MRS RUSKIN

by Kim Morrissey


DRAFT TWO (18.02.2003)
Reading of First Act
Jerwood Space
171 Union Street
London, UK


to be produced by
Theatre Metropolis
in 2003

Artistic Directors: Amy Oliver, Michael Yale
directed by Jacqui Somerville

première : Warehouse Theatre, East Croydon UK  September  12th - October 5, 2003


Other Drafts of Kim Morrissey's  Mrs. Ruskin


actors involved in the workshops


playwright's note: February 18, 2003

"Every hue throughout your work is altered by every touch that you add in other places; so that what was warm a minute ago, becomes cold when you put a hotter colour in another place, and what was in harmony when you left it, becomes discordant when you put other colours beside it." John Ruskin, Elements of Drawing, Letter III, paragraph 152.

     The deadline for the second draft of the play was rushed by a week-and-a-half,  to fit in with schedules which were nothing to to with the play. Theatre Metropolis had been in contact with Mike Bradwell, the Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre, who assured them he'd be very interested in the play, but he had to see the second draft workshop, and he couldn't wait until the next week, when my director, Jacqui Somerville would be available. If he didn't see it in that week, it would be too late to book the play for the next season. 

     Knowing Mike, I thought it likely that  he wouldn't turn up (he didn't) but I agreed, and  the workshop went ahead without Jacqui, although Jacqui had arranged the actors. We read through the script three times, which was helpful, to see how the new characters Margaret Ruskin and Johnny Millais were interacting with the others.  It was important to try to get a sense of these characters before rounding out the character of the Ruskins. One of the problems with creating characters from historical situations, is that your main characters are often so well-documented, it takes you six months of research just to sort out what is likely from what is not. Minor characters' motivations have to be created and it was important to have characters who act, rather than simply react to the plotpoints. It was important to make the other characters work before I could start to write John Ruskin's character.

     I set up the schedule of workshops to coincide with the workshop schedule we used for the Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre, which was scheduled around the academic year. I would recommend, if you are starting a project in England, which you will have to 'sell' to theatres in early spring,  to start researching the play in November, and a play outline and start writing it in May (rather than September, as I have done).  This allows your play to be at the invited reading (4th draft) stage, not the second draft stage, by the time Artistic Directors say they want to come round to judge your work.

    As you can see, a second stage draft is nothing by which you can judge the final play; some of the scenes may be in place, but the characterizing dialogue is erratic and in this case, the second act has not yet been written. It puts too much pressure on a playwright to have the work judged critically at this point, which affects the quality of the writing, because you settle for easy solutions that have worked before, rather than taking the time to explore the situation, being true to the characters in the play. It also puts too much pressure on the actors, who have to balance doing a good job with an inadequate script, with wanting to impress an Artistic Director who might offer them work. There is a great temptation to 'make it work' which isn't helpful to the playwright, because the point of a second draft is to see what doesn't work.  In short, it isn't fair to anyone.

For the Mrs. Ruskin project, we have scheduled a series of workshops over a year, working closely with Amy Oliver (Effie Ruskin) and Michael Yale (John Ruskin) and director Jacqui Somerville, with additional help from the Theatre Metropolis company of actors.

PLEASE NOTE: this site is a free educational resource, set up to share the creative process of play-creation. This is not the last draft of the play and should not be performed.  Kim Morrissey's play, Mrs. Ruskin, will be published by Aark Books, London UK, and a copyscript of the play, suitable for production,  will be available from Playwrights Guild of Canada.




MRS RUSKIN
DRAFT TWO

ACT ONE March 1853

CAST in March 1853 :


Euphemia Chalmers Ruskin (Effie) 24
John Ruskin 34
John Everett Millais (Johnny) 23
Margaret Ruskin (John's mother) 71
Sophie Gray (Effie's sister) 9

ACT TWO  (not read) June 1853 - April 1854



MRS RUSKIN
DRAFT TWO
ACT ONE



SCENE 1 1853. THE RUSKIN'S BEDROOM.

John Ruskin stands before a mirror, undressed, shaving.

