Sense & Sensibility
An adaption of Jane Austen's novel.
7F 6M (doubling possible to 6F 5M)
Running time: Act 1: 75 mins; Act 2: 50 mins
When Mr Dashwood dies, the family estate passes to John Dashwood, his son by a first marriage. The Dashwood women, his widow and three daughters Elinor, Marianne and Margaret are left in reduced circumstances. The play follows the Dashwood sisters to their new home, a cottage on a distant relative's property, where Elinor and Marianne experience both romance and heartbreak. Each deals with it according to their nature: Elinor who is all sense and Marianne who is all sensibility. The contrast between the sisters' characters is eventually resolved as they each find love and lasting happiness.
Preshow in Mime: Mrs
Dashwood attends to a dying Mr Dashwood. John
Dashwood enters and whilst they talk, Elinor enters and in show, says
a sad good bye to her father. As she moves away, Marianne enters and
to her impetuous enquiry, is given a sad
"no" by Elinor. As we move into Elinor's monologue, John and Mrs
Dashwood watch the dying form of Mr
(Elinor stands to the side of the stage, a single spotlight on her. She addresses the audience directly)
One of the greatest estate laws of England is also, I think, one of the worst. The law of entail. The firstborn son of the family inherits ... everything. This protects great estates and prevents their being cut up into useless, smaller properties, constantly being divided again and again with each generation. But it leaves the remainder of the family - the women and younger sons, reliant completely upon the charity, kindness and goodwill of the one who inherits.
(Although the lights
fade out on Elinor, she remains a figure in the dark, watching the following
SCENE 1: Norland Park - Eve.
(A bed in which a
man (MR DASHWOOD) lies dying, his breathing laboured. JOHN DASHWOOD
stands beside him. The scene is sombre and dimly lit.)
John, I must tell you that my
wife and the girls ... have made me very happy ...
Father, you must not overstrain yourself ....
MR DASHWOOD (energy fading)
You know the estate of Norland was
left to me in such a way as prevents me from dividing it between my
Father, please. To talk like this is not good for you.
Norland in its entirety is therefore
yours by law but my wife and daughters - your stepmother and sisters,
John, are left with only five hundred pounds a year, barely enough to
live on. And almost nothing for the girls' dowries. You must help
You must promise to do this.
I promise, father, I promise.
MR DASHWOOD (as he dies)
Dashwood throws herself across him in grief.
Fade out. )
SCENE 2: Norland Park - Day
(Fade up to JOHN is sitting in a
chair, reading documents. FANNY, his wife, enters in travelling clothes)
JOHN (kissing her cheek)
My dear, I did not think you would
be here so quickly! How was your journey?
As one might expect under such conditions.
Of course I would come John. Norland is ours now and I am its mistress.
I thought ... my stepmother might
have liked warning of your arrival.
Nonsense. Surely she accepts she is
no longer mistress here? After all, she and the girls know the law of
entail. They could not expect ...
I am sure they understand Norland is
ours but they grieve a little. More than a little. (hesitates)
My dear, it was my father's last request to me that I should assist
his widow and daughters. They have, after all, only five hundred a year
FANNY (looking at him keenly)
"assist them'? What do you mean,
"assist them" ?
Dearest, I mean to give them three
FANNY is still.
JOHN looks nervous.
He did not know what he was talking
of I dare say; ten to one but he was lightheaded at the time. Had he
been in his right senses, he could not of thought of such a thing as
begging you to give away half a fortune from your child.
He did not stipulate for any particular
sum, my dear Fanny.
Of course not.
He requested me, in general terms,
to assist them. The promise was given and must be performed. Something
must be done for them when they leave Norland and settle in a new home.
Well, let something be done for them
but that something need not be three thousand pounds. That is a vast
Indeed it is! (thinks) Perhaps
then, it would be better if the sum were halved. It would be a prodigious
increase to their fortunes.
Oh, beyond anything great! What brother would do half so much for his sisters - and they are only half-blood!
I would not wish to do anything mean.
They can hardly expect more.
There is no knowing what they may expect.
The question is, what can you afford to do?
Perhaps it would be more advisable
to make a pension of a hundred pounds a year to their mother whilst
she lives. A hundred a year would make them all perfectly comfortable.
It is far better than parting with
the fifteen hundred all at once. But if Mrs Dashwood should live longer
than fifteen years we would be completely taken in.
