YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

April 2004

Editor: Klaus J. Gerken
Production Editor: Pedro Sena
European Editor: Moshe Benarroch
Contributing Editors: Martin Zurla; Rita Stilli; Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp

ISSN 1480-6401


The Sorrows and Sufferings of Young Werther; a Stageplay.

by D. Bruno Starrs. Copyright 2003.


The Sorrows and Sufferings of Young Werther; a Stageplay.

by D. Bruno Starrs. Copyright 2003.

(Translated and adapted for the stage from Johann Wolfgang von
Goethe's 1774 novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers.)

Submitted as a Creative Work being a partial requirement (30 %) for
the fulfilment of the Master of Creative Arts, School of Creative
Arts, the University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia,
in September 2003.

Cast of characters in order of appearance.

(The roles of the supporting characters - indicated by * - may be shared)

WERTHER (A handsome young man of around 24)
SERVANT GIRL* (A poorly dressed but pretty young woman of around 16 to 20)
MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN* (A poorly dressed mother)
FARMHAND* (An ordinary looking young man of the working class)
MISS A. * (A beautiful aristocratic young woman)
LOTTE’S AUNT* (A middle-aged, conservative woman)
LOTTE (CHARLOTTE) (A beautiful young woman, perhaps 18 to 24)
VICAR* (An elderly man of at least 60 years)
VICAR’S WIFE* (A woman of around 50 years)
ALBERT (A middle-aged, conservative man of around 45 years)
AMBASSADOR* (A middle-aged, conservative man of around 45 years)
COUNT* (A middle-aged, conservative man of around 45 years)
ADELIN* (A beautiful and flirtatious young woman)
MISS B.* (Another beautiful and flirtatious young woman)
VILLAGER (A man or woman of the working class)
INSANE MAN* (An ordinary-looking young man)
INSANE MAN'S MOTHER* (An elderly woman)
SERVANT* (A middle-aged man)
THE EDITOR* (Voice over only - a middle-aged, male, "news-readerly" voice)

Directions from the writer.

Delivery of the Dialogue.
Although the language of the dialogue spoken by the characters is
not quite the heightened poetic prose of 18th Century Europe, the
play should still convey a "sense of period". The actors could speak
with English "upper class" accents.  The servants, farmhands and
other "lower classes" can speak with rural English accents.  WERTHER
should speak with an accent somewhere between the classes, thus
emphasising his sense of social isolation.
The long voice overs of WERTHER and THE EDITOR may be pre-recorded
and delivered over an
electronically amplified public address sydtem.

WERTHER is to be dressed flamboyantly in yellow breeches, buckled
shoes, yellow vest and blue frockcoat, as indicated by Goethe in the
original novel.  He may be long-haired if it is tied back and
braided or otherwise secured.  LOTTE should be dressed in
cleavage-revealing but otherwise modest white dresses with pink
ribbons, while ALBERT is to be dressed in similar costume to
WERTHER, albeit more conservatively coloured.

Setting and Scenery.
Fundamental to the success of this stageplay is the use of video
projection onto a large cyclorama at the rear of the performance
area.  Black and white images would be appropriate except for the
red of the ending.  Rear projection is to be preferred to prevent
lights appearing on the actors or their shadows appearing on the
cyclorama.  Scene changes should be quick and indicated by the
dimming of lighting in one area and the brightening of the lighting 
in another area of the performance space. Stage scenery 
should be limited to actor's props (for example; the SERVANT GIRL's 
pitcher, the YOUNG WOMAN's basket, LOTTE's canary (stuffed), the
Christmas tree and presents, and of course, ALBERT's 18th Century
pistols) and larger stage items (for example; the fountain, plough, 
carriage and the furniture in the AMBASSADOR's office and ALBERT's 
work-area of his and LOTTE’s residence). Scene changes are 
indicated by changes in lighting and supplemented by the video on 
the cyclorama with actors appearing to perform and interact with the
actors in the video.  It goes without saying that a competent
videographer should produce the video scenery and that it should be 
synchronised exactly with the actions of the performers.

Music and Sound Effects.
Like the costumes, the choice of music and sound effects should
convey an appropriate ‘sense of period'., that being late 18th
Century Germany.

Video Titles.
Video titles projected onto the rear cyclorama should be kept to a 
minimum and should be in an appropriate font such as "Garamonde",
the first being the cautionary quatrain written by Goethe as a
prefix to his 2nd edition of the novel which should remain projected
on the cyclorama as the audience is seated.  Then, the curtains and 
the houselights brought down. The curtains are then brought up and 
followed by the title;

The Sorrows and Sufferings of Young Werther; a Stageplay.
(Translated and adapted for the stage from J. W. von Goethe's  1774 novel
"Die Leiden des jungen Werthers.")
by D. Bruno Starrs.
Other titles should include;

Germany, late 18th Century.

Act One.
And after the intermission and the curtain has risen;
Act Two.

Warnings to the Audience.
Due to the controversial and proscribed subject matter of nobility
in suicide and the possibility of "Werther Effect" imitation
suicides, a warning that the play may be offensive or dangerous to
those with suicidal ideation or tendencies and telephone numbers for
suicide prevention services such as "Lifeline" should be included 
prominently in the programme, advertising and publicity. As already 
mentioned, the first thing the audience should see on entering the 
theatre is the cautionary quatrain written by Goethe as a projection
onto the cyclorama.

Performance Rights.
This play may be performed free of charge or royalties provided the 
author is supplied with a copy of any promotional material,
advertising and published reviews regarding the production.