JOHN: [LECTURING TO HIMSELF, MID-LECTURE]

Such a love is impossible. One must say to her: Effie. Effie, here you go too far. Here, not far enough.... If you could, then perhaps--- But what can one say? One great difficulty is that no one will ever believe that her character is what it is. Imagine an UTTER ingratitude for ALL that is done for her by myself - my father - and my mother. Not merely ingratitude - but ingratitude coarsely and vulgarly manifested. Imagine a wife, for instance, speaking of her husband - his father - and his mother - as the "Batch " of "Ruskins."

[RUSKIN BEGINS AGAIN]

Imagine her, rather than loving, respecting, cherishing, admiring her husband ... treasuring his parents as the progenitors of her most precious possession ... but instead ... instead.... One must say to her: Effie .... Effie. A wife should obey her husband in everything but what is against God's commands.



[EFFIE KNOCKS AT HER OWN BEDROOM DOOR AND ENTERS]



EFFIE: Forgive me. Did you call?



JOHN: No.



EFFIE: I heard my name



JOHN: I am preparing a lecture on Model Marriage.



EFFIE: [WITH PLEASURE] Using me as a model?



JOHN: Of a sort. [PAUSE] I was thinking more of my parents. An ideal couple. From the start, no one could imagine otherwise.



EFFIE: Your grandfather cut his throat.



JOHN: It might well have been an accident. He was alone at the time.



EFFIE: With your mother.



JOHN: What are you insinuating?



EFFIE: Nothing. He was alone with your mother. Everyone knows that.



JOHN: Why would everyone know? Why would anyone care?



EFFIE: No one cares. It's just fact.



JOHN: Hasn't my poor mother suffered enough?



[EFFIE DOESN'T ANSWER. IT'S OBVIOUS THAT HER ANSWER WOULD NOT NECESSARILY BE 'YES.']



JOHN: This really must stop, Effie. You are sick. Insane. It's unseemly. No proper wife would be jealous of a man's mother.



EFFIE: No proper husband would give his wife grounds.



JOHN: Your insolence is intolerable!



EFFIE: How dare you speak to me so. I am your wife.



JOHN: Exactly.



EFFIE: Why must you have the last word every time?



JOHN: I am your husband.



EFFIE: I am sorry. Forgive me. I have such a head-ache. [LIES DOWN ON THE BED] I do love you. You are the kindest, cleverest, most considerate, compassionate man I know.



JOHN: [WATCHING WITH GROWING OUTRAGE] Surely you are not going to lie down. Not now.



EFFIE: Just a little.



JOHN: But it is breakfast. Mother will be expecting us.



EFFIE: I feel sick.



JOHN: What will I tell Mother? And what about your sister?



EFFIE: Sophie can take care of herself.



JOHN: A nice sentiment! What will her mother say, when she finds her daughter has been with us so long and has no idea of her lessons.



EFFIE: Mother will say 'I'm so sorry you're ill, Effie. Please don't worry. Your sister can take care of herself.'



JOHN: No she won't. She will say, "Effie promised to take care of her and she didn't."



EFFIE: She will say 'Lie down, Effie, until you feel better. Don't eat, if you feel unwell. Trust your own judgement. You know what is best.'



JOHN: She will blame us, and not let Sophie come again.



EFFIE: I don't think so.



JOHN: You don't think at all.



EFFIE: Lie down with me.



JOHN: It is my wish that you breakfast with my mother. She has come all this way, to have a breakfast-goodbye with Sophie. It is my wish that you join them.



EFFIE: Your wish!



JOHN: Yes, my wish.



EFFIE: And what about my wish?



JOHN: Your wish should be to please me. A wife should obey her husband in everything but what is against God's commands.



EFFIE: I think you will find the sentence reads: A wife should obey her husband in everything reasonable.



JOHN: It does not.



EFFIE: Then it should.



JOHN: Effie.... Effie! I command you!



[EFFIE CONTINUES TO LIE ON THE BED]



JOHN: You are insane.



[BLACKOUT]



SCENE 2  Later that morning.

Effie is taking the curling papers out of her sister Sophie's hair and brushing it. Sophie is reading aloud from Tennyson's In Memorium



SOPHIE: XCVII ...  [PUZZLED, SPELLS IT OUT]   X .C.V.I..I.



EFFIE: No. In English. .... XC is ....         Ninety.



SOPHIE: 90 ...V 1...2.... 97!



EFFIE: Go on.



