticized about Act III;

it accomplishes, fairly expeditiously, what the events of

Act II require it to do. If there is any complaint to be

made, it is that after Act I and the first part of Act II

promised so much, the second part of Act II requires so

little. Aside from the fact that there is never any doubt

in the third act that Prodmore will lose both his daughter

and the house, there is also not a single reference to Yule's

political views nor to the dichotomy between them and all

that accepting the house signifies, Ivhile that constitutes,

again, a logical problem, it also engenders an unavoidable

sense of contrivance about the play's resolution. It is bad

enough that after defending his views so eloquently on-stage

in Act II, Yule would go off-stage in the same act and

reverse himself; it is worse that once ho does so, and,even

after the same conditions no longer obtain, the subject is

treated as if it never existed. In effect, it reduces Yule

to something of a sham who is either not worthy of Mrs, 378

Gracedew's affection or not someone to whom she would logi­ cally extend it.

If it is nothing else, however. The High Bid is testi­ mony to the redemptive capacity a brilliantly executed central character has in drama. For all its structural shortcomings, and despite the fact that the issue to which it is addressed is not only ineptly handled but no longer of much significance. The High Bid is probably still playable today solely on the strength of the Mrs, Gracedew role and the assumption that the role be acted to its full potential,

While that is probably not the epitaph James would have preferred for the play, neither is it one that he (or any other playifright) would fight to have removed.

The Outcry was Cfemes's last attempt at pla^n-jrit in g and, as was the case earlier with The Reprobate, it invites the sobri­ quet "untidy,” In it, James dealt again with the problem of

England's art treasures emigrating from the homeland in the suitcases of rich foreigners. In this play, however, the pillager is an American and his plans are foiled, indirectly, by the efforts of two young Britishers, an intellectual and a noblewoman. That their task is accomplished so indirectly is the major source of the play's untidiness.

The action centers on Lord Theign, the energetic and somewhat despotic patriarch of an old family whose estate fairly bulges with art treasures. To his constant chagrin he has two energetic daughters to whom he has given an 379 uncommon degree of freedom in the choice of their friends and their means of recreation. The eldest daugher, Kitty, though she does not appear in the play, is apparently a profligate whose penchant for (and ineptness at) gambling has saddled her father with a very substantial debt. For reasons that are never made clear, Kitty is nevertheless her father’s favorite, and it is his determination to see that she has the means to continue in her profligacy that forms the pretext for the play’s action.

His younger daughter, Grace, is profligate only in the choosing of her friends. She has a predilection for artists and intellectuals, which, again for reasons not exactly clear, her father seems to find more objectionable than

Kitty’s aptitude for losing at cards. That is not to say, however, that Grace is in any way "loose” in her morals or her behavior. Indeed, she makes far more of an effort to live according to the standards of her class than it would appear her sister does.

In any case, when the play opens. Lord Tlieign is in a quandary as to how he is going to pay Kitty’s debt. As it happens, the debt is owed to a certain Duchess whose son.

Lord John, is a yery ardent suitor for Grace’s hand. His mother has thus agreed to relinquish her claim against Kitty and endow John with twelve thousand pounds if Grace marries him. There are two qualifications in the arrangement, how­ ever, The first is that Theign must bestow a comparable sum 380

on Grace, and the second is that it has long been Theign*s

policy not to interfere in his daughters' personal lives#

There is, thus, very little he can (or will) do about

Grace's willingness to marry John# Similarly, he has nothing approaching the sum of money John's mother requires him to grant Grace if she should decide to marry#

The solution to the latter problem is potentially at hand, however, in the person of one Breckenridge Bender,

an American who has been lightening his "bulging pocket"

all over England by buying up art treasures# Currently, he has his mind set on a particular painting of Theign's, and

John has taken the liberty of inviting him to Theign's home to view the picture and possibly to consummate a deal#

In fact, by the time John tells Theign of that possibility.

Bender has already arrived and set himself to perusing

Theign's stock# Of equal importance is the fact that,

sometime previous, Grace has made the acquaintance of a

certain Hugh Grimble, a young but rising "connoisseur," and has invited him to view the family holdings as well# He has also arrived and, indeed, has been looking around with

Bender, The painting Grimble is most interested in is a

Moretto, the marvels of which he has explained to Bender in great detail#

Ifhen Bender and Theign finally meet. Bender asserts

that what he particularly desires to oim is the crowning

jewel of Theign's collection, a painting by Sir Joshua 381 Reynolds, Theign's response is that "such a proposition would leave me intensely cold" (p, 775)• Anxious to see

Theign's monetary encumbrance removed, John then suggests that Bender think in terms of the Moretto, Bender admits that Grimble’s lecture made him "most interested" in the

Moretto, but he notes that the young man had placed the picture's value at a mere ten thousand pounds and "A picture of that rank is not what I'm after" (p. 776), The problem for Bender is not that the Moretto is too expensive but that it is not expensive enough.

At just that juncture, Grimble rushes into the room to inform Theign that, while he cannot be sure, he thinks it possible that the Moretto is really a Mantavano, which, if true, would make it "a very great treasure" (p. 776), He then begs permission to submit his hypothesis to "one or two of the great men" for validation. Before Theign can answer, Bender leaps into the conversation and inquires what the value of a Mantavano would be, Hugh is put off a little by the question and replies only that the value would be "inestimable," Theign then gives his permission for further investigation. Bender takes his leave, and Hugh dashes off to the library to see more paintings. Left alone with Theign, John extracts from him an admission that "A really big Yankee cheque" for the Mantavano, if it should prove to be such, "would suit me down to the ground"

(p. 778). 382

John exits to escort Bonder out and Grace enters, liiough Theign says nothing to her directly, Grace infers from her father’s conversation that he has an idea about selling the Horetto/Mantavano, After Theign leaves, Hugh returns and Grace informs him of what she has inferred.

