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William Ireland's Confession

The Columbia Workshop

William Ireland's Confession

Oct 19 1939



CAST:

CBS ANNCR

ANNOUNCER


DEAD IRELAND, William as an old man; filtered voice

WILLIAM IRELAND, a boy in his late teens

SAMUEL IRELAND, William's father

JOSEPH, a servant

BOSWELL

DR. PARR

DR. WYATT

DR. WHARTON

EDMOND MALONE, cantankerous Irishman

PYE (1 line)

DUKE OF SOMERSET (1 line)

PITT (1 line)

BURKE (1 line)

PRINCE OF WALES (1 line)

KING VORTIGERN

SHAKESPEARE, an author

and a THEATER CROWD




CBS ANNCR: "Gang Busters: The Crusade Against Crime," returns to the air next Saturday night, October twenty-first. Here is a program that has aided in the capture of more than one hundred wanted criminals. See how shrewd, clever police work caught the man who thought nothing could stop him, and learn that crime never pays. Be sure to listen to the first exciting case in the new "Gang Busters" series, "The Crusade Against Crime," over this station next Saturday night, October twenty-first.


ANNOUNCER: This evening, the Columbia Workshop presents a dramatized treatment of the story of William Ireland, the notorious forger of Shakespeare manuscripts one hundred and fifty years ago. The play is the work of Arthur Miller and is his first radio effort. It is entitled "William Ireland's Confession."


MUSIC: INTRODUCTION ... THEN BEHIND IRELAND--


DEAD IRELAND: My name is William Ireland. I lived my life in London, the city on the River Thames. And I come to you now, a voice, as is fitting, for my bones are buried these hundred years. A hundred years -- and still there is not one man in all the world to render homage to my immortal name. Chaucer is revered, Aeschylus, Spenser, Shakespeare -- but William Ireland, the greatest genius of them all, is rotting, rotting in his grave, disgraced and unremembered. Listen, and hear how unjustly I was condemned. And for what -- for writing at the age of nineteen a tragedy judged by the greatest critics of my time as fine a play as Shakespeare himself had ever written -- but wait. We'll start at the beginning, and let you judge for yourselves. 


It was in the year Seventeen Hundred and Ninety-Three. With my father, Samuel, a famous collector of antique books, I was returning home from the annual Shakespeare Jubilee at Stratford-on-Avon. For my father was in search of a paper, any paper, so long as Shakespeare's signature was written on it. I was eighteen then, young. And as the carriage neared our house on Norfolk Street-- (FADES OUT)


SOUND: HORSES HOOFS ... HORSE AND CARRIAGE ... THEN IN BG


SAMUEL: I still maintain it. Somewhere in England -- perhaps in some peasant's shack, perhaps in a castle closet -- there's a bundle of Shakespeare's correspondence gathering dust, and by the Crown, I'll find that bundle if I have to spend my life in the search.


WILLIAM: I could help you, Father.


SAMUEL: You? (LAUGHS) Why, William, you haven't the intelligence. At least not enough to make a book-collector of you.


WILLIAM: (MEEKLY) Yes, Father. (FILTER, TO HIMSELF) Oh, he thinks I'm so dull and he's so smart. But wait. Wait, Father, you'll see. I'll be a great man some day -- a great poet -- and people will come from miles around to throw flowers on my grave and you'll be--


SAMUEL: (INTERRUPTS) Well, can't you think of anything to say? Why are you always so - so blank-looking? I'm beginning to believe what Mr. Wyatt said.


WILLIAM: What did Mr. Wyatt say?


SAMUEL: He thinks you're an idiot, William.


WILLIAM: (SOFTLY) Yes, Father. (BEAT) Father--?


SAMUEL: Hm?


WILLIAM: I - I have a surprise for you.


SAMUEL: (UNINTERESTED) Well?


WILLIAM: While you were searching that house in Stratford for the Shakespeare papers this morning, I - I wrote a little poem.


SAMUEL: (IRONIC) Well, that's lovely.


WILLIAM: Here, I'll read it to you. 


SAMUEL: Now, William! For the last time I tell you; the Lord only knows what you're good for, but it's certainly not to write verses. Now put it away and don't bother me again with your drivel.


WILLIAM: (WOUNDED) It's not drivel!


SAMUEL: Oh? Now you question my taste, eh?


WILLIAM: I'm a poet, Father, and I--!


SAMUEL: Keep quiet! Your voice annoys me.