SOPHIE: [BEGINS AGAIN] Number Ninety-Seven.



My love has talk'd with rocks and trees;
He finds on misty mountain-ground



It's like Mr Ruskin!



His own vast shadow glory- ....



EFFIE: [Looking at the text] "Crowned"



SOPHIE:

His own vast shadow glory-crown'd;....
He sees himself in all he sees.



Two partners of a married life --
I look'd on these and thought of thee
In vastness and in mystery,
And of my spirit as of a wife.



Her life is lone, he sits apart,
He loves her yet, she will not weep,
Tho' rapt in matters dark and deep
He seems to slight her simple heart.



EFFIE: Not so thrillingly, please. You're not on the stage.



SOPHIE:

He thrids the labyrinth of the mind,



What's 'Thrids?'



EFFIE: [DOESN'T KNOW] It doesn't matter. Go on.



SOPHIE: What's 'Thrids?'



EFFIE: Ask Mr Ruskin.



SOPHIE: But how can I tell what the line means?



EFFIE: GO ON!



SOPHIE:

He reads the secret of the star,
He seems so near and yet so far,
He looks so cold: she thinks him kind.



She keeps the gift of years before,
A wither'd violet is her bliss:
She knows not what his greatness is,
For that, for all, she loves him more.



That's lovely! It is about Mr Ruskin, isn't it?



EFFIE: No. Everything written is not about Mr. Ruskin.



SOPHIE: Unless he writes it himself.



EFFIE: Sophie!  Wicked girl! Who told you that?



SOPHIE: Tell me again. If you are my sister ...



EFFIE: I am your sister.



SOPHIE: Yes. Exactly. So does that mean Mr Ruskin is my brother?



EFFIE: In Law. Brother-in-law.



SOPHIE: Even though he's so old! And brothers can't marry sisters. But he married you.



EFFIE: Yes. But he wasn't my brother. He is my husband, which means he is your brother-in-law. By law. Not by blood.



SOPHIE: So he can't marry me, even if he wanted to?



EFFIE: He is already married. To me.



SOPHIE: And you are my sister. So Old Mrs. Ruskin ... is .... my ....?



EFFIE: She is just Mrs. Ruskin.



SOPHIE: Then why do you call her 'Mother.'



EFFIE: Mr Ruskin likes it.



SOPHIE: She says I'm much prettier than you.



EFFIE: Oh?



SOPHIE: She says you're an imbecile.



EFFIE: That's not very nice.



SOPHIE: Oh, she's very nice about it. She says to me 'Sophie' she says, 'Poor Effie can't help it.'



EFFIE: And what is her proof I'm an imbecile?



SOPHIE: The way you eat your soup. She says I shouldn't do the same, or make the noise with my teeth, or people will think me a rude and ignorant Scotch girl, too. She says it's not your fault, though. You can't help it. You're too old to change.



EFFIE: Finish the poem.



SOPHIE:

She knows not what his greatness is ...




EFFIE: We've done that bit.



SOPHIE:

For him she plays, to him she sings
Of early faith and plighted vows;
She knows but matters of the house,
And he, he knows a thousand things.


Her faith is fixt and cannot move,
She darkly feels him great and wise,
She dwells on him with faithful eyes,
"I cannot understand: I love."



'I cannot understand. I love.' It's lovely, isn't it? She reminds me of Zoe.



EFFIE: Zoe is a dog.



SOPHIE: But she loves. What I don't understand is why the man knows so much. Are all men like that?



EFFIE: That's enough Tennyson for today. Arithmetic.



SOPHIE: But Why? You know I hate it.



EFFIE: You don't want to go home a rude ignorant Scotch girl, do you?



SOPHIE: We've already done roman numerals. That's Arithmetic.



EFFIE: Very well. Dictation.



SOPHIE: Perhaps I could just write a letter. To Mama? I could tell her all about the walk with Mr Ruskin yesterday and everything he said and what I said, too. And I could hand-deliver it. I think Mama would be very pleased.



EFFIE: Very well.



[SOPHIE BEGINS TO WRITE]



SOPHIE: Effie.... How do you spell the word 'beautiful?'



THE RUSKIN'S BEDROOM.

John Ruskin stands before a mirror, tying his blue neckcloth cravat.

