Humpty Dumpty (1868)
by John Denier
Excerpt Scene Two
Editor's Note: Pantomime is so far removed from standard theatrical formats that it may be a little confusing. Since most of the script consists of detailed stage directions, the author's credit reads "Arranged by John Denier, Esq." The songs are mostly brief, including tidbits of traditional nursery tunes.
The stage directions and text are quoted from an undated pamphlet edition of the script, with period grammar and spelling intact.
The Setup: A brief prologue has characters named ROMANCE, BURLESQUE and NEW JERSEY exchange rhyming couplets filled with topical references. After announcing that a pantomime is about to begin, they dance off, and the actual story (such as it is) begins.
The stage directions use a right-left perspective that is the exact opposite of the one used today. They also divide the stage into five horizontal "grooves," the first groove being the one closest to the audience, the fifth being the extreme rear of the stage. That is why to this day performing in front of a closed curtain is referred to as being "in one." You can click on the image at left to see the crude sketch of the stage setting included in the published libretto. The dash marks on the sides indicate the five grooves.
The reader is supposed to be upon the stage facing the audience. R. means Right of stage, facing the audience; L. Left; C. Centre; R.C. Right of Centre; L.C. Left of Centre; D.F. Door in Flat; or scene running across the back of the stage. C.D.F. Centre Door in the Flat; L.D.F. Left Door in the Flat; R.D. Right Door; L.D. Left Door; 1 E. First Entrance; 2 E. Second entrance; U.E. Upper Entrance; 1,2,or 3 G. First, Second or Third Grooves.
PANTOMIME: VILLAGE SCENE, OR FARM OF PLENTY
Quadrillle music at opening of this scene.
NOTE If there is no scene in 1 for the 1st scene, it is often done in the 2nd scene full stage. ROMANCE can seen leaning on the pig-pen, 2 E.R., when the curtain rises on Scene 1st.
SCENE II Landscape in 5, or full stage. Set pig-pen across 2 E.R. Set cottage 3 or 4 E.L. Table and chair, partly on stage, in 3 E.L. Broom, and crab net on pole, against set cottage. Picket fence half across from 4 E.R. Beehive as in diagram.
TOMMY TUCKER enters from 5 E.R., comes down stage, and in pantomime says, "In that cottage lives my sweetheart; I'll go there and try to get her out." Goes near the cottage and claps his hands three times listens no reply. VILLAGERS and GOODY TWO SHOES enter from 5 E.R. VILLAGERS stand in line from pig-pen to beehive, GOODY rather hiding behind others. TOMMY don't know they are on. He claps three times more no reply leans on wing by cottage, despondent. 1ST VILLAGER goes over to TOMMY and hits him on the back. TOMMY turns and faces him. VILLAGER says in pantomime, "Will you shake bands w ith me?" Tommy says, "No," and turns. Same business repeated, but Tommy shrugs his shoulders and says, "Yes," shakes hands, and VILLAGER goes back in line. TOMMY leans on wing again. VILLAGERS now all sing (orchestra gives chord to start it)
Little Tommy Tucker sang for his supper
What shall he eat but white bread and butter?
How shall he cut it without any knife?
How can he marry without any wife?
At the conclusion of this TOMMY feels very downcast, and backs from wing to centre of stage GOODY at the same time backs towards him. When in centre of stage they both bump together the VILLAGERS clap their hands GOODY and TOMMY turn and see each other. They are both delighted they both face each other, and shake hands, and jump up and down, as if greatly rejoiced. TOMMY says, "Give me a kiss." GOODY says, "No." TOMMY says, "See, I have got a present for you," at the same time he takes from his belt a pair of new shoes, and holds them up for her to see. She makes a grab, when he quickly puts them behind him, and says, "If you give me a kiss I will give them to you." GOODY studies a moment, then says, "If you will dance with me I will give you tile kiss." TOMMY consents, gives her the shoes, and they both run up stage to centre. Music gives chord, and they both together dance a village hornpipe. At conclusion of dance great noise off 5 E.L. TOMMY looks off entrance and pantomimes to VILLAGERS, "Old man is coming, and they must all be off." VILLAGERS off 5 E.R. TOMMY and GOODY off 1 E.R.
OLD ONE TWO enters from 5 E.L. with a bag half full of sawdust on his back turns and beckons to HUMPTY goes a few steps further, when he falls on his face, the sawdust bag on his back keeping him down. He hits his hands on the stage for help, and keeps it up as long as he lies there. HUMPTY enters from 5 E. L. eating an apple and kissing his hand to someone off the 5 E.L. turns, sees audience, laughs sees OLD ONE TWO laughs again puts his apple in his pocket stands over ONE TWO and slaps his arms to warm up stoops over and takes hold of the two bottom corners of the bag, turns back to audience, puts the bag on his back sawdust falls out of the mouth of the bag on ONE TWO, and HUMPTY walks off with the empty bag on his back, very slow and unconcerned off 5 E.L.
GOODY and TOMMY enter from 1 E.R., run over, call in VILLAGERS from 5 E.R., who stand in line as before. GOODY and TOMMY lift up OLD ONE TWO by the arms, and brush him off. GOODY takes chair down by foot-lights for OLD ONE TWO, goes up stage and asks him if he won't sit down. ONE TWO says, "No thanks." He feels better, and goes to VILLAGERS and shakes hands. HUMPTY enters from 5 E.L., eating apple sees empty chair, very coolly walks to it and sits down in it rubs his stomach and eats away on his apple. TOMMY goes over to him, slaps him on the back. HUMPTY turns they both bow. TOMMY says, "Give me a bite of your apple." HUMPTY says, "No," and turns front and eats away. TOMMY slaps him on the back again asks him again for a bite of the apple. HUMPTY thinks, then says, "Yes." TOMMY holds out open hand for the apple.
HUMPTY bites off a very little piece and goes to put it in TOMMY's hand thinks a second and concludes it is too big bites another piece off the small piece, and lays it in TOMMY'S hand with an air of satisfied generosity. TOMMY looks at it and says, "Is this for me?" HUMPTY says, "Yes." TOMMY says, "Who is that big piece for?" meaning the apple in HUMPTY's hand. HUMPTY says, "For me," and bows. TOMMY repeats, "This little piece for me?" HUMPTY laughs. TOMMY draws back hand and fires piece of apple in HUMPTY's eye. HUMPTY picks piece of apple out of his eye and goes to throw it away. On second thought puts it in his mouth and chews away.
TOMMY tells OLD ONE TWO, who says, "We will fix him" so he gives each one a stuffed club. He gets at the head of the line they all follow as close as possible. They advance to HUMPTY, who sees them coming, and just as OLD ONE TWO goes to hit him, HUMPTY jumps up very quick and runs off with big steps, laughing, 5 E. B. With the force of the blow OLD ONE TWO falls across the chair. TOMMY and VILLAGERS mistake him for HUMPTY and they all commence to heat him unmercifully. He finally gets up off chair and beats and fights them all, off-takes chair up stage and goes in the cottage, 4 E.L., rubbing his back and shaking his fist.