They agree that the painting must not be sold, and when Hugh determines that he must broach the subject directly with

Theign, Grace pledges him her support, When Theign returns, then, Grimble asks him, "If I contribute , , , to our establishing the true authorship of that work, may I have from you the assurance that that result isn’t to serve as a basis for any peril— or possibility— of its leaving the country?" (p. 781) In true patrician style, Theign is raised to a state of high dudgeon by the affrontery of a commoner demanding an "assurance" from him. He is so angered, in fact, that he orders Hugh to leave the house.

Immediately, Grace springs to his defense and, in open defiance of her father, enjoins Hugh to investigate the

Moretto’s authorship on her behalf— which commission he readily accepts. After Hugh exits, Theign denounces Grace’s action indignantly and stalks off, leaving her to face John,

When the latter raises again the subject of their marriage,

Grace informs him in measured tones "that never. Lord John, never, can there be anything more between us" (p, 782), thus ending the first act.

Three things are worth noting about the structure of the act. First, it posits the issue James wishes to deal ■ 383 with in far more simplistic terras than had been the case in

The nigh Bid. In short, the issue is presented in expedient rather than ethical terras. The characters on both sides of the issue are acting from assumptions that their objec­ tives are ethically defensible. Moreover, the characters are portrayed in such a way that there is no reason to question tho sincerity of their assumptions, nor to ascribe any unsavory motives to their actions,

Tho second thing to be observed about the structure of the act is that it leaves no doubt that Hugh and Grace represent the "right" side of the issue, while Theign,

Bender, and Jolin represent the "wrong" side. Unlike The

Hi^h Bid, where tho conflict was between contrasting sets of ideals, the conflict in The Outcry is between idealism and pragmatism. It is clear that Hugh and Grace have noth­ ing personally to gain from what they are doing, while the other three would not be doing what they are unless they had something to gain. Since selfless actions are inher­ ently more sympathetic than selfish ones, there is none of the division of sympathy that muddles the issue in The High

Bid, In effect, the structure of The Outciy*s first act makes it easy for an audience to accept unequivocally the playwright's assumption that Hugh and Grace are right and the others are wrong.

The third thing worth noting about the first act is that by presenting the various characters, not as 384 representatives of good and evil, but as good characters who happen to find themselves on the right and wrong sides of an issue, the action makes only a minimal appeal to an audience’s emotions* As a consequence, the act establishes a milieu that is conducive to free interplay of the ideas

James wanted to explore. It is ironic, perhaps, but, as

Shaw demonstrated time and again (e.g* Major Barbara, Arms and the Man, Misalliance 1 the dramatic form best suited to the serious examination of an issue is comedy. In large part, that is because even though man has both a rational and an emotional capacity, he has not the ability to engage both capacities at the same time; they tend in fact to be mutually suppressive. To the extent, therefore, that a playwright wishes his audience to think about a problem

(or learn from its depiction), he is best served by employ­ ing the form that deliberately encourages audiences to think with rather than feel for the characters involved. To take

Tho Outcry as an example, had hendor been depicted as a grasping, malevolent sort, ho would (like Prodmore) have inspired a measurable quantity of hate. In proportion as he appeared hateful, audiences would necessarily have been moved to fear for the tlireat he posed to Hugh and Grace with the result that the issue (whether the keepers of

England’s cultural heritage have an obligation to protect it) might well have been obscured by the emotional impact of a conflict between human agents of good and evil. By 385 eschewing all that, James created a comic atmosphere in which the rightness and wrongness of the ideas expressed could be the main source of interest and no emotional attachments existed to cloud the picture.

After starting the play so promisingly in Act 1, James did not follow through especially well in the remaining acts, . The singular clarity that distinguishes the first act begins to decompose in the second and virtually disappears in the third. As the second act opens, the scene has shifted to the home of Lady Sandgate, an old friend of

Theign*s who appeared briefly in Act I, It turns out that she is presently giving shelter to Grace, whose previous actions made her no longer welcome at home. The first scone is between Grace and Hugh, the latter having sought her out to apologize for the trouble he has caused her and to inform her that he is expecting a verdict on the Moretto painting at any moment,

Hugh then reveals that an outcry against Bender and others like him has already begun in the press. An article in that morning's paper bemoans Bender's existence and makes note of "tho current m m o u r , , , of Lord Theign's putting up his Moretto," The article not only denounces that prospect, it goes on to suggest that Theign should be severely upbraided if reports about "a now and momentous decision about the Picture" (p, 785) should prove t m e . The article also names Bender as the prospective buyer of the 386 picture, Ilueh then suggests that even though Bender obvi­ ously thrives on publicity of that sort, the thing to do is to give him more of it, "to organize . , , the Outcry. To organize Bender himself— to organize him to scandal! He won't know it from a Boom" (p. 785)•

When Bonder arrives momentarily, Hugh seizes the oppor­ tunity to launch his plan. He begs of Bender that if it should happen that "precious things, things we are to lose, are knocked down to you, you'll at least let us take leave of them, let us have a sight of them in London before they depart" (p, 786), Bender yields to that request and prom­ ises that if he should purchase anything more, he will put it "on exhibition" before departing with it. There is never an opportunity to find out whether Hugh could have executed his plan, however, because when Theign arrives a few moments later, ho announces that he intends not only to put the Moretto on exhibition, but to advertise it as a confirmed Mantavano that he has already sold to Bender, If the public is presumptuous enough to direct an outcry at him, ho proposes simply to "nip it in the bud," to demon­ strate his sublime contempt for their impudence by letting it appear that ho has already done what they are warning him not to do.

