I recently retitled CHARLEY AND EMMA as THE DARWINS. Another script that received wonderful responses in numerous readings and workshops, it has yet to be produced. Unfortunately, it arrived on the scene just after another Off-Broadway production about Darwin was being done. I am so drawn to the mystery of faith versus reason and here, once again, they come into conflict in a story that focuses less on the history and more upon the personal journey of Charles Darwin in relationship to his wife, Emma. Hope you enjoy it!
William S. Leavengood
Cast of Characters
Charles Darwin, ages 22-51
Emma Wedgewood Darwin, ages 23-52, Charles’ cousin and wife
Richard Owen, ages 32-56, a fellow naturalist and gentleman
Elizabeth Wedgewood, 31-41, Emma’s sister, dwarfish with a twisted spine
*Captain Fitzroy, commander of the Beagle
**Jemma Buttons, 20’s, a Christian convert and native of Tierra Del Fuego
**Thomas Huxley, ages 26-35, a naturalist and famous agnostic
*Charles Lyell, 39-63, a renowned naturalist
Annie Darwin, 10, Charles’ beloved daughter
*These two roles can be double cast with one actor
**These two roles can be double cast with one actor
THE DARWINS is about the tumultuous life and relationship of the famed father of evolution, Charles Darwin, and his devoutly Christian wife and first cousin, Emma Wedgewood. The play is rich with the history and science of Darwin’s life and discoveries, but also focuses on the struggle and triumph of two people who, despite being divided by an ideology that guided their entire existence, held their marriage together through their compassion and compromise.
Office at the Library of Oxford - 1860. From outside in the main library, we hear the hubbub from the community at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
THOMAS HUXLEY, 35, enters, holding a book. He sets it down, grabs a coat, scarf and gloves draped over the back of a chair. CHARLES LYELL, 63, follows, holding a piece of paper.
This is nothing short of betrayal!
I have no intention of facing that
crowd... You can feel the ignorance
seeping through the walls.
And what is our purpose as scientists other than
to enlighten the ignorant.
Snatches paper from Lyell’s hand, reading:
“The Annual Meeting of the British Association for
the Advancement of Science”? It’s a bloody circus
in there. Zealots of every stripe, drunken
Oxford college boys--
We are in their library.
I don’t mind the drunken college boys, Lyell.
But I’ll be damned if I’m going out there to be
Episcopal-ly pounded by Bishop Wilburforce.
The man need only break wind and this mob
cheers with ecstasy.
Huxley, you’re our greatest naturalist--
It won’t work.
Darwin is depending on us.
Yes? Then why isn’t he here? Why are
WE defending HIS theory?
“Dead” would be an excuse. “Ill” is not.
You know Charles, he would be a disaster
in front of a hostile crowd.
As his dear friend, I know you will represent him
A knock. RICHARD OWEN, age 56, enters without waiting for a response.
Ah! I knew he was mistaken! The Bishop feared
you had departed.
Good-good! Are you prone to cold, Huxley? Oh,
of course-- the two of you in this little
chamber, alone. However, the heat generated by
the throng within will keep you nice
Come, my friends, the public is
restless... at the least.
Owen, my apologies, some urgent business has
arisen. I must be off. Lyell will
debate in my stead.
Any one but Darwin, it seems.
Darwin is unwell, I explained that.
Unwell again. Pity, the price God can
He was bitten by an insect which infected him.
An insect in South America, which bit him some
twenty years ago. Good science to those who
need it to be, I suppose.
I once considered you a man of science,
I am not “a” man of science, Mr. Lyell. I am
the foremost man of science in England.
Again, gentlemen, if you will excuse me.
I regret, Huxley, that you will not be
present to see us strangle
Darwin’s “monkey theory” at its birth.
Owen grabs the book off the table, which is “Origin of the Species” and demonstrates, though the Bible must be mimed.
Bishop Wilburforce plans to open by holding
aloft “Origin of the Species” in one hand
and The Bible in the other. Before he even opens
his mouth, the debate will be over.
Owen drops “Origin of the Species” back on the table, Huxley retrieves it.
Or I could stand there with a clock and a sundial.
I am not ashamed to have a monkey for
my ancestor, Owen, but I would be ashamed to
be connected with a man who used
great gifts to obscure the truth.
Darwin’s research and science are undeniable.
Undeniable? Has anyone ever seen a single
case of a species evolving into another?
The permanence of specific form
is a fact confirmed by all observations.
Do you really believe that all
favorable varieties of turnip are tending
to be men?
A few clever phrases from you, Owen,
will not win the day.
I won’t be me saying them. It will be our
beloved Bishop. And we all know they will
listen to him.
Then why run from it, Huxley? If you are
I won’t argue to a crowd so openly
hostile to evolution.
The crowd you speak of is “the world”.
I am sorry, my friends.
(touching Huxley’s arm gently)
Difficult decision today but the right one,
you will know in time...
As Owen exits, a WOMAN is hat and veil enters.
Seeing Owen, she bows her head, hiding her face.
Madam, this is a private office--
It’s fine, Owen.
Well, we will look forward to seeing you, or
Lyell, or neither, on the platform in the next
Owen exits. The Woman pulls back her veil. It is EMMA DARWIN, age 52.
Mrs. Darwin? Emma, my goodness.
Forgive me. I felt I had to be here.
Mr. Huxley, you know Mrs. Darwin?
HUXLEY (at a loss)
Yes. Thank you for-uhm...
Where is Charles?
Home. Too ill to come.
Honestly. He is ill more often than well now.
But who is with him?
Bearing ten children has its advantages. I wanted
to be able to report to Charles, he is so
dreadfully nervous, and that only makes him worse.
Well, it was a pleasure seeing you again,
You’re leaving? Charley understood that you
were to defend his theory.
I don’t see the point. I’m sorry.
But your supporters, Mr. Huxley, he feels
you are his only hope.
Not your hope, too, Mrs. Darwin?
No, not my hope.
Yet, you would have me stake my career--
Do you believe Charley’s theory?
Then nothing in the world should
stop you from defending it. If I believed it,
nothing in the world would stop me.
Lights fade as Emma steps downstage into a spotlight, as the sound of a sea shanty is heard. She reacts as if hearing the beginning of the scene below.