Fifteen years! My dear Fanny, her life
cannot be worth half that purchase!
People always live forever when there
is an annuity to be paid to them. And she is quite healthy. It is very
disagreeable to have to pay annuities. You can never call your money
I believe you are right my love. Some
years it might be difficult to pay such a sum. A present, now and again,
of fifty pounds will prevent their being distressed for money and will
discharge my promise to my father.
To be sure. Although I am convinced
your father had no idea of giving them money at all. They will have
five hundred a year between them and as they will have no servants or
carriages, they will not have any expenses. I cannot imagine how they
will spend half that sum!
Indeed! When my mother removes to another
house, I will offer some services in removal. That will discharge my
Very handsome of you! And now, I would
like to see my bedroom John!
END OF SCENE)
SCENE 3: Norland Park - Day
(MRS DASHWOOD enters
I feel as a visitor in my own home.
How can I bear it Elinor?
Consider, Mama! We have
nowhere to go. And John has very kindly asked us to consider Norland
our home for as long as we desire.
I heard myself when your father made
John promise to provide for us. If John would gift us with seven
thousand pounds I am sure we could remove to somewhere quite comfortable.
I do not think you should hope for
quite a sum as that Mama. Perhaps it would best to shape our needs
to the income we are sure of. I shall start making inquiries for
a new house at once.
It is not for myself, Elinor.
But for Marianne. And Margaret.
I do not think Margaret would care
where she lived. She would be happy to be a pirate at sea.
And Marianne will find poetry in anything.
Ah! There you are, Elinor.
(nods) Mrs. Dashwood. I have just been going about Norland
with the housekeeper. It is all very well for you to have kept
house as you did but as John and I shall be entertaining I have given
orders for the best china and glassware to be brought out.
Are you expecting guests then?
For the moment, just family.
But later, of course, we shall be entertaining more expansively.
All rooms will be needed, of course.
And how is Mrs. Ferrars?
My mother is always in excellent health, thank you. My brother Robert is in town with her this season and quite the most popular bachelor in London!
You have two brothers, have you not?
Indeed, yes. Edward is the eldest
- Mamma quite depends upon him. He is travelling up from
Plymouth and is breaking his journey here. So I am giving him
the room with the best view. (Pause) Both Mamma and I think Edward
should cut a fine figure if he chose to. Perhaps in Parliament.
You will, no doubt, agree. He arrived a few minutes ago.
Here! Now? But I have not
given orders for a room ...
FANNY (as she exits)
My dear Mrs Dashwood, in view of the
fact that he will not be with us for long, I was sure that Margaret
would not mind giving up her room to him, the view is quite incomparable
from her windows. I have given the orders.
There is but one consolation if Edward is anything like Fanny, we shall be only too happy to leave.
That woman! She has given orders
for Margaret's things to be removed from her room and placed in the
Have you seen Margaret? I am
worried about her. She has taken to hiding in the oddest places.
Clever girl. At least she can
escape Fanny, which is more than any of us is able.
You never speak to her.
I have nothing to say to her.
I suppose that was her brother I saw cantering up the driveway minutes
ago. No doubt making himself immediately at home as Fanny is wont to
(FANNY enters on this last with
EDWARD. He is shy and diffident. He behaves with great respect
to the DASHWOODS and seems embarrassed by
FANNY's proprietorial air. As Fanny introduces each of
them, he bows awkwardly. His attention is immediately caught by
My mother-in law, Mrs Dashwood.
Miss Dashwood and Miss Marianne. But where is Miss Margaret?
I declare, Mrs. Dashwood, I am beginning to doubt of her existence!
She must run positively wild!
Forgive us, Mr Ferrars. My youngest
is not to be found this morning. She is a little shy of strangers
Naturally. I am also shy of strangers
and I have nothing like her excuse.
How do you like your view, Mr. Ferrars?
ELINOR glances at
Very much. I see you have a walnut
Grove! Edward - your
windows overlook the lake.
An oversight, Fanny, led me to the
wrong room. I have rectified the situation and am happily settled
in the guest quarters.
MARIANNE and ELINOR look at each other in surprise. FANNY is furious. MRS DASHWOOD
smiles warmly at
But I would like to see how my horse
has settled after the journey. Might I ask - Miss Dashwood
to show me the way?
I am sure she has nothing better to
do and this would not put her out.
It would be my pleasure. I shall
just fetch a shawl.
(EDWARD accompanies ELINOR out)