[Charlotte/Bell appears in silence. She turns on some lights and fiddles in the space. The band takes their places, checking mics. Bell places a circular rug and chair on the floor in the center of the playing space, and turns on the overhead projector. Transparency: “JANE/EYRE…”]
Bell: Hi, welcome. We’ll start in a minute. I’m Charlotte, the author of Jane Eyre, An Autobiography. Not my autobiography, but I had to write it, since Jane is fictional. Ah, here’s Jane, she’s in the band [Narrator waves]. And our other Jane in the back. Two Janes. You’ll get used to it, I have.
[Jane arrives, somewhat unanimated, carrying the remainder of her outfit.]
Bell: You know, I wrote to Robert Southey once, for advice on becoming a writer. He firmly responded that…
Narrator: “literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure she will have for it.”
Bell: “Her proper duties”?
Narrator: I don’t know, babies or something?
Bell: If it “cannot” and “ought not”, it seems like a worthy endeavor to me! In any case, I have a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice. So: I intend to proceed as the more androgynous Currer Bell.
Currer, of course, after Frances Mary Richardson Currer – famed book collector and scholar; and Bell from Arthur Bell Nicholls, who I later married. Oh yes, I married. Bad feminist? Anyway, shall we begin?
I present, Jane Eyre: An Autobiography by Currer Bell, illustrated by F. H. Townsend (also me) – Service and Paton, 5 Henrietta Street, London. 1847. And the stage adaptation: Songs and Stories of Jane Eyre, with Teacup Gorilla, right now, 2132 Market Street, Denver, 2018. Can we have lights and music? This is your cue, Janes. Yes both Janes, and you– Mrs Reed for now please.
[Music: Gateshead theme…]
Narrator: There was no possibility of taking a walk that day; and I was glad of it. Dreadful to me the cold winter wind, and nipped fingers. My aunt, Mary Reed, lay reclined on a sofa by the fireside, with her darlings about her. Me, she had dispensed from joining the group.
Jane: [to Mrs. Reed] What am I said to have done?
Mrs. Reed: Jane, I don’t like cavillers or questioners. Be seated somewhere, and remain silent!
Bell: [interrupting] Sorry, a moment, please. A preface to the first edition of “Jane Eyre” being unnecessary, I gave none: this second edition demands a few words of miscellaneous remark.
To the timorous or carping few who doubt the tendency of such books as “Jane Eyre:” in whose eyes whatever is unusual is wrong and whose ears detect in each protest against bigotry an insult to piety: I would suggest to such doubters certain obvious distinctions: Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. This work is respectfully inscribed by the author, Currer Bell.
Excuse me. Music?
Patriarchy & Oppression
[Music: Jane’s theme. Transparency: “Gateshead Hall: Oppression & Shame…” Jane is about to re-speak her line–]
Mrs. Reed: Jane, be seated somewhere, and remain silent!
Narrator: A breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room. I slipped in there, and soon possessed myself of a volume, taking care that it should be one with pictures: Bewick’s History of British Birds. I mounted into the window-seat: gathering up my feet, and drawing the red moreen curtain nearly close.
[Transparency: Images of birds…]
Song: Bird Book (Jane’s Theme)…
Where the Northern Ocean - a tempest in exile
Boils round the naked, murky, melancholy isles
Of farthest Thule; along the Atlantic sea
Pours in among the stormy, shattered shells of Hebrides.
The vast sweep of the Arctic Zone
And there, in regions vast forlorn
Of dreary space, that reservoir
That lonesome reservoir of frost and snow,
where forms and fields of glaciers grow
They glaze in Alpine heights, they go
They swallow back the sea
[Transparency: “Gateshead Hall: Oppression & Shame…”]
Mrs Reed: Where is she? Where is Jane?
Jane: What do you want?
Mrs Reed: Say, What do you want, Mistress Reed?
Jane: What do you want, Mistress Reed?
Mrs Reed: I want you to come here, animal.
[Music: Gateshead theme. Jane approaches Mrs. Reed, frightened and obedient, then smirks.]
Mrs Reed: You have no business to take our books; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children. Now, I’ll teach you!
Jane: You are like a murderer– you are like a slave-driver– you are like the Roman emperors!
Narrator: I had read Goldsmith’s History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of Nero, Caligula, etc. Also I had drawn parallels!
Mrs. Reed: Take her away to the red room, and lock her in there!
[Jane is taken away. She resists, resolved in desperation.]
Bell: Yes, ok, we’ve had to simplify and rearrange some things. No John Reed, no Adele, or Mrs. Fairfax, or any of the servants and bit parts that work so well in a novel. We don’t have budget for all that, and you don’t have time. In fact, we’re already in the middle of Chapter 2.
*The Red Room
[Jane is hidden somewhere out of site, and we only see her on camera. Music: Haunting sounds. Projector is turned off.]
Jane: Unjust! Unjust! In this chamber my uncle Reed breathed his last; here he lay in state.
Narrator: I could not remember him; but I knew that he had taken me, a parentless infant, to his house; and that, in his last moments, he had required a promise of Mrs. Reed: that she would rear me as one of her own.
Jane: I recall now what I had heard of dead men, troubled in their graves by the violation of their last wishes, revisiting the earth to punish the perjured and avenge the oppressed. [anxious] Mr. Reed’s spirit…
Bell: [teasing] You are afraid of ghosts?
Jane: Of Mr. Reed’s ghost I am.
[Bell uses her hand and the camera flash to create ghostly effects. Jane begins to panic. Jane faints. Silence, and then…]
Song: Orphan Child (Gateshead Theme)…
My feet they are sore, and my limbs they are weary;
Long is the way, and the mountains are wild;
Soon will the twilight close moonless and dreary
Over the path of the poor orphan child.
Why did they send me so far and so lonely,
Up where the moors spread and grey rocks are piled?
Men are hard-hearted, and kind angels only
Watch o’er the steps of a poor orphan child.
Shame is Passed On
[Music: Frost flowers. Transparency: “Gateshead Hall: Shame is Passed On…”]
Narrator: November, December, and half of January passed away.
Bell: A new chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play. We’re in chapter 4 already!
Narrator: For nearly three months, I had never been called to Mrs. Reed’s presence. I fell to breathing on the frost-flowers with which the window was fretted. From this vantage, I saw the gates thrown open–
[Transparency: Mr Brocklehurst shadow. Music: Lowood theme, sparse…]
*Brocklehurst: Your name, little girl?
Jane: Jane Eyre, sir.
*Brocklehurst: Well, Jane Eyre, and are you a good child?
Mrs. Reed: Perhaps the less said on that subject the better, Mr. Brocklehurst.
*Brocklehurst: Do you know where the wicked go after death?
Jane: They go to hell.
*Brocklehurst: And what must you do to avoid that pit?
Jane: I must keep in good health, and not die.
Narrator: Not the answer he was looking for, perhaps. But I like it.
Mrs. Reed: Jane, sit down! Mr. Brocklehurst, this little girl has not quite the character and disposition I could wish. Should you admit her into Lowood School, I should be glad if the teachers were requested to keep a strict eye on her, and to guard against her worst fault, a tendency to deceit.
*Brocklehurst: All liars will have their portion in the lake burning with fire and brimstone.
Narrator: I saw myself transformed under the stranger’s eye into an artful, noxious child.