WILLIAM: (CALLS) Joseph!


SAMUEL: Sit down, you fool!


WILLIAM: (CALLS) Joseph, stop the carriage!


JOSEPH: (OFF) Yes sir!


SAMUEL: Oh, what new way have you come upon now to make an ass of yourself?


SOUND: HORSE SLOWS TO A STOP ... CARRIAGE DOOR OPENS


WILLIAM: (DISTRESSED AND DEFIANT) Father, I can't bear any more of this today. I'm a very sensitive young man. I - I'll walk the rest of the way home. And mark you, sir, what I've said. You'll come to know my value, and very soon. Good afternoon.


SOUND: CARRIAGE DOOR SLAMS ... WILLIAM'S STEPS AWAY


SAMUEL: (WITH CONTEMPT, TO HIMSELF) His value? Ha! (CALLS) Home, Joseph!


SOUND: HORSE AND CARRIAGE START ... THEN IN BG


SAMUEL: (TO HIMSELF) How any son of mine could be such an ignorant, pompous puppy is beyond me. 


SOUND: SCENE FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE ... SCENE FADES IN


MUSIC: BEHIND WILLIAM--


WILLIAM: (FILTER, DISTRESSED, TO HIMSELF) Imbecile - idiot. Imbecile - idiot. I can't bear it any longer! I'm smarter than he. I'm smarter than any boy my age. I know human nature like Shakespeare did. I'm a poet. Yes, a poet. A prodigy. Idiot - imbecile. He must learn to respect me. There must be a way to show my value. He must learn to admire me. He must. He must. He-- 


SOUND: SCENE FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE ... SCENE FADES IN


MUSIC: IN BG--


DEAD IRELAND: One hour, two hours, three hours, I walked the London streets -- until, at five o'clock, I found myself in Harrett's book shop, idly fingering through some old volumes. I came upon a book covered with dust -- many, many years of dust.


SOUND: WILLIAM KNOCKS THE DUST OFF THE BOOK


WILLIAM: (FILTER, TO HIMSELF) Queen Elizabeth's own prayer book -- and I found it! (INSECURE) Oh, but if he doesn't believe it really was Elizabeth's, I'll - I'll run away. (MIMICS HIS FATHER) "Pah! Old Harrett's pulling your leg, William" -- he might say that, and laugh, and laugh again. (EXAMINES BOOK) Now, let's see, the Queen's Arms are on it, all right, and the dedication. It-- (GETS AN IDEA) The dedication! Who would ever know the difference if I should rip out the dedication page, copy it on some old paper--? (FADES OUT)


DEAD IRELAND: Hear it. Listen. Listen how it began and then judge whether or not I did it for money or a father's love. The following day I went as usual to Mr. Bingley's law office where I was a clerk. In the files, there were many contracts dating back hundreds of years. I took one, (SOUND: SNIP OF PAPER) snipped off the bottom which was blank, and on it, on this old paper, I copied out in marble fluid the author's dedication in the prayer book and dated it (SOUND: SCRATCH OF PEN ON PAPER) Fifteen Hundred and Ninety-One. That night, striving desperately to keep calm, I walked into my father's library (SOUND: DOOR OPENS) and found him examining one of his rare volumes.


MUSIC: OUT WITH--


SOUND: WILLIAM'S STEPS IN


WILLIAM: Father?


SAMUEL: Eh? Oh, William. I've told you a hundred times to knock.


WILLIAM: (MEEKLY) Oh, I-- I - I have something.


SAMUEL: What is it? (BEAT) Well? What are you staring at?


WILLIAM: Father, I've made a marvelous find.


SAMUEL: (SARCASTIC) What, one of your old poems?


WILLIAM: (FILTER, TO HIMSELF, INSECURE) Oh, I dare not show it. He'll know; he'll know!


SAMUEL: (ANNOYED) William, if you don't say something soon I'll lose my temper!


WILLIAM: Well, I - I-- I've found Queen Elizabeth's prayer book.


SAMUEL: Oh? Let me see it. (SOUND: HANDS OVER BOOK) Thank you. Well, well. (SOUND: FLIPS PAGES) Not quite, I fear, William.


WILLIAM: Oh, but look, the Queen's Arms on the cover--


SAMUEL: Yes, that's true. It might have been Elizabeth's, but-- (SOUND: FLIPS A PAGE) Hold on, what's this? (SOUND: RATTLE OF PAPER)


WILLIAM: Oh, yes -- you see that? It's a letter to the Queen in the author's very handwriting.