JOHN: [LECTURING TO HIMSELF, MID-LECTURE]

She said 'people would think me extraordinary to make such a proposal.' I said ' I am extraordinary .... I am extraordinary and if you did not know it before you were well to know it now! I don't care what people say. It is absolutely necessary for me to work at Mama and Papa's, I need to work there for the light, and if I am there, I can not be here. And then she said it was merely my notion I must work there, that I could sketch stones anywhere. Extraordinary!



SCENE 3 Later that morning.

Margaret Ruskin, wrapping Sophie in coat and scarf.



MARGARET: [TO SOPHIA] Stand still. To my eternal surprise, your sister was out of bed before nine, so there's a first! She must love you very much. Not enough to have breakfast with you, of course. Now, tell Effie to tell George to go directly to Kings Cross past St. Pancras, so you'll be safely away, bless you. And if you miss the train, just come home again. Don't wait for the later one. You can try again tomorrow. Stand Still! You must decide whether you are going to try to be a Ruskin, like us, or be a fool .....



[MARGARET TIES THE SCARF, SOPHIE MAKES A MUFFLED PROTEST]



MARGARET Too tight?



[SOPHIE EITHER NODS YES OR NO]



MARGARET: It would have been better for your sister to go with you, all the way to your Mama and Papa's. But Effie won't be told anything, as you know.

And you know why she won't be coming with you? It's not because she's feeling poorly. It's because John has asked her to be posing for pictures like a common hat-girl for some fellow called Milly. What sort of name that is for a gentleman, I don't know, but John says he is a genius, so I have determined to say nothing at all as I know I am too old to understand Art. Mind you, I don't know why their blessed Mr. Turner didn't get himself a pair of proper spectacles so he could see things proper.



[SOPHIE'S BUTTON COMES OFF HER COAT AS MRS RUSKIN TRIES TO BUTTON IT UP]



MARGARET: Now look what you've done.

[SLAPS SOPHIE SHARPLY] Stand still, Sophie. And don't move, while I get my needle and thread.



SOPHIE STANDS SOLEMNLY.



RUSKIN ENTERS.



RUSKIN: Sophie. What are you doing?



SOPHIE: Standing still.



RUSKIN. Standing still, you wee girlie-girl . Come to di pa [dear papa]



SOPHIE: I can't. I'm to stand still. Mrs. Ruskin said.



RUSKIN: Then I'll have to come to you, little donkey girl! Standing still. Aren't you clever!



[SOPHIE CONTINUES TO STAND, STARING STRAIGHT AHEAD]



RUSKIN: Are you standing still? .... Are you .... are you? [TICKLING HER]



SOPHIE: Yes ... yes .... yes!



RUSKIN: Are you now? [KISSING HER, COMIC KISSES]



SOPHIE: No! No!



RUSKIN: Yes!



SOPHIE: [LAUGHING]   No!



EFFIE: [ENTERING, TO SOPHIE] Sophie, what are you doing?



SOPHIE: Standing still.



EFFIE: John, what are you doing?



RUSKIN: Kissing Effie!



SCENE 4 Next morning.

John Everett Millais working on The Order of Release. Everything has been painted except for the Jacobite Wife figure, being modelled by Effie.



JOHNNY: Lower .... too low .... a little higher .... a straighter line with the arm, please. Turn towards me. Not too far. Chin higher, please. You are a model wife .... Forgive me ... if I could just show you what I want ......



[JOHNNY GOES TO EFFIE AND ADJUSTS THE ANGLE OF HER HEAD]



JOHNNY: Stunning.



[HE RETURNS TO THE PAINTING]



EFFIE: It's hard work, being a Jacobite. If I had realized how difficult it was, I should have had John pose instead.



JOHNNY: As the husband?



EFFIE: As whatever you like. He's very fond of you. Or perhaps you could have used your Ophelia.



JOHNNY: Too thin. You make a better.Jacobite than either of them. You have the proper Scottish air of purpose and determination.



EFFIE: How charming. John would call me stubborn.



JOHNNY: Firm. Head a little higher, please.



EFFIE: May I talk?



JOHNNY: Resolute. Proud.



EFFIE: Obstinate. .Rigid. Inflexible.



JOHNNY: Constant.



EFFIE: Contumacious.



JOHNNY: Stunning.