The Sorrows and Sufferings of Young Werther; a Stageplay. ACT ONE. (The curtain is up and the stage lights are down as the audience enters) VIDEO TITLE: (Projected onto the rear cyclorama) Every young man sighs for love. Every young girl sighs to win man's love; Why, alas! Should bitter pain arise From the noblest of passions? You, kind soul, mourn and love him well, From disgrace his memory's saved by you; yet his spirit sighs from out its cell: BE A MAN, DON'T FOLLOW ME! (Goethe in his prefix to the 2nd Ed. of Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) (The projected title fades slowly to black. Curtain falls once audience is seated. It is then raised and the following title appears, with the stage lights still down) The Sorrows and Sufferings of Young Werther; a Stageplay. Translated and adapted for the stage from J. W. von Goethe’s 1774 novel “Die Leiden des jungen Werthers.” by D. Bruno Starrs. (The projected title fades slowly to black before the next title appears) Germany, late 18th Century. Act One. (The title fades to black as the lights go down). Scene 1. At the fountain. (The lights are down) WERTHER: (As an echoing voice over) How happy I am to be gone . . . (Long pause. On the cyclorama at the rear of the stage a video projection gradually appears consisting of a montage of nature scenes; plants, insects, birds, flowers etc. When the voice over continues it is no longer an echo. The video projection merges into vision shot over the shoulder of Werther writing with a goosequill pen. The amplified sound of the quill scratching on parchment accompanies the vision) May 4. Dear Wilhelm, solitude in this earthly paradise is like medicine to my mind, and the fresh spring lifts my heart and invigorates my soul. Every tree and every bush is full of flowers; Oh, to be a butterfly, floating about in this sea of perfume, and finding all one's requirements for life in it . . . The town itself is unpleasant; but around it you can find the inexpressible beauty of nature. It was this that induced the late Count (slight pause) M. to lay out a garden on one of the sloping hills which here intersect each other with the most charming variety, and form the loveliest of valleys. The garden is uncomplicated; but as soon as one enters one realises that the place was not designed by an unimaginative or scientific gardener, but by a man with taste and style. Many a tear have I shed to the memory of its departed master in the ruins of a summer-house, which, I am told, was his favourite resort, and now has become mine. (The lights come up to reveal Werther sketching in a garden setting dominated by an ornate fountain with the video on the cyclorama showing a setting of a stream surrounded by beautiful weeping willow trees and shrubbery. WERTHER's words continue as a voice over) May 10. A wonderful calmness has come over me, like those sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy so heartily. I am all alone, and I feel all the charms of existence are here in this spot, which was created for the bliss of unique souls such as mine. I am so happy, so absorbed in the exquisite tranquil sense of merely being, that I neglect my talents. (Werther stops sketching and stares into space) I can't even sketch a single stroke at the moment; and yet I feel that I never was a greater artist than I am now. Now, while the valley around me is shrouded in mist, and the sun overhead strikes the upper surface of the impenetrable canopy of the trees and only a few rays filter into the inner sanctuary. (WERTHER throws himself to the floor of the stage, one ear to the ground) I throw myself down among the tall grass by the trickling stream; and, as I lie close to the earth, I observe a thousand unknown plants. I hear the buzz of an entire world of insects among the stalks, and then I feel the presence of Almighty God, who formed us in his own image, and the breath of his universal love which lifts us and sustains us, as it envelopes us in an eternity of bliss; and then, when darkness overtakes my eyes, and heaven and earth seem to live on in my soul, then I wish, Oh, how I wish I could describe these thoughts, that I could put down on paper all the ideas alive within me, that my letters might be the mirror of my soul, as my soul is the mirror of the infinite Lord! Ah, I fear I will perish under the splendour of these visions! . . . (Pause) May 15. The common people of the place know me now, and are my friends, especially the children. When at first I mingled with them, and asked in friendly questions about their interests, some of them thought I was trying to ridicule them, and turned rudely away from me. But I was not put off: I only felt more keenly what I have often noticed before. People of title keep themselves coldly aloof from the common people, as though they feared to lose their importance by the contact; while no-good troublemakers pretend to descend to their level, only to make the poor people feel their arrogance all the more. I know well enough we are not all equal, nor can we ever be; but it is my opinion that those who avoid the common people, in order not to lose their respect, are as much to blame as a coward who hides himself away from his enemy because he fears defeat. (A poorly dressed servant girl enters to fill a pitcher from the fountain.) WERTHER: (Speaking no longer as a voice over) May I assist you, pure lady? SERVANT GIRL: (Blushing deeply all over) Oh, no, Sir! WERTHER: Come, come! Let’s not make a ceremony of it! (WERTHER helps her with filling and lifting the pitcher) SERVANT GIRL: Thank you, Sir. (She exits. The lights go down) * * * Scene 2. In a field. (The lights come up. This new scene is simply a different area of the stage with a few extra props such as bales of hay, fence rails and trees. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery of a farm field. WERTHER is sitting quietly on a plough watching the video projection on the rear cyclorama of children on the screen or in the wings as they run off screen. There is only the sound of their play and occasional glimpses of them in the video on the cyclorama to indicate their presence) WERTHER: (Voice over) May 22. Dear Wilhelm, they are happiest, those people who, like children, live only for the day and amuse themselves with toys, dressing and undressing their dolls, and carefully watching the pantry, where their mother has locked up her sweets, and, when they finally get some, gobble them down and shout "More!" These are certainly happy beings; but there are others who attempt to dignify their paltry existence with pompous titles, representing them to the world as great achievements performed for the welfare and glory of mankind. But only the man who humbly acknowledges the vanity of all this, who observes with what pleasure the honest citizen toils to convert his little garden into a paradise, and how patiently even the poor man labours under his weary burden, and how all wish equally to behold the light of the sun yet another day, - yes, such a man is truly at peace, and creates his own world within himself; and he is truly happy, because he is a complete human being. And then, however limited his sphere, he still feels in his heart a sense of liberty, knowing he can escape his prison whenever he likes. (A poorly dressed middle-aged woman, with a basket on her arm, enters from the wing, running towards the children in the opposite wing) MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN: You are a good boy, Philip! (To WERTHER) Oh, hello, Sir! WERTHER: (Speaking no longer as a voice over) Good day to you, Madam. Are you the mother of these pretty children? MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN: Yes. I left my child in Philip's care, while I went into town with my eldest boy to buy bread, sugar, and an earthen pot. I shall make some broth tonight for my little Hans, the youngest: that wild fellow, the big one, broke my pot yesterday, while he was wrestling with Philip for what was left of the dregs. WERTHER: And who is their father? MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN: (Haughtily) I am the daughter of the schoolmaster. My husband has gone to Switzerland to receive an inheritance of money. They wanted to cheat him and would not answer his letters; so he has gone there himself. I hope he hasn't met with an accident though, as I have heard nothing of him since his departure. WERTHER: Buy some bread for your broth, little ones. (WERTHER, tossing each of the children a coin, moves to the side and sits. The woman exits with her children. WERTHER prepares to begin sketching) WERTHER: (Voice over) May 26. About a mile from the town is a place called Walheim. A good old woman lives there and she keeps a small inn. She sells wine, beer, and coffee, and is cheerful and pleasant despite her advanced age. The main charm of this place is its two giant Linden trees, spreading their enormous branches over the little green in front of the church, which is entirely surrounded by peasants' cottages, barns, and homesteads. I have rarely before seen a place so peaceful; and I often have my table and chair brought out from the little inn, and drink my coffee there while I read my Homer. I chanced upon it by accident one fine afternoon, and I found it perfectly deserted and still. Everybody was in the fields except for a little boy about four years of age, who was sitting on the ground by a plough, and holding between his knees another child of about six months old: he pressed it to his chest with both arms, which thus formed a sort of arm-chair; and, notwithstanding the liveliness which sparkled in its black eyes, the child remained perfectly still. The sight captivated me. I sat down opposite the plough, and joyfully sketched this little tableau of brotherly tenderness. I added the neighbouring hedge, the barn-door, and some broken cart-wheels, just as they were; and I found in about an hour that I had made a very precise and interesting drawing, without putting in the slightest invention of my own. This has strengthened in me the resolve to only copy nature in the future. Only nature is inexhaustible, and capable of forming masterpieces. Much may be said for rules and an artist raised upon them will never create anything completely bad or disgusting; just as a man who observes the law can never be an absolutely intolerable neighbour, nor a deplorable villain: but yet, say what you will of rules, they destroy the genuine appreciation of nature, as well as its true expression. Compare artistic talent to the love of a young man devoted to a girl. He dedicates to her every hour of the day, wears out his health, and spends his fortune on her, to prove that he is wholly hers. Then along comes a respectable man of title who says to him "My dear young friend, love is a natural passion; but you must love within reason. Ration your time: devote a portion to business, and allocate the hours of leisure to your beloved. Calculate your fortune; and out of the surplus you may make her a present, but not too often, - perhaps on her birthday, and other special occasions." Following this advice, he may become a useful member of society, and be of service to his country; but it is all finished with his love, and with his genius too if he dreams to be an artist. Ah, why is it that the torrent of genius so rarely bursts forth, so seldom cascades in full-flowing stream, to overwhelm one’s amazed soul? Because, on either side of that stream live the respectable and passionless people, and, because their genteel summer-houses and flower-beds would suffer from the deluge of such unchecked genius; they dig trenches and construct dams in order to avert the impending peril of rule-less passion. (WERTHER continues sketching the plough with children scene. A farmhand enters and sets to work arranging some part of the same plough which WERTHER is sketching. WERTHER smiles and inquires about his circumstances) WERTHER: (Speaking no longer as a voice over) Hello, there. How are you, young man? FARMHAND: I am fine, thank you, Sir. WERTHER: Who are you working for? FARMHAND: The widow M. She is the most wonderful creature, but she is no longer young and she was treated so badly by her former husband that she does not mean to marry again. (Sighing as he thinks of her. Lights fade to black) * * * SCENE 3. On the road to the residence of LOTTE. (The lights come up on WERTHER and ladies in a carriage on the way to a ball. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery) MISS A.: Werther, at the hunting-lodge you shall make the acquaintance of a very charming young lady. LOTTE'S AUNT: (Teasing) Take care that you do not lose your heart. WERTHER: And why shouldn't I? LOTTE'S AUNT: Because she is already engaged to a very worthy man, who has gone to settle his affairs after the death of his father, and who will indeed inherit a rather impressive fortune. (WERTHER alights and walks across the stage to an imposing house, and, ascending the flight of steps in front, opens the door, and sees six children, as depicted by the video on the cyclorama. A young lady, dressed in a long dress of simple white, trimmed with pink ribbons is feeding them bread. She is bathed in a saintly glow of light and the soft strains of religious organ music can be heard faintly) LOTTE: Please forgive me, Sir, for obliging you to fetch me, and for keeping the ladies waiting as well: but what with dressing, and arranging the last of the household chores before I leave, I had quite forgotten my children's supper; and they will not take it from any one but me. (WERTHER is stunned and mutters something incoherently. LOTTE fetches her gloves and fan. The video shows the young ones throwing inquiring glances at him from a distance and he extends a hand towards their image) LOTTE: Louis, shake hands with your cousin. (They appear to shake warmly) WERTHER: Cousin? Do you think I deserve the pleasure of being related to you? LOTTE: (Smiling) Oh! I have so many cousins I would be sorry if you were the least deserving of them. Sophie, I want you to take good care of the children for me while I am gone and to say Goodbye to Papa for me when he returns from his ride. Children, you must obey Sophie as you would obey me. Now, now, no crying. Of course Sophie is not me but you must love her just as you love me. (WERTHER and LOTTE join the ladies on the carriage. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery) LOTTE’S AUNT: Charlotte, have you finished that last book I sent you? LOTTE: No, I did not like it: you can have it back. And the one before was not much better. WERTHER: What is the book’s title? LOTTE: Well, it was not the wonderfully epic poetry of Klopstock! (WERTHER is visibly impressed. CHARLOTTE continues wistfully, with a little melancholy) When I was younger I loved nothing more than the romantics. It was my greatest delight when, on some holiday, I would sit down alone in a corner, and lose myself in the joys or sorrows of some fictitious heroine. I confess I still can still find them captivating. But I read so rarely now that I believe the books I do read should befit my taste precisely. And I like those authors best whose stories describe my own situation in life - and that of my friends around me - which, whilst it is not absolute paradise, is, nevertheless, a source of indescribable happiness. (With sudden energy, she dances as frivolously as the restrains of the carriage permit) But dancing and music are now my greatest pleasures! If it is a fault to love dancing then I am guilty, guilty, guilty! If anything ever disturbs me, I simply find a piano, play an air to which I have danced, and all is once again pleasant. (The lights go down) * * * Scene 4. At the ball. (The lights come up on a ballroom. The video shows the elegant party dancing a waltz) LOTTE: It is the custom here for the previous partners to waltz together; but my partner is an indifferent dancer, and will feel delighted if I save him the trouble. Your partner is equally incapable: but I observed during the country dance that you waltz well; so, if you will waltz with me, I beg you to propose it to my partner, and I will propose it to yours. (They consult their partners whom agree and then WERTHER and LOTTE dance blissfully until the women in the video start raising disapproving fingers, whispering “Albert . . . Albert” Eventually they stop dancing and the video image freezes) WERTHER: Who is this Albert, if it is not impolite to ask? LOTTE: Why need I conceal it from you? Albert is a worthy man, to whom I am engaged. (The video resumes action as the waltz continues. WERTHER appears confused and gets out of step in the dance. LOTTE gently pulls him into his proper place, before lightning and a thunder storm come over. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery. There is the sound of frightened ladies shrieking) LOTTE: Let us go into the shuttered room and play at counting. Pull your chairs into a circle. (They do so) Now, pay attention: I shall go round the circle from right to left; and each person is to count, one after the other, the number that comes to him, and must count fast; whoever stops or makes a mistake gets a box on the ear, and so on, till we have counted to a thousand. (She goes round the circle - consisting of WERTHER, MISS A., LOTTE's AUNT and other cast as available - with upraised arm. "One", says the first; "two", the second; "three", the third; and so on, with LOTTE going faster and faster. One makes a mistake, instantly a box on the ear; and, amid the laughter that ensues, comes another box; and so on, faster and faster. WERTHER receives two. His pleasure is obvious. General laughter and confusion puts an end to the game long before they had counted as far as a thousand. The party breaks up as the storm ceases, and WERTHER follows LOTTE back to the ballroom) LOTTE: The game banished their fears of the storm. I was, myself, as much frightened as any of them; but by affecting courage to keep up their spirits, I forgot my own apprehensions. (They go to the window. It is still thundering at a distance: a soft rain is pouring down. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery. LOTTE leans forward on her arms; her eyes wandering over the scene; she raises them to the sky, and then looks at WERTHER, whose eyes are moistened with tears; she places her hand on his.) LOTTE: Klopstock! WERTHER: Divine Klopstock! (WERTHER bends over her hand, kisses it tenderly, and again looks up to her eyes. The lights go down) * * * Scene 5. On the road to the residence of LOTTE. (The lights come up. WERTHER and LOTTE are in the carriage riding home after the ball. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate passing scenery. Their companions are asleep.) LOTTE: Werther, do you want to sleep too? WERTHER: As long as I see your eyes open, there is no chance of my falling asleep. (They both continue awake till they reach her door. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery.) WERTHER: (As she alights from the carriage) May I visit you during the day? LOTTE: (A little reluctantly) Yes. (The lights go down) * * * Scene 6. A mountain village. (The lights come up. WERTHER and LOTTE are visiting the VICAR at a small village in the mountains in the shade of two huge old Walnut trees. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery) VICAR: As to the oldest tree we do not know who planted it - some say one clergyman, and some say another: but the younger one, that one there behind us, is exactly the same age as my wife, fifty years old next October; her father planted it in the morning, and in the evening she came into the world. My wife's father was my predecessor here, and I cannot tell you how fond he was of that tree; and it is just as dear to me. Under the shade of that very tree, upon a log of wood, my wife was seated knitting, when I, a poor student, ventured into this place for the first time, just twenty seven years ago. Her father took a liking to me and became my curate. Eventually I became his successor. WERTHER: People are apt to complain - but with very little cause - that our happy days are few, and our evil days many. If our hearts are always disposed to receive the benefits Heaven sends us, we should likewise have strength to oppose any evil when it comes. VICAR'S WIFE: But we cannot always command our tempers, so much depends upon the health: when the body suffers, the mind is ill at ease. WERTHER: I acknowledge that, but we must consider such a disposition in the light of a disease, and ask whether there is no remedy for it. LOTTE: That is more to the purpose and I think a lot can be done in this respect. When anything annoys me or blackens my moods, I find my way to the garden, hum a couple of country jigs, and soon everything is all right with me again. WERTHER: That is what I meant, ill-humour resembles sloth: it is, of course, natural to us; but if we find the courage to exert ourselves, we can find joy in our work and pleasure in being active. The question is about the disagreeable feeling from which every one would willingly escape, but none know their own ability without trial. The sick are glad to consult doctors, and subject themselves to the most spartan regimen and the most nauseous medicines, in order to recover their good health. We preach against a great many crimes, but I cannot recall a sermon ever delivered against ill-humour. VICAR: That may do very well for your town clergymen, but country people are never ill-humoured; though, indeed, it might be useful, now and then, to preach against ill-humour to my wife for instance, and, indeed, to the local judge. (They all laugh, as does the VICAR, till he falls into a fit of coughing, which interrupts their conversation for a while.) WERTHER: Some might describe 'crime' as too harsh a word to describe ill-humour. But no ill humoured person can hide it without interrupting the well-being of those around him. Ill-humour arises from an inward acknowledgement of our own shortcomings, from an unease which always accompanies that envy which our ego engenders. If we see people happy, whom we ourselves have not made happy, we cannot bear the sight. Rather, we should ask ourselves everyday, what good can I do to my friends? One's only goal must be to increase their joy by sharing it with them (WERTHER's eyes cloud with tears as he remembers a past tragedy). And when you do not offer them such comforting happiness, when