MRS RUSKIN

by Kim Morrissey

Draft Three (23.04.2003)
April 23d 2003
Canada House
Trafalgar Square
London, UK

Director: Jacqui Somerville

to be produced by
Theatre Metropolis in 2003
Artistic Directors: Amy Oliver, Michael Yale
directed by Jacqui Somerville


Other Drafts of Kim Morrissey's  Mrs. Ruskin


actors involved in the workshops


For it is foolish to speak of the superiority of one sex over the other: each is he complement of the other. The man's power is active: he is the creator, the discoverer, the defender; but the woman's power is for proper ordering and judginment; her function is Praise: she enters no contest, but adjudges the crown of contest: her home is the place of Peace, and there she rules. But to do this she must be good and instinctively wise.    --John Ruskin

Draft Three was a 'catch-up' draft, mid way between the February draft, which Jacqui hadn't been able to attend, and the planned intensive workshop and invited reading at Canada House in June, further developing the character of Margaret Ruskin, the character of Millais and the action of Act Two. One of the problems with the workshop process is that you can't workshop a play until it is written, and it isn't completely written until it has been workshopped. Although I knew the overall structure of the second act (having done an outline in November) there were still scenes which had to be written before transitions into the next scene could take place. Although I was reasonably happy with the progress of Margaret's character, and Sophie's character seemed to be working well, and I had a sense of Effie, at this point, I knew I still had at least three more months of research to do on Johhny and John.

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

Third Draft Workshop

ACT ONE March 1853

ACT TWO June 1853 - April 1854


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



MRS RUSKIN
DRAFT THREE
ACT ONE



SCENE 1 1853. THE RUSKIN'S BEDROOM.

John Ruskin stands before a mirror, undressed, shaving.

JOHN: [LECTURING TO HIMSELF, MID-LECTURE]

I married my wife, thinking her so young and affectionate that I might influence her as I chose. I imagined that I could change HER. She married, thinking she could change ME. Imagine a wife, rather than loving, respecting, admiring, cherishing her husband ... and treasuring his parents as the progenitors of her most precious possession .... Imagine instead, her speaking of her husband - his father - and his mother - as the "Batch " of "Ruskins."

How could one have a child with such a woman? What sort of mother could she be? One longs to say to her: [TRIES OUT VARIOUS TONES]

Effie .... Effie ....



[EFFIE KNOCKS AT HER OWN BEDROOM DOOR AND ENTERS]



EFFIE: Forgive me. Did you call?



JOHN: [COLDLY]  No.



EFFIE: I thought I heard my name.



JOHN: Perhaps. I am preparing a lecture on Model Marriage.



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



JOHN: Of a sort. 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 cleverest,  kindest, most considerate, most compassionate man I know. Please, let's not quarrel.



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 ill.



JOHN: What will I tell Mother? And what about Sophie?



EFFIE: Sophie can take care of herself.



JOHN: A nice sentiment! What will her mother say, when she hears of it?



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 as if she were her own child 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 Sophie's breakfast-farewell. It is my wish that you join them.



EFFIE: Your wish!



JOHN: Yes, my wish.



EFFIE: And what about my wishes?



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 ... X .C.V.I..I.



EFFIE: No. In English....



SOPHIE: But I go home today!



EFFIE: XC is ....

XC is ... 90.



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

His own vast shadow glory-crow ... N... d ....



EFFIE: [Looking at the text] "Crowned"



SOPHIE:

His own vast shadow glory-crown'd;....

He sees himself in all he sees.



It's like Mr Ruskin!



Two partners of a married life --





EFFIE: Skip down.



SOPHIE:

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 it means if I don't know the word?



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! 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, 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 a 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 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.



JOHN ENTERS.



JOHN: Sophie. What are you doing?



SOPHIE: Standing still.



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



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



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



[SOPHIE CONTINUES TO STAND, STARING STRAIGHT AHEAD]



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



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



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



SOPHIE: No! No!



JOHN: Yes!



SOPHIE: [LAUGHING] No!



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



SOPHIE: Standing still.



EFFIE: John, what are you doing?



JOHN: 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, Mr. 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. She says people would think me extraordinary, inviting a young gentleman to stay in the house with her when I am away so often. 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 with us next Tuesday? As long as you like.



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



[JOHN AND JOHNNY 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.



JOHN: None. How extraordinary!



