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The Hairy Ape   By: (1888-1953)

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A Comedy of Ancient and Modern Life

In Eight Scenes






SCENE The firemen's forecastle of a transatlantic liner an hour after sailing from New York for the voyage across. Tiers of narrow, steel bunks, three deep, on all sides. An entrance in rear. Benches on the floor before the bunks. The room is crowded with men, shouting, cursing, laughing, singing a confused, inchoate uproar swelling into a sort of unity, a meaning the bewildered, furious, baffled defiance of a beast in a cage. Nearly all the men are drunk. Many bottles are passed from hand to hand. All are dressed in dungaree pants, heavy ugly shoes. Some wear singlets, but the majority are stripped to the waist.

The treatment of this scene, or of any other scene in the play, should by no means be naturalistic. The effect sought after is a cramped space in the bowels of a ship, imprisoned by white steel. The lines of bunks, the uprights supporting them, cross each other like the steel framework of a cage. The ceiling crushes down upon the men's heads. They cannot stand upright. This accentuates the natural stooping posture which shovelling coal and the resultant over development of back and shoulder muscles have given them. The men themselves should resemble those pictures in which the appearance of Neanderthal Man is guessed at. All are hairy chested, with long arms of tremendous power, and low, receding brows above their small, fierce, resentful eyes. All the civilized white races are represented, but except for the slight differentiation in color of hair, skin, eyes, all these men are alike.

The curtain rises on a tumult of sound. YANK is seated in the foreground. He seems broader, fiercer, more truculent, more powerful, more sure of himself than the rest. They respect his superior strength the grudging respect of fear. Then, too, he represents to them a self expression, the very last word in what they are, their most highly developed individual.

VOICES Gif me trink dere, you!

'Ave a wet!




Drunk as a lord, God stiffen you!

Here's how!


Pass back that bottle, damn you!

Pourin' it down his neck!

Ho, Froggy! Where the devil have you been?

La Touraine.

I hit him smash in yaw, py Gott!

Jenkins the First he's a rotten swine

And the coppers nabbed him and I run

I like peer better. It don't pig head gif you.

A slut, I'm sayin'! She robbed me aslape

To hell with 'em all!

You're a bloody liar!

Say dot again!

[ Commotion. Two men about to fight are pulled apart. ]

No scrappin' now!

To night

See who's the best man!

Bloody Dutchman!

To night on the for'ard square.

I'll bet on Dutchy.

He packa da wallop, I tella you!

Shut up, Wop!

No fightin', maties. We're all chums, ain't we?

[ A voice starts bawling a song. ]

"Beer, beer, glorious beer! Fill yourselves right up to here."

YANK [ For the first time seeming to take notice of the uproar about him, turns around threateningly in a tone of contemptuous authority. ] "Choke off dat noise! Where d'yuh get dat beer stuff? Beer, hell! Beer's for goils and Dutchmen. Me for somep'n wit a kick to it! Gimme a drink, one of youse guys. [ Several bottles are eagerly offered. He takes a tremendous gulp at one of them; then, keeping the bottle in his hand, glares belligerently at the owner, who hastens to acquiesce in this robbery by saying: ] All righto, Yank. Keep it and have another." [ Yank contemptuously turns his back on the crowd again. For a second there is an embarrassed silence. Then ]

VOICES We must be passing the Hook. She's beginning to roll to it. Six days in hell and then Southampton. Py Yesus, I vish somepody take my first vatch for me! Gittin' seasick, Square head? Drink up and forget it! What's in your bottle? Gin... Continue reading book >>

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