the last fatal illness seizes that friend whose untimely grave you have yourself prepared through neglect, when she lies pale and exhausted before you, with the kiss of death upon her languid face, then you will be standing at her bedside like a condemned criminal, with the bitter knowledge that now there is nothing you can do to save her; and the agonising knowledge plagues you, that despite all your efforts you are powerless and unable to ease her transition with a moment of consolation (WERTHER buries his face in his handkerchief and rushes to the side. LOTTE follows him). LOTTE: Werther, you should go home. You get too carried away with things. If you're not careful it will destroy you! WERTHER: Yes, of course, you are right . . . my angel . . . I will live for your sake. (Lights fade to black. A video projection of a montage of LOTTE is projected culminating in video of WERTHER sketching LOTTE’s profile. WERTHER continues as voice over) Oh, Wilhelm! How foolish I must look whenever her name is mentioned, especially when I am innocently asked how I like her. How I like her! Oh, I hate that phrase. What sort of subhuman is he who merely likes Lotte, whose whole heart and being is not entirely absorbed by her. How I like her! It is like asking how I like reading Ossian. No, I am not deceived. In her eyes I see a genuine interest in me. Yes, I feel it; and I my heart tells me - dare I say it? - dare I utter those divine words? Yes, that she loves me! She loves me! How the idea strengthens me! And how honourable I must therefore be because she loves me! Is this mere presumption, or is it reality? I do not know any man able to better me in the heart of Charlotte; and yet when she speaks of her fiance Albert with so much warmth and affection, I feel like the court-martialled soldier who has been stripped of his rank, and deprived of his sword. How my heart skips when if by chance I touch her finger, or my feet meet hers under the table! I pull back as if from a hot stove; but some inexplicable force compels me to lean forward again. Sometimes when we are talking she folds her hand over mine, draws closer to me, and her sweet breath mingles with mine, and I feel as if struck by lightning. How her simple singing enchants me! There are times, when I feel ready to commit suicide, but she sings again; and instantly the gloom which was hanging over me is gone, and I breathe freely again . . . I have started Lotte's portrait three times but cannot finish . . . it is most annoying - my skills in portraiture have never before failed me. So I have sketched her profile, and I must be happy with that . . .(Pause) Now Albert has arrived. Even if he were the noblest of the noble and I the most wretched of all the Earth's wretches, I could not bear to see him possess her. Possession! - enough, her betrothed is returned, - he is a fine, worthy man, one whom I cannot help but like. Fortunately I was elsewhere at their re-union. I believe it would have broken my heart! Yet he is so considerate: he has not given Charlotte even a single kiss in my presence. God save him for it! (The video projection of LOTTE fades to black) * * * Scene 9. At the residence of ALBERT. (The lights come up) WERTHER: Will you lend me those pistols, Sir, for my journey? ALBERT: Certainly, Werther, if you will go to the trouble of loading them; for they only hang there for show. Out of caution I no longer have anything to do with such damned things. I was staying at a friend's house in the country some three months ago and with me I had a brace of pistols, unloaded; so I could sleep without anxiety. One rainy afternoon it occurred to me that the house was unprotected from burglars and that we might need the pistols - so I gave them to the servant to clean and load. He was playing with the maid, and trying to scare her, when the pistol went off - God knows how! The bullet passed straight through her right hand and shattered her thumb. I had to endure all the fuss, of course, and to pay the doctor's bill; so, ever since, I always keep my guns unloaded. But, then, I wonder, what is the use of caution? We cannot be on our guard against every impending danger. However - (WERTHER, smiling mischievously and with a sudden movement, points the barrel of the pistol to his forehead, over the right eye.) What are you doing? WERTHER: (Smiling) It is not loaded. ALBERT: Even so, what do you mean? Are you mad? The very idea of a man shooting himself is beyond my comprehension! WERTHER: Mad or wise, good or bad? What is the meaning of these 'labels'? Have you carefully studied all the complex motives of a man's actions? ALBERT: But you must agree that some actions are criminal, no matter what the motives are that have caused them. WERTHER: No, not necessarily. For example, theft is a crime; but the man who steals to feed his starving family - should he be punished? And who will throw the first stone at a husband, who, in the heat of the moment, on discovering his unfaithful wife and her evil seducer, shoots them both? Or at the virgin, who, in her weakest hour of rapture, forgets herself due to the impetuous joy of love? Even our laws, cold and pedantic as they are, pity the 'criminal' and relent in such cases, withholding punishment. ALBERT: That is entirely another thing, because a man under the influence of violent passion loses alI power of reason, and should be regarded as intoxicated or else insane. WERTHER: (Becoming angry) Oh! You rational people of reason who are ever ready to exclaim 'Extravagance, and madness, and, and . . . intoxication!' You moral men are so righteous and calm! You detest the drunken man, and fear the eccentric. But I have been drunk more than once, and my passions have always bordered on madness: I am not ashamed to admit it; for I have learned, through real experience, that all extraordinary men, those who have accomplished great things, have always been denounced by the world as drunk or insane. Shame upon you sages! ALBERT: There you go again; always exaggerating! And in this case you are undoubtedly wrong; for we were speaking of suicide, which you compare with great deeds, when actually it is impossible to regard it as anything but a weakness. It is much easier to die than to stoically bear a lifetime of misery. WERTHER: The question is not whether a man is strong or weak, but whether he is able to endure the measure of his sorrows and sufferings. Those sorrows and sufferings may be mental or physical and to overcome them requires great strength. In my opinion it is just as absurd to call a man who destroys himself a coward, as to call a man who dies of fever a coward. ALBERT: Paradox, this is all paradox to me! WERTHER: I will tell you the story of a pure young lady who drowned herself a short while ago. She was a good girl, grown up in the narrow sphere of her household duties; one who knew no other pleasure beyond a walk on Sundays, dressed in her best attire, accompanied by her friends, or perhaps joining in a dance now and then at some respectable event. In time, however, she became inflamed by the flattery of men, her former pleasures came to feel insipid, till eventually she meets with a boy to whom she is attracted by an indescribable longing; upon him she now rests all her dreams; and she forgets the world around her; she sees, hears, and longs for nothing but him. She hopes to become his wife, and to realise, in an everlasting union with him, all that happiness she has imagined, all that bliss for which she has longed. His repeated flattery and promises increase her hopes. She floats on a cloud of deluded anticipation of her matrimonial joy. Finally, she stretches out her arms to embrace the object of all her wishes but her lover, tragically, forsakes her. Miserable and confused, she stands alone upon the edge of an abyss. She is enveloped by darkness. She sees nothing of the wide world in front of her, thinks nothing of the many other fine young men who might fill the void in her heart; and, blinded by the pain that torments her soul, she plunges into the deep, to end her sorrows and sufferings in the sweet embrace of death. You know, of course, Albert, this is the history of thousands; and tell me, is this not a case of physical illness? Nature provides no way to escape from the labyrinth of despair, and the poor girl must die. Shame upon him who can calmly look on, and say; 'Foolish girl! She should have waited! Time would have eased her pain and she would have found another lover to comfort her.' One might as well say, ‘The fool, to die of a fever! He would still be alive if he had but waited for his strength to return!’ ALBERT: I whole-heartedly object. You have taken the case of a mere ignorant girl. WERTHER: Man is but a man; and, whatever be the extent of his wisdom, it is of little use when passion rages within It is better, then . . . (Pause) We will talk of this some other time. (Lights fade to black. Voice over) August 28. If my sorrows and sufferings could be cured then here, surely, is the cure. Today is my birthday, and early in the morning I received a package from Albert. Inside I found one of the pink ribbons which Lotte wore in her dress the very first time I met her, and which I had many times begged her to give me. With it were two volumes in duodecimo of Wetstein's ‘Homer’, a book I had often wished for, to save me the trouble of carrying the heavy Ernestine edition with me everywhere. How she anticipates my wishes, how well she understands all those little attentions of friendship. I kissed the ribbon a thousand times, and with every breath relived those happy and irreplaceable days with her which have filled me with the greatest joy. * * * Scene 10. At the fountain under the stars. (The lights come up on ALBERT, LOTTE and WERTHER walking together. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery) LOTTE: Whenever I walk in the moonlight, it brings to mind all my beloved and departed friends, and I am filled with thoughts of death and the afterlife. We shall live again, Werther! But shall we know one another again, do you think? What do you say? WERTHER: (Taking her hand, his eyes filling with tears) Charlotte, we shall see each other again - here and hereafter we shall once more meet. LOTTE: And do those departed ones know of us down here? Do they know how we fare and how happy we are when we recall their memories with the fondest love? In the quiet of the night, the shadow of my mother seems to hover around me; when I sit in the midst of her children then I raise my eyes to heaven, and wish she could look down upon us, and see how I have kept the promise I made to her on her deathbed - my promise to be a mother to her children. With such emotion do I cry out 'Forgive me, dear mother, forgive me, if I do not adequately fill your place! I do my best. They are clothed and fed; and, better still, they are loved and educated. Could you only see, sweet saint, the peace and harmony of our lives, you would praise God for me answering your dying prayer. ALBERT: This affects you too deeply, dear Charlotte. I know your heart dwells on such recollections with intense feeling; but I beg you - LOTTE: Oh Albert! I am sure you have not forgotten the evenings when we three used to sit at the table, when father was away, and the children were in bed. You would often have a good book with you, but would be unable to read it; the conversation of that noble woman was preferable to anything - that beautiful, intelligent, gentle and yet so hard-working woman. God alone knows how often my prayers have been bathed in tears that I might be like her. WERTHER: (WERTHER throws himself at LOTTE's feet) Charlotte! God's blessing and your mother's spirit are upon you. LOTTE: Oh, Werther! If you had only known her. She was so worthy of your acquaintance. And yet she was doomed to die in the prime of life, when her youngest boy was barely six months old. Her illness was short and she was peaceful and resigned but it was only for the sake of her children. When the end drew near, she made me bring them to her. The younger ones knew nothing of their approaching loss but the elder ones were overcome with grief. They stood around the bed and she prayed over them; then, kissing them in turn, sent them away, and said to me, 'Lotte, be a mother to them.' I held her hand. 