SCENE 5 KITCHEN TABLE



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 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 fly-paper tonic can't bring colour to your cheeks. No need to say anything. A woman knows.



EFFIE: I think you may be mistaken.



MARGARET: I'll make you more 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

[JOHNNY IS PACKING UP HIS PAINTS]

JOHN: Great Art demands Great Sacrifice.

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

JOHN: But you'll at least 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]



JOHN: Effie ....?



MARGARET: Your Father says a man's voice is always better for giving thanks ....



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. It's too short. [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 vanities' sake. It's said to hear yourself speak.....

[LOOKS AT THE TABLE] There seems to have been a great deal to give thanks for, tonight. Do you always have so much for dinner?



EFFIE: 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 or scrap of fortune 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: Will you let your mother speak to me like that?



MARGARET: How dare she speak to your mother like that!



EFFIE: I am your wife! .... John.... Very well. If you will not speak for me.... I will not stay here to be insulted. Please excuse me.



[EFFIE EXITS]



MARGARET: She's very rude.



Scene 8 JOHN RUSKIN

JOHN: 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. I know you are angry, but if you apologise, like a good little girl, I will take you back to the Highlands in three months time for the whole of the summer. Just us. Alone. Together. 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. You can come with me if you wish ...

... 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 ....

[JOHN TURNS AWAY. WE HEAR HIM MASTURBATING]

[EFFIE STARES STRAIGHT AHEAD]

SCENE 10 MORNING THE RUSKIN'S KITCHEN


MARGARET: You're up early.

EFFIE: Mother Ruskin. I felt so ill, last night. I couldn't sleep with the worry.

MARGARET: Or the wine.

EFFIE: I am sorry. Forgive me. Forgive me.

MARGARET: I will never forgive you. 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: There is only one thing you can do. 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? How could he take the risk? 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, going into Society you can't pay for, drawing him and his father deeper and deeper into debt.

EFFIE: John says nothing about this.

MARGARET: He says nothing, because he loves you. But if you loved him, truly loved him, you would see there can be only one way to put things right, to let him live as he should. As he was destined to be. Stand aside, Effie. For once in your life, think of someone other than yourself. Stand aside, and let him have the life and the children and the wife he should have.



EFFIE: But how could I do that? We are married.



[MARGARET HANDS EFFIE THE STRAIGHT-BACK RAZOR]



MARGARET: Search your heart. Do what you think best.



END OF ACT ONE





ACT TWO


SCENE 1: JULY 1853 BRIG O' TURK, SCOTLAND

THE RUSKINS AND MILLAIS ON HOLIDAY



[AS LIGHTS COME UP, WE SEE EFFIE, RAZOR IN HAND (LIGHTING FROM ABOVE, FROM COMPLETE DARKNESS, SO WE SEE EFFIE AND THE RAZOR CATCHING THE LIGHT, BEFORE WE SEE WHAT SHE IS DOING.) AS THE LIGHT GRADUALLY GROWS, IT REVEALS A GLORIOUS SUNRISE IN SCOTLAND . LIGHTS UP COMPLETELY ON 'I am losing the light.']



EFFIE: [SHAVING JOHN] There. Hold still.



JOHN: But I don't want ....



EFFIE: Don't talk!



JOHN: But I don't like ....



EFFIE: Don't move! ... up .... good .....



JOHNNY: [TO EFFIE, SKETCHING HER] Don't move!



EFFIE: [PAUSES, RAZOR IN HAND, POSING AMIABLY, BEHIND JOHN, AS THOUGH SHE WERE ABOUT TO CUT HIS THROAT]



JOHNNY: Perfect!



EFFIE: John's mother used to do this for his grandfather, after he went mad ... it must have been very wearing.... he was a very demanding man, all his life. I can't imagine how she managed to keep him still ....



JOHN: My mother is an extraordinary woman.



EFFIE: She must have been extraordinarily strong, as well. [TO JOHNNY] John's grandfather used to tear off his clothes, and fight with people through the night.



JOHNNY: What fun! As a bet?



JOHN: No, with whomever was around.



EFFIE: The servants said it was a terrible strain, taking care of him.



JOHN: They say he was clean-shaven, though, to the end ... like my father, he was a handsome man, and always very proud of his appearance.



EFFIE: I think he must have been a very selfish man - to let someone go to all this bother, and THEN cut your throat. [TO JOHNNY] May I continue?



JOHNNY: By all means. I am losing the light.