Mrs. Reed: I should wish her to be brought up in a manner suiting her prospects: to be made useful, and kept humble. As for the vacations, she will, with your permission, spend them always at Lowood.
*Brocklehurst: Your decisions are perfectly judicious, madam.
[Transparency: “Gateshead Hall: Shame is Passed On…”]
Mrs. Reed: Go out of the room; return to the nursery.
[Jane turns to go, but turns back.]
Jane: I am not deceitful! if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world. I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick. People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hard-hearted. You are deceitful!
[Mrs. Reed leaves abruptly, handing Jane her travel bag. Jane smiles, and takes Mrs. Reed’s seat.]
Narrator: Even for me, life has its gleams of sunshine.
Shame is Not Passed On
[Music: A blaring alarm, then Lowood theme in full force. Transparency: “Lowood School.” There is a dance of books, making lines, rearranging benches, praying, eating. Jane is caught up in the action, and left out, confused. Transparency: Brocklehurst shadow…]
*Brocklehurst: Burns, come forward, and bring the rod! Burns, you poke your chin most unpleasantly; draw it in. Burns, I insist on your holding your head up; I will not have you before me in that attitude. Burns, you dirty, disagreeable girl! Step down from that stool. You’ll wear the untidy badge today. Where is Jane Eyre?
*Brocklehurst: Naughty girl! Stand upon that stool at once. Teachers, and children, you all see this girl? Who would think that the Evil One had already found a servant and agent in her? You must be on your guard against her; y ou must shun her example; avoid her company, and exclude her from your sports. This girl, this child, the native of a Christian land, is – a liar!
[Music: Helen’s theme. Transparency: “Lowood School…”]
Helen: Come, eat something.
Jane: What is your name besides Burns?
Jane: Helen, why do you stay with a girl whom everybody believes to be a liar?
Helen: Everybody, Jane? Why, there are only eighty people who have heard you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions.
Jane: But what have I to do with millions? The eighty, I know, despise me.
Helen: Jane, you are mistaken: probably not one in the school either despises or dislikes you: many, I am sure, pity you much.
Jane: How can they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst has said?
Helen: [laughing] Mr. Brocklehurst is not a god: nor is he even a great and admired man: he is little liked here.
Jane: You must wish to leave Lowood?
Helen: No! why should I? I was sent to Lowood to get an education; and it would be of no use going away until I have attained that object.
Jane: But that teacher is so cruel to you?
Helen: Cruel? Not at all! He is severe and dislikes my faults.
Jane: And if I were in your place I should dislike him; I should resist him. If he struck me with that rod, I should get it from his hand; I should break it under his nose.
Helen: If you did, Mr. Brocklehurst would expel you from the school.
Jane: But I feel this, Helen; I must dislike those who, whatever I do to please them, persist in disliking me; I must resist those who punish me unjustly. It is as natural as that I should love those who show me affection!
[An ambiguous and innocent kiss.]
Narrator: Though I am a defective being, yet I never tired of Helen Burns. I still cherish for her an attachment as strong, tender, and respectful as any that ever animated my heart.
[Alarm sounds, and there is a small reprise of the Lowood dance…]
Typhoid, Intimacy, and Death
[Music: Lowood reprise. Then Helen’s theme, in a minor key. Transparency: “Lowood School: Typhoid, Intimacy, and Death…”]
Narrator: Spring drew on: flowers peeped out amongst the leaves; snow-drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. April advanced to May: days of blue sky, placid sunshine, and soft southern gales filled up its duration. Lowood shook loose its tresses and became all green, all flowery.
Bell: [who has been gathering and arranging flowers…] The garden, too, glows with flowers.
Jane: [to camera] Dear Reader, these fragrant treasures were all useless for most of the inmates of Lowood, except to furnish a handful of blossoms to put in a coffin. This forest-dell, where Lowood lays, is a cradle of fog and pestilence; which has breathed typhus through our crowded schoolroom, transforming the seminary into an hospital.
Narrator: Forty-five out of the eighty girls lay ill at one time. Many, already smitten, went home only to die: some died at the school, and were buried quietly and quickly. But Helen was ill at present: removed to a room upstairs.
Jane: How sad to be lying now on a sick bed, in danger of dying! This world is pleasant – it would be dreary to be called from it, and to have to go… who knows where?
Narrator: And then my mind made its first earnest effort to comprehend heaven and hell; and for the first time it recoiled, baffled.
[Jane goes to Helen. She is in a bed with a sheet. Bell continues to arrange flowers.]
Jane: I came to see you, Helen. I could not sleep till I had spoken to you.
Helen: You came to bid me good-bye, then: you are just in time probably.
Jane: No, no, Helen!
Helen: [coughing] Jane, you look cold; lie down and cover yourself with my quilt.
[Helen puts her arm over Jane, and they nestle close.]
Helen: How comfortable I am! I feel as if I could sleep: but don’t leave me, Jane; I like to have you near me.
Jane: I’ll stay with you, dear Helen: no one shall take me away.
Helen: Good-night, Jane.
Jane: Good-night, Helen.
[They kiss, and then sleep. Helen dies, and is covered with the sheet. Jane and Bell stand by her grave together. They throw flowers over Helen. Music: Helen dirge.]
Narrator: Her grave is in Brocklebridge churchyard: for fifteen years after her death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word “Resurgam.”
Jane: I love you, Helen Burns. Resurgam.
Bell: According to Wikipedia, Resurgam means “I shall rise again.” If Wikipedia is to be trusted, my book is making a nod to the classic novel, Vanity Fair, by my favorite author, William Thackeray – who is possessed of an intellect profunder and more unique than his contemporaries have yet recognized. In my humble opinion. My sister also died at school. This part reminds me of her.
Jane: We’re mourning Helen now, not your sister.
A New Servitude
[Music: Jane’s Theme…]
Narrator: Hitherto I have recorded in detail the events of my insignificant existence.
Bell: You call this detail? You should read the book.
Narrator: But this is not to be a regular autobiography.
Bell: Obviously. I wrote it for you.
[Transparency: “Lowood School: A New Servitude…”]
Narrator: Therefore, I now pass a space of eight years almost in silence. During these eight years my life was uniform. I rose to be the first girl of the first class; then I was made a teacher. And now I tired of the routine in one afternoon. I felt that it was not enough; I desired liberty; but it seemed a dream, swept off into vague space. Then, I thought, grant me at least a new servitude!
Jane: A new servitude! There is something in that.
Narrator: It is of no use wanting anything better.
Jane: How do people do, to get a new place? I must advertise!
Narrator: With earliest day, I was up
Jane: A young lady accustomed to tuition…
Narrator: Had I not been a teacher two years?
Jane: Is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private family where the children are under fourteen.
Narrator: I was barely eighteen, after all.
Jane: She is qualified to teach the usual branches of a good English education, together with French, Drawing, and Music.
Narrator: I had my advertisement written, enclosed, and directed before the bell rang to rouse the school.
[Transparency: “Thornfield Hall: A New Servitude…”]
Bell: Within a week, Jane receives an offer from one Mrs Fairfax at Thornfield hall, near Millcote.
*Friendly, but Haunted
[Music: Thornfield theme…]
Narrator: The roads were heavy, the night misty. My carriage slowly ascended a drive, and came upon the long front of a house. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house.
Jane: Mrs. Fairfax, I suppose?