'You are promising much, my daughter; a mother's love and a mother's care!' she said. 'You know what that means. Show that love and care to your brothers and sisters, and be as obedient and faithful to your father as a wife; you must be comforting to him.' She asked for him but he had retired to hide his anguish, - he was completely grief-stricken. Albert, you too were in the room. She asked you to also approach and looked at us both with satisfaction, expressing her belief that we would be happy with each other. Albert embraced her, and cried, 'We are happy, and we will always be happy!' Yes, even Albert, usually so calm and reasonable, had lost his composure; and I was moved beyond expression. Such a being was to leave us, Werther! Good God, must we thus part with all we love in this world? Nobody felt this more deeply than the children: they cried for so long afterwards, complaining that monsters had taken away their dear mamma . . . (Pause) We should go, it is getting late. (LOTTE attempts to withdraw her hand but WERTHER, visibly moved, holds it still.) WERTHER: We shall see each other again, we shall recognise each other under any condition! I am going now, going willingly; but, if I say forever, I could not bear it. Adieu, Charlotte; adieu, Albert. We shall meet again. LOTTE: Yes: tomorrow, I think. (She leaves hand in hand with ALBERT. The lights go down. Title projected onto the rear cyclorama) END OF ACT ONE. ACT TWO. (The lights are down. A video title reading ACT TWO is projected as the audience resumes their seats) WERTHER: (Voice over, accompanied by video projection of a snowstorm) January 20. Oh, the unbearable wretchedness that I am doomed to endure among the stupid people who parade around this new town I now find myself in! Their struggle for rank! What contemptible motives they exhibit! I am aware, of course, how necessary are the divisions of rank, and I know also of the advantages I myself gain from them; but I would not permit these institutions to prove an obstacle to that small chance of happiness which I may enjoy on this earth. I must write to you from this terrible place, my dear Lotte, from a tiny room in a country inn, where I have taken shelter from a fierce storm. (The video of the snowstorm merges with vision of WERTHER's hand writing) During my whole stay in this wretched place, so far from you and where I live now among strangers - strangers, indeed, to my heart - I have never at any time felt the slightest inclination to write to you; but alone in this room with the snow and hail beating against the window, you are now my first thought. The moment I entered, your memory rose before me! Oh my Charlotte, the sacred, tender memory! Oh, Heaven! Could you but see me, my dear Charlotte, how my senses have dried and my heart has become empty. I cannot enjoy a solitary moment of happiness. In the evening I tell myself I will enjoy the next morning's sunrise, and yet I linger in bed: in the daytime I promise to hike by moonlight; and yet I nevertheless stay at home. I know not why I wake or sleep . . . Oh, that I could be sitting at your feet in our favourite little room, with the children playing around us! If they became a nuisance to you I would tell them a scary ghost story; and they would all crowd around me in rapt attention. (The video of WERTHER writing merges with vision of the snowstorm clearing) Ah, now, the glorious sun is setting; its last rays are shining on the snow, which covers the whole of the countryside. The storm is now over, and I am returned to my dungeon. When the sun rises in the morning with the promise of a bright, new glorious day I cannot help myself from thinking 'Here is yet another gift from Heaven which the people around me will certainly spoil!' They destroy everything - health, happiness, leisure and they do so through narrow-mindedness and ignorance, but always, if you were to believe them, with the noblest of intentions. But adieu, now, adieu! Is Albert with you? And what is he to you? Oh, I am a fool - forgive me for asking. (The video fades to black) * * * Scene 1. The Ambassador's office. (The lights come up on WERTHER who is working in an orderly office for the AMBASSADOR who has returned papers to him. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery) AMBASSADOR: They will do . . . (But not satisfied) . . . but one may always improve by selecting a better word or a more appropriate particle. COUNT: (Aside to WERTHER) One must submit, like a traveller who has to climb a mountain: if the mountain was not there, the road would be both shorter and easier; but there it is, and one must climb it. AMBASSADOR: (Overhearing the COUNT) The count is a man of the world, and a good businessman: his style is admirable, and he writes well; but, like many other geniuses, he lacks solid learning. WERTHER: (With barely restrained anger) The count is a man entitled to respect, not only for his achievements but for his character. I have never before met a man whose mind was filled with a more useful and extensive knowledge - who has, in fact, mastered such an infinite variety of subjects, and who yet has retained all the business skills necessary. WERTHER: (Voice over as WERTHER continues working) February 17. I fear that the Ambassador and I will not continue working together much longer. He is becoming quite unbearable. He conducts his business so ludicrously, that I am often forced to contradict him, and do things my own way; and then, of course, he thinks them incorrect. He complained about me recently at court; and the Minister gave me a reprimand - a mild one it is true, but still I was reprimanded. As a result, I feel I must soon tender my resignation. (Lights fade to black) * * * Scene 2. At the residence of the AMBASSADOR. (Video projection showing formally dressed aristocrats at a party. The lights come up as they turn in unison and look down their noses disapprovingly as WERTHER, who is accompanied by two young ladies of dubious morals, enters. He flirts outrageously with ADELIN and leans over the back of MISS B's chair to brazenly peer down her dress. As the COUNT approaches WERTHER the image of the aristocrats in the video freezes) COUNT: You know our petty customs, Werther, I think the company is unimpressed by your presence here. Whilst I would not . . . WERTHER: (With mild sarcasm) I beg your pardon, Sir! I should have thought of this before, but I know you will forgive my brief inattention. I was going to leave some time ago, but my evil genius detained me. (Smiling sarcastically, WERTHER bows elaborately to the video of the assembled aristocrats and exits with the girls. The video shows the aristocrats 'unfreezing' and resuming their festivities. WERTHER, ADELIN and MISS B. depart to the side of the stage) ADELIN: This is a most disagreeable event. WERTHER: Is it? ADELIN: The count has ordered you to leave the party! WERTHER: To hell with the party! How happy I am to be gone. ADELIN: Well, I am happy that you can take it so lightly. I am only sorry that it will be so much gossiped about. MISS B: Oh, Werther! You know me so intimately yet you do not appreciate my distress? What I will suffer for your behaviour! I knew this would happen. I knew that those fine ladies, with their fine husbands, would quit the room, rather than remain in your company, the way you were behaving. I knew that the Count would not break with them: and now everyone will talk of it. Oh, how it will cost me! WERTHER: Please explain yourself! MISS B: (Crying) You know my aunt was present: and how poorly she thinks of you! She will lecture me about our acquaintance. You will be condemned and slandered; and I can not - I dare not - say anything in your defence. (WERTHER storms off in disgust. The lights go down) WERTHER: (Voice over) March 15. My God, Wilhelm! They are just the same as the rest! Just like the honourable Lady accompanied by her noble husband and their silly, scheming daughter, with her small waist and flat neck who all pass me by with their haughty airs. I thoroughly detest their whole race and I am determined to go away. And now that I am pitied everywhere and must listen to the nonsense of those who think themselves better than me - it is unbearable. * * * Scene 3. In the field. (The lights come up. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery. Scenes 3 - 7 are indicated by WERTHER moving from one part of the stage into another, differently lit part and presented in a non-naturalistic manner to show WERTHER's diminishing grip on reality) MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN: (Wailing with grief) Alas! Dear Sir, my little boy has died. My husband returned from Switzerland without any money; and, if some kind people had not assisted him, he would have begged his way home. And he was taken ill with fever on his journey home. WERTHER: (Voice over) August 14. My temperament is constantly changing. Sometimes a happy prospect opens and then, when I am lost in my dreams, I cannot help saying to myself, "What if Albert were to die? Yes, then she would become -- and I would be . . . (Pause) Until finally these thoughts lead me back to the edge of the precipice at which I shudder. (The lights go down) * * * Scene 4. At the residence of ALBERT and LOTTE. LOTTE: Here is a new friend, he is a present for the children. What a sweetie he is! Look at him! When I feed him, he flutters his wings, and pecks so sweetly. He even kisses me. Watch! (LOTTE holds the bird to her mouth and the bird gently pecks her lips) LOTTE: He can kiss you too. (She holds the bird towards WERTHER) WERTHER: A kiss will not satisfy him: he needs food, and is disappointed by these unsatisfactory endearments. LOTTE: But he eats out of my mouth. (LOTTE feeds the bird grain from her lips. WERTHER, increasingly agitated, turns his face away and exits to the next scene's performance area) ALBERT: (To LOTTE) There is something I must ask of you for the benefit of us all. I beg you to request he change his deportment toward you, and to visit you less frequently. The world is full of censors, and I know that we three are gossiped about. (The lights go down on the area occupied by LOTTE and ALBERT) * * * Scene 5. At the mountain village. (The lights come up on the mountain scene as WERTHER returns to the area of the stage that indicates the mountain village. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery. The walnut trees are now stumps. WERTHER looks for them frantically) WERTHER: Where are the trees? How could they possibly allow it? VILLAGER: Ah, Sir! When it is the Steward’s orders, what can we poor peasants do? (WERTHER runs frantically from this scene to the next. The lights go down in the mountain scene area and come up in the fountain scene area. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery) * * * Scene 6. At the fountain. (The INSANE MAN is agitated and is also searching for something) WERTHER: What are you seeking? INSANE MAN: I am looking for flowers but can find none. WERTHER: Well, of course, it is not the season. INSANE MAN: Oh, but there are so many flowers! In my garden there are roses and honeysuckles of two kinds: one kind was given to me by my father! They grow like weeds; I have been looking for them for two days now, but I cannot find them. There are flowers out there, yellow, blue, and red; and that centaury has a very beautiful blossom: but I can find none of them here. WERTHER: What do you intend to do with them? INSANE MAN: I promised to gather a nosegay for my mistress. WERTHER: Hmm, that’s good. INSANE MAN: Oh! But she has so many other things as well: she is very rich. WERTHER: And yet she likes your nosegays. INSANE MAN: Oh, but she has jewels and crowns! WERTHER: Who is she? INSANE MAN: If the States-general would only pay me, I would be entirely another man. Alas! There was a time when I was so happy; but that is past, and I am now . . . WERTHER: You were happy once? INSANE MAN: Ah, I wish I were still! I was then as happy and contented as a man can be. (An old woman enters) OLD WOMAN: Henry, Henry! Where are you? We have been looking for you everywhere: please come to dinner. WERTHER: Is he your son? OLD WOMAN: Yes, he is my poor, unfortunate son. The Lord has sent me a heavy burden. But Henry has been as calm as he is now for about six months now. I thank Heaven that he has so far recovered: he was for a whole year quite insane and chained down in the asylum. Now he hurts no one, but talks of nothing other than Royalty. He used to be a very good, quiet boy, and helped me; he wrote well but then suddenly he became melancholy and was seized with a violent fever, became . . . distracted, and is now as you see him. Oh, I can tell you, Sir . . . WERTHER: What was the period he talks of in which he was so happy? OLD WOMAN: Poor boy! He refers to the time when he was completely deranged, a time he never fails to regret, when he was in the madhouse, and unconscious of everything around him. WERTHER: (To the INSANE MAN) You were happy! Oh, heaven! Is this the destiny of mankind? Is he only happy before he has acquired his reason, or after he has lost it? Unfortunate being! And yet I envy your fate: I envy the delusion to which you are victim. You venture forth joyfully to gather flowers for your Queen - in winter - and grieve when you can find none, and cannot understand why they do not grow. And I venture forth without joy, without hope, without purpose; and I return just the same. You fancy what a man you would be if only the States-general paid you. Happy mortal, who can ascribe your sorrows to an earthly cause! You do not know that in one's own distracted heart and confused soul lies the source of that unhappiness which all the powers on earth cannot dispel. (Lights fade to black) WERTHER: (Voice over) December 6. How her image haunts me still! Asleep or awake, she fills my entire being! As soon as I shut my eyes, there, in my mind’s eye, her beautiful eyes are imprinted, shining before me: dark as an abyss they open upon me, and absorb me completely. * * * Scene 7. At the residence of LOTTE and ALBERT. (The lights come up. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery. WERTHER is seated with LOTTE with ALBERT to the side engrossed in paperwork. There is a commotion outside) WERTHER: What on earth is happening? SERVANT: There has been a terrible misfortune at Walheim - a man has been murdered! There are suspicions; the murdered man had been in the service of a widow, and the suspect, her previous servant, had been dismissed from her employment under a cloud. WERTHER: Is it possible! I must see him - I cannot delay. (WERTHER leaves LOTTE with the SERVANT and ALBERT and moves to the edge of the performance area denoting ALBERT and LOTTE's residence. On encountering the prisoner, the farmhand from Act 1, who is restrained by angry villagers, he breaks down) What have you done, unfortunate man? FARMHAND: No one will marry her now, and she will marry no one. WERTHER: You cannot be saved, unfortunate man! I see clearly that we both cannot be saved! (Lights fade to black. WERTHER continues as a voice over, accompanied by video of whitewater and flooding) December 12. Yesterday evening I ventured out for a walk. A thaw had set in suddenly: the river had risen, the streams had all overflowed their banks, and it seemed that the whole valley of Walheim was under water! Upon the stroke of twelve I hurried forth and beheld a terrible sight. While the wild torrent at my feet foamed and roared, I was overcome by a strange sensation of fear and delight. With arms outstretched I looked down into the yawning abyss, and screamed, 'Jump!' For a moment my senses left me, in the intense delight of ending my sorrows and my sufferings by a plunge into that valley of death! But then I felt that my hour was not yet to come. Oh, how easily I could have abandoned my life to embrace that torrent! Such joyous rapture! Do I have the courage to die? Perhaps I have, - but I am still here, like a wretched beggar. Charlotte! Charlotte! I am so lost! My eyes brim with tears - I am sick; and yet I am well - I have no earthly desires - I wish for nothing. It would be better if I were gone. One simply lifts up the curtain, and passes across to the other side - that is all! Why doubt it? Because we know not what is behind that curtain - because there is no returning - because our mind speaks of darkness, confusion, uncertainty . . . I must return. (Pause) I must see her once again. (The video fades to black) * * * Scene 9. At the residence of ALBERT and LOTTE. (Lights come up. There is a video projected on the cyclorama of a Christmas tree and the children playing) LOTTE: You shall have a gift too, Werther, if you behave well. WERTHER: And what do you call behaving well? What should I do, my dear Lotte? LOTTE: Thursday night is Christmas Eve. The children will all be here, and my father too: there is a present for each. I want you to come, but not before that time. I beg you not to. I ask it of you as a favour, for the sake of peace and tranquillity. We cannot go on in this manner any longer. WERTHER: We cannot go on in this manner any longer! No, Lotte! No, we cannot! I must never see you any more! LOTTE: And why not? We can see each other again; only with discretion. Oh! Why were you born with such an excessive, ungovernable passion for everything you love? I beg you to be calmer: your talents and your genius will provide you with a thousand opportunities. Conquer this unhappy attachment towards me. Do you not see that you are deceiving yourself, that you are seeking your own destruction? Why must you love me, me alone, when I belong to another man? I fear that it is only the impossibility of possessing me which makes your desire for me grow even stronger. WERTHER: Oh, good! Very good! Did Albert furnish you with this reflection? It is a deep and very profound speech. LOTTE: A reflection that any one might easily make. Is there not a woman in the whole world who is free and available, and has the power to make you happy? Conquer yourself, Werther, look for that woman, and believe me when I say that you will find her. I have long felt for you, and for us all: you have limited yourself to too narrow a circle. Seek out and find a woman worthy of your love; then return and let us enjoy together all the happiness of our most perfect friendship. WERTHER: This speech should be printed, for the benefit of all teachers. My dear Charlotte, allow me but a short time longer, and all will be well. LOTTE; But, Werther, please do not visit again before Christmas. (ALBERT enters. WERTHER salutes him coldly and exits. The lights go down) WERTHER: (Voice over, accompanied by a video shot over WERTHER's shoulder of him writing and the sound of a quill scratching on parchment which gradually fades away to black by the end of the speech) December 21. This is my last letter. It is all over, Charlotte: I have resolved to die! I make this declaration deliberately and coolly on this morning of the day when I am to see you for the last time. When you read these lines the cold grave will hold the inanimate remains of that restless and unhappy being who, in the last moments of his existence, knew no pleasure so great as that of talking with you! When I left you yesterday, my senses were confused; my heart was broken, all hope and pleasure had left me for ever, and a freezing cold had seized my entire wretched being. I could barely reach my room. I fell to my knees; and Heaven, for the last time, granted me the consolation of shedding tears. A thousand plans arose within my mind; till at length one last, fixed, final scheme took possession of my heart. It was to die. It is not despair: it is the firm conviction that I have had my fill of suffering, that I have reached my appointed term, and now I must sacrifice myself for you. One of us three must die: it shall be I. Oh, my beloved Charlotte! This passionate heart has often conceived the horrible idea of murdering your husband - or you - or myself! But the dice have now been cast. And in the bright, quiet evenings of summer, when you wander about the countryside, let your thoughts then turn to me: recall how you have often watched me coming to meet you up from the valley; then look upon the cemetery where I am buried, and, by the light of the setting sun, note how the evening breeze sweeps through the tall grass which grows over my tomb. (Pause) I was calm when I began this letter, but now the mere thought of this scene makes me weep like a motherless child. * * * Scene 10. At the residence of ALBERT and LOTTE. (The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery. The lights come up. LOTTE is playing with the children in the video. ALBERT is not present. WERTHER enters) LOTTE: What are you doing here, Werther? You have not kept your word! WERTHER: I promised you nothing, LOTTE: But you should have complied, at least for my sake. I begged you . . . (LOTTE sighs, turns away and sits) There in my drawer, you will find some of your translations of the songs of Ossian. I have not yet read them, as I had hoped to hear you recite them. This shall be the purpose of your visit. WERTHER: (Reading) Let the light of Ossian's soul arise! Colma is left on the hill alone with her voice in full song! Salgar promised to come but the night now descends. Hear the voice of Colma, while she sits alone on