Sense and Sensibility by Tom Wood

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This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent




A stormy afternoon in late August, 1795

The conservatory at Norland

Large windows face a rain-soaked garden. Inside are huge palms, orchids,
ferns. A piano, some wicker chairs, a scattering of books and, center,
on an easel, is a large, half-completed painting of Norland Park, the
Dashwood Family home

Elinor Dashwood stands in a smock, painting

Marianne plays something passionate on the pianoforte

Margaret sits writing

After a moment, Elinor believes she hears something and signals Marianne to
stop playing.

ELINOR: Marianne

All three women look to the conservatory entrance and listen. A pause
during which we hear the pelting rain. Marianne begins playing again
but with little heart.

MARGARET: Poor, poor mama.

Marianne wipes tears from her eyes.

MARIANNE: I marvel you can see to paint.

ELINOR: I would like him to see it completed. (beat) Before we blink-
Norland Park will no longer be ours.

Elizabeth enters quickly.


ELIZABETH: (almost whispered) Your father is coming down.

ELINOR: (taking off her smock) But Papa's too weak! We must go up.

ELIZABETH: If he's obliged to wait, your father prefers waiting with
his girls- watching it rain on the old grove.

Marianne begins weeping. Elinor grabs her by the shoulders, looks into
her eyes, willing her to calm herself, as Mr. Graham, a servant,
enters pushing Henry Dashwood in a wheeled chair. Elizabeth kneels and
takes her husband's hand. The three daughters stand, all on the
verge of hysterical weeping. Henry's breathing is labored.

ELINOR: (forcing herself to be calm) Marianne, dear, play something.

MARGARET: Are you cold, papa? (getting a shawl for his knees)

A pause. All they want to do is embrace their father and sob.

ELIZABETH: Elinor is painting Norland, Henry.

MARGARET: I am writing a play for you, papa- about your regimental days.

HENRY: (weakly) Are you?


ELINOR: (quietly) Something else, Marianne. (it is too dirge-like)

Marianne begins. Mr. Graham enters. She stops playing and stands.

GRAHAM: Mr. John Dashwood has arrived from London, mam. Shall I-?

JOHN: (entering) Profuse apologies all. Papa! You needn't have come
down for us! We are a bit behind, I do confess. Fanny insisted on
bringing little Harry.

FANNY: (off) To see his Gannpa- (entering in a rush, a gooey voice)
His favorite Gannpapa! His most favoritist Gannpapa!

Fanny turns and picks a baby out of the pram that has been wheeled in
behind her by the Nanny. The baby begins to wail. The Dashwood women
react as if they'd been slapped.

ELINOR: Fanny, Papa is very weak. Perhaps -

FANNY: (to Harry) Hush. Hush! What do you say, Harry? Harry says, I
wov you Gannpa!

Harry wails louder. Fanny pushes the child into Henry's face.

FANNY: John! His dingle-dangle. "I'll miss you everso,

The Dashwood women are appalled by this tasteless lapse as Henry is
still alive.

FANNY: (finding the rattle and forcing it on John)(singing) "A
Pretty little kitty had a bell around her neck"


JOHN: "An . birdy saw a worm that he might peck"
FANNY: "An Itty bitty birdy saw a worm that."

John shakes the rattle in the baby's face as:

ELIZABETH: Come, Fanny-

FANNY: "A-tinkle, jingle, jangle-oh, sounded kitty's bell"

ELIZABETH: Fanny, let us leave Henry with John.

FANNY: Nonsense, Ganpa wishes nothing more than to- (continues singing
twitching the toy in the baby's face. Making faces wiggling his own
head. "A-tinkle, jingle, jangle-oh, sounded kitty's bell, tolling
the very instant(etc.)" Oh!

The toy flies apart scattering bells and wooden balls on the floor etc.

FANNY: John! You are too clumsy-! Take him.

JOHN: Graham. (ordering Graham to pick up the broken toy)

ELIZABETH: (to Graham) Leave it!

Elinor takes the wailing baby from John and walks it out of the room.

Fanny is outraged

She barks at the Nanny to follow Elinor

Margaret picks up any debris from the rattle.