Bell: There’s a brief comedy of errors and mistaken identities, where Jane assumes that Mrs Fairfax is the mistress of this mansion.
[to audience] Mistress is a funny word, actually. In this case I mean “a woman who has power, authority, or ownership: such as the female head of a household” – but as with most words for women, it will later come to mean the near opposite: “a woman who is courted or kept by a married man” – soon-to-be an apt description of Jane, though she doesn’t know it. Spoiler alert. Mrs. Fairfax is the housekeeper, and mostly slows down the action, so we’ve cut her from this version. But I’ll take a few of her lines – just to give you a taste.
[to Jane] Follow me.
Narrator: A very chill and vault-like air pervaded the stairs and gallery, suggesting cheerless ideas of space and solitude.
Bell: One would almost say that, if there were a ghost at Thornfield Hall, this would be its haunt.
Jane: So you have no ghost?
Bell: None. I’m certain of it.
[We hear a haunting screech.]
Jane: Mrs. Fairfax! Did you hear that?
Bell: Some of the servants, likely; perhaps Grace Poole: she sews in one of these rooms.
[The screech is repeated.]
[Music: Jane’s theme. Transparency: “Par Parenthèse…”]
Narrator: October, November, December passed away. I not unfrequently heard Grace Poole’s laugh. Sometimes I saw her: she would come out of her room with a plate in her hand, go down to the kitchen and shortly return, bearing a pot of porter. Hard-featured and staid, she had no point to which interest could attach.
My pupil, Adèle Varens had been spoilt and indulged, but she soon became obedient and teachable. She had no great talents which raised her one inch above the ordinary level of childhood; but neither had she any deficiency or vice which sunk her below it.
Bell: That’s what my teachers said about me, at Cowan Bridge. “Charlotte Brontë: Reads tolerably – writes indifferently – knows nothing of grammar.”
Jane: Is this your biography or mine?
Bell: Does it matter?
Jane: [to the camera, with Bell excitedly mouthing along] Reader: This, par parenthèse, will be thought cool language by persons who entertain solemn doctrines about the angelic nature of children: but I am not here to flatter parental egotism, or prop up humbug; I am merely telling the truth.
Anybody may blame me who likes, when I add further, that I desire more of practical experience than I possess. I value what is good in Mrs. Fairfax and in Adèle; but I believe in the existence of other, and more vivid kinds of goodness.
I shall be called discontented, no doubt. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts. They suffer from too rigid a restraint, precisely as men would suffer. It is narrow-minded to say that women ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.
Bell: Well said, Jane! I wrote that.
Rochester Needs Help
Narrator: One afternoon in January, Mrs. Fairfax had written a letter which was waiting to be posted, so I put on my bonnet and cloak and volunteered to carry it to Hay. The distance, two miles, would be a pleasant winter afternoon walk.
[Transparency: Flowers, leaves, and berries…]
Song: Walking in Winter…
The ground was hard, the air was still
My road, it climbed a solitary hill
I walked on stone - about a mile from Thornfield
I heard the clang of a distant storm peal
Narrator: [mid-song] I lingered till the sun went down amongst the trees, and sank crimson and clear behind them.
And where in summer you’d spy a rose
And watch the sparrows come and go
And then, as though sent as a plague
Autumn came and the leaves were slain
[The song is interrupted by a rude noise: a metallic slide, and a clattering tumble…]
Rochester: What the deuce is to do now?!
Jane: Are you injured, sir? Can I do anything?
Rochester: You must just stand on one side.
Jane: If you are hurt, and want help, sir.
Rochester: Thank you: I shall do: I have no broken bones – only a sprain. [trying to stand] Ugh!
Jane: I cannot think of leaving you, sir, at so late an hour.
[Music: Rochester’s theme…]
Rochester: You ought to be at home yourself. Where do you come from?
Jane: From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when it is moonlight.
Rochester: Do you mean at that house with the battlements?
Jane: Yes, sir.
Rochester: Whose house is it?
Jane: Mr. Rochester’s.
Rochester: Do you know Mr. Rochester?
Jane: No, I have never seen him.
Rochester: You are not a servant at the hall, of course. [puzzled] You are–
Jane: I am the governess.
Rochester: Ah, the governess! Deuce take me, if I had not forgotten! The governess! If you will be so kind…
Jane: Yes, sir.
Rochester: Thank you; now make haste.
A Peculiar Mind
[Music: Thornfield theme. Transparency: “Thornfield Hall: Hit Me With Your Best Shot…”]
Narrator: The incident had occurred and was gone for me, yet I was pleased to have done something. Trivial as the deed was, it was yet an active thing. Re-entering Thornfield was a return to stagnation.
Rochester: What the deuce is it to me whether Miss Eyre be there or not? Let her be seated.
Narrator: A reception of finished politeness would probably have confused me, but harsh caprice gave me the advantage.
Rochester: You have been resident in my house three months?
Jane: Yes, sir.
Rochester: And you came from–?
Jane: From Lowood school.
Rochester: Ah! a charitable concern. No wonder you have rather the look of another world. You have lived the life of a nun! Well, what did you learn at Lowood? Adèle showed me some sketches this morning, which she said were yours. Probably a master aided you?
Jane: No, indeed!
Rochester: Ah! that pricks pride. Well, fetch me your portfolio, if you can vouch for its contents being original: I can recognize patchwork.
Jane: Then I will say nothing, and you shall judge for yourself, sir. [to camera] While he is so occupied, I will tell you, reader, what they are: and first, I must premise that they are nothing wonderful.
[Transparency: abstract watercolors, manipulated live…]
Song: Peculiar Paintings…
Clouds low and livid, rolling over a swollen sea:
as brilliant as my pencil could impart.
A drowned corpse glances through the green water;
one fair arm the only limb visible,
whence the bracelet has been washed or torn.
The pinnacle of an iceberg pierces a polar sky:
a muster of northern lights rear their dim lances.
Throwing these into distance, a colossal head,
inclined towards the iceberg, and resting against it.
Two thin hands, joined under the forehead,
draw up a sable veil.
A brow quite bloodless, white as bone,
an eye hollow and fixed,
blank of meaning but for the glassiness of despair
(and low, that eye, it just seemed to stare)
Rochester: The drawings are, for a school-girl, peculiar, elfish. Where did you get your copies?
Jane: Out of my head.
Rochester: Has it other furniture of the same kind within?
Jane: I should think it may have: I should hope–better.
[Music: Thornfield theme…]
Rochester: You examine me, Miss Eyre. Do you think me handsome?
Jane: No, sir.
Rochester: Ah! By my word! Go on: what fault do you find with me?
Jane: Mr. Rochester, allow me to disown my first answer: it was only a blunder.
Bell: In the book, this one conversation spans days or even weeks. We’ll cut to the chase.
Rochester: Miss Eyre, the fact is, I don’t wish to treat you like an inferior – that is, I claim only such superiority as must result from twenty years’ difference in age and a century’s advance in experience.
Jane: I don’t think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have.
Rochester: Humph! Leaving superiority out of the question, then, you must still agree to receive my orders now and then, without being hurt by the tone of command. Will you? That smile is very well, but speak too.
Jane: Very few masters would trouble themselves to inquire whether or not their paid subordinates were hurt by their orders.
Rochester: Paid subordinates! Oh yes, I had forgotten the salary! Well then, on that mercenary ground, will you agree to let me hector a little?