[JOHN ENTERS, STANDS BEHIND JOHNNY]



JOHN: Perfect!



JOHNNY: That's enough for today.



JOHN: Will you stay to dinner, Millais?



JOHNNY: I'm so sorry. Perhaps another time.



JOHN: Next time?



JOHNNY: Perhaps.



JOHN: We had hoped you might stay. Perhaps even ... the night if you wish.. So you could get an early start.



JOHNNY: I'm so sorry. I have made other arrangements.



EFFIE: We should not have presumed.



JOHNNY: Not at all. You have simply presumed too soon. Ask me again, the next time I come. Tuesday?



EFFIE: Tuesday.



JOHN: We have a guest room we could make available for you whenever you like. It would save on journeys.



EFFIE: But John-



JOHN: My wife thinks that people might talk, inviting a gentleman when I am away so often. She says people would think me extraordinary. I told her I was extraordinary and if she did not know it before, she would be well to know it now. Will you stay, next Tuesday? As long as you like.



JOHNNY: Perhaps. [TO EFFIE] Practise being resolute.



[JOHN AND JOHNNIE EXIT]



[EFFIE RESUMES THE EXPRESSION REQUIRED FOR 'THE ORDER OF RELEASE.' JOHN RETURNS]



JOHN: What are you looking at, Effie"



EFFIE: Nothing.



JOHN: What are you thinking of then?



EFFIE: A great many things.



JOHN: Tell me some of them.



EFFIE: I was thinking of ... a great many things.



JOHN: And what conclusions did you come to?



EFFIE: None.... None.



[PIANO MUSIC: POSSIBLY OFT IN THE STILLY NIGHT [THE SHEET MUSIC IN THE HOLMAN HUNT PICTURE 'THE AWAKENING CONSCIENCE']

SCENE 5   MARGARET BESIDE LARGE TABLE IN RUSKIN KITCHEN



MARGARET: You are late



EFFIE: Forgive me .....



MARGARET: There will hardly be time. No matter. I've started the yeast ... we can save time there. Don't just stand there ....



[EFFIE CLEARLY DOESN'T KNOW WHAT SHE SHOULD BE DOING]



MARGARET: Did your mother teach you nothing? Aprons.



[PASSES APRON TO EFFIE, PUTS ON ONE HERSELF]



EFFIE: But my cuffs....



MARGARET: Nonsense.

[SHE MAKES HER OWN BREAD DOUGH ALONGSIDE EFFIE]

MARGARET: Now Flour. Heap and then dig a well.... A well, not a ditch! In the middle! Good. Salt. Sugar. Yeast started in sugar and water. Egg. Five ingredients. Five. Tick them off on your fingers to remember .... Well?



EFFIE: .... Flour, Salt, Sugar, Yeast, Egg.



MARGARET: Flour, Salt, Sugar, Yeast, Egg. Now add Water. What sort of water?



[PAUSE. EFFIE DOESN'T KNOW. THE PAUSE SHOULD BE LONG ENOUGH FOR SOME OF THE AUDIENCE TO FEEL THEY DON'T KNOW EITHER]



MARGARET: Blood-warm. Do you feel it? Blood-warm. Too cold and you ruin the bread. Add it A Little at a Time. Too much.



EFFIE: Sorry.



MARGARET: Add more flour. Pull it in and around. In and around .... You'll have to do better than that.



EFFIE: Sorry.



MARGARET: A man likes home-made bread. Not just bread made by the Cook.



EFFIE: Cook doesn't make our bread. We have a perfectly good baker down the hill.



MARGARET: A baker! You pay a baker to make bread. Do you really think you can afford it?



EFFIE: John likes the French style.



MARGARET: Men don't know what they want. The French style is all very well, but you will need to save your pennies, soon. The French style costs more than the English.



EFFIE: I would give anything to please John.



MARGARET: It's all very well, giving anything with other people's money. Boughten bread! The very idea. John loves my bread. He will love yours as well. And at a third of the cost. There, do you see the change in your dough?



EFFIE: No.



MARGARET: [TAKES OVER EFFIE'S DOUGH, AND ADJUSTS IT] You're too wet. Too much water.



EFFIE: Sorry.



MARGARET: You'll be teaching this to the little one, soon enough.