At this point in the action the structural untidiness referred to earlier begins to manifest itself. In a subtle way, the terms of what had been a very clear debate in Act I 387 arc changed. As it is now presented, the direct conflict is between Theign and a general public that is not (and cannot be) a physical party to the play’s action, Hugh and Grace are thus reduced to a kind of indirect opposition. Indeed,

their only connection with the outcry Theign intends to subdue is that they were the first to reveal its existence.

While it is t m e that they had planned to make use of it, their intention was to put pressure on Bender,-not Theign,

By doing openly and voluntarily what they had intended to do surreptitiously, Theign effectively steals the powder from Hugh and Grace's arsenal. Assuming that there was any chance of their plan succeeding in the first place, that chance still exists; but credit for it would have to go to


As a consequence, the play’s conflict takes on a kind of indirection no matter what perspective it is viewed

from. Since Theign has done what Hugh and Grace planned to do, even though he does it for a different purpose, the conflict between them is obscured by a commonality of means.

Similarly, although Theign’s action may result in Bender’s defeat (if Hugh and Grace were right), any conflict between

them is obscured by the fact that they consider themselves

on the same side. The result of all that obscurity is that

it suddenly becomes very difficult to toll who is right and who is wrong, the more so because James also allows Theign

to introduce what amounts to a third side of the original 388 issue into the action. In Theign’s view, the question is not simply whether England's art treasures should remain in

England; what concerns him is that the outcry represents a threat to an established social order that has served England well for many years. Thus, when Grace explains that she and Hugh "have set our hearts on , , , working for England," he responds with obvious sincerity;

And pray who in the world's "England" unless I am? What are "we" that you talk about, the whole lot of us, but the best and most English thing in the country; people walking--and riding!— straight; doing, disinterestedly, most of the difficult and all the thankless jobs; minding their oim business, above all, and expecting others to mind theirs? (p. 79l)

How Theign views the issue would not be important, of course, were it not for the fact that he has assumed con­ trol of the action and his view constitutes his motive for doing so. His view has the unfortunate effect, however, of introducing the possibility that even if the end being sought by Hugh and Grace is right, the means they have suggested for achieving it is wrong. Beyond that, it has the effect of implying that Theign is capable of something more than the pragmatism he evidenced in Act I; it imputes to him both a motive and an objective far more ideal than just the profit to be gained from selling a picture.

Hence, by allowing Theign to put into action precisely the plan Hugh and Grace had envisioned, and allowing him to do so from a motive that appears to be at least as ideal in nature as theirs, James makes it difficult to regard Theign 389 as their antagonist. At tho same time, however, he remains representative of the wrong side of the issue as it was originally presented, which makes it equally difficult to regard him entirely sympathetically. As a consequence, a gray area creeps into the action; Theign no longer seems entirely wrong, and Hugh and Grace no longer seem entirely right, Worse yet, the remainder of the second act presents

Grace with an ethical dilemma of her own, to which she responds both illogically and ignobly,

Theign suggests that both Grace’s stand as regards the painting and her rejection of John spring from the same motive~that. she is in love with Hugh, Her initial response to that allegation is both positive and appropriate. She says to her father, ’’I'll wholly cease to see him. I ’ll turn my back on him forever, if, if, if— you’ll withdraw your offer of our picture to Mr, Bender— and never make another to anyone else" (p, 791)• Theign naturally regards her answer as yet another affrontery and tells her so in plain terms, Hugh then enters with the distressing news that the expert to whom he referred Theign’s painting does not agree with his evaluation, .He goes on to say, however, that, he plans to appeal the matter to another expert and that he remains convinced he is right. When he leaves,

Theign asks Grace again, "Is that young man your lover?"

(p. 793) This time her answer is less positive, but she still suggest that he is not. At length, Theign comes to 390

a decision of his own. He tells Grace that "if there is nothing « • « of that sort between you, you can all the more

drop him, I now accept your own terms for doing so" (p, 793)»

That line brings the action to a critical point because

Grace's "terms for doing so" were that Theign capitulate

on the subject of the painting. Indeed, Grace has but to

accept her father's proposition and all that she and Hugh have been fighting for is achieved. Incredibly, she rejects his offer, telling him instead, "I won't do what I then

said , , , the case is different, , * , He has been h e r e ~

and that has done it, , , , I like him very much" (p, 793)#

Seeing precisely the implication of Grace's response, Theign

declaims, "So , , . your row about the picture has been all

a blind? And his a blind as much— to help him get at you?"

Again incredibly, Grace does not deny either of those

charges. Instead, she answers obliquely, "He must speak

for himself. I've said what I mean" (p, 793)# Ifhen Theign

asks, "But what the Devil do you mean," she stares full at

him and replies, "Do what you like with the picture" (p, 7^&).

With that, the act ends.