Jane: No, sir, not on that ground; but, on the ground that you did forget it, I agree heartily.
Rochester: Where are you going?
Jane: To put Adèle to bed: it is past her bedtime.
Rochester: You are afraid of me, because I talk like a Sphynx.
Jane: Your language is enigmatical, sir: but I am certainly not afraid.
Rochester: Never mind,–wait a minute: Adèle is not ready to go to bed yet.
Narrator: He then told me that Adèle was the daughter of a French opera-singer, Céline Varens, towards whom he had once cherished what he called a “grand passion.”
Bell: They were in love! But he catches her with another man – blah blah blah, Adèle!
Rochester: I am not her father; but hearing that she was quite destitute, I took the poor flower out of Paris, and transplanted it here. But now you know that she is the illegitimate offspring of a French opera-girl, you will perhaps think differently of her.
Jane: How could I possibly prefer the spoilt pet to a lonely little orphan? [to the camera] And was Mr. Rochester now ugly in my eyes? No, reader: gratitude, and many pleasurable associations, made his face the object I best liked to see. Yet I had not forgotten his faults. In my secret soul I knew that his great kindness to me was balanced by unjust severity to many others.
[The projector is turned off. Jane is about to extinguish her candle, when she hears the haunting screech…]
Jane: Who is there?
[Silence, then the haunting screech…]
Jane: Was that Grace Poole? Is she possessed with a devil?
[In the midst of fire and smoke, Mr. Rochester lays in deep sleep.]
Jane: Wake! Wake!
[She shakes him, but he only murmurs and turns. She rushes to his basin and ewer, filled with water, heaving them up, and deluging the bed and its occupant, extinguishing the flames.]
Rochester: In the name of all the elves in Christendom, is that Jane Eyre? What have you done with me, witch, sorceress? Have you plotted to drown me?
Jane: In Heaven’s name, get up, you’re bed’s on fire! Shall I call Mrs. Fairfax?
Rochester: Mrs. Fairfax? No; what the deuce would you call her for? What can she do? Just be still. There! I am up now. Did you see anything when you opened your chamber door?
Jane: No, sir, only the candlestick on the ground.
Rochester: But you heard the odd laugh?
Jane: Yes, sir: there is a woman who sews here, called Grace Poole, – she laughs in that way.
Rochester: Just so. Grace Poole–you have guessed it.
Band Voices: [in darkness]
- What a mercy master was not burnt in his bed!
- It is always dangerous to keep a candle lit at night.
- I wonder he waked nobody!
- Mrs. Poole, the servants’ dinner will soon be ready: will you come down?
- No; just put my pint of porter and bit of pudding on a tray, and I’ll carry it upstairs.
[Music: Jane’s theme. Transparency: “Thornfield Hall: Fire Away…”]
Narrator: The morning passed just as usual, but I puzzled over the character of Grace Poole, and why she had not been given into custody that morning. Mr. Rochester had declared his conviction of her criminality just last night.
Bell: That thought is interrupted when we find that Mr. Rochester is gone to the Leas without a goodbye – ten miles, the other side of Millcote – where he is likely to stay a week or more. “The ladies” there are fond of him.
Jane: There are ladies at the Leas?
Bell: Very elegant young ladies indeed; Blanche and Mary Ingram. Blanche came to a Christmas ball, and she was considered the belle of the evening.
Jane: What was she like?
Bell: Tall, fine bust, sloping shoulders; long, graceful neck: olive complexion, dark and clear; noble features. And then she had such a fine head of hair, the glossiest curls I ever saw.
Jane: She was greatly admired?
Bell: Yes, Yes: and not only for her beauty, but for her accomplishments. She and Mr. Rochester sang a duet.
Narrator: A greater fool than Jane Eyre had never breathed the breath of life.
Jane: [in a mirror] You, a favourite with Mr. Rochester, and gifted with the power of pleasing him? Poor stupid dupe!
Narrator: Listen, then, Jane Eyre, to your sentence. Place the glass before you, and draw in chalk your own picture, faithfully, without softening one defect. Write under it, ‘Portrait of a Governess, disconnected, poor, and plain.’
Jane: He said something in praise of your eyes, did he? Blind puppy!
Narrator: Afterwards, choose your most delicate camel-hair pencils; delineate carefully the loveliest face you can imagine; paint it in your softest shades and sweetest lines. Recall the august yet harmonious lineaments, the Grecian neck and bust, and the delicate hand. Call it ‘Blanche, an accomplished lady of rank.’
Jane: Is it likely Mr. Rochester would waste a serious thought on this indigent and insignificant plebeian?
Narrator: It had been a mild, serene spring day, when at last four equestrians galloped up the drive. The third was Mr. Rochester, on his black horse; at his side rode Miss Ingram.
Jane: Look how she leans her head towards him as if she were conversing confidentially.
Narrator: Blanche Ingram was molded like a Dian. She answered point for point, both to my picture and Mrs. Fairfax’s description.
[Transparency: Song lyrics, for audience sing-along…]
Song: Hit Me With Your Best Shot (Pat Benatar)…
Well you’re a real tough cookie with a long history
Of breaking little hearts like the one in me
That’s okay, let’s see how you do it
Put up you dukes, let’s get down to it
Hit me with your best shot
Why don’t you hit me with your best shot
Hit me with your best shot
Narrator: Coffee was handed, and there was life everywhere; movement all day long. Merry days were these at Thornfield Hall. Miss Ingram, who had now seated herself at the piano, commenced a brilliant prelude; talking meantime. “Oh, I am so sick of the young men of the present day!” exclaimed she. “Poor, puny things, not fit to go outside without mama’s permission!”
Bell: She’s a real bore, if you ask me – but constantly flirting with Mr Rochester. The party seems to last for days. Jane is instructed to join, but never allowed to participate.
Narrator: Not that I wanted to. They spoke of “playing charades,” but I did not understand the term.
Bell: Here, we’ll show you the best bit. Imagine, for a minute, that I’m the beautiful Miss Ingram.
Bell and Rochester act out a marriage, with lots of flirting. The band guesses, and eventually gets it right: bride! Everyone sings another chorus of the song.
Hit me with your best shot
Why don’t you hit me with your best shot
Hit me with your best shot
Bell: Mr Rochester is called away to Millcote again on business.
[Music: Fortune Teller theme, slow. Transparency: “Thornfield Hall: Fire Away…”]
Narrator: I saw he was going to marry her – for family, perhaps political reasons – but I was not jealous. Miss Ingram was a mark beneath jealousy: very showy, but not genuine. She had a fine person, but her heart was barren. She did not know the sensations of sympathy and pity; tenderness and truth.
Jane: [to the camera] I have told you, reader, that I had learnt to love Mr. Rochester: I could not unlove him now, merely because I saw all his attentions appropriated by a great lady, who scorned to touch me with the hem of her robes.
*Fortune Teller & Biting Attack
[Transparency: “Thornfield Hall: Fortune Teller & Biting Attack…”]
Narrator: It was verging on dusk, when a gentleman arrived; A tall, fashionable-looking stranger.
[Transparency: Mr Mason shadow…]
*Mason: It appears I come at an inopportune time, when Mr. Rochester, is from home; but I arrive from a very long journey, and I think I may install myself here till he returns.
Narrator: I presently gathered that the new-comer was called Mr. Mason; that he was but just arrived in England, and that he came from some hot country. Presently the words Jamaica, Kingston, and Spanish Town, indicated the West Indies.