EFFIE: [ CONTINUING TO SHAVE JOHN] Gaining it, you mean.



JOHNNY: How perceptive! You would make a good artist.



JOHN: Hardly.



EFFIE: I was given prizes at school for my Art.



JOHN: Fools reward fools.



JOHNNY: [TO EFFIE] I'm very impressed.



JOHN: She can't even draw a circle.



JOHNNY: [TO EFFIE] I'm very impressed. It takes a true artist to not draw a circle.



JOHN: There's no point praising her for things she can't do. You might as well praise the way she breathes.



JOHNNY: You breathe exactly right, Mrs. Ruskin. Neither too fast nor too slow. It makes drawing you a delight.



JOHN: Nonsense. An artist who can't draw a circle is no artist at all.



JOHNNY: There are no perfect circles in nature.



JOHN: But surely, as artists, we must strive for perfection.



JOHNNY: No.



JO)HN: [OUTRAGED] No!



EFFIE: [TO JOHN] Keep still.



JOHNNY: We must learn to see things as they are, not as other people tell us they are. That is the first lesson for a Pre-Raphaelite painter. To see things as they are.



EFFIE: Do you think you could teach me?



JOHNNY: With pleasure. And you, too, John.



EFFIE: But when?



JOHNNY: Now, if you like.



[EFFIE PUTS DOWN CUT THROAT RAZOR AND STARTS TO LOOK FOR PAPER]



JOHN: [FEELING HIS FACE] I don't call this finished.



EFFIE: Oh, John, forgive me. [SNATCHES UP RAZOR TO FINISH SHAVING]



JOHN: Take care!



JOHNNY: Lesson TWO. Every stroke must be deliberate. And controlled .... slowly .... slower ..... Well done!



[SKY DARKENS FOR RAIN]



SCENE 2

INSIDE THE BRIG 'O TURK COTTAGE. THE MOUNTAIN BEN LEDI IN BACKGROUND. RAIN.

[JOHNNY AND EFFIE ARE PLAYING BATTLEDORE AND SHUTTLECOCK. THEY PLAY UNTIL JOHNNY WINS A POINT]



JOHNNY: Victory! The Jersey Stunner defeats you yet again, Madam! Hand your weapon to the Herne Hill Gamecock and Stand Aside! This is a Sport for Men.



JOHN: En guard! Duke Stunner. I accept your challenge.



[THEY PLAY; BEST OF THREE POINTS]



EFFIE: It's my turn. Let me play the winner.



JOHNNY: But you can't. The winner is Master and shall nevermore be challenged.



EFFIE: Then let me play the loser.



JOHNNY: Impossible. It was a fight to the death. Besides, we fought for you!



EFFIE: I think you will find, Mr. Stunner, I can fight for myself.



SCENE 3

THE WATERFALL AT GLENFINLAS


[EFFIE AND JOHNNY ARE IN THE SAME POSITION AS THE MILLAIS SKETCH "THE MASTER AND HIS PUPILS" JOHN IS HOVERING. THERE IS A PACKED LUNCH NEARBY.]



JOHNNY: [TO EFFIE] Good. now draw me three more squares.



EFFIE: One ...two ....three!



JOHNNY: Well done! Now. Square one: shade in graduations again .... four stages to the square ....



EFFIE: One ... two ... three .... four.



JOHNNY: Now dry point to smooth the graduations into one. ... Excellent! You are better than I was, at your stage! You are better than I was after six years of instruction.



EFFIE: Perhaps I have a better teacher.



JOHNNY: Square Two. Draw a smooth, round rock.



[JOHN NEEDS TO PISS; HE MOVES OUT OF POSITION]



JOHNNY: [TO JOHN] Don't move.



JOHN: But you aren't doing me at all! You're painting rocks.



JOHNNY: It isn't you I need, it is the shadows reflecting from you onto the rock. I need the colour of you, in position, to do them properly.



JOHN: But there must be rocks which don't reflect me. Just for a moment.



JOHNNY: Do you want this to be done properly, or not?



JOHN: I must move. I must .... Forgive me. Five minutes.



EFFIE: Are you going back to the cottage?



JOHN: No.



[JOHN EXITS]



EFFIE: Forgive him.



JOHNNY: Nonsense. It is one of the pleasures of being in the outdoors, for a man.



[EFFIE OPENS BASKET]



EFFIE: Salmon, Beef or Cucumber?