SOUND: SAMUEL CONTINUES TO HANDLE THE PAPER AND BOOK, IN AGREEMENT WITH--


SAMUEL: Let's see it in the light. I - I do believe you've found something, William. Look at that -- Fifteen Ninety-One. Two hundred years old and still clear as though it were written yesterday. Huh. There's that old paper for you. Nothing like it today. Well, thank you son, it's a very nice item. You've pleased me no end.


WILLIAM: (RELIEVED, PLEASED) Have I, Father?


SAMUEL: Indeed you have. (APOLOGETIC) I, er-- I should like to make up for the way I--


WILLIAM: (INTERRUPTS, QUICKLY, SERVILE) Oh, that's all right, Father. I'll look about more in the shops. I'll find a lot of things you'll like.


SAMUEL: That's very good of you.


WILLIAM: Oh, you'll be proud of me, Father. I'll find the rarest things. I'll--


SAMUEL: William--?


WILLIAM: Yes?


SAMUEL: You've made a good find, and I do think you might be able to help me. I'm not a poor man any more, and I have one of the best collections in London. But I shall not be at rest until I have in my hands what to me is the greatest find of all -- the signature of William Shakespeare. Son, for that I'd give half my life. Shakespeare's autograph on a piece of paper and I could die happily tomorrow. (FADES OUT)


MUSIC: BEHIND IRELAND--


DEAD IRELAND: I could scarcely believe it. Here the ink was hardly dry and he was certain it was two hundred years old. But my father's memory was short and in a few weeks the old jeering began again. Day after day he kept taunting me about my verses -- taunting, taunting -- until one day, November, Seventeen Hundred and Ninety-Four, I happened on Dr. Johnson's edition of Shakespeare. In it was printed the facsimile of a lost deed drawn up between Shakespeare and his friend, John Heming for a property in Blackfriars. The original, if it could be found, would be priceless. On old paper I copied out that facsimile and when I'd finished it, it seemed so perfect a copy that I felt indeed like that greatest of poets whose name I was about to sign -- and sign I did -- William Shakespeare.


SOUND: DINNER TABLE BACKGROUND ... CLINKING OF GLASSES, UTENSILS, ET CETERA, IN AGREEMENT WITH--


SAMUEL: Pass the butter, William. (BEAT) William?


WILLIAM: (ABSENTLY) What?


SAMUEL: You have the most annoying habit of sleeping with your eyes open. Pass the butter please.


WILLIAM: Oh, I - I'm sorry, sir. (FILTER, TO HIMSELF) I'd be mad to show it to him. He's sure to find some mistake and then - then I'd have to run away. (NERVOUSLY) I'll run! I'll run! (CALMLY) No. No, he'll believe. He must. He must believe.


SOUND: DURING ABOVE, CLINKING OUT


SAMUEL: Aren't you eating tonight?


SOUND: NO ANSWER ... THEN SAMUEL BANGS ON TABLE


SAMUEL: William!


WILLIAM: (STARTLED) Yes, Father?


SAMUEL: If you can't look more intelligent, at least during dinner, you'll eat in the kitchen. You positively annoy me!


WILLIAM: Father, I have--


SAMUEL: (INTERRUPTS) You needn't speak. Just - just don't look so - so stupid.


WILLIAM: (FILTER, TO HIMSELF, DEFIANT) Stupid, eh? Stupid! You'll change your tune! (UNFILTERED, TO SAMUEL) Father--?


SAMUEL: (EXASPERATED) What is it now?


WILLIAM: (A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT) I've found Shakespeare's signature.


SOUND: SAMUEL DROPS A UTENSIL ON PLATE


SAMUEL: (TENSE) William -- you don't dare trifle with me.


WILLIAM: Here. (SOUND: RUSTLE OF PAPER) Here it is.


SOUND: RUSTLE OF PAPER, IN AGREEMENT WITH FOLLOWING--


SAMUEL: What is this? Why-- (TREMBLES) Why-- Why, hold it for me. My hand is shaking.


WILLIAM: Yes, Father. It's the famous lost deed to Blackfriars! You see? Shakespeare's signature! Now! What do you think of that?! (FILTER, TO HIMSELF, INSECURE) Will he see through it? Oh, Lord, no.