[Transparency: “Thornfield Hall: Fortune Teller & Biting Attack…”]
Bell: Mr. Mason makes himself at home, as another stranger arrives – an “old woman, quite troublesome” – who insists on telling the fortunes of Miss Ingram (who seems shaken by the encounter) and then Jane, who has no interest in fortune-tellers.
[Music: Fortune Teller theme, fast…]
Jane: I’m not silly.
Bell: The fortune teller tries to get Jane talking about Mr Rochester and Miss Ingram, but she’d rather talk about living on her own.
Jane: I hope to save money enough out of my earnings to set up a school, some day, in a little house rented by myself.
Rochester: [disguised] Well, and you want your fortune told?
Jane: I don’t care about it, mother; you may please yourself.
Song: Fortune Teller…
The flame it flickers in the eye;
the eye it shines like dew;
it looks so soft and full of feeling;
And it’s looking right at you
The mouth delights in fits of laughter;
mad thoughts I conceive;
Mobile as a thorny fox
And silent as the sea
I am no enemy to fortune, at least that’s what I say
‘I can live alone, if self-respect should make me live that way
Earthquake shock and screaming bellows startle up the fire
That smolders in my belly like some scorched desire
There’s treasure born within me,
which might keep me alive
When all delights are kept beyond me
I’m crooked as a scythe
My passions rage with fury,
heathens that they are;
The dark desires I imagine
Twinkle like the stars
Rochester: Well, Jane, do you know me?
Bell: The fortune teller turns out to be Mr Rochester. Surprise! Jane is not impressed and neither are we. The whole man-in-a-dress routine, Rochester? Seriously??
Jane: I had better not stay long, sir; it must be near eleven o’clock. Are you aware, Mr. Rochester, that a stranger has arrived here since you left?
Rochester: A stranger! – no; who can it be?
Jane: His name is Mason, sir; and he comes from the West Indies, I think.
Rochester: Mason! – the West Indies! Tell me, Jane, If all these people came and spat at me, what would you do?
Jane: Turn them out of the room, sir, if I could.
Rochester: My little friend! I wish I were on a quiet island with only you.
[A haunting screech. Transparency: Mr Mason shadow, with drops or smears of blood…]
*Mason: Help! help! Help! Will no one come? Rochester! Rochester! for God’s sake, come!
- Who is hurt?
- Fetch a light!
- Is it fire?
- Are there robbers?
- Where shall we run?
Rochester: All’s right!–all’s right! A servant has had a nightmare; that is all. [to Jane] Come this way: take your time, and make no noise. You don’t turn sick at the sight of blood? Warm and steady…
*Mason: She bit me like a tigress! She said she’d drain my heart.
Rochester: I warned you, Mason.
*Mason: Let her be taken care of; let her be treated as tenderly as may be.
Forgiveness & Death
[Music: Gateshead theme. Transparency: “Gateshead Hall: Forgiveness & Death…”]
Narrator: The following day, a servant arrives from Gateshead, dressed in mourning.
Jane: And are the family well at the house?
Bell: [as the servant] I am sorry I can’t give you better news of them, Miss: they are very badly at present. Your aunt, Mrs Read has had a stroke. She was three days without speaking, but at last got out the words, ‘Bring Jane – fetch Jane Eyre: I want to speak to her.’
Narrator: I reached the lodge at Gateshead about five o’clock in the afternoon on the first of May.
Mrs Reed: Is this Jane Eyre?
Jane: Yes, Aunt Reed. You sent for me.
Mrs Reed: There was something I wished to say – let me see – Sit up! Don’t annoy me. Are you Jane Eyre? I have had more trouble with that child than anyone would believe. Such a burden to be left on my hands.
Jane: It is I, Aunt Reed.
Mrs Reed: Well, I must get it over. Eternity is before me: I had better tell her. Read the letter, Jane.
Narrator: Madam, – Will you have the goodness to send me the address of my niece, Jane Eyre? Providence has blessed my endeavours to secure a competency. I wish to adopt her during my life, and bequeath her at my death whatever I may have to leave. – I am, Madam, &c., &c., John Eyre, Madeira.
Jane: It’s dated three years back. Why did I never hear of this?
Mrs Reed: Because I disliked you, Jane.
Jane: Dear Mrs. Reed, think no more of all this. Let it pass away from your mind. I long earnestly to be reconciled to you now: kiss me, aunt.
Mrs Reed turns away from her.
Jane: Love me, then, or hate me, as you will. You have my full and free forgiveness.
Bell: Mrs. Reed dies, if that’s important.
Narrator: Mr. Rochester had given me but one week’s leave of absence: yet a month elapsed before I returned to Thornfield.
[Music: Rochester theme. Transparency: “Thornfield Hall: Shit Gets Real…”]
Rochester: Hillo! There you are! What the deuce have you done with yourself this last month?
Jane: I have been with my aunt, sir, who is dead.
Rochester: A true Janian reply! She comes from the other world – If I dared, I’d touch you, to see if you are substance or shadow, you elf! Come. You must see the carriage, Jane, and tell me if you don’t think it will suit Mrs. Rochester exactly; and whether she won’t look like Queen Boadicea. I wish, Jane, I were a trifle better match with her externally. Fairy as you are – can’t you give me a charm to make me a handsome man?
Jane: It would be past the power of magic, sir.
Rochester: Pass, Janet.
Jane: Thank you, Mr. Rochester, for your great kindness. [pause] Wherever you are is my home – my only home.
[Transparency: Chestnut tree shadow…]
Rochester: Turn back, Jane: on so lovely a night it is a shame to sit in the house. Thornfield is a pleasant place in summer, is it not?
Jane: I am attached to it, indeed.
Rochester: And though I don’t comprehend it, you have acquired a degree of regard for that foolish little child Adèle; and even for simple dame Fairfax?
Jane: Yes, sir; in different ways, I have an affection for both.
Rochester: Pity! It is always the way of events in this life. No sooner have you got settled in a pleasant resting-place, than a voice calls you to rise and move on. The hour of repose is expired!
Jane: Then you are going to be married, sir?
Rochester: Very soon, my – that is, Miss Eyre. It was you who first said to me that in case I married Miss Ingram, both you and little Adèle had better trot forthwith. I heard of a place that I think will suit – You’ll like Ireland, I think.
Jane: It is a long way off, sir; and then the sea is a barrier –
Rochester: From what, Jane?
Jane: From you, sir.
Rochester: I shall never see you again, Jane: that’s certain. I never go over to Ireland.
Jane: I have known you, Mr. Rochester; I have talked, face to face with an original, vigorous, expanded mind. I see the necessity of departure; and it strikes me with terror and anguish, like looking on the necessity of death.
Rochester: Where do you see the necessity?
Jane: Where? You, sir, have placed it before me in the shape of Miss Ingram; a noble and beautiful woman, – your bride.
Rochester: My bride! What bride? I have no bride!
Jane: But you will have.
Rochester: Yes; – I will! – I will!
Jane: Then I must go: – you have said it yourself.
Rochester: No: you must stay!
Jane: Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton – a machine without feelings – and can bear to have my bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup?
Song: Jane’s Feelings…
Do you think I’ll stay to be nothing to you?
Do you think I’m an automaton?
and can bear to have my bread snatched from my lips,
and suffer all indignation
Jane: [mid-song] Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?