The problem presented by that closing sequence is two­

fold. First, it requires Grace to reverse herself in a

manner that, if not strictly illogical, is certainly

inconsistent. The only reason she offers for her turnabout

is that between the time she says she will abandon Hugh and

the time she says she will not, Hugh has been present. Her

contention is that during his brief appearance he must 391 ”havo seen~-that I foel w e ’re too good friends” (p. 793)»

If either of them had said or done anything at that time to indicate that, there might be some validity to the argument.

The fact is that Hugh's news is for Theign’s ears and, as a result, he scarcely acknowledges Grace's presence. For her part, Grace tosses in a couple of unimportant lines; but she does nothing that might be considered revealing, even if Hugh were watching. Hence, it can only seem that, as

Theign suggests, there has been a certain amount of hypoc­ risy to Grace's actions all along,

Tho second problem is that Grace's apparent decision to quit the battle leaves the action in a kind of suspended state,. Her last line has the effect of putting the onus on Theign, but there is nothing to indicate how he will discharge it, IJqually unsettled is the question of what

Hugh will do. There is no reason to suspect that he has also been acting deceitfully, but there was no reason to suspect that of Grace either until she as much as admitted it. That being the case, it is at least possible that Hugh will quit the field as well. At a minimum, then, Grace's action has the effect of making messy and fragmented a conflict that earlier had enjoyed an almost pristine clarity and simplicity.

In its own way, the third act is more of a melange than is the second. It begins just as its predecessor had with a scene between Grace and Hugh, who this time is 392 awaiting word from his second art authority, Grace confesses that she has betrayed their cause but, far from being upset,

Hugh joins her retreat by saying, "Oh, I don't give a hang about the Picture, We both only care, don't we? that we are given to each other thus" (pp. 795-96). That remark has the effect of completely obliterating the kind of conflict promised in Act I and developed--however inconsistently~in

Act II. As a result, the end of the play will have to be achieved according to terms quite different from those of its beginning and middle. Without Hugh and Grace to speak for the ideal against the pragmatic, James has no choice but to set one of his pragmatists against the other. Hence, he contrives to have John enter and, in conversation with

Lady Sandgate, reveal that Theign's exhibition has set off a tremendous furor and made Bender all the more determined to purchase the painting. Theign then arrives and reveals that he is much upset, not by the outcirj'^, but by a letter he recently received from Bender indicating his desire to expend an enormous sum of money for Theign's painting,

Theign is still perfectly willing to sell Bender the paint­ ing, but only "at a decent, sufficient, civilised . . . price, and nothing else whatever" (p. 799). The new terms of conflict, in other words, consist not of whether the picture will be sold (much less whether it should be), but at what price it will bo sold. That is a far cary from the issue originally posited, but, from it, James draws the play's most delightful scene. 393

Theign's inability to comprehend the mercantile mind (as represented by Bender) is both touching and fuhny. He cannot understand, for example, that "Bender simply can't afford not to be cited and celebrated as the biggest buyer that ever lived," that merely being at the center of a cause celebre is "easily worth a Hundred Thousand" (p. 798) to him. Incredulous, Theign can only rail, "I sell the man a Hundred Thousand worth of swagger and advertisement; and of fraudulent swagger and most objectionable advertisement at that?" (p. 799) He refuses to allow Bender to be "cited and celebrated" at his expense, which prompts John to say that he has never before known a man to "feel insulted , . , by happening not to be, in the usual way, swindled" (p. 799) *

At the height of his distress, Theign exclaims that rather than sell the painting at the "quite beastly vulgar"

American price, he would prefer to "Give it away , , , to some cause as unlike as possible that of Hr, Bender's splendid reputation; to the Public, to the Authorities, to the Thing-umbob— to the Nation" (p, 800), %fhether he act­ ually means that is unclear, but he does proceed to give

John instructions to close the exhibition immediately. If any questions are asked, he gives John leave to "Say any­ thing you please" (p, 800),

John then leaves to carry out his instructions and

Bender arrives and presses Theign again to sell him the picture. Happy to have done with the whole affair, Theign 394

tells him he may have it, but only "if you'll take it at my

valuation" (p« 800), When Bender asks him what that valu­

ation might be, however, Theign abruptly announces, "Lady

Sandgate will tell you" and exits.

What follows is a truly farcical chain of events

leading to a rather bizarre conclusion. With uncharacter­

istic devinusness. Lady Sandgate tells Bender that the price

of Theign's painting is whatever his generosity might

prompt him to offer for a particular one of her own, (Lady

Sandgate's need for money and desire to unload a Lawrence

painting is a recurring element in the play's action,)

Bender agrees to her terms, but is twice prevented from writing the checTc by a surprise entrance. The first time,

John bursts in to announce that "the Prince" has absolutely

forbidden the closing of the exhibition and is on his way

to Lady Sandgate's to "congratulate and thanlc Theign and

explain to him his reasons" (pp, 802-03), Scarcely has he

left than Hugh arrives to inform everyone that the painting has been positively declared a Mantavano by his expert. At

that. Bender bounds from the room to speak to the expert himself, Grace enters to congratulate Ilugji, and they jointly

express their desire to be married. That blissful moment is

interrupted by Theign's return, which Hugh takes as the

occasion to present his news about the painting and Grace

takes as the opportunity to get his approval for her marri­

age, While considering both, Theign accidentally uncovers 395 the check Bonder never finished writing. lie then decides he must write a note to Bonder, does so, and entrusts it to

Hugh for delivery. He also gives Grace permission to go with Hugh, which they take as tacit approval of their union and exi t.