SAMUEL: William, William! The ambition of my life! I'm touching the signature of William Shakespeare! I'm touching it! William, my boy!


WILLIAM: And I found it! I found it myself! 


SAMUEL: But where? Where, God bless you, did you buy it?


WILLIAM: Well, no, I-- I didn't buy it. (FILTER, TO HIMSELF) Quickly, quickly, you fool!


SAMUEL: Then how did you come to get it?


WILLIAM: (FILTER, TO HIMSELF) Where? Where? 


SAMUEL: Come, come -- you can tell your father.


WILLIAM: (FILTER, TO HIMSELF) A gentleman, a gentleman. (UNFILTERED, TO SAMUEL) Oh, yes -- a gentleman.


SAMUEL: A gentleman?


WILLIAM: Yes, you see-- Three weeks ago when I was at dinner at Mr. Mitchel's house, there was a gentleman present who took a liking to me immediately, for we both shared each other's interest in old books. In fact, by the end of the evening he had invited me out to his country house where he promised to show me some very rare manuscripts. Well, yesterday I went out to his place--


SAMUEL: (INTERRUPTS, IMPATIENT) But what in all the world has this to do with--?


WILLIAM: You ask me what it has to do with it?! (LAUGHS ALMOST HYSTERICALLY)


SAMUEL: (SURPRISED) William!


WILLIAM: (STILL LAUGHING) Why-- Why, Father, here you are looking all over Christendom for Shakespeare's manuscripts and -- (GIGGLES) -- this very gentleman has a trunk full of them!


SAMUEL: (STUNNED, QUIETLY) Good Lord. Who is this man?


WILLIAM: (TAKEN ABACK, THINKS HARD) Well, he-- Mister-- Mr. H.


SAMUEL: Mr. H? But what's his name?


WILLIAM: I can't tell you.


SAMUEL: But you must. I'll buy every scrap he has.


WILLIAM: He won't sell, Father.


SAMUEL: Then how did you get this?


WILLIAM: (AS IF IT WERE OBVIOUS) Don't you see, Father? He'll give to the world through my hands whatever I desire -- any one of his wonderful papers -- but - but I must never, never, never tell his name to a living soul.


SAMUEL: William, you must certainly have made a grand impression on the gentleman.


WILLIAM: Oh, and he thinks I'm quite talented, too. He says my verses are just beautiful!


SAMUEL: (PERFUNCTORY) Oh, well, well -- I'll have to look them over again. (GREEDILY) But have you seen any of the other manuscripts besides this?


WILLIAM: Seen them? I've read them!


SAMUEL: Which ones has he got?


WILLIAM: (IMPROVISING) Well, there's perhaps fifty notes lying around from Shakespeare to Southampton, and Shakespeare to Heming, and Heming to Shakespeare--


SAMUEL: Marvelous! And the plays? And the plays, too?


WILLIAM: Plays? Why, no sooner did I open the trunk, but under a love letter from Shakespeare to Anne Hathaway--


SAMUEL: (ASTONISHED) A love letter?


WILLIAM: Yes, and under it was-- Guess what?


SAMUEL: What?


WILLIAM: The manuscript of "King Lear" in Shakespeare's handwriting.


SAMUEL: (OVERCOME) William! Oh, I-- I - I can't listen to any more now. Ring for Joseph, please.


WILLIAM: Yes, Father.


SOUND: BELL RINGS 


WILLIAM: (CONCERNED) Are you ill, Father?


SAMUEL: Ill? Ill? I never felt better!


SOUND: DOOR OPENS


JOSEPH: You rang, sir?


SAMUEL: Bring the carriage 'round, Joseph, and hurry.


JOSEPH: Very good, sir.


SAMUEL: William? William, you can have whatever pleases you in my collection. I'm going now to see Francis Webb of the College of Heralds to make absolutely certain that this deed is authentic.


WILLIAM: (FILTER, TO HIMSELF, DISMAYED) College of Heralds! (UNFILTERED) But isn't your own judgment enough, Father?


SAMUEL: In such a case, no. And, William, when - when will you have the manuscript of "Lear" for me?


WILLIAM: Well, I'll have it in - in -- (FILTER, TO HIMSELF) Oh, you fool, you fool! (UNFILTERED) About - two weeks?


SAMUEL: That's fine. Then I'll invite Dr. Parr, Dr. Wharton, Mr. Wyatt, and James Boswell to examine it.


