Scrooge and the Night Visitors by John Gehl
Charles Dickens (co-narrator)
London Voices (the female co-narrator)
Marley and the three Spirits (all played by one actor)
[The Ghost's costumes should be startling but simple. All costume
changes should be done in full view of the audience.]
[A theatrical experience is an exercise of the imagination. The events
are “seen” by the actors, who help the audience imagine it.]
[DICKENS stands alone on the stage, at a reading stand.]
DICKENS: My name is—————-, and I'll be speaking the words that
Charles Dickens wrote in this classic story of human redemption, a
tale called “A Christmas Carol.” Give me just a moment to make myself
look more like Mr Dickens.
[Makes—or pretends to make—small costume changes, perhaps pasting
on a goatee. Checks a mirror]
There! Very nice! ... At the beginning of the story, Dickens makes clear
that Jacob Marley, the former partner of Mr Ebenezer Scrooge, is already
dead, “as dead as a door-nail!” But Scrooge himself is very much alive—
and in fact here he is [points as SCROOGE enters]—
[Enter SCROOGE; Dickens continues:]
DICKENS: Mr Scrooge is played by——————. Dickens tell us that Mr
Scrooge is “a squeezing… wrenching… grasping… scraping…
clutching… covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint; secret, and
self-contained; and solitary as an oyster.”—We begin now with Scrooge's
nephew appearing out of nowhere. The nephew, and other “London Voices”,
will be played by Ms.—————-.
VOICES (as the nephew): “A merry Christmas, Uncle! God save you!”
SCROOGE: Bah! Humbug!
VOICES (as the nephew): Christmas a humbug, Uncle! You don't mean
that, I am sure!
SCROOGE: Indeed I do mean it. “Merry Christmas!” What right have you
gotto be merry? You're poor enough!
VOICES (as the nephew): Come then, Uncle Scrooge, what right have you
got to be morose? You're rich enough.
SCROOGE: Oh, bah humbug!
VOICES (as the nephew): Don't be cross with me, Uncle!”
SCROOGE: What else can I be?—when I live in such a world of fools
such as this! Merry Christmas! I say OUT upon Merry Christmas! What's
Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money—a
time for finding yourself a whole year older and not a single hour richer! If
I could work my will, every idiot who goes around with “Merry Christmas” on
his lips would be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly
through his heart!
VOICES (as the nephew): Oh, Uncle!
SCROOGE: Nephew, keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in
VOICES (as the nephew): Keep it in your way? But you don't keep it at all!
SCROOGE: Let me leave it alone then. What good has Christmas ever done
VOICES (as the nephew): Uncle, I have always found Christmas to be a
very kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the time of year when
women open their hearts freely and help each other. And therefore,
Uncle, although it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my
pocket, I believe Christmas has certainly done me a great deal of
good, and I say God bless it!... Don't be angry with me, Uncle… Come
dine with us tomorrow!
SCROOGE: Good afternoon.
VOICES (as the nephew): Well, then a Merry Christmas to you, Uncle!
I'll keep my Christmas spirit to the last.
SCROOGE: I said, GOOD AFTERNOON!
VOICES (as the nephew): And a very Happy New Year, Uncle!
SCROOGE: Do you not hear me? I said, GOOD AFTERNOON!... LEAVE ME
DICKENS: So finally Scrooge's nephew leaves him, and he is alone…
But then he finds himself approached by two pleasant, portly gentlemen
seeking a charitable donation. One of them says: “At this festive
season of the year, Mr Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we
should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer
greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries,
hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
SCROOGE: Are there no prisons?
VOICES (as the alms-collector): Plenty of prisons, Mr Scrooge.
SCROOGE: And the workhouses? Are they still in operation?
VOICES (as the alms-collector): They are. I wish I could say they are
SCROOGE: The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor then?
VOICES (as the alms-collector): Both very busy, sir.
SCROOGE: Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something
had occurred to stop them in their useful course. I'm very glad to hear it.
VOICES (as the alms-collector): Mr Scrooge, a few of us are
endeavoring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and
means of warmth. What shall I put you down for?
SCROOGE: You should put me down for nothing.
VOICES (as the alms-collector): You wish to be left anonymous?
SCROOGE: I wish to be left alone! I don't make merry myself at
Christmas, and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help
support the establishments I mentioned: they cost enough: and those
who are badly off must go there.
VOICES (as the alms collector ): Many can't go the here… and many
would rather die!
SCROOGE: If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease
the surplus population. Good afternoon, gentlemen.
DICKENS: Seeing that it would be useless to pursue their request for a
contribution, the two alms-collectors withdrew and ventured out into
the thickening London and the piercing, searching, biting cold of the
evening. At last came the time for closing the counting house. Scrooge
dismounts from his stool. His clerk, Bob Cratchit, snuffs out the candle
and puts on his hat to leave.
SCROOGE (to VOICES as Cratchit): You'll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?
VOICES (as Cratchit): If quite convenient, sir.
SCROOGE: It is NOT convenient—and it's not fair, that I have to pay
you a day's wages for no work whatsoever.
VOICES (as Cratchit): It's only once a year, sir.