Lady Sandgate then re-enters and Theign reveals that he returned because he discovered that, in closing the exhibition, Jolon told the Prince that Theign wanted to donate his painting to the state. His hand thus forced,

Theign laments that he has no choice but to let the painting go. He then confronts Lady Sandgate with the check made out to her for ten thousand pounds but not signed. She immed­ iately dissembles, tolling Theign the check is not a pay­ ment but a hateful "bribe." Bender, she insists, has been trying to get her Lawrence for weeks and the check is jrst his latest inducement. Theign then tears the check up, much to her horror, and invites her to "join me in enrich­ ing our National Gallery" (p. 805)* Lady Sandgate nearly faints at that suggestion, but Theign insists, telling her finally that such a generosity "would captivate me." Lady

Sandgate is delighted at the prospect of Theign as a husband and so agrees to follow his example. On that wholly unexpected (and unexpoctablo) note, the play ends.

It is a pity that James never set himself to writing a play that was, from beginning to end, a farce. The last act of The Reprobate is nicely crafted farce and the same 396 thing can bo said about the final act of The Outci*y«

Beginning with Theign*s touchingly outrageous defense of his "modest claim to regulate my own behavior by my own standards" (p. 799) and continuing through to his bethrothal to Lady Sandgate, the third act is a maxvel of farcical invention and construction* Everything happens as it might instead of as it should* Just as '±xi The Reprobate* the characters are shorn of any trace of emotional substance and, as a consequence, their reactions are spontaneous, illogically logical, and as far from realistic as possible*

Unfortunately, the same negative comment made about the third act of The Reprobate must also be made about the last act of The Outcry; its farcical construction— though delightful in itself— is simply not appropriate to what has gone before it. The events and character relationships of the first two acts are as real (that is, substantive) as can comfortably be handled by the comic form, but those in the last act are not* At base, the problem is one of consistency* The beginning of a play establishes certain conventions, certain ground rules, as it were, which tell an audience what kind of action it should expect* Just as importantly, they toll an audience what kind of action it should not expect* Unless, therefore, a playwright gives some very clear indication that he intends to change the play's conventions, anything he does in violation of those that he originally established cannot fail to confuse an 397 audience at best; at worse, such a change will leave an audience with a sure sense that the play has not delivered what it seemed to promise, and tiiat the solutionpprovided is not germane to the problem posed, which is the best that can be said of The Outcry.

The play offers an unrealistic resolution to a problem it introduced and developed as quite real. Similarly, it requires characters who, for two acts, are serious (in a comic context) about the issue being contested and about their relationships with one another to reveal suddenly that they do not care about the issue and that their relation­ ships with one another are as easily changed as a pair of shoes. The action of The Outcry is never real enough to make its inconsistencies logically offensive; its vagaries do, however, make the play dramatically unsatisfying.

Indeed, it is regrettably true that the same overall criti­ cism can be applied to James’s last full-length play as was applied to his firsti it does not adequately realize the potential inherent in its material. CONCLUSION

llio conclusions reached in this study about James’s plays have been generally negative, but it is difficult to summarize his failings as a playwright in a single, general­ ized statement. Ills problem was certainly not that he lacked invention, nor was it that ho failed to demonstrate a facility for creating spoakable dialogue. The characters he fashioned for his dramas were not always appropriate to the plays in which ho used them (Katkoff, for example), but they provide solid evidence that he was capable of creating striking dramatic personages. Mrs. Vibort, Mrs « Jasper, Sir Ralph Uamant, Owen Uingrave, Mrs, Gracedew, and Lord Theign are all capable of holding their own in any company, James’s strengths as a playwright were clearly out­ numbered, however, by his weaknesses. lie weakened several of his melodramas by burdening them with ethical concerns their structures wore incapable of supporting. Conversely, he weakened two of the plays (Guy Domville and The Other House] that had tragic potential by dissipating the ethical nature of their subjects in a welter of melodramatic twists and turns. He weakened all of his serious plays with his failure to depict emotionally or physically violent scenes, even in those cases where the rest of the action clearly called for such scenes. He also evidenced a distressingly

398 399 consistent penchant for placing events off-stage that were of pivotal importance in a play’s developing action. That he would do so in his earlier plays (Daisy Miller and The

American) can perhaps be credited to inexperience; that he would still be doing so in The Saloon. The Other House, and

The High Bid is less easily discounted.

Paradoxically, James's treatment of character— described above as one of his greatest strengths— was also his most recurrent weakness, especially in the serious plays. With the exception of Tenants, each of the serious plays subjects at least one of its major characters to a change in behav­ ior pattern that is either inexplicable (je, Grace’s rejection of her cause in The Outcry) or inconsistent j

Valentin's decision to duel in The American). Aside from the deleterious effect such changes had on the believability of his characters, James must also be faulted for the use he tried to make of the changes in the structuring of the plays.