WILLIAM: (FILTER, TO HIMSELF, DISMAYED) All those scholars! (UNFILTERED) Very good, Father. I'm not a bad collector, am I?


SAMUEL: Bad?! (LAUGHS) Why, son, your - your name will ring 'round the world for this. Wait up for me, eh?


WILLIAM: (QUIETLY PLEASED) Wait up? Oh, Father, I've prayed for that!


SAMUEL: (KINDLY) Yes. Yes, my boy. Everything - everything is changed now, William. (MOVING OFF) Good night.


WILLIAM: I - I'll be waiting!


SOUND: DOOR SLAMS


MUSIC: BEHIND IRELAND--


DEAD IRELAND: The College of Heralds pronounced my document authentic. Within twenty-four hours every paper in London was praising my name. I set to work on the original manuscript of "King Lear," and I worked hard, for until then I had only copied well; this was my "King Lear" -- a new play stripped of all the coarse crudities which the critics of my day so loved to condemn in Shakespeare. The day after I had presented the manuscripts to my father, the scholars sat listening to Boswell reading "Lear," and as he came to the final speech, my heart stopped, for that speech I had written myself from start to finish.


BOSWELL: (READS)

"Thanks, sir; but I go to that unknown land

That chains each Pilgrim fast within its soil;

By living men most shunn'd, most dreaded.

Still my good master this same journey took:

He calls me; I am content, and straight obey:

Then, farewell, world! the busy scene is done:

Kent liv'd most true, Kent dies most like a man.

The End."


SAMUEL: Well, gentlemen? What is your verdict?


BOSWELL: In my opinion a great crime has been committed.


SAMUEL: (SHOCKED) Mr. Boswell!


VOICES: (DISMAYED MURMUR) "A crime?" "What?" 


WILLIAM: (FILTER, TO HIMSELF, WORRIED) I'm done, I'm done!


BOSWELL: Yes, gentlemen, a crime. For two hundred years the public has come to know a Shakespeare whose plays were spotted by the coarseness and near-atheism of a minor poet. Today is revealed a cleaner, simpler, God-loving Shakespeare.


SOUND: RUSTLE OF PAPERS


WILLIAM: (FILTER, SURPRISED, TO HIMSELF) Good Lord, what's Boswell doing? Why, he's kneeling -- kneeling before the play!


BOSWELL: (A SOLEMN PRAYER) I now kiss the glorious relics of our Bard; and thanks to God that I have lived to see them. (TO THE OTHERS) Forgive me, gentlemen. I kneel, for that writing is divine.


WHARTON: My sentiments precisely. Why, I could hardly believe it was the same "Lear"! Isn't it so, Dr. Parr?


PARR: Oh, most definitely! A newer, grander Shakespeare!


WYATT: Why, the sheer beauty -- the sheer beauty--


SAMUEL: (CHUCKLES) You must restrain yourself, Wyatt.


BOSWELL: (SOLEMN) Our humble thanks go to Master William for his service to English letters and mankind.


VOICES: (MURMUR AGREEMENT AND DISCUSSION ... THEN IN BG--)


WILLIAM: (FILTER, TO HIMSELF, EMBOLDENED) And I wrote it myself! I - I'm a genius! A genius! If I can write that, why not--? Why not a whole play?! A tragedy -- in blank verse -- and I'll say it was Shakespeare's. Why not? I can do it! I can do anything! I'm a genius! 


VOICES: (FALL SILENT WITH--)


WILLIAM: Gentlemen! I have a wonderful announcement! By the winter I shall have for my father a heretofore unknown play by William Shakespeare!


SAMUEL: (SURPRISED) William!


VOICES: (MURMUR SURPRISE AND INTEREST) "A new play?" "What's it about?" 


WILLIAM: Well, I am honor-bound not to divulge any more, but Mr. H. has promised it to me, and according to his estimate, it is so beautiful, so perfectly written in character and in language-- (FADES OUT)


MUSIC: BEHIND IRELAND--


DEAD IRELAND: And immediately next morning I began work on the new play. From Holinshed's Chronicles I took the story of King Vortigern, a story I had heard tell was one of Shakespeare's favorites. But a week later, as I sat writing in my office, I was summoned home by my father. And when I arrived, I was stricken with fear. For there in the parlor stood Edmond Malone, the foremost Shakespeare scholar in Britain, and the country's sharpest pamphleteer.