SCROOGE: A poor excuse to pick a man's pocket every December 25th.
But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier the
next morning! See to it!
DICKENS: Scrooge leaves the counting house and takes his melancholy,
solitary dinner in his usual melancholy tavern, and then goes home.
But when he goes to enter his house and has his key in the lock, he
finds that the large doorknocker on his door is no longer a door-knocker
but the face of his long-dead partner, Jacob Marley! Scrooge looks fixedly
at this image; it finally fades and is a door-knocker again ... He enters his
house, makes certain that all the doors and windows are secure, and double-locks
himself into his bedroom. He puts on his dressing gown and slippers and his
night-cap, and sits down before the fire to take his gruel ...Then he hears the
cellar door burst open with a booming sound. Then loud steps coming up the stairs.
Then a ghostly figure passes straight through the heavy locked door of Scrooge's
bedroom. The ghosts in our story are played by————————-.
[Enter MARLEY'S GHOST. A long chain is clasped around his middle, and
follows him like a tail. It is made of cash boxes, keys, padlocks,
ledgers, deeds, and heavy steel purses. His hair is curiously stirred,
as if by breath or hot air, and his eyes are wide-open but motionless.
His color is ashen.]
SCROOGE: I know you! You are Jacob Marley! You are Jacob Marley's
ghost! What do you want with me?
MARLEY'S GHOST: I want much with you.
SCROOGE: How do I know it's really you?
MARLEY'S GHOST: Why do you doubt your own senses?
SCROOGE: Because a little thing affects them. You may be an undigested
bit of beef. I don't believe in you! Humbug, I tell you, humbug!!!
[MARLEY'S GHOST raises a frightful cry and rattles his chain, leaving
SCROOGE horrified and on his knees.]
SCROOGE: Mercy! OH, PLEASE, MERCY! Dreadful apparition, why do you
torment me? Why does your spirit walk the earth, and why does it come
MARLEY'S GHOST: It is required of every man that his spirit should
walk abroad among his fellow men, and travel far and wide; it is
doomed to wander he world—oh woe is me!—and witness what it
might have shared on earth to
make others happier.
[Again MARLEY'S GHOST lets out a pitiful, horrifying wail.]
SCROOGE: You are fettered by chains? Why is that so?
MARLEY'S GHOST: I wear the chain I forged in life. I forged it link by
link, and yard by yard. I assembled it of my own free will, and of my
own free will I wore it. Is it's pattern strange to you?...
[SCROOGE trembles; the GHOST continues:]
And would you know the length and weight of the long chain
you bear yourself? It was just as heavy and as long mine seven
Christmas Eve's ago—and you have forged new links since then. It is
ponderous and horrifying by now!
SCROOGE: Jacob, Jacob, old partner, old friend, speak comfort to me, Jacob!
MARLEY''S GHOST: I have no comfort to give you, Ebenezer Scrooge.
There is little more I can tell you, I have very little time to stay with you.
I am not allowed to rest or linger—here or anywhere. Weary journeys lie
SCROOGE: You've been seven years dead, yet traveling all the time? Oh,
the horror of it!
[MARLEY'S GHOST emits another hideous wail.]
SCROOGE: But you were always a good man of business, Jacob.
MARLEY'S GHOST [wringing his hands again]: BUSINESS! MANKIND should
have been my business! The common welfare should have been my
business! Charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my
business. The dealings of my trade are but a drop of water in the
comprehensive ocean of my business!.. Hear me now, my time is almost
gone!!!... I am here tonight to warn you of your possible horrible
fate, but advise you that you still have a chance to escape that fate
—the fate I suffer now!
SCROOGE: How might I escape your fate, Jacob? Tell me how? Please!
MARLEY'S GHOST: You will be haunted by Three Spirits!
SCROOGE: I—I think I'd rather not.
MARLEY'S GHOST (firmly): Expect the first when the bell tolls one
DICKENS: With that, Marley's Ghost faded away without another word.
Scrooge, fatigued by all the emotions of the day, sank down into his
chair, and fell asleep upon the instant… At this time, the first of
the three ghosts is preparing his wardrobe for his grand entrance.
[In front of the audience, MARLEY'S GHOST removes his former costume
effects and turns himself into the rosy-cheeked GHOST OF CHRISTMAS
PAST. He is both childlike and wise, and wears a cheerful white tunic,
with a lustrous, glittering belt.]
[A clock strikes one.]
SCROOGE: Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST: I am indeed. I am the Ghost of Christmas
Past. YOUR Christmas Past. Rise!—and walk with me!
SCROOGE: But you are heading toward the window! I am a mortal, and
liable to fall!
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST: Just my hand. I will keep you from falling.
DICKENS: Scrooge and the Ghost passed right through the wall, and soon
the city was far behind them. [They all three look out together at the
DICKENS continues narrating:]. It was a cold clear day, with snow upon
SCROOGE: Good Heaven! I was a boy here!
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST: Your lip is trembling, Mr Scrooge. And is
that a tear upon your cheek?
SCROOGE: It is nothing. Please lead me where you would.
[end of extract]