FANNY: (about Elinor) The cheek! John

HENRY: I wish you all to hear (he works hard at breathing)

ELIZABETH: Henry, darling?

HENRY: As you must know, I am forbid, by law, from dividing my estate
-which would easily provide for both my families. (he recovers his breath)

Having passed Harry back to the Nanny, Elinor re-enters quietly.

HENRY: Accordingly, Norland and indeed all of my worldly resources
must pass down to my to my only male heir. John, to you then and
after you to your son, Harry.

FANNY: Dear Mr. Dashwood!

HENRY: But, John, you must comprehend the love, the joy my dear wife,
Lizzy and your sisters, have brought to my life. So, I beg you, John,
that after I am gone, you will help them.

JOHN: (a quick brief pause) Of course, papa. Sit back and-


HENRY: Promise me that you will do everything in your power.
JOHN: Rest assured-

HENRY: They will be destitute and but for your generosity, the
girls will want for dowries.

JOHN: I understand-

HENRY: I beg you-

JOHN: Of course-

FANNY: We should let him rest.

HENRY: Promise!

JOHN: (beat) I promise they shall want for nothing.

HENRY: II am obliged. (he takes another breath and unnoticed by
John, slips away)

JOHN: (bending in and whispering into his father's ear) I warrant
you, I shall be uncommonly generous. What think you of three thousand

FANNY: (worried "what are you whispering") John, dear?

JOHN: It will be enough to make them completely easy. There now, is
that not liberal and handsome? (a beat) Papa?

Realizing that Henry may have passed, Elizabeth sweeps in. She
inadvertently pushes John aside. She feels for a pulse and listens for
breath. After a beat she says quietly.

ELIZABETH: Darling, Henry.

All three daughters surround his body and weep. The lights fade down
on them as John stands on looking confused. He turns to Fanny as her
eyes sweep around the room tallying up what is finally hers.

The lights change as servants begin carting in crates, carpets and
furniture and depositing them etc. A lady's maid helps Fanny doff
her coat, bonnet, gloves. Saville has entered and awaits direction
from Fanny.


Saville has an armful of drapery and paper samples.

FANNY: Three thousand pounds, John! How could you!? How could you
possibly justify robbing your only son of so large a sum?! It's absurd!

JOHN: It was father's last request.

FANNY: Had he been in his right mind, he could not have thought of you
giving away half your fortune.

JOHN: My dear, it is far from half my fortune-

The "look" Fanny gives John silences him mid sentence


JOHN: Wellnow I think of it, he did not stipulate for any
particular sum; he only requested me, in general terms, to make their
situation more comfortable.

Because he has backed down, Fanny smiles at John. Fanny indicates that
Saville should signal the workmen. Workmen then cross with crates, etc.

FANNY: (you big silly) It's very well known that no affection is ever supposed
to exist between the children of any man by different marriages-


FANNY: (pecks his cheek) and why would you ruin yourself, and our
poor little Harry, by giving away all our money to your half sisters?
(becoming sexually) Um? Mr. Dashwood? Um? The notions in that handsome
head ! (takes John off)


A week later. The painting of Norland is almost complete. Two more
workmen cross with crates. Marianne, Elinor and Margret (dressed in
mourning) enter, dodging workmen. Movers deposit large crates,
furniture and boxed paintings etc. Elinor blows her nose.

MARIANNE: Mama is right- we must quit Norland immediately!

ELINOR: Be sensible, Marianne. We have no prospects and less means.

More crates invade their space

MARIANNE: Insufferable shrew!

ELINOR: Hush! This house is hers now-

MARIANNE: No one disputes it!! The house was John's from the moment
of papa's decease; but the indelicacy of her conduct is intolerable!

Fanny enters with Saville and a draper. Fanny identifies items that
must go.

SAVILLE: in here I believe, ma'am.

FANNY: (a face of revulsion as she looks about the Conservatory) Yes.
This! This is the most exasperating of the offending rooms. You see,
Saville, desperate for our regard. Is that old thing ours? (piano)

MARIANNE: The piano is mama's!

FANNY: (pointing) This painting can go.

MARIANNE: We would not part with one of Elinor's paintings for
anything in the world!