SOUND: DOOR OPENS


MALONE: Where's your son, Mr. Ireland? Edmond Malone is no man to be kept waiting!


WILLIAM: Father?


SAMUEL: William? Come here.


WILLIAM: Why, what's happened?


MALONE: Not a wit more than you've caused to happen, me larky!


WYATT: (MORE IN SORROW THAN ANGER) William, you've taken advantage of your father.


WILLIAM: But why, Mr. Wyatt?


MALONE: Why?! Heh! The spleen of him to ask why!


SAMUEL: Just a moment, Malone. I'll speak to him. William, some time ago you brought me the lease to Blackfriars signed by Shakespeare and John Heming.


WILLIAM: Yes, sir?


SAMUEL: Keep quiet. Now today, these gentlemen show me a document just recently discovered with the signature of John Heming on it -- a signature which is absolutely different from the one of John Heming's on your Blackfriars' lease. Account for this, William.


WILLIAM: You're intimating that my John Heming signature is false?


MALONE: Well! Bushy is a bright one, isn't he? Yes, Willy, me lad, the goose is hung. We have the authentic John Heming signature and yours is as false as the rest of your documents. Now, me poetaster, where's your tongue?


WILLIAM: Why-- Why-- (FILTER, TO HIMSELF, DESPERATE) What can I say? What? Quick! Quick! (UNFILTERED) Er, Mr. Wyatt? May I see that document?


SAMUEL: Well, William? What is the reason for these two signatures being different?


WILLIAM: The reason? Very simple.


MALONE: Aha?


WILLIAM: (BOLDLY) Surely Mr. Malone knows that there were two John Hemings.


MALONE: Two?!


WILLIAM: Yes, two! A tall one and a short one.


MALONE: (INCREDULOUS) A tall one and a--?! Do you realize that it's Edmond Malone you're lying to?


WILLIAM: I'm not lying! The John Heming who signed my Blackfriars' lease was the short man, and - and the John Heming who signed your document, Mr. Malone, was the tall one, and - and that's why the two signatures are different! And do you know how I'll prove it?


MALONE: I haven't the faintest notion, me blarney-bird.


WILLIAM: If you'll be good enough to wait half an hour, I'll go right now to Mr. H. and bring you back letters written and signed by the tall John Heming -- your John Heming!


SAMUEL: That's fair enough, Malone.


MALONE: (WITH DISGUST) Acch! He should have been throttled at birth.


MUSIC: BEHIND IRELAND--


DEAD IRELAND: I raced to my office, sat at my desk, composed four short letters, and signed them all John Heming -- the real John Heming, whose signature I had memorized from that short glance at Mr. Wyatt's document. In half an hour I was back home, (SOUND: RATTLE OF PAPERS) the notes, hardly dry, stuffed into my pocket.


SOUND: DOOR OPENS


WILLIAM: (A LITTLE BREATHLESS) Well, gentlemen, here you are. Four letters written and signed by the tall John Heming. (SOUND: RUSTLE OF PAPERS) Compare these with the signature on your document, Mr. Wyatt, and you'll see the same man wrote them all.


SAMUEL: (ANXIOUS) Is it true, Wyatt?


WYATT: (BEAT) I'm afraid the boy's right, Malone. There must have been two John Hemings.


SAMUEL: Well, Malone? What have you to say?


MALONE: What is there to say, Mr. Ireland? The signatures appear to be identical, that's true, but I must still suspect them -- along with the rest of your son's discoveries.


SAMUEL: But why?


MALONE: Why, my dear sir? That so-called original "King Lear" is an unmitigated piece of trash!


SAMUEL: Trash?! But the greatest scholars--!


MALONE: What?! Those boobies?! Why, if you brought them "diddly, diddly dumkin" over Shakespeare's name, they'd call it a masterpiece! But not Edmond Malone -- for I'm a Shakespeare scholar, not a Shakespeare worshipper. And if your son should bring me a thousand documents written like that play, I'd still call him a dupe or a forger. And until William Ireland owns up to this outrageous hoax, you'll find Edmond Malone burning up penpoints to expose him! "Long live William Shakespeare," gentlemen, but only figuratively, and I propose to see to that! Good night, me gullibles, and may the best man win!


