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Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein by Richard Brinsley Peake A Romantic Circles Electronic Edition Edited by Stephen C. Behrendt

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

  English Opera House, 28 July, 1823
  • Frankenstein: Mr. Wallack 
  • Clerval (his friend, in love with Elizabeth): Mr. Bland
  • William (brother of Frankenstein): Master Boden
  • Fritz (servant of Frankenstein): Mr. Keeley
  • DeLacey (a banished gentleman-blind): Mr. Rowbotham
  • Felix DeLacey (his son): Mr. Pearman
  • Tanskin (a gipsy): Mr. Shield
  • Hammerpan (a tinker): Mr. Salter
  • First Gipsy
  • A Guide (an old man): Mr. R. Phillips
  • ********: Mr. T. P. Cooke
  • Elizabeth (sister of Frankenstein): Mrs. Austin
  • Agatha (daughter of DeLacey): Miss L. Dance
  • Safie (an Arabian girl, betrothed to Felix): Miss Povey
  • Madame Ninon (wife to Fritz): Mrs. T. Weippert
  • Gipsies, Peasants, Choristers, and Dancers (Male and Female)  

ACT I

SCENE I:

A Gothic Chamber in the house of Frankenstein.

Fritz discovered in a Gothic arm-chair, nodding asleep. During the Symphony of the Song, he starts, rubs his eyes, and comes forward.

AIR – FRITZ

Oh, dear me! what’s the matter?
How I shake at each clatter.
  My Marrow
  They harrow.
Oh, dear me! what’s the matter?
If Mouse squeaks, or cat sneezes,
Cricket chirps, or cock wheezes,
  Then I fret
  In cold sweat.
Every noise my nerves teazes;
Bless my heart – heaven preserve us!
I declare I’m so nervous.
  Ev’ry Knock
  Is a shock.
I declare I’m so nervous!
I’m so nervous.

FRITZ. Oh, Fritz, Fritz, Fritz! What is it come to! you are frighten’d out of your wits. Why did you ever leave your native village! why couldn’t you be happy in your native Village with an innocent cow for your companion (bless its sweet breath!) instead of coming here to the City of Geneva to be hired as a servant! (Starts.) What’s that? – nothing. And then how complimentary! Master only hired me because he thought I looked so stupid! Stupid! ha, ha, ha! but am I stupid though? To be sure Mr. Frankenstein is a kind man, and I should respect him, but that I thinks as how he holds converse with somebody below with a long tail, horns and hoofs, who shall be nameless. (Starts again.) What’s that! Oh, a gnat on my nose! Ah, anything frightens me now – I’m so nervous! I spill all my bread and milk when I feed myself at breakfast! Lord! Lord! In the country, if a dog bray’d, or a donkey bark’d ever so loud, it had no effect upon me. (Two distinct loud knocks – Fritz jumps.) Oh, mercy! I jump like a maggot out of cheese!* How my heart beats!

CLER. (Without.) Fritz, Fritz!

[FRITZ. It’s a human being however – ]

CLER. (Without.) Open the door, Fritz!

FRITZ. Yes. It’s only Mr. Clerval, master’s friend, who is going to marry Miss Elizabeth, master’s sister. (Opens the door.)

Enter Clerval.

How d’ye do, sir!

CLER. Good morrow, Fritz! Is Mr. Frankenstein to be seen?

FRITZ. I fear not, Sir, he has as usual been fumi – fumi – fumigating all night at his chemistry. I have not dared to disturb him.

CLER. Mr. Frankenstein pursues his studies with too much ardour.

FRITZ. And what can be the use of it, Mr. Clerval? Work, work, work – always at it. Now, putting a case to you. Now, when I was in the country, with my late cow (she’s no more now, poor thing!) if I had sat to and milked her for a fortnight together, day and night, without stopping, do you think I should be any the better for it? I ask you as a gentleman and a scholar.

CLER. Ha, ha, ha! Certainly not!

