The Picture of Dorian Gray by John McDonald from Oscar Wilde

This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author’s prior consent

      DORIAN GRAY, a handsome young man, late teens/early twenties
      BASIL HALLWARD, a forty-ish portrait painter
      LORD HENRY WOTTON, undetermined age, but older than Dorian and
      younger than Basil, very much the Oscar Wilde prototype
      FORBES, an older English butler, somewhere between forty and sixty
      MRS. WILLOW, a mature English maid
      SIBYL VANE, a pretty, young actress
      MRS. VANE, Sibylís mother, a once great beauty herself, now in her
      middle years
      JAMES VANE, Sibylís brother, a cockney street tough, surly and
      ALAN CAMPBELL, an innocent young man, Dorianís pawn
      ADRIAN SINGLETON, heavily inebriated man at tavern table
      WOMEN, two ladies of the evening, in the style of Jack-the-Ripper
      Five (5) Males:
      Two (2) Females:
      MRS. VANE doubles as MRS. WILLOW and WOMAN1
      SIBYL VANE doubles as WOMAN2    
      ACT I
      FORBES:  The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when
      the light summer wind stirred amid the trees of the garden, there came
      through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more
      delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.  From his corner of the
      room, Lord Henry Wotton could just see, clamped to an upright easel,
      the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal
      beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was standing
      the artist himself, Basil Hallward.  Basil Hallward, the painter,
      whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such
      public excitement, and gave rise to so many, many strange
      HENRY:  My name is Lord Henry Wotton ...Yes, Iíd known DorianóMr.
      Grayófor quite some time, though we were never what you would call
      friends ... Actually, I met him through an acquaintance.  Basil
      Hallward ...Yes, thatís right, the painter ... Well, Basil was just
      finishing up a portrait heíd done of—- Mr. Grayóand he was
      rather excited about it.  Artists are such children, really, that one
      tends to treat them that way, as children, so I went Ďround to
      Basilís studio to see this masterpiece.  In fact, I thought it much
      too sentimental and idealized and, honesty between friends being so
      important, I told him exactly how I felt.
      (Light change to indicate change of locale.)
      HENRY:  Basil!  It is without a doubt, quite the best thing you have
      ever done!
      BASIL:  Do you really think so, Harry?
      HENRY:  I suggest you exhibit it somewhere.  You must certainly send
      it next year to the Grosvenor Gallery.  The Academy is far too large
      and far too vulgar.  Whenever I have gone there, there have been
      either so many people that I have not been able to see the pictures,
      which was dreadful, or so many pictures that I have not been able to
      see the people, which was worse. 
      BASIL:  I donít think I shall do that.
      HENRY:  Why on earth not?
      BASIL:  I know you will laugh at me, but I really canít exhibit it.
      I have put too much of myself into it.
      HENRY:  Too much of yourself?  My dear Basil, I really canít see
      any resemblance between you and this young Adonis, who looks as if he
      was made out of ivory and rose-leaves.  He is a Narcissus, and you, my
      dear Basil Ė well Ė.  You are the heel to his Achilles.
      BASIL:  You donít understand me, Harry.  You never have.  Of course
      Iím not like him.  Indeed, I should be sorry to look like him. You
      shrug your shoulders?  I am telling you the truth.  There is a
      fatality that seems to dog through history the faltering steps of
      kings.  It is better not to be different from oneís fellows.  The
      ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world.  They can sit
      at their ease and gape at the play.  If they know nothing of victory,
      they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat.  Your rank, my art,
      Dorian Grayís good looks—- we shall all suffer for what the gods
      have given us, suffer terribly.
      HENRY:  Dorian Gray?  Is that his name?
      BASIL:  Yes, that is his name.  I didnít intend to tell it to you.
      HENRY:  But why not?
      BASIL:  Oh, I canít explain.  When I like people, I never tell
      their names to any one.  It is like surrendering a part of them.  I
      have grown to love secrecy. 
      HENRY:  Basil, why donít you want to exhibit the portrait?
      BASIL:  I told you why.
      HENRY:  No, you did not.  You simply told me there was too much of
      yourself in it.