SOUND: DOOR SLAM


MUSIC: BEHIND IRELAND--


DEAD IRELAND: Oh, Malone, Malone, Edmond Malone -- there was an Irishman! That night he began to write his exposure, and I really set to work in earnest on "King Vortigern," the lost tragedy of Shakespeare. It was a race, for I wanted my play to be seen and judged on the stage before Malone could prejudice the public against it. But Malone was the first to finish, and the night his exposure came off the press, my father rushed into the house waving the cursèd pamphlet in his hand.


SAMUEL: William, I'm disgraced -- finished! 


WILLIAM: Is - is it very bad?


SAMUEL: Look at it! He'll convince the world I'm a mountebank with this!


WILLIAM: They won't believe it!


SAMUEL: They're believing his slander right now! I was laughed at on the street!


WILLIAM: Let them laugh! Wait till they see "King Vortigern" on the stage!


SAMUEL: I can't wait! I've got to show absolute proof or I'm finished! Bring me Mr. H.!


WILLIAM: I - I can't do that.


SAMUEL: William, bring me Mr. H., I say!


WILLIAM: But I promised him, Father! Doesn't my word of honor mean anything to you?


SAMUEL: A plague on your word! I'll shut Malone's mouth or my business is ruined! What fool will buy my antiques as genuine if I'm not above palming off forged manuscripts!


WILLIAM: Father? Father, I have an idea -- a splendid idea! All the great men of letters -- men like Dr. Parr and Boswell and - and the Prince of Wales -- they believe in my discoveries, don't they?


SAMUEL: Well, what of it?


WILLIAM: Why not draw up a certificate for them to sign, saying they're convinced the documents are Shakespeare's?


MUSIC: BEHIND IRELAND ... THEN IN BG--


DEAD IRELAND: And they did sign! The greatest names in England affirmed that they believed my works were Shakespeare's! Is that a smile I sense on your faces? You doubt me? I call on the spirit of James Boswell! Did you believe? (NO ANSWER) James Boswell, you on that Northern Star! Did you believe?!


BOSWELL: (ECHO, SADLY) Aye. I believed.


DEAD IRELAND: And you, Henry Pye, Poet Laureate of England?


PYE: (ECHO) Aye!


DEAD IRELAND: The Duke of Somerset?


DUKE OF SOMERSET: (ECHO) Aye.


DEAD IRELAND: William Pitt!


PITT: (ECHO) Aye.


DEAD IRELAND: Edmund Burke!


BURKE: (ECHO) Aye.


DEAD IRELAND: The Prince of Wales!


PRINCE OF WALES: (ECHO) Aye.


DEAD IRELAND: Yes, they believed -- they and tens of others just as great. And they silenced Malone sufficiently to get the lost tragedy produced. And on the night of the first performance the Drury Lane Theatre was sold out from floor to roof. The audience sat enthralled by my work of genius, until, as the last act was drawing to a close and my hero was declaiming on the stage, I leaned over to my father-- (FADES OUT)


MUSIC: OUT


SOUND: THEATER CROWD MURMURS, GROWING INCREASINGLY RESTLESS IN BG--


KING VORTIGERN: (OVERLAPS SLIGHTLY WITH IRELAND ABOVE; ON STAGE, HAMMY)

"Full fifty breathless bodies struck my sight;

And some, with gaping mouths did seem to mock me;

Whilst others smiling in cold death itself,

Scoffingly bade me look on that, which soon

Would wrench from off my brow this sacred crown,

And make me, too, a subject like themselves--" 


NOTE: THE ABOVE SPEECH ALSO OVERLAPS WITH THE FOLLOWING EXCHANGE AMONG SAMUEL AND HIS GROUP--


WILLIAM: (TENSE) Father? Father?!


SAMUEL: What's the matter?


WILLIAM: Something's wrong in the gallery.


SAMUEL: Yes, I've been hearing it. Wyatt, what shall we do?


WYATT: I hope there's not to be any disturbance.


SAMUEL: I wouldn't put it past Malone to have organized a riot.


BOSWELL: Riot? Oh, dear!


SAMUEL: Keep calm, Mr. Boswell, and let's hope only "King Vortigern" ends in tragedy tonight.


KING VORTIGERN: (FINISHES SOLILOQUY ON STAGE)

"And, with rude laughter and fantastic tricks,

Thou clap'st the rattling fingers to thy sides:

And when this solemn mockery is ended,

With icy hand--"


MALONE: (CALLS OUT, FROM THE AUDIENCE) Solemn mockery indeed! Shakespeare's turning in his grave!


WILLIAM: It's Malone and his henchmen!