FRITZ. Nor my cow neither, poor creter. (Wipes his eyes.) Excuse my crying – she’s defunct, and I always whimper a little when I think on her; and my wife lives away from me, but I don’t care so much for that. Oh! Mr. Clerval, between ourselves – hush! didn’t you hear a noise! – between ourselves, I want to unbosom my confidence.

CLER. Well?

FRITZ. Between ourselves – there’s nobody at the door, is there? – (Crosses to door.) – No! well, between ourselves, Mr. Clerval, I have been so very nervous since I came to this place –

CLER. Pshaw!

FRITZ. "Nay," don’t ‘Pshaw!’ till you’ve heard me out. – My poor Master – I know you are his friend, but he has dealings with the Gentleman in black!

[CLER. Yes, I know – the Notary who comes to consult him on my marriage contract –

FRITZ. Notary – no – somebody deeper than that – Oh, Mr. Clerval! I’ll tell you. One night Mr. Frankenstein did indulge himself by going to bed. He was worn with fatigue and study. I had occasion to go into his chamber. He was asleep, but frightfully troubled; he groaned and ground his teeth, setting mine on edge. ‘It is accomplished!’ said he. Accomplished! I knew that had nothing to do with me, but I listened. He started up in his sleep, though his eyes were opened and dead as oysters, he cried, ‘It is animated – it rises – walks!’ Now, my shrewd guess, sir, is that, like Doctor Faustus, my master is raising the Devil.

CLER. Fritz, you are simple; drive such impressions from your mind, you must not misconstrue your Master’s words in a dream. Do you never dream?

FRITZ. (Mournfully.) I dream about my Cow sometimes.

CLER. Your master is a studious Chemist – nay, as I sometimes suspect, an alchemist.

FRITZ. Eh! Ah, I think he is. What is an alchemist Mr. Clerval?

CLER. Does he not sometimes speak of the art of making gold?

FRITZ. Lord, sir! do you take Mr. Frankenstein for a coiner?

CLER. Did you never hear him make mention of the grand elixer, which can prolong life to immortality.

FRITZ. Never in all my life!

CLER. Well go – find out if it is possible I can see him. I will not detain him.

FRITZ. Yes, sir. Oh, that laboratory! I’ve got two loose teeth, and I am afraid I shall loose them, for whenever I go towards that infernal place my head shakes like a dice-box. (Goes to door.) Oh, mercy! what’s that? Two shining eyes – how they glisten! Dear, dear, why I declare it’s only the cat on the stairs. Puss, puss, pussy! How you frighten’d me, you young dog, when you know I am so very nervous!

CLER. Frankenstein, friend of my youth, how extraordinary and secret are thy pursuits! how art thou altered by study! Strange, what a hold has philosophy taken of thy mind – but thou wert always enthusiastic and of boundless ambition. But "Elizabeth" – the fair Elizabeth, his sister – what a difference in disposition! Everyone adores her. Happy Clerval, to be now the possessor of Elizabeth, who, unconscious of her beauty, stole thy heart away!

SONG – CLERVAL

Ere witching love my heart possest,
  And bade my sighs the nymph pursue,
Calm as the infant’s smiling rest,
  No anxious hope nor fear it knew.

 But doom’d – ah! doom’d at last to mourn,
   What tumults in that heart arose!
An ocean trembling, wild, and torn
  By tempests from its deep repose.

Yet let me not the virgin blame,
  As tho’ she wish’d my heart despair,
How could the maid suspect a flame,
  Who never knew that she was fair.

– But Frankenstein approaches.

Enter Frankenstein, thoughtfully, shown in by Fritz, who exits.

CLER. My dear friend!

FRANK. Clerval!

CLER. Frankenstein, how ill you appear – So [thin and] pale! You look as if your night-watchings had been long and uninterrupted.

FRANK. [You have guessed rightly! – ] I have lately been so deeply engaged in one occupation that I have not allowed myself sufficient rest. But how left you my sister, Elizabeth?

CLER. Well, and very happy, only a little uneasy that she sees you so seldom.

FRANK. Aye, I am engaged heart and soul in the pursuit of a discovery – a grand, unheard of wonder! None but those who have experienced can conceive the enticement of Science; he who looks into the book of nature, finds an inexhaustible source of novelty, of wonder, and delight. What hidden treasures are contained in her mighty volume – what strange, undreamed-of mysteries!

