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, Sibyl's mother, a once great beauty herself, now in her
middle years
JAMES VANE, Sibyl's brother, a cockney street tough, surly and
ALAN CAMPBELL, an innocent young man, Dorian's 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



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, I'd known Dorian-Mr.
Gray-for quite some time, though we were never what you would call
friends ... Actually, I met him through an acquaintance. Basil
Hallward ...Yes, that's right, the painter ... Well, Basil was just
finishing up a portrait he'd done of—- Mr. Gray-and he was
rather excited about it. Artists are such children, really, that one
tends to treat them that way, as children, so I went 'round to
Basil's 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 don't think I shall do that.

HENRY: Why on earth not?

BASIL: I know you will laugh at me, but I really can't exhibit it.
I have put too much of myself into it.

HENRY: Too much of yourself? My dear Basil, I really can't 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 well . You are the heel to his Achilles.

BASIL: You don't understand me, Harry. You never have. Of course
I'm 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 one's 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 Gray's 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 didn't intend to tell it to you.

HENRY: But why not?

BASIL: Oh, I can't 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 don't 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. I've 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 don't 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 would-you couldn't help it. You're a cynic, my
friend—-about yourself and everyone else. He would never be the same

HENRY: But why won't 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, I'm sorry. I forgot. You seeDorian is
coming by tomorrow. He's anxious to see his portrait, andI
forgot I was to stop by your club. You're not angry, are you?

HENRY: Of course not. And, believe me, I'd 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 wasn't.

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: That's a charming theory, but I'm afraid ... I'm sorry
if I sound rude. Please don't be offended, but I don't want you

HENRY: Luckily, I'm far too insensitive to be offended.

BASIL: I must ask you to leave.

HENRY: Are you throwing me out? Why?

BASIL: I don't want you to meet him.

HENRY: You don't want me to meet who?


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 didn't 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 don't. I see that Basil is in one of his sulky
moods; and I can't bear him when he sulks.

BASIL: Stay, Harry, to oblige Dorian, and to oblige me. And now,
Dorian, get up on the platform, and don't move too much.


DORIAN: He is quiet when he works.


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 immoral-immoral from the scientific point of view.


BASIL: Lord Henry, Dorian is unspoiled. He knows nothing of such

HENRY: Because to influence a person is to give him one's 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 dream-I 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 don't know what to say.
There is some answer to you, but I cannot find it.

HENRY: You know you believe it all.

DORIAN: Don't speak. Let me think. Or, rather, let me try not to

HENRY: We'll 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 life-to 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.


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 don't feel it, Lord Henry.

HENRY: No, you don't 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. Don't frown. You have. And beauty is a
form of Genius-is 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…. Don't you like it?

HENRY: Of course he likes it. Who wouldn't 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: Dorian's, 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 that-for
that-I would give everything! I would even give my soul!

[end of extract]

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