Fanny is immediately incensed. She has a retort on her lips but-

ELINOR: (as an apology for Marianne) We are all still very much

FANNY: (then uncoiling, sweetly) I perfectly understand. (to Saville
as she begins to exit) Note to solicitor-Are there any stipulations in
the will against the partitioning and selling of the woods to the

Saville consults a sheaf of papers. Marianne begins an outburst-
Elinor prevents it. As Fanny moves up to window with the draper

FANNY: Yes, I have used this to great effect in my London home.

MARIANNE: The bald impudence of the woman!

ELINOR: Marianne!

MARGARET: (beat) I have hatched a plot to murder the witch.

ELINOR: Margaret!

MARGARET: Fanny will fall down the stairs and break her neck.

MARIANNE: Margaret!

MARGARET: In my new theatrical. She will slip on a bauble that has
fallen from Harry's "dingle-dangle" (she produces a couple of
the balls) and tumble down the whole of the staircase to her utter demise.

Marianne laughs outright. Elinor tries to stifle a laugh.

JOHN: Has anyone seen Fanny?


Saville enters with workmen carrying large swatches of drapery cloth
and drop-cloths. They cover everything that is coverable. John enters
eating pie. He strolls over to Fanny and begins a conversation- Fanny
and the draper move downstage to ottoman with samples. John follows.

JOHN: The promise was given and something must be done.

FANNY: That something need not be three thousand pounds. Consider that
your step-sisters will marry, and the money will be gone.

JOHN: Perhaps, then, if the sum were diminished by half? Five hundred
pounds each would be a prodigious increase to their fortunes!

FANNY: What brother on earth would do half so much for his sisters,
even if really his sisters! Really John, you have such a generous
spirit! (beat) John!

Workmen, with a big woosh, cover the piano with a drop cloth. Fanny
and John exit. Workmen, Saville and draper bring on ladders and a
bagged drape.


Elizabeth enters in an excited rush. She has a folio and cards.

ELIZABETH: (calling) Oh, my dears- Elinor! Girls! I have such
heartening news!

She removes her bonnet and shawl. The girls enter. Elinor moves to

ELIZABETH: Mr. Piercefield was of immense service! He has put forward
three houses to let and not one of them beyond a mile of Norland Park!

ELINOR: (seeing the chart of the first house) Oh.

ELIZABETH: Montgomery Place! You remember it, Elinor.

ELINOR: Mama this is far beyond our altered income.

ELIZABETH: But with what we will receive from John-

ELINOR: And Eversley House?! We could never maintain such an enormous
estate. Even this one-

ELIZABETH: Decidedly inadequate, I'll allow. Four bedrooms only.

ELINOR: Mama, this is more than twice

ELIZABETH: At the very least, we must each have a bedroom.

ELINOR: We will share.

MAR&MARG: What?!

ELINOR: We must be prudent or remain here on John's charity or go
without a roof over our heads altogether.

As the Workmen attend to the drape, a young man enters behind the
Dashwood women. He's is dressed ruggedly for riding and his hands and
face have smudges of grime.

ELIZABETH: Elinor, remember that John has promised your father-

He is about to ask them a question or introduce himself when-

ELINOR: Yes, mother but what John has promised and what Fanny will
allow, are two very different matters.

The young man realizes he shouldn't be overhearing such private
conversation and is frozen in place.

ELIZABETH: You can't imagine he'd renege?

ELINOR: Mother. (think about it)

Elizabeth does- then smiles ruefully.

ELIZABETH: I will write again to our relatives.

Elizabeth gathers together her papers and charts. Elinor hugs her,
then helps her tidy. The young man begins to tip-toe out of the room.
Margaret's next statement stops him.

MARGARET: I will find a far more grisly end for the horrible Fanny. A
cobra in her bed perhaps.


MARIANNE: If it proves true that John will forsake his commitment,
then what wrong is there in quitting Norland immediately and forever!

ELINOR: To go where?! We must try to avoid an irreparable breach with
our brother. He may after all not be swayed by his wife's

EDWARD: Impossible-

As all the women turn and look at him, Elinor knocks into easel-
brushes fall.