… You think I’m poor; I have no heart
You think I’m plain; I’ve got no soul
You think I’m small, obscure and strange
A captive loose, a fraction whole
I am not speaking now with my tongue.
I am not speaking now with my flesh
my spirit calls out to your ghost
Equal as we are, and nothing less
Jane: I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, nor even of mortal flesh; – it is my spirit that addresses your spirit, equal – as we are!
Rochester: Jane, be still; don’t struggle so, like a frantic bird that is rending its own plumage in its desperation.
Jane: I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.
Rochester: And your will shall decide your destiny. I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions.
Jane: You play a farce, which I merely laugh at.
Rochester: I ask you to pass through life at my side – to be my second self, and best earthly companion. It is you only I intend to marry.
Jane: Your bride, Miss Ingram, stands between us.
Rochester: My bride is here, because my equal is here. Do you doubt me, Jane?
Jane: Entirely. Do you truly love me?
Rochester: If an oath is necessary to satisfy you, I swear it.
Jane: Then, sir, I will marry you.
[There is a thunder clap. The tree shadow is split nearly in two.]
Bell: Did that all happen under a tree? If so, the tree is destroyed in a storm. [to band] Storm, please!
[Music: A brief storm, as Jane and Rochester take cover.]
Shit Gets Real
Rochester: You blushed, and now you are white, Jane: what is that for?
Jane: Because you gave me a new name – Jane Rochester; and it seems so strange.
Rochester: Yes, Mrs. Rochester, my girl-bride.
Narrator: Well, don’t say it like that.
Rochester: I will attire my Jane in satin and lace, and she shall have roses in her hair; and I will cover the head I love best with a priceless veil.
Jane: And then you won’t know me, sir; and I shall not be your Jane Eyre any longer, but an ape in a harlequin’s jacket.
Rochester: I shall take you to Millcote, and you must choose some dresses for yourself. We shall sojourn at Paris, Rome, and Naples: at Florence, Venice, and Vienna; I shall travel with a very angel.
Jane: [teasing] I am not an angel. Mr. Rochester, you must not expect anything celestial of me – for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.
Rochester: What do you anticipate of me?
Jane: I suppose your love will effervesce in six months. Or less.
Narrator: I had observed in books written by men, that period assigned as the farthest to which a husband’s ardour extends.
Song: Rochester’s Love…
The truest love that ever heart
Felt at its kindled core,
Did through each vein, in quickened start,
The tide of being pour.
Her coming was my hope each day,
Her parting was my pain;
The chance that did her steps delay
Was ice in every vein.
I have at last my nameless bliss.
As I love – loved am I!
My love has sworn, with sealing kiss,
With me to live – to die;
Narrator: I had no intention of dying with him – he might depend on that.
Jane: Yet after all, my future husband is becoming my entire world.
*Ripping The Veil
Bell: Let’s skip ahead to the wedding day. Or the night before? I’m not sure.
[Music: Thornfield theme…]
Narrator: Descending the laurel walk, I faced the wreck of the chestnut-tree under which he had proposed; it stood up black and riven: the trunk, split down the centre. As yet, however, they might be said to form one tree – a ruin, but an entire ruin.
Just at sunset, the air turned cold and the sky cloudy. Mrs Fairfax called me upstairs to look at my wedding-dress, which they had just brought; and under it in the box I found a present – the veil which, in his princely extravagance, Mr Rochester had sent from London. I smiled as I unfolded it, and devised how I would tease him about his aristocratic tastes.
As it grew dark, the wind rose with a sullen, moaning sound. For some time after I went to bed, I could not sleep…
[The projector is turned off. Bertha appears with haunting screeches, tries on the veil, and rips it to pieces…]
Jane: This was not Mrs. Fairfax: it was not even that strange woman, Grace Poole.
Rochester: It must have been one of them.
Jane: No, sir. The shape reminded me of the foul German spectre – the Vampyre.
Rochester: My treasure: nerves like yours were not made for rough handling. Once united, there shall be no recurrence of these mental terrors.
[Transparency: “Thornfield Hall: Once United…”]
Jane: Mental terrors, sir!
Bell: If it’s not nerves it’s hysteria, if it’s not hysteria it’s the vapors, if it’s not the vapors then it’s bicycle face… Seriously, look it up.
Bell: Now, it is certainly the wedding day. We’ll skip all the bits about preparation, and Rochester rushing Jane to the church in a seeming panic.
Rochester: Lingerer! My brain is on fire with impatience, and you tarry so long!
Narrator: If either of you know any impediment why ye may not lawfully be joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it.
[Transparency: Mr Mason shadow…]
*Mason: The marriage cannot go on: I declare the existence of an impediment. Mr. Rochester has a wife now living at Thornfield Hall. I saw her there last April, and I am her brother.
Narrator: At Thornfield Hall! Impossible! I never heard of a Mrs. Rochester at Thornfield Hall.
Bell: [running to become Bertha] Oh shit, that’s my cue!
Rochester: No, by God! I took care that none should hear of it – or of her under that name. Enough! I am little better than a devil at this moment. Gentlemen, my plan is broken up. Come all of you – follow!
Rochester: You know this place, Mason. She bit and stabbed you here.
[The “clothed hyena” rises up, and stands tall on its hind-feet, with haunting screeches.]
Rochester: That is my wife, whom I married fifteen years ago, – Bertha Mason by name. She came of a mad family; idiots and maniacs through three generations!
Bertha: [to camera] I don’t even know where to start. You should read the ways Bertha is described in this book. Here’s Jane, in a bit we cut earlier…
Jane: It was a discoloured face – it was a savage face. The lips were swelled and dark; the brow furrowed: the black eyebrows widely raised over the bloodshot eyes.
Bertha: In this scene I’m described as a beast, a clothed hyena – from Jamaica. We really didn’t know how to deal with that, but we can’t ignore Brontë’s colonial… how do you say “white supremacy” in Victorian English?
So, what am I doing here? Am I an expression of Brontë’s more wild aspects – restrained by custom and society? I’m not sure, but here I am: the angry woman, the crazy ex-girlfriend, or just someone held in the attic for 10 years against my will. What would you do? Would you rage? Would you bite back, and resist to the fiery end? I plan to. This isn’t over yet.
Rochester: Go to the devil!
[Mr. Rochester and Bertha fight, with more haunting screeches – and she is subdued. Music: Thornfield theme…]
Rochester: Such is the sole embrace I am ever to know! And this is what I wished to have. This young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon. Look at the difference; then judge me!
Bell: The priest clears Jane from all blame, then disappears into the night with Mr Mason – leaving our lovebirds alone.
[Transparency: “Thornfield Hall: Once United…”]
Rochester: All is prepared for prompt departure: tomorrow we shall go, and be free of these terrors forever! I have a place to repair to, which will be our sanctuary.
Jane: [to camera] If I could go out of life now, dear reader, without too sharp a pang, it would be well for me. I must leave him, it appears. I do not want to leave him – I cannot leave him. [to Rochester] Mr. Rochester, I must leave you.
Rochester: You will not come? You will not be my comforter, my rescuer? My deep love, my wild woe, my frantic prayer, are all nothing to you? Oh, Jane! my hope – my love – my life! You don’t love me, then? It was only my station, and the rank of my wife, that you valued?
Narrator: These words cut me: yet what could I do or I say?