CLER. But some little respite – your health should he considered.

FRANK. (Abstracted.) After so much time spent in painful labour, to arrive at once at the summit of my desires, would be indeed a glorious consummation of my toils.

CLER. How wild and mysterious his abstractions – he heeds me not! (Aside.)

FRANK. (Apart.) This discovery will be so vast, so overwhelming, that all the steps by which I have been progressively led will be obliterated, and I shall behold only the astonishing result.

CLER. Frankenstein!

FRANK. Ha! (To Clerval.) I see by your eagerness that you expect to be informed of the secret with which I am acquainted. That cannot be.

CLER. I do not wish to pry into your secrets, Frankenstein. I am no natural philosopher; my imagination is too vivid for the details of science. If I contemplate, let it be the charms of your fair sister, Elizabeth. My message hither now – I wish to fix the day for our nuptials. But we must be certain on so important and happy an event, that we shall enjoy the society of our Frankenstein.

FRANK. Pardon me, Clerval! My first thoughts should recur to those dear friends whom I most love, and who are so deserving of my love – name the day?

CLER. On the morn after to-morrow, may I lead the charming Elizabeth to the altar?

FRANK. E’en as you will – e’en as you will! (Aside.) My wonderful task will be ere that completed. It will be animated! It will live – will think! (Crosses in deep reflection – afterwards turns up the stage.)

CLER. (Apart.) Again in reverie! this becomes alarming – surely his head is affected. I am bound in duty to counteract this madness, and discover the secret of his deep reflections.

Frankenstein sits down – musing.

Farewell, Frankenstein! He heeds me not – ‘tis in vain to claim his notice – but I will seek the cause, and, if possible, effect his cure. No time must be lost. Fritz must assist me, and this way he went.

(Exit Clerval)

FRANK. Every moment lost, fevers me. What time have I devoted? (Rises.) Had I not been heated by an almost supernatural enthusiasm, my application to this study would have been irksome, disgusting, and almost intolerable. To examine the causes of life – I have had recourse to death – I have seen how the fine form of man has been wasted and degraded – have beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life! I have seen how the worm inherits the wonders of the eye and brain – I paused – analysing all the minutiae of causation as exemplified in the change of life from death – until from the midst of this darkness the sudden light broke in upon me! A light so brilliant and dazzling, some miracle must have produced the flash! The vital principle! The cause of life! – Like Prometheus of old, have I daringly attempted the formation – the animation of a Being! To my task – away with reflection – to my task – to my task!

(Exit)

Enter Clerval and Fritz.

FRITZ. Now he’s going to blow up his fire again!

CLER. And thus you say for whole days and nights together, without repose, and almost without food he has immured himself in his study.

FRITZ. Yes – there he is – amongst otamies* and phials and crucibles, and retorts, and charcoal, and fire, and the Devil – for I’m sure he’s at the bottom of it, and that makes me so nervous.

CLER. Fritz, you love your master, and are, I know, a discreet servant – but his friends and relations are all unhappy on his account. His health is rapidly sinking under the fatigue of his present labours – will you not assist to call him back to life and to his family?

FRITZ. La! I’d call out all day long, if that would do any good.

CLER. I know his mind has been devoted to obstruse and occult sciences – that his brain has been bewildered with the wild fancies of Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus –

FRITZ. Oh! Mr. Clerval! how can you mention such crazy tooth-breaking names? There sounds something wicked in them.

CLER. Wicked? Psha, man! they are the renowned names of the earliest experimental philosophers. The sages who promised to the hopes of the laborious alchymist the transmutation of metals and the elixer of life.

FRITZ. 0! Ah! indeed! Lack a daisy me!

CLER. Do you understand me!

FRITZ. Not particularly –

CLER. Fritz – tho’ simple, you are an excellent fellow – have you any idea what is the strange object of which your master is in search?

FRITZ. I have my suspicions truly.

CLER. What are they?