EDWARD: I don't suppose there is a man in England who could
withstand her.

ELINOR: (bending to recover them) You know her?

EDWARD: (down on the floor helping her) Somewhat. (a beat as they lock
eyes. Then-) Excuse me, I'm-

FANNY: (entering with Saville) Edward! For pity's sake get up off
the floor! You do realize you're two days behind your time.
(indicates to workman to raise the curtains)And what are you wearing?!
You look like a stableman!

EDWARD: (to the Dashwood women) Forgive me. Edward Ferrars, Fanny's
disappointing brother. (he bows slightly)

FANNY: Yes, of course. Mrs. Elizabeth Dashwood. Miss Elinor Dashwood,
Miss Marianne Dashwood and Miss Mary Dashwood.

MARGARET: Margaret!

EDWARD: I should very much like to meet that cobra of yours, Miss

Margaret blushes. Edward smiles at her. The workman hoist the curtains

FANNY: You smell of horse, Edward. Pray, clean yourself up.

Fanny takes a moment to consider the curtains.

FANNY: (satisfied victory, to Saville) Ahhhh! You see, the green is
considerably finer.

Saville directs the workmen to strike the ladders.

FANNY: (to Edward) You may have the front bedroom. It has a view of
the lake.

MARIANNE: That's Elinor's room!

FANNY: Elinor will not be much inconvenienced.

All look to Elinor.

ELINOR: I will share with Margaret.

EDWARD: I won't hear of it!

Elinor and Edward lock eyes again for a significant beat.

EDWARD: Any of the guest rooms will be more than sufficient. You have
such a warm and elegant home, Mrs. Dashwood. Ignoring the inordinate
disruption that my sister and the entire Ferras invasion has
occasioned- (workman brush past them) -this must have been a very
pleasing room.

The Dashwood women are instantly warmed by his deference to

FANNY: Just wait, Edward- this shabby hall will be eliminated
entirely. I intend a proper conservatory to perch there, in place of
those tired old trees.

MARIANNE: Those are father's favorite-!

FANNY: Do not distress yourself, it will be exceedingly impressive.
Come along now, Edward.

Elizabeth exits one way as Fanny begins to exit another.

EDWARD: You are the artist?

ELINOR: It's my painting. Yes.

EDWARD: It isquite That is

A long beat as they look at each other-

FANNY: (as she exits) Edward!

EDWARD: I like it very much.

Edward exits. Marianne pulls the drop cloth off the piano

MARIANNE: Appalling, appalling harridan!! (banging something angry on
the piano)

ELINOR: Marianne!

Marianne jumps up from the piano and begins to pace quickly.

ELINOR: You must learn to refrain from indulging in such an excess of
sensibility. .

MARIANNE: If I feel joyful or wounded, loving or loathing- why should
I not manifest it!?

ELINOR: Because, somehow, we must all live together.

MARGARET: I don't imagine Elinor will mind at all living under the
same roof as (with severe romantic implications) "Mr. Edward Ferrars".

ELINOR: Margaret!

MARGARET: (doing a gooey version of Elinor) "Not at all, Edward. I
will share with Margaret"

Elinor lunges at Margaret who shrieks and laughs and runs from her.
Fanny enters with Saville and workmen- pointing at what should stay
and what should go. John enters behind them, in a smoking jacket with
a cup of tea and a biscuit. He is speaking (soto) to Fanny who is
concerned with decorating detail. Elinor and Margaret become sober and
walk off. Marianne remains at piano the palms hide her from view.


JOHN: (whispering) It might perhaps be more advisable to do something
of the annuity kind. A hundred a year would make them all perfectly

FANNY: (whispering) But, if Mrs. Dashwood should live fifteen years we
shall be completely taken in.

JOHN: Fifteen years!

FANNY: People always live forever when there is an annuity to be paid

JOHN: And, I suppose, they would only enlarge their style of living if
they felt sure of a larger income.

Fanny give John a peck on the cheek.

FANNY: Dear John, I am convinced the only assistance your father
thought of giving them was looking out for a comfortable small house-
helping them to move their things, and so forth.

Fanny gives directions to take items and move palms. She hands a floor
plan to workmen.