Rochester: Will you hear reason, Jane? [too close] Because, if you won’t, I’ll try violence. [backing off] But I am not angry, Jane: I only love you too well. After a youth passed in misery and solitude, I have for the first time found what I can truly love – I have found you. You are my sympathy – my better self – my good angel. I think you good, gifted, lovely: I am bound to you. I was wrong to deceive you; I was cowardly.
[He makes an effort to rest his head on her shoulder, but she won’t permit it.]
Rochester: You see now how the case stands – do you not? To say that I already have a wife is empty mockery: you know now that I have but a hideous demon.
Jane: Sir, you are inexorable for that unfortunate lady: you speak of her with hate – with vindictive antipathy. It is cruel – she cannot help being mad.
Rochester: Jane, my little darling, you don’t know what you are talking about: it is not because she is mad I hate her. If you were mad, do you think I should hate you?
Jane: I do indeed, sir.
Narrator: “Farewell!” was the cry of my heart as I left him.
Wandering The Wilderness, Destitute
Narrator: I knew what I had to do, and I did it mechanically. The great gates were closed and locked; but a wicket in one of them was only latched. Through that I departed; and now I was out of Thornfield.
Bell: Sorry, we’re off-track, and I’m not sure where we’re heading now. Jane?
Jane: [handing Bell a transparency] This is your fault.
[Transparency: “The Wilderness: Wandering, Destitute…”]
Jane: [directly to the audience] Two days are passed, already. It is a summer evening; the coachman has set me down at a place called Whitcross. I am not possessed of another shilling in the world.
Narrator: I looked at the sky; it was pure: a kindly star twinkled just above the chasm ridge. Nature seemed to me benign and good; she loved me, outcast as I was. From man I could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, and insult.
Jane: Not a tie holds me to human society at this moment.
[Transparency: A woman in shadow, a shopkeeper…]
Jane: Do you know of any place in the neighbourhood where a servant is wanted?
*Woman: Nay; I couldn’t say.
Jane: What is the chief trade in this place? What do most of the people do?
*Woman: Some are farm labourers; a good deal work at Mr. Oliver’s needle-factory, and at the foundry.
Jane: Does Mr. Oliver employ women?
*Woman: Nay; it was men’s work.
[Transparency: “The Wilderness: Wandering, Destitute…”]
Narrator: I drew near houses; I left them, and came back again, and again I wandered away: always repelled by the consciousness of having no claim to ask – no right to expect interest in my isolated lot.
Jane: [to audience] Reader, I blame none of those who repulse me. An ordinary beggar is frequently an object of suspicion; a well-dressed beggar inevitably so.
Narrator: I could not hope to get a lodging under a roof, and sought it in the wood. The ground was damp, the air cold. Towards morning it rained; the whole of the following day was wet.
Jane: [to audience] Do not ask me, reader, to give a minute account of this day; as before, I sought work; as before, I was repulsed; as before, I starved.
Bell: We’ve cut it short, but Jane lives like this for nearly a week – eating only discarded scraps, sleeping under trees, braving terrible weather. Pretty gutsy, I’d say, even by today’s standards…
Jane: I did what had to be done. Now I can but die.
Narrator: I lay still a while: the night-wind swept over the hill and over me, and died moaning in the distance; the rain fell fast, wetting me afresh to the skin. Could I have stiffened to the still frost – the friendly numbness of death – it might have pelted on; I should not have felt it; but my living flesh shuddered.
Family & Independence
Bell: Come now, Jane. Let’s try that house on the horizon. I have a good feeling about this one.
Jane: I can never reach it.
[The house is moved closer to Jane. Music: Diana’s theme…]
Bell: Wonderful! [to additional actress] We’ll have you play a new man, more ethical than Mr Rochester. The local parson, named “Saint John River” who can nurse you back to health.
Jane: [to Bell] They pronounce it “Sinjun” when used as a given name. Anyway, he’s a Calvinist – they’re miserable. [to additional actress] You should play his sister, Diana, instead! She’s reading Die Räuber when I arrive, in German! [to audience] Reader, I also know how to use Wikipedia.
Bell: Fine. I’ll play St John, so we don’t lose him entirely.
*John: Young woman, rise, and pass before me into the house.
Bell: [stepping out of character] How was that?
[Transparency: “Moor House: Family & Independence…”]
Diana: Poor, emaciated, pallid wanderer – What’s your name?
Jane: My name is Jane Elliott.
Narrator: Anxious to avoid discovery, I had resolved to assume an alias.
Diana: You have a peculiar face; I rather like it.
Narrator: Never once did I hear from Diana one syllable of regret or suspicion. Meantime a month was gone.
Jane: [to audience] The more I know Diana, dear reader, the better I like her. I can join in all her occupations, and converse with her as much as she wishes. There is a reviving pleasure in this intercourse, of a kind now tasted by me for the first time.
Narrator: As to Mr. St John, the intimacy did not extend to him. He seemed a reserved and brooding creature.
Jane: Zealous in his ministerial labours, blameless in his life and habits, he does not appear to enjoy… anything.
Bell: But he does find you a job.
*John: This town, when I came to it, had no school: the children of the poor were excluded from every hope of progress. I established one for boys: I mean now to open a second school for girls. Your salary will be thirty pounds a year.
Jane: I thank you for the proposal, Mr. Rivers, and I accept it with all my heart.
Bell: [stepping out of character] Ok, I gave the Moor House equal time in the book, but we can’t do that here, so I’ll fill you in. First, a letter arrives, telling St John and Diana that their long-forgotten uncle has died. He had a large fortune, but has left it to someone else. Oh well.
They all shrug, and go on with life. There are side-plots regarding the school, and a likely love interest for St John: Miss Rosamond Oliver. Jane is shipping them hard, and paints Miss Oliver’s portrait for St John, who pines over it in Calvinist agony – then rips a corner of the page, and runs off into the night. Using the stolen signature, he discovers Jane’s real name, and –
Jane: Let Diana deliver the news:
Diana: Your name is Jane Eyre, is it not?
Jane: It is.
Diana: You are not, perhaps, aware that I am your namesake, Diana Eyre Rivers? My mother was your father’s sister. My uncle who died, was your uncle John of Madeira. What he did not leave to us, he has left to you: all his property. You are now rich.
Bell: At such time as I was writing, there was no such thing as the “rich uncle” trope – now so popular. Perhaps I created it? Nonetheless, I can acknowledge that is rather surprising and, well, convenient for Jane’s situation.
Jane: You, then, are my cousins?
Diana: We are cousins; yes.
Jane: Oh, I am glad!
Bell: That’s the part you are glad about?
Jane: I had nobody; and now two relations!
Bell: And the money?
Jane: Fifteen thousand pounds, divided equally between the three of us, will give five thousand to each.
Diana: But, Jane, what if you marry?
Jane: Nonsense! I don’t want to marry, and never shall marry. I like Moor House, and I will attach myself for life to Diana.
[Diana laughs, and they kiss.]
*Failed Proposal & Cry For Help
Narrator: As our mutual happiness settled into a quieter character, Diana and I resumed our usual habits and regular studies. Diana had offered to teach me German, and I liked to learn from her. Our natures dovetailed into mutual affection of the strongest kind. St. John sat with us often, pondering some Eastern tongue.
[John waves Diana away, and she turns the projector off. Music: Sinjun’s theme…]
*John: Jane, what are you doing?