For a character to change his behavior patteni substan­ tially because some radical change has occurred in the sit­ uation surrounding him is quite acceptable in a play. In

Aristotle's terms, such a change either may lead a charac­ ter to a discovery that requires him to alter his behavior or may function as a reversal with the same result. In either case, interest in both the character and the action is enhanced by virtue of their becoming more complex. In 4oo

James’s plays, however, the sequence is generally reversed; a radical change in one of the characters precipitates a change in the nature or direction of the action. Rather than depicting changes in his characters as, in Aristotle's 1 words, "a consequence, necessary or probable" of preceding events, he presented them as the cause of changes in the nature or direction of ensuing events, James would have profited enormously had he heeded Aristotle's admonition that good playwrights do not create action "in order to portray the Characters; they include Characters for the sake p of the action,"' By using character reversals as the basis for plot reversals, James gave both his stories and his characters a random, accidental quality that is wholly incompatible with the dramatic form, which realizes its full potential only when it deals in universels,

In general, James was far more successful with comedy than with either of drama’s serious forms. Given comedy’s natural capacity to exist without those characteristics that most plagued his serious plays (overt displays of emotion, real confrontations, substantive characters and character relationships), that is hardly surprising. If there is any generalized problem with the comedies, it is that James seemed determined to pack into them as much substance as

1 Aristotle, Ojo, cit,, p, 236,

^Ibid,. p, 231. 4oi the comic form would tolerate. Because that moves them in the direction of melodrama, there is a modicum of vagueness about their actions. Particularly is that true in Disen­ gaged and The Reprobate ; to an extent, they each have action that is too real for comedy and not real enough for melo­ drama «

None of the above observations, however, whether taken singly or in combination, is sufficient to explain the extent of James’s failure as a playwright. They are all essentially problems in technique, and James was a suf­ ficiently gifted artist to have overcome problems of that sort unless they were symptomatic of weaknesses far more funda­ mental in nature,

Brander Matthews once attempted to explain James’s failure in the theatre by saying, "Heniy James may not have deceived himself when he declared that he had by hard labor learned how to employ the dramatic form; but the most consummate dexteiity would avail him little if he had not 3 also the native gift, , , ," Unfortunately, Matthews never defined precisely what the "native gift" James lacked might consist of, Louis Auchincloss attributed James’s failure as a dramatist to the fact that what he "really wanted was to bo a playwright, rather than to write plays— a

3 Brander Matthews, "James as Dramatist," Bookman. LI (Juno, 1920), p, 395. 402 common failing among novelists,” (££• P» 24) • Though the meaning of that distinction is scarcely more apparent than

Matthews's "native gift,” the implication of both is that

James's plays were more a contribution to the literature of drama than to the public stage.

That last observation begins, perhaps, to identify the underlying cause of James's problems with drama. In that connection, an article written in reaction to the plays

James published as Theatricals ; Two.Comedies (Tenants and

Disengaged) suggested that

Mr, James has fallen into the common error of trying to create dramatic effects by the use of the novelist's method, and the result is an impression of general vagueness and incomplete­ ness.

That is a strong statement to make about a man who was both a proficient artist and a respected critic with an abiding concern for the intricacy and distinctiveness of artistic forms; it is only partially accurate, however, Ifhile it is correct to say that James's plays leave "an impression of general vagueness and incompleteness," it is not correct to say that they do so because he was careless enough to use the "novelist's method," He knew the techniques of the dramatist's method, and, to the degree ho was able, he employed them. What he apparently did not fully grasp was the extent to which the differing techniques of the two

^Excerpt from an unsigned article in The Critic, XXVI (January 12, 1895), p, 38, 403 methods are the result of the differing empirical realities of the two forms: a novel exist as words on a printed page, but a play is intended to exist as a live performance.

As a consequence, there is a conceptual difference between the time-reference in a novel and a play, and, because of that, there is a substantial difference in the kind of logical construction each requires.

The most fundamental difference between a novel and a play is the conceptual time-frame in which their actions occur, A novel reports something that has happened; a drama depicts something that happening, A novel's narrative account of an action must be consequent in time to the events it recounts. Hence, the temporal reality of a novel, its for\-:ard movement in time, is limited to the most remote and the most proximate past. Conceptually, since past action no longer has any organic life of its own, it cannot on its oivn initiative come to a reader, who perforce exists in the present; it must be transmitted from the past to the present by its teller, the novelist. Thus, the novelist constitutes the reader's link, his point of connection, with the events and characters of the action.

The reader experiences the novelist's account directly, but he experiences the action recounted only indirectly.

If the temporal reality of a novel consists of fonward movement in the past tense, that of the drama consists of fonvard movement in the present tense. The tenn "present Uoh tense" is misleading in a sense, because in drama, just as in life, the present only exists as that illusory point at which past and future touch. It consists of the precise moment at ',,'hich each unit of future time is actualized and, instantaneously, becomes history. In a drama, with the action visibly before it, the audience sees coincidentally with its occurrence the fonward movement of the present into

the future, which movement both creates a quantifiable past and is controlled by what it creates. For an audience,

the action of a play represents a process by which what is happening (the present) and what has happened (the past) combine to establish a scheme of probability as to what will happen (the future). Hence, past and present actions are the quantified materials that delimit the boundaries of future action. Their structural raison d *etre is their causative interrelationship with action yet to come. The question constantly before a theatre audience is not, "What happened next?" but rather, "What is going to happen?"

That seemingly subtle distinction has far reaching implications, "What happened next?" is the only legitimate phrasing of the question before the reader of a novel, and it clearly indicates that the answer pre-dates the question.