FRITZ. (Looks round.) Hush – no – nothing but the wind – To tell you the truth, I suspect that the grand object is –

CLER. What?

FRITZ. A secret – there now the murder’s out.

CLER. (Aside.) This fellow is more knave than fool – he wants a bribe. Now, sirrah! answer me with candour. What is it you like best in the world?

FRITZ. Milk!

CLER. Simpleton! I mean what station of Life would you covet?

FRITZ. Station?

CLER. Yes. Would you like to be master of a cottage?

FRITZ. What, and keep a cow? – the very thing. Why, Mr. Clerval, you’re a conjuror, and know my thoughts by art.

CLER. Fritz, I want to discover – but you must be prudent – (Takes out purse and gives a florin to Fritz.) Here’s an earnest of my future intentions touching the cow and cottage.

FRITZ. Bodikins! a florin! (Examining money.)

CLER. Friend Fritz, you must some time, when Mr. Frankenstein is absent from home, admit me into his study.

FRITZ. Oh, dear, I can’t! – don’t take your florin back again [sir] (Puts up money.) – for he always locks the door. To be sure, there’s a little window – on the gallery – I can see when he puffs up his fire.

CLER. Well, they say the end justifies the means; and in this case I admit the maxim. You can peep through that window, and inform me minutely of what you see.

FRITZ. But what is to become of my nerves?

CLER. Remember your cottage –

FRITZ. And the Cow!

CLER. Put me in possession of the secret, and both shall be secured to you. Some one approaches.

FRITZ. Mr. Clerval, I’m your man. I’m nervous, and the devil sticks in my gizzard; but the cow will drive it out again. (Starts.) What’s that? Oh, nothing – oh, dear, I’m so nervous.

(Exeunt Fritz and Clerval)

 


SCENE II:

Part of the Villa Residence of Elizabeth at Belrive. – Garden Terrace – Sunset – William discovered sleeping on a garden bench – Enter Elizabeth from the house.

SONG – ELIZABETH

The summer sun shining on tree and on tower,
  And gilding the landscape with radiance divine,
May give joy to the heart o’er which pleasure has power,
  But eve’s pensive beauties are dearer to mine.

Through trees gently sighing, the cool breeze of even
  Seems sympathy’s voice to the ear of despair;
And the dew-drops (like tears shed by angels of heaven),
  Revive the frail hopes in the bosom of care.

During this scene the stage becomes progressively dark.

MAD. NINON. (Within.) William! little William!

ELIZ. Where can our little favorite have secreted himself?

Enter Madame Ninon, from the house.

NIN. Heaven bless Mont Blanc and all the neighbouring hills! Why, where is the boy? How angry shall I be with him for staying out so late.

ELIZ. Why, Ninon, assuage your friendly wrath – yonder is William.

NIN. (Goes to child.) Fast asleep, I declare, the pretty boy – how like his poor mother, who is gone. La, La, I daresay my Fritz was just such another, only his hair was red. Pretty William – he was the pin basket. Bless the thirteen cantons, I nursed him. William – (Kisses him.) – a pair of gloves, Sir! (William waking.) Fie, you idle urchin, sleeping so early this beautiful evening.

William rises. All come forward.

WILL. Indeed, dear Ninon, I know not how I fell asleep; but I rose with the sun, and thinking I would lie down with it, I closed my eyes, and –

NIN. Slumbered like a young dormouse?

ELIZ. But, William, you have not neglected your books?

WILL. Oh, no; for then I should not be such a scholar as my elder brother, Victor Frankenstein.

(Runs to end of terrace.)

ELIZ. Alas, poor Frankenstein! he studies indeed too deeply; but love -- blighted love, drove him to solitude and abstruse research.

NIN. Ah, Madame, may love make you happy! Mr. Clerval was here this morning, and looked as handsome –

ELIZ. Peace, Ninon! And yet, why should I check your Cheerfulness? Ninon, I have given orders to my milliner to make you a handsome new cap. When your husband, Fritz, comes from Geneva, he may call and bring it.

NIN. Thank you, dear madam; but see –

Re-Enter William from terrace, and runs, crossing behind.)

