The Real plays of Little Women

In the first chapter of Little Women, there was a description of the plays that the March family performed for each other:

“I don’t mean to act any more after this time. I’m getting too old for such things,” observed Meg, who was as much a child as ever about ‘dressing-up’ frolics.

“You won’t stop, I know, as long as you can trail round in a white gown with your hair down, and wear gold-paper jewelry. You are the best actress we’ve got, and there’ll be an end of everything if you quit the boards,” said Jo. “We ought to rehearse tonight. Come here, Amy, and do the fainting scene, for you are as stiff as a poker in that.”

“I can’t help it. I never saw anyone faint, and I don’t choose to make myself all black and blue, tumbling flat as you do. If I can go down easily, I’ll drop. If I can’t, I shall fall into a chair and be graceful. I don’t care if Hugo does come at me with a pistol,” returned Amy, who was not gifted with dramatic power, but was chosen because she was small enough to be borne out shrieking by the villain of the piece.

“Do it this way. Clasp your hands so, and stagger across the room, crying frantically, ‘Roderigo! Save me! Save me!'” and away went Jo, with a melodramatic scream which was truly thrilling.

Amy followed, but she poked her hands out stiffly before her, and jerked herself along as if she went by machinery, and her “Ow!” was more suggestive of pins being run into her than of fear and anguish. Jo gave a despairing groan, and Meg laughed outright, while Beth let her bread burn as she watched the fun with interest. “It’s no use! Do the best you can when the time comes, and if the audience laughs, don’t blame me. Come on, Meg.”

Then things went smoothly, for Don Pedro defied the world in a speech of two pages without a single break. Hagar, the witch, chanted an awful incantation over her kettleful of simmering toads, with weird effect. Roderigo rent his chains asunder manfully, and Hugo died in agonies of remorse and arsenic, with a wild, “Ha! Ha!”

“It’s the best we’ve had yet,” said Meg, as the dead villain sat up and rubbed his elbows.

“I don’t see how you can write and act such splendid things, Jo. You’re a regular Shakespeare!” exclaimed Beth, who firmly believed that her sisters were gifted with wonderful genius in all things.

“Not quite,” replied Jo modestly. “I do think The Witches Curse, an Operatic Tragedy is rather a nice thing, but I’d like to try Macbeth, if we only had a trapdoor for Banquo. I always wanted to do the killing part. ‘Is that a dagger that I see before me?” muttered Jo, rolling her eyes and clutching at the air, as she had seen a famous tragedian do.

If you are interested in learning more about these plays, you can actually read them in Comic Tragedies Written by ‘Jo’ and ‘Meg’ and Acted by The ‘Little Women’. At first, when I was working on the post processing of this book, I thought it was written by Louisa May Alcott after writing Little Women, with her writing the plays in the style as if it were written by “Jo” and “Meg”. Later reading Little Women Letters from the House of Alcott,  I discovered that the plays were really written by Louisa May Alcott and her sister Anna in their youth.

How were the plays? Well, they were interesting, both historically and as works of young women who had yet to really know romance. The term “Tragedies” was probably a misnomer; they were more like romantic melodramas. Still, melodramas can be fun.

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