The question asks, in other words, not for unrealized potential but for quantified fact. As a result, the believability of the process by which the answer became quantified is, in greater or lesser degree, suborned by 405 the very existence of the fact itself. It is, indeed, a

question to be asked not of the action (or of the partici­

pants therein), but of the raconteur, the individual who

has assumed the position of telling the story and whose

presumption is that those who have chosen to listen will-

accept his facts as being incontrovertible. That, in effect,

is the attitude from which a novelist works; from that

perspective he has no cause to expect objection to the fact

that, for example, a character happens to change his behav­

ior pattern for no reason that is apparent in the action.

If the change is radical enough, a good novelist will offer

an explanation of it, but that explanation is necessarily

external to the reported action. If Guy Domville had been

a character in one of James's novels, there would undoubtedly have been an explanation of what prompted him

to change from a recluse to a hedonist in the twinkling of

an eye. Even if such an explanation were not offered,

however, Guy's change would still have been relatively

acceptable because, however inexplicable his facts may

seem, a reader presumes the story-teller to have them


From Catherine's sudden stoicism in "Pyramus and Thisbe"

to Grace's rejection of her cause in The Outcry, the host

of arbitrary discoveries and reversals that mar James's

plays are suggestive of the possibility that he wrote drama not with the novelist’s method, but from the novelist's ho6 perspective. As a dramatist, James attempted to employ the same arbitrary control over the events of his action that he exercised as a novelist,

Ifhat he apparently failed to perceive is that, in contrast to the question before a reader, the question before a theatre audience ("Ifhat is going to happen?”) clearly pre-dates its answer. It is addressed to unrealized potential, which, because it is unrealized, invites the full attention of an audience’s logical faculty. Any situ­ ation, be it in a drama or real life, in vhich something is going to happen, but has not as yet done so, invites an observer to anticipate, to forecast what seems possible and, more importantly, to see the possibilities in an order of logical probability. As the action moves fonward, as potentiality becomes fact, the observer cannot fail to measure the credibility of that action against his own prescience. In a drama, therefore, it is not only potential action that is constantly in the process of being realized but the precognitions of the audience as well.

So much has been made of the contrast between the temporal realities of the novel and the drama because of the critical impact they have on the question of what an audience, as opposed to a reader, will believe. In truth, the question is not so much what an audience will believe as what it will not believe. In both forms, believability is a function of the causal connection between incidents. 407

Aristotle, it may be recalled, deduced three distinct levels

of causal connection; the possible (what can happen), the

probable (what should happen), and the necessary (what must happen). All three levels are predictive in nature. They

are focussed, like the action of a play, on what has not

yet happened, but soon could, should, or must. On the low­

est level, the possible, nothing is implied beyond general­

ized potential. Nothing is weighted, no logical hierarchy

is established. As a result, any action, whether in a novel or a play, that does not progress logically beyond the possible must give a singular impression of randomness, of vagueness, of having ended without being finished. To be at all persuasive, a fictional action must progress to an

ending that is at least more probable than any other alter­ natives, Ideally, of course, it will progress to the level

of necessity.

In any case, the possible may be considered as the

irreducible level of logical connection between incidents.

To sink below that level would be to render a work rationally

incomprehensible. What is required to make the action in a novel appear probable, however, is quite different from what

is required in a drama, and that difference is a direct

function of their contrasting time-references, The essentially past temporal reality of a novel means that the novelist can (which is not to say that he must or always does) rely on the authority of history, the deadening effect 408 that accomplished and quantifiable fact has on the critical spirit, to make any incident in his action that is logically possible appear to be probable or even necessary as well.

The moment the appropriate question becomes "What happened next?" the predictive process implicit in Aristotle’s logical hierarchy becomes effectively irrelevant. There is no real point to pondering the probability or necessity of events that have already transpired and that, having done so, can neither transpire again nor transpire in some other way. The temporal reality of a novel creates a virtual impasse between two logical imperatives: one that says there must be an on-going and appropriate cause-and-effect relationship between events and a second that says that the most irrefutable argument for necessity is accomplished fact. Since neither imperative can be convincingly discredited, both remain operative factors in the logical unity of a novel.

On the other hand, the essentially present-to-future temporal reality of the drama means that the dramatist has no historical authority on which to rely. There can be no pre-existent logical connection among events either in progress or about to become so. The complex thing about a dramatic action (which James never fully understood) is that even though it is focussed on the future, it can offer no proof that anything more than a potential future exists until the forward (in time) movement of the present action 409 transforms that potential into fact. Unlike the action of a novel, the action of a drama cannot be said to have a past, a present, or a future; rather, it creates each of those time-references, generates them, as it were, out of its own organic movement. Moreover, each unit of a dramatic action proceeds consecutively through all three time-refer­ ences; it is future until it happens, present as it happens, and past after it happens. Translated into causal terms, every unit of a dramatic action is variously a formal and a material cause. Each unit of unrealized potential (future time) must be either irrelevant (that is, outside the realm of possibilities) or an effect for which probable cause must be posited. Once having been realized into fact——that is, made into present and, instantaneously, into past action— it becomes itself either irrelevant or the probable cause of another as yet unquantified effect.

Cause and effect, formal and material cause, the possible, the probable, and the necessary, are not only all interrelated in drama, they are qualitative and, hence, essential elements of the dramatic form. Since the quanti­ tative aspect of drama, its physical action, is constantly in progress before an audience and is happening coinciden­ tally with the audience’s perception (not, as in the novel, prior to the reader's perception), it follows that its logical and causative qualities must also be visibly before the audience and coincident to its perception of the action. 4l0

Thus, nothing in a dramatic action is ever presumptively necessary; rather, the action must be so sti-uctured that what has happened logically and causatively demands that something ^ happening, which in turn, and in the same manner, demands that something else will happen. Just as the essentially past orientation of a novel mitigates the importance of probability and necessity as created, internal qualities in its action, the essentially future orientation of the drama renders those same qualities indispensable.