WILL. Oh, sister – oh, Madame Ninon! two travellers are coming up the hill – such a beautiful lady – but her guide, I think, has fallen from his horse. See – here’s the lady, helping the poor man.

Melo-Music. Enter Safie, supporting the Guide, from terrace.

ELIZ. Madame, allow me to offer my assistance.

SAFIE. Thanks – thanks, fair Lady; it is not for myself I require rest or help, for I am young. But this aged man, my faithful follower, is completely worn with fatigue.

ELIZ. Ninon, see him conveyed into the house. Give him your support, and assist to welcome our guests.

NIN. (Crossing to guide.) Lean on me, old sir – aye, as heavy as you like; bless you my arm is strong, tho’ I am little. Come, gently – gently – there – there –

Ninon leads the guide into house, William following them. By this time the wing lights are turned off .

SAFIE. I can only weep my thanks, of late I have been unused to kindness.

ELIZ. Your garb and manner denote you a stranger here – yet you are acquainted with our language, and you appear to have travelled a great distance.

SAFIE. From Leghorn, – a wearisome journey. How far am I distant from the Valley of the Lake?

ELIZ. But a few leagues.

SAFIE. Then tonight I probably could reach it? (Animated.)

ELIZ. I would not advise the attempt till the morning – the sun is down now; you are distant from any inn; your horses are fatigued; permit me to offer in my house refreshment and repose.

SAFIE. No, no; no repose until my purpose is accomplished. Yet my poor follower needs rest; generous stranger, I gratefully accept your hospitality.

ELIZ. And be assured such comfort as Eliza Frankenstein can offer shall be freely yours.

SAFIE. You – you mention the name of Frankenstein!

ELIZ. I bear that appellation.

SAFIE. How fortunate! happy chance that brought me to your hospitable door. Know you the family of DeLacey?

ELIZ. I knew it well, but years have elapsed since I have heard of them.

SAFIE. I seek their retreat. Exiled from France, they now exist in the Valley of the Lake.

ELIZ. So near, and I not acquainted with their residence! Does the gentle Agatha DeLacey yet live?

SAFIE. Tomorrow’s morn I trust will find me locked in her embrace.

ELIZ. What rapturous news for my dear brother, Frankenstein – night approaches – let us in and converse further on this subject, which is of deep interest to me – hark! – the sweet nightingale is pouring forth its evening melody.

DUETT – ELIZABETH AND SAFIE

Hark how it floats upon the dewy air!
Oh! what a dying, dying close was there!
‘Tis harmony from yon sequester’d bower,
Sweet harmony that soothes the midnight hour!

(Exeunt into house)


SCENE III:

The sleeping Apartment of Frankenstein. Dark. The Bed is within a recess between the wings, enclosed by dark green curtains. A Sword (to break) hanging. A Large French Window; between the wings a staircase leading to a Gallery across the stage, on which is the Door of the Laboratory above. A small high Lattice in centre of scene, next the Laboratory Door. A Gothic Table on stage, screwed. A Gothic Chair in centre, and Footstool. Music expressive of the rising of a storm. Enter Frankenstein, with a Lighted Lamp, which he places on the table. Distant thunder heard.

FRANK. This evening – this lowering evening, will, in all probability, complete my task. Years have I laboured, and at length discovered that to which so many men of genius have in vain directed their inquiries. After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I have become master of the secret of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter. With so astonishing a power in my hands, long, long did I hesitate how to employ it. The object of my experiments lies there (Pointing up to the laboratory.) – A huge automaton in human form. Should I succeed in animating it, Life and Death would appear to me as ideal bounds, which I shall break through and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. I have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit. (Storm.) A storm has hastily arisen! – ‘Tis a dreary night – the rain patters dismally against the panes – ‘tis a night for such a task – I’ll in and attempt to infuse the spark of life. –

Music. – Frankenstein takes up lamp, cautiously looks around him, ascends the stairs, crosses the gallery above, and exits into door of laboratory. Enter Fritz, trembling, with a candle.