      BASIL:  And so there is.  Harry, every portrait that is painted with
      feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter.  It is the
      painter who is truly revealed.  Iíve shown the secret of my soul.
      And that is not meant for public exhibition.
      HENRY:  Well—-I confess, I can hardly wait to meet this young man!
      BASIL:  Harry, I donít want you to meet him.
      HENRY:  Why on earth not?
      BASIL:  Dorian Gray is a dear friend.  He has a simple and beautiful
      nature.  He is innocent, Harry.  Really!  And you would spoil him.
      You wouldóyou couldnít help it.  Youíre a cynic, my
      friend—-about yourself and everyone else.  He would never be the same
      HENRY:  But why wonít you exhibit his portrait?
      BASIL:  Because, without intending it, I have put into it some
      expression of all this curious artistic idolatry, of which, of course,
      I have never cared to speak to him.  He knows nothing about it.  He
      shall never know.  But the world might guess. 
      HENRY:  Tell me, is Dorian Gray very fond of you?
      BASIL:  He likes me, of course, because I flatter him dreadfully.
      HENRY:  Well, then.  Will you still meet me at the club tomorrow, or
      am I too reprehensible even for that?
      BASIL:  Oh, Harry, Iím sorry.  I forgot.  You seeÖDorian is
      coming by tomorrow.  Heís anxious to see his portrait, andÖI
      forgot I was to stop by your club.  Youíre not angry, are you?
      HENRY:  Of course not.  And, believe me, Iíd tell you.  Honesty
      between friends is too important! 
      HENRY:  As I remember, Basil was very anxious that Mr. Gray and I
      should meet.  He absolutely insisted I stop by his studio the
      following day.  He was so looking forward to the pleasure of
      introducing us.
      BASIL:  Harry!  My God, what are you doing here?
      HENRY:  I read somewhere that artists always leave the door unlocked.
      BASIL:  Mine wasnít.
      HENRY:  I know.  I had to use my skeleton key.  I suppose they leave
      the door unlocked because they have nothing worth stealing until after
      they are dead.
      BASIL:  Thatís a charming theory, but Iím afraid ... Iím sorry
      if I sound rude.  Please donít be offended, but I donít want you
      HENRY:  Luckily, Iím far too insensitive to be offended. 
      BASIL:  I must ask you to leave.
      HENRY:  Are you throwing me out?  Why?
      BASIL:  I donít want you to meet him.
      HENRY:  You donĎt want me to meet who?
      BASIL:  Him.
      FORBES:  Mr. Dorian Gray is in the study, Sir.
      HENRY:  Well, it seems you must introduce me now, after all.
      BASIL:  No.  Ask Mr. Gray to wait, Forbes.  Harry, go.
      FORBES:  Yes, sir, as you wish.
      DORIAN:  I beg your pardon, Basil.  I didnít know you had anyone
      with you.
      BASIL:  This is Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian, an old Oxford friend of
      mine.  I have just been telling him what a fine sitter you were, and
      now you have spoiled everything.
      HENRY:  You have not spoiled my pleasure in meeting you, Mr. Gray.
      BASIL:  Harry, I want to finish this picture today.  Would you think
      it awfully rude of me if I asked you to go away?
      HENRY:  Am I to go, Mr. Gray?
      DORIAN:  Please donít.  I see that Basil is in one of his sulky
      moods; and I canít bear him when he sulks. 
      BASIL:  Stay, Harry, to oblige Dorian, and to oblige me.  And now,
      Dorian, get up on the platform, and donít move too much.
      DORIAN:  He is quiet when he works. 
      BASIL:  Shh.
      DORIAN:  Hours go by without a single word.
      BASIL:  Turn your head a bit.
      DORIAN:  Or move your shoulder this way or that.
      BASIL:  Dorian.
      DORIAN:  Have you really a very bad influence, Lord Henry?  As bad as
      Basil says?
      HENRY:  There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray.  All
      influence is immoralóimmoral from the scientific point of view.
      DORIAN:  Why?