Admittedly, the action of a novel is not really past, nor is the action of a play really present or future. The action of both forms is wholly invented with the result that no real-time exists .in either. Nevertheless, when a reader approaches a novel, or an audience member approaches a play, he does so with certain knowledge of the real-time in which he exists and, more importantly, with certain knowledge of the conceptual relationship borne by what he is about to read or witness to that real-time. Since, with a novel, the reader holds in his hand a completed account of an action— a written record of its beginning, middle, and end— and can prove that to himself by reading from finish to start if he so desires, in terms of real-time his conceptual relationship with that novel is present to past.

Conversely, since an audience member has physically before him an action that is contemporaneous with his perception of it and, more importantly, since he cannot know what will 411 happen until both the fictive-time of the play and his own real-time have sufficiently and concurrently moved forward, his conceptual relationship with the action is that of

immediate present to immediate present with constant prefer­

ence to the immediate past and to the immediate future.

It follows, then, that the fictive-time of a play and

the real-time of an audience are closely linked to one another by virtue of their simultaneity. The dramatist, because he is dealing with an active logic (the connection between live events), an active logical sense (a live audience), and an active connection between the two (the simultaneity of action with perception), has before him the positively oriented problem of anticipating, channeling, and satisfying his audience's logical expectations. As a con­ sequence, to accomplish the fullest dramatic potential of an action, it is never enough that events follow each other post hoc ; rather, they must do so, or at least appear to do so, propter hoc, Nor, to that end, is it sufficient that events be structured and arranged so as to make any number of consequences equally possible; rather, for the most fully dramatic formulation, they must be structured and arranged so as to make some of the possible consequences logically more probable than others, until, in the. course of the action, one specific consequence has reached a level of probability so high that it is, or seems to be, necessary.

Hence, a dramatist must actively and incessantly build into his action a quantum of logical causality sufficient hl2 to justify each movement forward into a future that has not yet been quantified. There can be no probable or necessary relationship among events that have riot yet occurred, and, conceptually, a theatre audience knows that. Thus, the dramatist must ensure that what is happening at every moment in his action has a clear causal connection both with what has happened and with what will happen,

James was fond of arguing that drama surpassed the novel in its freedom to depict "life as it might be," If that be true, it is incumbent on drama to accept the responsibility its greater freedom entails. In proportion as drama is more free to deal with what is possible (but not realistically probable) in human affairs than the novel, itf must also accept a stricter responsibility to manufac­ ture the missing probability, to arrange and structure its action so that events that might happen in real life are transformed into events that must happen in the play. It must also acknowledge the existence of both a positive and negative side to that responsibility. On the negative side, it requires that improbable events not be depicted; on the positive side, it requires that probable events 1^ depicted.

If there is a root cause for James’s failure as a playifright, it is that in virtually all of his plays he failed to discharge one side or the other of that elemental respon­ sibility, In The American, for example, while it is possible that a character like Valentin would decide to fight a duel. 413 there is nothing that makes his doing so appear probable and a great deal that makes it appear improbable. It is possi­ ble that no confrontation would occur between Wintorboume and Eugenio (Daisy Hiller), between Newman and Madame de

Dollogarde (The American). or between Tony and Rose (The

Other House); in each of those cases, however, the occur­ rence of a confrontation is more probable than its non­ occurrence, By choosing the loss probable alternative,

James imparted to the plays an impression of randomness, of things happening as perhaps they might, but certainly not as the evidence suggests thay should.

The conclusion to be drawn about James as a playwright is perhaps that he took too literally drama’s unique cap­ acity to depict life as it might be. He too often included in his plays events that might happen (but should not) and, conversely, too often failed to include events that should happen (but might not). Having never abandoned the novel­ ist’s perspective, having never fully realized the concep­ tual difference between the time-references of a novel and a play, James never grasped how strict the logical demands of the dramatic form are.

In liis theoretical writings James distinguished between an inward "scene" and an outward "scone" in a novel (cf,, p, 47), Doth involved a process of change (action), but the former consisted of the novelist’s narrative description of changes occurring within a character that would eventually 4l4

manifest themselves in his outivard behavior. If, when James

turned to the drama, he reasoned that the inward scene of

the novel was not natural material for the stage, he was

correct; if, however, as the evidence suggests, he further

reasoned that the lucidity and motivational impetus that

inward scenes contribute to a novel are unnecessary in the

drama, he could not have been more incorrect. The strict­ ness of drama's logical requirements demands, to a greater

extent even than those of the novel, that the substance,

the information, of inward scones be presented. Hie problem

for the playifright is to transform inward scenes into

outward scenes, to take the information a novel presents in narrative terms and present it instead in dramatic terms,

Whether James consciously ignored that responsibility or was simply unaware of it is a moot point; he seldom discharged it in his plays.

What emerges most clearly from analysis of James's dramatic efforts is his lack of awareness that for a play

to be, in his ovm words, "consistent with itself," that is,

to realize its full potential, it must not only avoid the

improbable, it must also create the probable. Failing that,

it is doomed to "leave an impression of general vagueness and incompleteness," and that, regrettably, is the most appropriate epitaph for James's plays. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

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