FRITZ. Master isn’t here – dare I peep. Only think of the reward Mr. Clerval promised me, a cow and a cottage, milk and a mansion. Master is certainly not come up yet. My candle burns all manner of colours, and spits like a roasted apple. (Runs against the chair and drops his light, which goes out.) There, now, I’m in the dark. Oh my nerves.

A blue flame appears at the small lattice window above, as from the laboratory.

What’s that? 0 lord; there he is, kicking up the devil’s own flame!* Oh my Cow! I’ll venture up – oh my cottage! I’ll climb to the window – it will be only one peep to make my fortune.

Music. – Fritz takes up footstool, he ascends the stairs, when on the gallery landing place, he stands on the footstool tiptoe to look through the small high lattice window of the laboratory, a sudden combustion is heard within. The blue flame changes to one of a reddish hue.

FRANK. (Within.) It lives! it lives!

FRITZ. (Speaks through music.) Oh, dear! oh, dear! oh, dear!

Fritz, greatly alarmed, jumps down hastily, totters tremblingly down the stairs in vast hurry; when in front of stage, having fallen flat in fright, with difficulty speaks.

FRITZ. There’s a hob – hob-goblin, 20 feet high! wrapp’d in a mantle – mercy – mercy –

[Falls down.]

Music. – Frankenstein rushes from the laboratory, without lamp, fastens the door in apparent dread, and hastens down the stairs, watching the entrance of the laboratory.

FRANK. It lives! [It lives.] I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open, it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs. What a wretch have I formed, [his legs are in proportion and] I had selected his features as beautiful – beautiful! Ah, horror! his cadaverous skin scarcely covers the work of muscles and arteries beneath, his hair lustrous, black, and flowing – his teeth of pearly whiteness – but these luxuriances only form more horrible contrasts with the deformities of the Demon.

Music. – He listens at the foot of the staircase.

[It is yet quiet – ] What have I accomplished? the beauty of my dream has vanished! and breathless horror and disgust fill my heart. For this I have deprived myself of rest and health, have worked my brain to madness; and when I looked to reap my great reward, a flash breaks in upon my darkened soul, and tells me my attempt was impious, and that its fruition will be fatal to my peace for ever. (He listens again.) All is still! The dreadful spectre of a human form – no mortal could withstand the horror of that countenance – a mummy endued with animation could be so hideous as the wretch I have endowed with life! – miserable and impious being that I am! [ – lost – lost] Elizabeth! brother! Agatha! – faithful Agatha! never more dare I look upon your virtuous faces. Lost! lost! lost!

Music – Frankenstein sinks on a chair.

[FRITZ. (Looks up once or twice before he speaks.) Oh my nerves; I feel as if I had just come out of strong fits, and nobody to throw water in my face – Master sleeps, so I’ll, if my legs won’t lap up under me – just – make my escape.

Sudden combustion heard, and smoke issues, the door of the laboratory breaks to pieces with a loud crash – red fire within.

FRITZ. Oh – Oh. (Runs out hastily)

Music. The Demon discovered at door entrance in smoke, which evaporates – the red flame continues visible. The Demon advances forward, breaks through the balustrade or railing of gallery immediately facing the door of laboratory, jumps on the table beneath, and from thence leaps on the stage, stands in attitude before Frankenstein, who had started up in terror; they gaze for a moment at each other.

FRANK. The demon corpse to which I have given life!

Music. – The Demon looks at Frankenstein most intently, approaches him with gestures of conciliation. Frankenstein retreats, the Demon pursuing him.

Its unearthly ugliness renders it too horrible for human eyes! [The Demon approaches him.]

Fiend! do not dare approach me – avaunt, or dread the fierce vengeance of my arm wrecked on your miserable head –

Music. – Frankenstein takes the sword from the nail, points with it at the Demon, who snatches the sword, snaps it in two and throws it on stage. The Demon then seizes Frankenstein – loud thunder heard – throws him violently on the floor, ascends the staircase, opens the large window, and disappears through the casement. Frankenstein remains motionless on the ground. – Thunder and lightning until the drop falls.

End of Act I

[Go to Act II]

 

Published @ RC

August 2001

City