Jane: Learning German.
*John: I want you to give up German and learn Hindostanee.
Jane: You are not in earnest?
*John: I am the servant of an infallible Master. My king is the All-perfect. Jane, come with me to India: come as my helpmeet and fellow-labourer. I claim you – not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign’s service.
Jane: [to audience] Reader, I can do what he wants me to do – and yet I shudder. He prizes me as a soldier would a good weapon; and that is all. Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure all the forms of love (which I doubt not he would scrupulously observe) and know that the spirit was quite absent? No. [to John] I am ready to go to India, if I may go free – as your cousin, not your wife.
*John: Do you think God will be satisfied with half a sacrifice?
Jane: Oh! I will give my heart to God. You do not want it.
*John: Though you have a man’s vigorous brain, you have a woman’s heart. I want a wife: the sole helpmeet I can influence efficiently in life, and retain absolutely till death. Undoubtedly enough of love would follow.
Jane: I scorn your idea of love: yes, St. John, and I scorn you when you offer it.
*John: Refuse to be my wife, and you limit yourself for ever to a track of selfish ease and barren obscurity. Why this refusal?
Jane: Formerly, because you did not love me. Now, because you almost hate me.
*John: You shall be numbered with those who have denied the faith, and are worse than infidels!
Narrator: And with that answer he left me. I would much rather he had knocked me down.
[Jane and Diana have a moment together, a farewell for now…]
Song: Destruction of Thornfield…
There was a lady – a lunatic, kept in the house
she was kept in confinement, pacing madly about
it was no one but her that started the blaze
when Mrs. Poole slept in that bed where she lay
That mad lady drunk on water and gin
She crept like a witch in her devilish skin
On this perilous night, filled with flickering danger
she made her way into the governess’s chamber
She drifted in silence as though already dead
and there in the darkness she kindled the bed
Then, through the smoke, in a blistering panic
Poor Rochester raced up the stairs to the attic
A woman stood upon the roof, a silhouette against the flames
Rochester: [mid-song] Bertha! Bertha!
Rochester ascended as if somehow fire-proof
we heard him call ‘Bertha!’ as he got to the roof
We saw him approach her, but she yelled and gave flight,
and smashed upon the pavement on that terrible night
dead as the stones onto which her blood splattered
and the fragments of her bones and her brains lay all scattered
[As the song plays, we see (but Jane does not) Bell/Bertha set fire to the house. Is she also tearing up copies of Jane Eyre? She and Rochester struggle – he’s injured, and she throws herself from the balcony. Rochester is left on the ground, having lost his sight and one of his hands.]
Rochester: Jane! Jane! Jane!
[Jane turns the projector back on. Transparency: “Thornfield Ruin: Problematic…”]
Narrator: What are we doing, Jane?
Jane: We’re going to help him up.
Narrator: He doesn’t deserve it.
Jane: No one does.
Narrator: I’m not comfortable with this.
Jane: Neither am I. But we love him, somehow, anyway. What do we do with that feeling?
Narrator: Walk away. We can stay with Diana.
Jane: We’ve already walked away, we can do it again if we need to. Diana will always be there for us.
Narrator: I don’t know. He caged his wife, for 10 years.
Jane: And he’s suffering the consequences.
Narrator: It’s not enough.
Jane: It will be enough if he learns from it.
Narrator: We can’t make him change.
Jane: But we can be here to help. He listens to me.
Narrator: I don’t know.
[Music: Thornfield theme…]
Narrator: In his countenance I saw a change: desperate and brooding – reminding me of some wronged and fettered wild beast or bird, dangerous to approach in his sullen woe. He opened his eyelids; gazed blank. One saw that all to him was void darkness. His left arm, mutilated, he kept hidden in his bosom.
Jane: [to audience] And, reader, do you think I feared him in his blind ferocity? – if you do, you little know me. [to Rochester] Will you take my arm, sir?
Rochester: Let me alone.
Jane: Do you know me, sir?
Rochester: Wait! Who is this? Speak again! Great God! – what delusion has come over me?
Jane: Your mind, sir, is too strong for delusion.
Rochester: Her very fingers! Her small, slight fingers! Is it Jane? This is her shape – this is her size – there must be more of her!
Jane: And this her voice. She is all here: her heart, too.
Rochester: In truth? – in the flesh? My living Jane? You do not lie dead in some ditch under some stream?
Jane: No, sir! I am an independent woman now.
Rochester: What, Janet! You are an independent woman?
Jane: I can build a house of my own close up to your door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when you want company of an evening.
Rochester: But you are rich, Jane. No doubt you have friends who will not allow you to devote yourself to a blind monster like me?
Narrator: He hasn’t changed.
Jane: I told you I am independent, sir. I am my own mistress. I will be your neighbour, your nurse, your housekeeper. I will be your companion – to read to you, to walk with you, to sit with you, to wait on you, to be eyes and hands to you.
Rochester: But you cannot always be my nurse, Janet: you are young – you must marry one day.
Jane: I don’t care about being married. Have you a pocket-comb about you, sir?
Rochester: Am I hideous, Jane?
Jane: Very, sir: you always were.
Rochester: Humph! The wickedness has not been taken out of you, wherever you have traveled.
Jane: Yet I have been with good people; far better than you.
Narrator: Far better.
Rochester: Were there only ladies in the house where you have been?
Jane: [to Narrator] Go with it. [to Rochester] There was a very good man, sir; St. John Rivers.
Narrator: This is gross.
Rochester: Is he an able man, then?
Jane: Truly able.
Rochester: A thoroughly educated man?
Jane: St. John is an accomplished and profound scholar. He is a handsome man.
Rochester: Damn him! Did you like him, Jane?
Jane: Yes, Mr. Rochester, I liked him.
Narrator: I didn’t.
Rochester: Did he ever come there to see you?
Jane: Now and then?
Rochester: Of an evening?
Jane: Once or twice.
Rochester: He wanted you to marry him?
Jane: He asked me to marry him.
Narrator: He threatened us. They both did.
Rochester: Jane, I am not a fool – go –
Jane: Where must I go, sir?
Rochester: Your own way – with the husband you have chosen.
Jane: Who is that?
Rochester: You know – this St. John Rivers.
Narrator: Even his jealousy is disgusting.
Jane: St. John is not my husband, nor ever will be. He does not love me: I do not love him.
Rochester: What, Jane! Is this true?
Jane: All my heart is yours, sir.
Narrator: Not all. Why are we here?
Rochester: Because you delight in sacrifice.
Narrator: He agrees with me.
Jane: Sacrifice! What do I sacrifice?
Rochester: To bear with a crippled man, twenty years older than you – to overlook my deficiencies.
Narrator: Not the deficiencies you think, sir.
Jane: I love you better now than I did in your state of proud independence, when you disdained every part but that of the giver and protector.
Rochester: You speak as a friend, Jane; but I want a wife.
Jane: Do you, sir?
Rochester: Will you marry me, Jane?
Jane: It is nearly four o’clock in the afternoon, sir. Don’t you feel hungry?
[They enter the wood, and wend homeward.]
[Jane returns. Jane and Narrator stand looking at each other in silence, then turn off their mics.]
Narrator: That’s not how it ends in the book.
Jane: It’s the best I can do.
[They place a final transparency together, and walk off into black. Transparency: “The End [sic]…”]
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