JOHNNY: Salmon, please, Mrs. Ruskin.



EFFIE: Perhaps you could call me Effie.



JOHNNY: Perhaps. Could you call me John?



EFFIE: I'm sorry. It would be too confusing. Two Johns. You wouldn't know which one I wanted.



JOHNNY: Johnny then, or Jack. My friends call me Johnny.



EFFIE: It would be like calling Michael Angelo 'Mike.'



JOHNNY: But what else could I be called?



EFFIE: Perhaps I could call you ... Everett.



JOHNNY: No one uses that.



EFFIE: No one but me....



JOHNNY: It sounds too ... formal. I'm not old enough to be an 'Everett.'



EFFIE: We could call you 'Evvie.'



JOHNNY: Call me Everett.



EFFIE: Another sandwich, Everett? We have ... [under her breath] six, seven .... three into seven ... [TO JOHNNY] three more for you, if you like.



JOHNNY: I shall call you The Countess.



EFFIE: Because I'm noble and beautifully-mannered?



JOHNNY: Because you count very badly. Three into nine is 3. Another salmon, please.

Thank you.



[JOHN RETURNS]



EFFIE: Salmon, Beef or Cucumber?



JOHN: Cucumber, of course.



EFFIE AND JOHNNY SMILE.



EFFIE: Of course.



[SKY DARKENS FOR RAIN]



SCENE 4

RUSKIN ON  THE ROCKS



JOHN: I intend to tell them that, of course, the greatest artists are those who represent curves with straight lines. There are no perfect circles in nature, and should be none in art. Where there are, you find a bad artist.



JOHNNY: When did you come to this decision?



JOHN: I have always thought so.



JOHNNY: I'm so pleased we agree.



JOHN: I can't tell you how much pleasure being with you has brought me, this summer.



JOHNNY: But you must find it difficult as well, my being always with you.



JOHN: I would rather be with you, than anyone.



JOHNNY: Even Effie?



JOHN: It is a privilege to be with you, and to have you all to myself. You are a great artist, Everett. Better than Turner was, at your stage!



JOHNNY: But surely you would like some time alone.



JOHN: Of course. That is why your evening walk with Effie is such a treat for me.



JOHNNY: But the cottage is so small. Surely you must miss those pleasures marriage holds.



JOHN: Not at all!





LEADING INTO:

SCENE 5

RUSKIN ON 'ROCKS' IN MILLAIS' STUDIO; January 1853.

[JOHNNY, JOHN AND SOPHIE]

SOPHIE She wants a child.

                She wants yours.

                She wants your child.



JOHN: That will never happen. But you mustn't tell Effie, Sophie.



EFFIE: Because she will be sad?



JOHN: Because she will think you are an evil, wicked girl for telling tales and send you away.



SCENE 6

THE NEXT MORNING. SOPHIE IN EFFIE'S ROOM, HAVING HER RAGS TAKEN OUT OF HER HAIR.


SOPHIE: And then he said 'she will think you an evil, wicked girl and send you away, but you wouldn't, would you.



EFFIE: I would sooner go myself.



SOPHIE: Because you love me.



EFFIE: Because you are my sister ... and I love you.



SOPHIE: And what about Mr Ruskin? I think he must love me too.



EFFIE: I'm certain he does.



SOPHIE: He tells me he never wants me to go.

Mr Millais says that when people are beautiful, everyone loves them. And that's why I think Crawley don't like Mrs. Ruskin; because she is ugly.



EFFIE: 'Doesn't.' 'Crawley doesn't like Mrs. Ruskin.'



SOPHIE: Exactly. MRS Ruskin says ....

[complaints about Mr Ruskin's shirts]





SCENE 7

IN THE KITCHEN

MARGARET: What can we expect from an ignorant Scotch girl.



EFFIE: 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 THROWS A KNIFE AT MRS RUSKIN. IT JUST MISSES HER.]

[THEY BOTH LOOK SURPRISED]



SCENE 8

RUSKIN AND SOPHIE TOGETHER.

[SHE IS READING THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER ALOUD TO HIM. HE IS SITTING WITH HER, OR DRAWING HER]



SOPHIE: And Effie said that was why Crawley DOESN'T like Mrs Ruskin, because she is so very, very ugly, just like Mr. Hans and Mr Schwatz in your book.



JOHN: Please go on.



SOPHIE: Well, Crawley was having tea and Cook told him ...



