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The Complete Dramatist
by [?]

If you are not yet tired (as I am) of the Prince of Denmark, I will explain (for the last time) how a modern author might re-write his speech.

Enter Hamlet with his favourite boar-hound.

Ham. (to B.-H.). To be or not to be–ah, Fido, Fido! That is the question–eh, old Fido, boy? Whether ’tis nobler in–how now, a rat! Rats, Fido, fetch’em–in the mind to suffer the slings and–down, Sir!–arrows–put it down! Arrows of–drop it, Fido; good old dog–

And so on. Which strikes me as rather sweet and natural.

Let us now pass on to the very important question of


To the young playwright, the difficulty of getting his characters on to the stage would seem much less than the difficulty of finding them something to say when they are there. He writes gaily and without hesitation “Enter Lord Arthur Fluffinose,” and only then begins to bite the end of his penholder and gaze round his library for inspiration. Yet it is on that one word “Enter” that his reputation for dramatic technique will hang. Why did Lord Arthur Fluffinose enter? The obvious answer, that the firm which is mentioned in the programme as supplying his trousers would be annoyed if he didn’t, is not enough; nor is it enough to say that the whole plot of the piece hinges on him, and that without him the drama would languish. What the critic wants to know is why Lord Arthur chose that very moment to come in–the very moment when Lady Larkspur was left alone in the oak-beamed hall of Larkspur Towers. Was it only a coincidence? And if the young dramatist answers callously, “Yes,” it simply shows that he has no feeling for the stage whatever. In that case I needn’t go on with this article.

However, it will be more convenient to assume, dear reader, that in your play Lord Arthur had a good reason for coming in. If that be so, he must explain it. It won’t do to write like this:—

Enter Lord Arthur. Lady Larkspur starts suddenly and turns towards him.

Lady Larkspur. Arthur! You here? (He gives a nod of confirmation. She pauses a moment, and then with a sudden passionate movement flings herself into his arms.) Take me away, Arthur. I can’t bear this life any longer. Larkspur bit me again this morning for the third time. I want to get away from it all. [Swoons.]

The subsequent scene may be so pathetic that on the hundredth night it is still bringing tears to the eyes of the fireman, but you must not expect to be treated as a serious dramatist. You will see this for yourself if you consider the passage as it should properly have been written:–

Enter Lord Arthur Fluffinose. Lady Larkspur looks at him with amazement.

Lady Larkspur. Arthur, what are you doing here?

Lord Arthur. I caught the 2.3 from town. It gets in at 3.37, and I walked over from the station. It’s only a mile. (At this point he looks at the grandfather clock in the corner, and the audience, following his eyes, sees that it is seven minutes to four, which appears delightfully natural.) I came to tell Larkspur to sell Bungoes. They are going down.

Lady Larkspur (folding her hands over her chest and gazing broodingly at the footlights). Larkspur!

Lord Arthur (anxiously). What is it? (Suddenly.) Has he been ill-treating you again?

Lady Larkspur (flinging herself into his arms). Oh, Arthur, Arthur, take me away!

And so on.

But it may well be that Lord Larkspur has an intrigue of his own with his secretary, Miss Devereux, and, if their big scene is to take place on the stage too, the hall has got to be cleared for them in some way. Your natural instinct will be to say, “Exeunt Fluffinose and Lady Larkspur, R. Enter Lord Larkspur and Miss Devereux, L.” This is very immature, even if you are quite clear as to which side of the stage is L. and which is R. You must make the evolutions seem natural. Thus:–