EFFIE: Sophie?



MARGARET: No.



EFFIE: [SHOWING THE LOAF] How is it?



MARGARET: It's a little dirty ... no matter. It's all brown when it's baked.



EFFIE: It's hard work.



MARGARET: Most women's work is. It's a lovely smell, isn't it? Like a baby's head. When it looks like a baby's wee bottie, you're done.



EFFIE: Am I done?



MARGARET: [LOOKS AT THE DOUGH] No. Oh, well, enjoy it while you can. You'll know soon enough.



EFFIE: I'm sorry, I don't quite understand.



MARGARET: Early to bed, early to rise. Always poorly in the mornings before breakfast. Looking so pale, even my fly-paper tonic can't bring colour to the cheeks for long. No need for a prize to solve the puzzle. A woman knows.



EFFIE: I think you may be mistaken.



MARGARET: I'll make you tonic to build bones.



EFFIE: No thank you. My bones don't need building.



MARGARET: Maybe yes. Maybe no. I was talking about the baby's.



EFFIE: It's impossible. There is no baby.



MARGARET: Are you telling me that's not a baby [CUPS EFFIE'S BELLY].



EFFIE: No!



MARGARET: No. Don't you want it. Don't you want the child?



EFFIE: With all my heart. It's just ... it's impossible. It would have to be a miracle, for me to be with child.



MARGARET: Every woman thinks that. I thought that. I was thirty-six. Thirty-six. Everyone thought. But then, as luck would have it, the old man dies, and our own John was born, and we have worshipped him for the miracle that he was ever since.



EFFIE: I love him, too.



MARGARET: Who wouldn't.



EFFIE: He isn't ... ordinary, though.



MARGARET: Of course he's not. I didn't raise my miracle-baby to be ordinary. He's not like other men. Great men have great thoughts. It's left to us women to do the worrying about what needs to be done.



SCENE 6 EFFIE, JOHN AND JOHNNY, DRAWING ROOM

..........................[END OF THE SCENE]



JOHN: Great Art demands Great Sacrifice.

JOHNNY: I don't think your wife would agree.

JOHN: But you'll stay to dinner, as you promised? You'll stay. I would give anything for you to stay.



SCENE 7 DINNER THAT EVENING



Effie, John and Margaret Ruskin. No Johnny Millais.

[John is looking very bad-tempered; MARGARET is looking very bad-tempered. Effie is trying to be resolutely good-tempered]



EFFIE: "Lord, we thank you, Lord we pray, to live to thank another day."



MARGARET: I don't call that Grace.



EFFIE: It is one of Mrs. Liddel's. For her children. I think it's charming.



MARGARET: It's not a proper Grace.



JOHN: How would you know?



MARGARET: [TO JOHN] Sit up straight. I can't believe your father would approve. It doesn't seem to be said to our Lord for his sake, but for effect and for vanities' pleasure. It's said to hear yourself speak. Your father wouldn't approve. And your Father says a man's voice is always bettter for giving thanks ... There seems to have been a great deal to give thanks for, tonight.



EFFIE: Yes. We were expecting Mr Millais.



MARGARET: And what are these things on table?



EFFIE: They are called pine apples.



MARGARET: Pine Apples. For dinner?



EFFIE: It is the fashion.



MARGARET: And what are wrong with good English apples?



EFFIE: We thought you might like to try something new.



MARGARET: I suppose they are very dear.



EFFIE: We would give anything to give you new pleasure, Mother Ruskin.



MARGARET: It's all very well, giving anything. And easy as well, when one gives with other people's money. Will you still be giving me pine apples when you are my age? Or is it that you think my husband will keep you in pine apples all your days? If so, he'll have to keep you and the whole Gray clan, who have never had one bit of sense between them. Thank God you have no children.



EFFIE: Be quiet!



JOHN: How dare you speak to my mother like that!



EFFIE: Be quiet, too!



JOHN: Have you gone mad?



EFFIE: Have you? How can you sit there and listen to this silly old goose say one more word?



MARGARET: Maniac!



EFFIE: No. I am suddenly sane. And as for your sneaking, sliding, sly sluggish totting up of ever penny spent and every word spoken, weighing and telling tales, I loathe it. I loathe you. And I would rather be an ignorant silly Scotch girl than the sort of twisted, mean-minded, mean-spirited ugly old witch you've become.