the hill; It is night: I am alone, forsaken on this hill of storms. The torrent is howling along the rocks. No shelter protects me from the rain: forlorn on the this hill of winds! Rise moon, from behind your clouds. Stars of the night, arise! Lead me, moonlight, to the place where my love lies resting from the chase below! His bow is near him unstrung, his dogs are panting beside him! But here I must sit alone by the rock of this wet mossy stream. The stream and the wind roar loudly and I cannot hear the voice of my love! Why is my Salgar delayed? He promised me to be here tonight. Oh! Where has my Salgar gone? With you, Salgar, I would fly from my father, with you from my too proud brother. Our people have long been foes: but we, we are not foes. Oh, Salgar! Ease a little while, Oh, you cold wind! Be silent awhile. Oh, you cold stream! Let my voice be heard above your noise! Let my wandering Salgar hear me! It is I, Colma, who calls you. Here is the tree and the rock where we were to meet. Salgar, my love, I am here! Why delay your coming? Here I must sit alone! Who comes now on the heath beside me? Are they my love and my brother? Speak to me, Oh, my friends! But to Colma they give no reply. Speak to me: I am alone! My soul is tormented with fear. Aaah, they are dead! Their swords are bloodied from the fight. Oh, my brother! My brother! Why have you slain my Salgar! Why, Oh, Salgar, have you slain my brother! Dear were you both to me! Oh, from this rock on the hill, from the top of this windy summit, speak, you ghosts of the dead! Speak, I will not be afraid! Where have you gone to rest? In what cave of the hill shall I find the departed? There is no answer - it is half drowned in the storm! No feeble voice on the gale: I sit alone in my grief: I wait for morning with my tears! Prop open the tomb, you friends of the dead. Close it not till Colma has come. My life flies away like a dream. Why should I stay behind? When night comes down upon the hill, when the loud winds rise my ghost shall also stand in the cold, cold blast, and mourn the death of my friends. When the storms thunder, when the waves crash on high, I will sit by the deafening shore, and look upon the fatal rock. By the setting moon I will see the ghosts of my children; as they walk in tearful conference together. (LOTTE bursts into tears. WERTHER throws down the book and takes her hand) LOTTE: Please, Werther, I implore you, please leave! WERTHER: (Continuing his reading) Why do you waken me, Oh, spring? Your voice woos me, exclaiming; I refresh you with heavenly dews; but the time of my decay is nigh, the icy storm is approaching that shall wither my leaves. (WERTHER throws himself at LOTTE’S feet, takes her hand and presses it to his forehead. LOTTE leans toward him and their cheeks touch. He kisses her passionately.) LOTTE: Werther! Werther!! (LOTTE pushes him away) It is the last time, Werther! You must never see me again! (LOTTE rushes into her bedroom, closing the door behind her) WERTHER: (At LOTTE'S door) Charlotte, Charlotte! Just one word more, one last goodbye! (Lights fade to black. Voice over) Goodbye, Charlotte, goodbye for ever! For the very last time I open my eyes. Alas! They will behold the sun no more. It is covered by a thick, impenetrable cloud. Yes, nature! Put on mourning black: your lover draws near his end! Charlotte, no words can adequately express this thought. The very last! To-day I stand upright in all my strength but to-morrow, I shall lie cold upon the ground. To die? What is death? I have seen many people die; but none have a clear understanding of the beginning or the end of their existence. At this moment I am my own - or rather I am yours, my beloved! And the next moment we are parted - perhaps for ever! No, Charlotte, no! How can I, how can you, be annihilated? (Pause) What is annihilation? (Pause) Laid in the cold earth, in the dark and narrow grave - the creaking of the cords as they are drawn up - the first shovelful of earth is thrown in, and the coffin gives out a hollow sound, growing fainter and fainter till I am all covered over. Yesterday, I recall, for the first time in my life, joyous rapture glowing within my innermost soul. She loves me! Everything passes away; but nothing can extinguish the eternal flame which was yesterday kindled by your lips, and which burns now forever within me. She loves me! My arms have encircled her waist, my lips have trembled upon hers. Yes, Charlotte, you are mine for ever! Albert may be your husband for this world; and in this world it is a sin for me to love you, to even wish to tear you from his lawful embrace. Yes, it is a crime; and I suffer the punishment, but I have enjoyed the fullest joy of my sin. I go to my Father and to your Father. I will pour out my sorrows and sufferings before him, and he will sustain me until you arrive. Then will I fly to meet you. Then will I possess you, and remain locked in your eternal embrace, in the presence of the Almighty. I am not dreaming, I am not raving. Drawing nearer to the grave my thoughts become clearer. We will see each other again; we will behold your mother; I shall behold her, and expose to her my innermost heart. Your mother - your own image! * * * Scene 11. At the residence of WERTHER. (Lights come up on WERTHER packing boxes. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery. He addresses his SERVANT) WERTHER: I intend to set out on a journey shortly. Lay out my clothes in order and prepare them for packing. You are to call in all my accounts and fetch the books I have lent. To all my dependants who would normally receive a weekly allowance you are to give two months pay. And you are to deliver this letter to Albert, note carefully his response and return immediately. (The SERVANT takes the letter and exits) * * * Scene 12. At the residence of ALBERT and LOTTE. (The lights go down on WERTHER as the SERVANT crosses the stage from the scene of WERTHER's residence and arrives at ALBERT and LOTTE'S residence, where the lights come up on them. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery. The SERVANT gives ALBERT the letter) ALBERT: (Reading) Be so good as to lend me your pistols for a journey. Adieu, Werther. (Handing the note to LOTTE) Give him the pistols. I wish him a pleasant journey. (LOTTE, dumbstruck, walks to the wall, takes down the guns, dusts them clean and hands them, trembling, to the SERVANT, who exits. She sits in a daze. The clock strikes ten. The lights go down) * * * Scene 13. At the residence of WERTHER. (The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery and we see the SERVANT handing WERTHER the pistols) WERTHER: They have been in your hands - you wiped the dust from them. I kiss them a thousand times - you have touched them. Yes, Heaven favours my plan, and you, Charlotte, have provided me with the fatal instruments. It was my desire to receive my death from your hands, and my wish is granted. My servant says you trembled when you handed him the pistols, but that you bid me no fond farewell. Wretched, wretched being that I am - not one farewell! But Charlotte, I know you do not hate the man who so passionately loves you! (There is the sound of a clock striking eleven. The lights come up slowly on the residence of ALBERT and LOTTE. ALBERT is occupied with deskwork. LOTTE is still seated in a daze, staring into space. The video on the cyclorama shows the appropriate scenery of ALBERT and LOTTE's residence and to the other side of the cyclorama, that of WERTHER's residence) Eleven o'clock! All is quiet around me and my soul is calm. How happy I am to be going. (WERTHER holds up the profile of LOTTE he has drawn. As he does, LOTTE rises slowly, facing the same direction as the profile drawing) Your profile, which was so dear to me, I return to you; and I pray you will keep it. Thousands and thousands of kisses have I pressed upon it, and a thousand times has it warmed my heart . . . I have implored your father to protect my remains. At the corner of the churchyard, looking toward the fields, there are two lime trees - there is where I wish to be buried. But perhaps pious Christians will not want their bodies to lie near the corpse of a poor, unhappy wretch like me. Then let me be laid in some remote valley, or near the highway, where the priest and Levite may bless themselves as they pass by my tomb, whilst the Samaritan will shed a tear for my fate . . . See, Charlotte, I do not shudder to take the cold and fatal cup, from which I shall drink the sweet draught of death. Your hand has presented it to me, and I do not hesitate. With a cold, unflinching hand I knock brazenly at the gates of Death. Oh, that I could have had enjoyed the bliss of dying in valiant defence of you! How gladly would I have then sacrificed myself for you, Charlotte! But it is the lot of only a lucky few to shed their blood fighting for their friends . . . I wish, Charlotte, to be buried in the clothes I am wearing; they have been made sacred by your touch. I have begged this favour of your father. I wish my pockets to remain unsearched. The knot of pink ribbon which you wore upon your bosom that first time I saw you, surrounded by the children - Oh, kiss them for me, and tell them the fate of their unhappy friend! This ribbon must be buried with me . . . it was a present from you on my birthday. (WERTHER stands and raises his arms into a cross position, a pistol in each hand pointed at his head. He is bathed in a saintly glow of light as soft, religious organ music swells) How confused it all appears now! Little did I think I would journey this road . . .(A video projection appears of a clockface, decked with mistletoe and reading twelve. The clock strikes twelve.) The pistols are loaded - the clock strikes twelve. Amen, Charlotte! Farewell, farewell! (WERTHER shoots himself in the head. The video projection explodes into a cloud of red. He falls. LOTTE after a few moments falls to the ground in a faint. ALBERT is stunned. There is a long period of silence as the red video projection swirls madly before slowing to a pale, still red wash. The stage lights fade to black) THE EDITOR: (Voice over) When the surgeon finally came to the unfortunate Werther, he was still lying on the floor; his pulse was beating, but his limbs were cold. The bullet, entering the forehead, over the right eye, had penetrated the skull and his brains protruded. The whole town was immediately in a commotion. Albert arrived. They laid Werther on the bed, still dressed in his boots, blue coat and yellow waistcoat. His head was bound up, but the paleness of death was upon his face. His limbs were still; but he still breathed, at one time strongly, then weaker. His death was expected at any moment. Then at twelve o'clock Werther finally breathed his last. (The video again shows the clockface which shows the hands rotating to the position of twelve again. The clock strikes twelve. The video fades to black) That same night, at the hour of eleven, the steward interred the body in the place which Werther had selected. Neither Charlotte or Albert could bring themselves to attend. Indeed, there was concern for Charlotte's life. The body was carried by farmhands. (Pause) No priest attended. CURTAIN