JOHN: From where you left off, please.



SOPHIE: [READING] "Poor beastie," said Gluck, "it'll be dead when I come down again, if I don't help it." Then he looked closer and closer at it, and its one eye turned on him so mournfully that he could not stand it. "Confound the King and his gold too" said Gluck; and he opened the flask and poured all the water into the dog's mouth.



The dog sprang up and stood on its hind legs. Its tail disappeared, its ears became long, longer, silky, golden; its nose became very red, its eyes became very twinkling; in three seconds the dog was gone, and before Gluck stood his old acquaintance, the King of the Golden River.



"Thank you," said the monarch; "but don't be frightened, it's all right;" for Gluck showed manifest symptoms of consternation at this unlooked for reply to his observation. "Why didn't you come before," continued the dwarf, "instead of sending me those rascally brothers of yours-"



JOHN: "Sisters."



SOPHIE: [CHECKING THE TEXT] "brothers"



JOHN: "Sisters".



SOPHIE: Brothers.



JOHN: When I first wrote it for Effie, I thought it should be 'brothers.' But now I think it should be 'Sisters.' Please correct it, for me.



SOHPIE: Will you write something for me?



JOHN: If you are as pretty as your sister. Start from "Why didn't you come before."



SOPHIE: "Why didn't you come before, "continued the dwarf," instead of sending me those rascally ... sisters .... of yours, for me to have the trouble of turning into stones? Very hard stones they make, too!" -- What sort of stones were they?



JOHN: Very hard. Very, very hard. Hard as granite. Hard as this.



[HE PINCHES HER]



SOPHIE: No, hard as this! [SHE PINCHES HIM]



JOHN: Stop! ..... Stop!



SOPHIE: Hard as this ... and this and this [SHE CARRIES ON PINCHING]



JOHN: I said Stop.

[AS HE STANDS, EFFIE NOTICES SOMETHING ABOUT HIS PERSON]



EFFIE: John, may I speak with you?



JOHN: Sophie has not finished her lesson.



EFFIE: She can finish later. Sophie. Find Old Ann, and ask her if the eggs from Denmark Hill have come.



SOPHIE: For my very own tea!



EFFIE: For your very own tea.



[SOPHIE EXITS]



EFFIE: I understand there has been some misunderstanding about your shirts.



JOHN: So I believe. I told Old Annie I'd told Crawley, not Old Annie to wash them. They were left in a heap, and Old Annie thought they were washed, and when she went to iron them, found them ... soiled.



EFFIE: The way your shirt today is soiled?



JOHN: Perhaps. It was just a misunderstanding. It won't happen again.



EFFIE: I will send her away.



JOHN: I don't think so.



EFFIE: I will take her away. You will never see either of us again.



JOHN: Where would you go? Not your father's. He begged us to let Sophie come.



EFFIE: Not knowing this.



JOHN: Knowing everything. It does her no harm. Did it do you any? What a child doesn't notice, it doesn't know.



EFFIE: I will take her away.



JOHN: No. You will not risk your position. You have no money, no position, no prospects if you are not my wife. You are my wife. You will stay here, and Sophie will grow older, here, with us, secure in the knowledge that she is loved.



EFFIE: No.



JOHN: Oh, yes, Mrs. Ruskin. Yes.



SCENE 9

MRS. RUSKIN READS EFFIE'S LETTER, RETURNING THE KEYS.



MRS. RUSKIN: John! John! She has gone! Effie has gone! she has sent back her keys and her house-keeping book, and she's gone!



JOHN: I know. I saw her off.



MRS RUSKIN: No. She's gone for good.



JOHN: She will come back. Where else could she go?



MRS. RUSKIN: She says she doesn't intend to be married.



JOHN: Surely she can not believe I would grant her a divorce. After all that she has put me through.



MRS RUSKIN: Worse. She says you have never been married. And you married six years this April. How can she say such a thing?



JOHN: The sheer cheek of it! She deserves to be beaten with a common stick.



MRS RUSKIN: How can that be?



JOHN: I don't know, Mother.



MRS. RUSKIN: How can that be?



EPILOGUE

[MONOLOGUE]



THE END
draft 3
© Kim Morrissey, 2003


next workshop is a three day workshop
at Canada House in June 2003
which will be followed by an invited reading


THIS IS NOT THE FINAL VERSION OF THIS PLAY (draft 3)

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