      BASIL:  Lord Henry, Dorian is unspoiled.  He knows nothing of such
      HENRY:  Because to influence a person is to give him oneís own
      soul.  His virtues are not real to him.  His sins, if there are such
      things as sins, are borrowed. 
      BASIL:  Just turn your head a little more to the right, Dorian, like
      a good boy.
      HENRY:  I believe that if one man were to live out his life
      completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every
      thought, reality to every dreamóI believe that the world would gain
      such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of
      medievalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal-to something finer,
      richer than the Hellenic ideal, it may be.  The body sins once, and
      has done with its sin.
      DORIAN:  Stop! Stop! 
      HENRY:  The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.
      DORIAN:  Please.  You bewilder me.  I donít know what to say.
      There is some answer to you, but I cannot find it. 
      HENRY:  You know you believe it all. 
      DORIAN:  Donít speak.  Let me think.  Or, rather, let me try not to
      HENRY:  Weíll go out to the garden.  It is horribly hot in the
      studio.  Basil, let us have something iced to drink, something with
      strawberries in it.  Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as
      nothing can cure the senses but the soul.  Yes, that is one of the
      great secrets of lifeóto cure the soul by means of the senses, and
      the senses by means of the soul. You are a wonderful creation.  You
      know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want
      to know.
      DORIAN:  What can it matter?
      HENRY:  It should matter everything to you, Mr. Gray.
      DORIAN:  Why?
      HENRY:  Because you have the most marvelous youth, and youth is the
      one thing worth having.  There is nothing in the world like youth.
      DORIAN:  I donít feel it, Lord Henry.
      HENRY:  No, you donít feel it now.  Some day, when you are old and
      wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead with its
      lines, and passion branded your lips with its hideous fires, you will
      feel it, you will feel it terribly.  Now, wherever you go, you charm
      the world.  Will it always be so?  ... You have a wonderfully
      beautiful face, Mr. Gray.  Donít frown.  You have.  And beauty is a
      form of Geniusóis higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no
      explanation.  It is one of the great facts of the world, like
      sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that
      silver shell we call the moon.  Yes, Mr. Gray, the gods have been good
      to you.  But what the gods give they quickly take away.  You have only
      a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully.  When your
      youth goes, your beauty will go with it.
      (Basil enters)
      BASIL:  And it is replaced in nature by wisdom, compassion, empathy,
      and understanding.  Things which cannot be reflected in a mirror.
      HENRY:  No, rather wrinkles, falling arches, faulty hearing, and
      failing eye-sight.  You will suddenly discover that there are no
      triumphs left for you, or have to content yourself with those mean
      triumphs that the memory of your past will make more bitter than
      BASIL:  Do come in. The light is quite perfect, and you can bring
      your drinks.
      HENRY:  You are glad you have met me, are you not, Mr. Gray?
      DORIAN:  Yes, I am glad now.  I wonder if I shall always be.
      HENRY:  Always!  That is a dreadful word, always.  It makes me
      shudder when I hear it.  Women are so fond of using it.  They spoil
      every romance by trying to make it last forever.  The only difference
      between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a
      little longer. 
      DORIAN:  In that case, let our friendship be a caprice.
      BASIL:  It is quite finished!
      HENRY:  My dear fellow, I congratulate you.  It is the finest
      portrait of modern times.  Mr. Gray, come over and look at yourself.
      DORIAN:  Is it really finished?
      BASIL:  Quite finished….  Donít you like it?
      HENRY:  Of course he likes it.  Who wouldnít like it?  It is one of
      the greatest things in modern art.  I will give you anything you ask
      for it.  I must have it.
      BASIL:  It is not my property, Harry
      HENRY:  Whose property is it?
      BASIL:  Dorianís, of course.
      HENRY:  He is a very lucky fellow.
      DORIAN:  How sad it is.  I shall grow old, and horrible, and
      dreadful.  But this picture will remain always young.  It will never
      be older than this particular day in June.
      BASIL:  Day in June.
      DORIAN:  If it were only the other way!  If it were I who was to be
      always young, and the picture that was to grow old!  For thatófor
      thatóI would give everything!  I would even give my soul!

[end of extract]

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