JOHN: Upon my word, father certainly could have meant nothing more.

Fanny exits

JOHN: And when my mother removes to another house my services shall be
readily given to accommodate her as far as I can. (John realizes he
is alone) Darling? Darling? (Exits)

All the palms and plants have been moved into an oasis by the movers
needing room to cart the crates out of doors. Elinor and Edward enter.
He is speaking. She carries a sketchbook.

EDWARD: -my mother allowed that the law was genteel enough; but I had
absolutely no inclination for it. Will here suffice?

ELINOR: Yes. The movers and dust from the carts make the terrace not
so suitable as yesterday.

Edward sits on one of the benches. Elinor sits across from him- opens
her sketch book and picks up from where they left off. Edward watches
her work.

ELINOR: Left arm on your knee. You were saying?


ELINOR: You didn't feel suited for something?

EDWARD: (beat) I feel I am neither suited by my abilities or
disposition to answer the wishes of my mother and sister, who long to
see me as distinguished asthey hardly know what.

ELINOR: Please, Mr. Ferrars, keep your head up, if you would.

EDWARD: However do you do it- that? "make" a drawing?

ELINOR: II haven't the foggiest really. (beat) I observe. The
whole. The detail. They direct me somehow to the soul of the

EDWARD: Do you enjoy it?

ELINOR: We were talking about you. (beat) Truly, Mr. Ferrars, I could
not live without my pencils and paint. They compel me to sort things

EDWARD: Are you sorting me out now?

ELINOR: (she laughs) In a manner. The exact slope of a shoulder. A
worry in your brow. Kind eyes. (she realizes this is too
personal)(then) Working hands. (he smiles) A smile. Unkempt hair.
(beat) If the sketch progresses honestly, I reason that I have read
the parts of it faithfully. I understand more about the subject. The
deeper possibility of things.

EDWARD: Oh dear.

She laughs

ELINOR: "Your mother and sister" you were saying.


ELINOR: They long to see you distinguished?

EDWARD: Mother wishes to get me into parliament. Fanny wishes it
likewise; but in the mean while, it would quiet her ambition to see me
dress in finery and drive a barouche. But a horse and trap suit me
entirely. Fortunately I have a younger brother who to them is more

ELINOR: Robert?

EDWARD: (nods) Robert adores a barouche. He loves Society, clothes and
the social nonsense.

ELINOR: And what is it you love, Mr. Ferrars?

Edward looks at her like this is the first time he has been asked his
preference in anything.

EDWARD: I should love to be useful- to have a business to engage me- a
profession to give me employment, or afford me any thing like

Elinor looks up at him from her sketching. He retreats a moment. She
knows already to not press him so she gives him an empathetic smile
and goes back to her sketch.

EDWARD: (eventually) I have always preferred the church-

Elinor looks up- a bit surprised.

EDWARD: -as I still do. But that is not smart enough for my family.
They recommended the army. That is a great deal too smart for me.

Elinor laughs.

EDWARD: At length, as there was no necessity for my having any
profession at all. I was entered at Oxford and have been properly idle
ever since. (beat) Forgive me- I scarcely ever talk this much.

ELINOR: It's pleasurable, after a fortnight to hear you utter more
than two words together.

EDWARD: It's pleasurable to have someone listen. (then with courage)
How are you keeping?

ELINOR: (Elinor smiles softly, shrugs- tries to answer) Keeping busy.
It saves me from rash sensibility.

EDWARD: I do understand how dreadfully heartbreaking it is to lose
one's father. Mine died suddenly when I was twelve. (remembering) He
was my champion… Of all my family he listened and seemed to want to
know what I felt, what I wishedof my worth

Elinor looks up at Edward. They hold an understanding gaze as:

EDWARD: Will all this appear in your drawing?

She laughs. Margaret appears.

MARGARET: Elinor, that fellow has come- a Mr. Depford? about the
horse and carriage.

ELINOR: (with regret) Forgive me, I must attend to this. (beat) Come
along if you like. You might advise me on the hazards of horse

They get up and leave. Margaret walks out with Edward making faces at
Elinor. Elinor lags behind to put away her sketch book. She is feeling

[end of extract]


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