About the author
D. Bruno Starrs holds a Bachelor of Theatre (Honours) from James Cook 
University and a Master of Film and TV from Bond University - both are 
in sunny Queensland, Australia. He is presently working on a stage 
adaptation of Goethe's 'Werther' for his Ph. D. at the University of 
Melbourne. When not in Australia he can usually be found teaching 
English somewhere in South East Asia.

The author writes:

'I do not require payment or royalties for the right to perform this 
piece but I would request from any theatre companies courageous enough 
to do so to provide me with details - I'd especially like to get a 
poster or any other publicity.' 

Queries can be directed to d.starrs@pgrad.unimelb.edu.au


A New Age: The Centipede Network Of Artists, Poets, & Writers
An Informational Journey Into A Creative Echonet [9310]
(C) CopyRight "I Write, Therefore, I Develop" By Paul Lauda

       Welcome to Newsgroup alt.centipede. Established 
       just for writers, poets, artists, and anyone who is creative. A 
       place for anyone to participate in, to share their poems, and 
       learn from all.  A place to share *your* dreams, and philosophies. 
       Even a chance to be published in a magazine.

       The original Centipede Network was created on May 16, 1993. 
       Created because there were no other networks dedicated to such 
       an audience, and with the help of Klaus Gerken, Centipede soon 
       started to grow, and become active on many world-wide Bulletin 
       Board Systems.

       We consider Centipede to be a Public Network; however, its a
       specialized network, dealing with any type of creative thinking.
       Therefore, that makes us something quite exotic, since most nets
       are very general and have various topics, not of interest to a
       writer--which is where Centipede steps in! No more fuss. A writer
       can now access, without phasing out any more conferences, since 
       the whole net pertains to the writer's interests. This means 
       that Centipede has all the active topics that any creative 
       user seeks. And if we don't, then one shall be created.

       Feel free to drop by and take a look at newsgroup alt.centipede

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  . REMEMBERY: EPYLLION IN ANAMNESIS (1996), poems by Michael R. Collings

  . DYNASTY (1968), Poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . THE WIZARD EXPLODED SONGBOOK (1969), songs by KJ Gerken
  . STREETS (1971), Poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . BLOODLETTING (1972) poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . ACTS (1972) a novel by Klaus J. Gerken
  . RITES (1974), a novel by Klaus J. Gerken
  . FULL BLACK Q (1975), a poem by KJ Gerken
  . ONE NEW FLASH OF LIGHT (1976), a play by KJ Gerken
  . THE BLACKED-OUT MIRROR (1979), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken
  . JOURNEY (1981), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken
  . LADIES (1983), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken
  . FRAGMENTS OF A BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1984), poems by KJ Gerken
  . THE BREAKING OF DESIRE (1986), poems by KJ Gerken
  . FURTHER SONGS (1986), songs by KJ Gerken
  . POEMS OF DESTRUCTION (1988), poems by KJ Gerken
  . THE AFFLICTED (1991), a poem by KJ Gerken
  . DIAMOND DOGS (1992), poems by KJ Gerken
  . KILLING FIELD (1992), a poem by KJ Gerken
  . BARDO (1994-1995), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken
  . FURTHER EVIDENCES (1995-1996) Poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . CALIBAN'S ESCAPE AND OTHER POEMS (1996), by Klaus J. Gerken 
  . CALIBAN'S DREAM (1996-1997), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken
  . THE LAST OLD MAN (1997), a novel by Klaus J. Gerken
  . WILL I EVER REMEMBER YOU? (1997), poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . SONGS FOR THE LEGION (1998), song-poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . REALITY OR DREAM? (1998), poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . APRIL VIOLATIONS (1998), poems by Klaus J. Gerken
  . THE VOICE OF HUNGER (1998), a poem by Klaus J. Gerken

  . SHACKLED TO THE STONE, by Albrecht Haushofer - translated by JR Wesdorp

  . MZ-DMZ (1988), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . DARK SIDE (1991), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . STEEL REIGNS & STILL RAINS (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . BLATANT VANITY (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . ALIENATION OF AFFECTION (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . LIVING LIFE AT FACE VALUE (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . HATRED BLURRED (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . CHOKING ON THE ASHES OF A RUNAWAY (1993), ramblings by I. Koshevoy
  . BORROWED FEELINGS BUYING TIME (1993), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . HARD ACT TO SWALLOW (1994), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . HALL OF MIRRORS (1994), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy
  . ARTIFICIAL BUOYANCY (1994), ramblings by Igal Koshevoy

  . THE POETRY OF PEDRO SENA, poems by Pedro Sena
  . THE FILM REVIEWS, by Pedro Sena
  . THE SHORT STORIES, by Pedro Sena
  . INCANTATIONS, by Pedro Sena

  . POEMS (1970), poems by Franz Zorn

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