[EFFIE EXITS]



MARGARET: She's very rude.



Scene 8   JOHN RUSKIN

JOHN: One great difficulty is that no one will ever believe that her character is what it is. For instance - who could believe, of a woman who to all strangers behaves with grace and pleasantness, that in her domestic life, for every question asked in a kind tone - every answer is given with a snap :[READS]

Effie is looking abstractedly out of the window.

John. Gently. What are you looking at, Effie"

Nothing.

John. Kindly. What are you thinking of then?

A great many things.

John. Amiably. Tell me some of them.

I was thinking of operas -and excitement - and -Angrily - a great many things.

John. Fondly. And what conclusions did you come to.

None - because YOU interrupted me.

And that continuing the whole day. imagine that! A woman should obey her husband in all commands, I tell her. I tell her it is my wish, and what I wish must be respected. That if she will not respect me, then we can never have peace. I tell her if she loved me, she would know that where I work is as important as when I work, that one must have the proper space to write, that one must feel not just respected, but ... cherished.



Scene 9 THAT EVENING. THE RUSKIN'S BEDROOM



JOHN: Effie. Euphemia.

[EFFIE PRETENDS TO BE ASLEEP]

JOHN: Listen carefully. If you apologise, I will take you to the Highlands in three months time for the whole of the summer. I had meant to tell you earlier.

Millais says he will come too.

And his brother.

And possibly Hunt.

It's for you to decide

...... unless you would rather spend the summer here with my parents.

Effie.

[THERE IS A PAUSE]

You know Pet, it seems almost a dream to me that we have been married, as if I had never held you in my arms. Come with me,  this summer, and we can look forward to our next bridal night .... as if we had never been together at all ... drawing your dress from your snowy shoulders, leaning my cheek upon them, as if you were my betrothed only ... my only betrothed ... my only ... drawing your dress from your shoulders ....

[RUSKIN TURNS AWAY. WE HEAR HIM MASTURBATING]

[EFFIE STARES STRAIGHT AHEAD]

SCENE 10 MORNING THE RUSKIN'S KITCHEN

EFFIE: Mother Ruskin. I felt so ill, last night. I couldn't sleep with the worry. John will. I am sorry. Forgive me. Forgive me.

MARGARET: I will never forgive you, Effie. You are mad.

EFFIE: I must be. John says I have a terrible temper. Forgive me. Tell me what I can do to make things right.


MARGARET: My son is the last of the Ruskins. John Thomas, John James, and now John. He should have children. Proper children. Children to make their father proud.

EFFIE: And he will.

MARGARET: How? With a mother who is mad?

EFFIE: You're not mad....

MARGARET: I meant you. How can he have children ... for fear the bad blood will out. And how can he divorce and still go into society. It would ruin him. And for what? Look at you: No money, no wits, no sense. You are just like all the other Grays from here to Kingdom Come. You are only fit to spend money that you haven't earned, drawing him and his father deeper and deeper into debt.

EFFIE: John says nothing about this.

MARGARETL He says nothing, because he loves you. But if you loved him, you would see there can be only one way to put things right, to let him live as he should. To let him have the life and the children and the wife he should have.



[HANDS EFFIE THE STRAIGHT-BACK RAZOR]



EFFIE: What shall I do with this?



MARGARET: Search your heart. If you love him, if you truly love him .... Do what you think best.

END OF ACT ONE


draft 2
© Kim Morrissey, 2003


ACT TWO still in progress
next workshop in April 2003

THIS IS NOT THE FINAL VERSION OF THIS PLAY (draft 2)

MRS RUSKIN by Kim Morrissey. Caution: this play is fully protected under the copyright laws of Canada and all other countries of The Copyright Union, and is subject to royalty. Those interested in production rights are requested to apply to Playwrights Guild of Canada, Mailing Address 215 Spadina Ave.Suite #210 Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 2C7 telephone (416) 703-0201; fax (416) 703-0059. e-mail: info@playwrightsguild.ca




BACKGROUND MATERIAL: The Order of Release
"The Order of Release 1746", oil on canvas, 103 x 74 cm, 1852-1853, Effie Ruskin (née Gray, later Millais) as model, The Tate Gallery, London