SOUND: THEATER CROWD EXPLODES WITH JEERS, SHOUTS, CATCALLS, ET CETERA ... IN BG


WYATT: Duck your heads! Duck! They're throwing fruit! 


SOUND: SAMUEL AND HIS GROUP HURRY AWAY DURING FOLLOWING--


SAMUEL: To the dressing rooms! Hurry! Out of the way there! Let us through! Out of the way, you bully! Come, William, right through here!


SOUND: DOOR OPENS AND SHUTS AS SAMUEL AND HIS GROUP ESCAPE ... THEATER CROWD DOWN A LITTLE, CONTINUES IN BG


SAMUEL: There we are. Phew! Well, what do you think of that, Wyatt?


WYATT: Oh, Edmond Malone will never call off his vandals -- until Mr. H. comes forward, and until then you can't put on another performance on the London stage.


SAMUEL: You're right, Wyatt. William? You are going to bring Mr. H. home tomorrow night before the next performance.


WILLIAM: I can't do it.


SAMUEL: You will do it! By George, I'll whip you!


SOUND: DOOR OPENS ... THEATER CROWD UP


WHARTON: There! There he is!


PARR: Ah!


SOUND: DOOR CLOSES ... THEATER CROWD DOWN AND FADES OUT DURING FOLLOWING--


SAMUEL: Dr. Wharton! Gentlemen!


WHARTON: We won't stand for this any longer!


SAMUEL: (PLEADS) Gentlemen--


PARR: We're becoming the laughing stock of London!


WHARTON: Where is Mr. H.? We demand to see him!


PARR: Who is he?


SAMUEL: Gentlemen! Gentlemen! I have just been discussing Mr. H. with my son, and he agrees that the gentleman can no longer have any honest reason for concealing his identity. Isn't that so, William? (NO ANSWER) William?!


WILLIAM: (DEFEATED) Yes, Father.


SAMUEL: So at five tomorrow afternoon you're invited to gather at my house on Norfolk Street. Mr. H. will arrive and make himself known.


MUSIC: MELANCHOLY BRIDGE


PARR: What time have you, Dr. Wharton?


WHARTON: Just on five, Dr. Parr. He should be here now.


BOSWELL: Look at Mr. Ireland at the window. Poor man, he must be on edge.


WHARTON: Can't blame him. I'm not the cold fish today, myself.


PARR: Who do you suppose Mr. H. could be? I wouldn't be surprised if he turned out to be the Prince of Wales.


SOUND: HORSE AND CARRIAGE APPROACHES OUTSIDE AND PULLS TO A STOP BEHIND--


BOSWELL: A carriage! There's a carriage slowing down.


WHARTON: Yes. It's stopping in front of the house!


BOSWELL: It's he! It's Mr. H.!


SOUND: CARRIAGE DOOR OPENS AND SHUTS ... FOOTSTEPS TO DOOR BEHIND--


PARR: Look how he covers his face with his coat! I'll wager it's the Prince himself!


SOUND: KNOCK ON DOOR


SAMUEL: Joseph will let him in.


PARR: I'm shaking like a leaf!


SOUND: DOOR OPENS 


WHARTON: Ssh! Ssh! Here he comes!


SOUND: DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES ... FOOTSTEPS IN


SAMUEL: Good afternoon, sir. Good afternoon. Won't you--? Won't you let the servant have your coat? (NO ANSWER) I say, sir, won't you remove--? (GASPS, SURPRISED) William!


WILLIAM: Yes, Father, it's William.


WHARTON: But - but where is Mr. H.?


WILLIAM: He's right here.


BOSWELL: Young man, are you mad?


WILLIAM: Gentlemen, I am Mr. H.


VOICES: (MURMUR DISBELIEF) "You!" "He's crazy!" "You're Mr. H.?"


WILLIAM: (INSISTENT) I am Mr. H.!


BOSWELL: But who gave you the Shakespeare manuscripts?


WILLIAM: No one. I wrote them myself.


VOICES: (LAUGHTER, CONTINUES BEHIND--)


WILLIAM: I tell you I wrote them all! Stop laughing!


PARR: And "The Tragedy of Vortigern," too, I suppose!


WILLIAM: (PROUDLY) "Vortigern," too, from cover to cover!


VOICES: (MORE LAUGHTER, STOPS BEHIND--)


WILLIAM: You see, Father? I am a genius.


VOICES: (ROAR WITH LAUGHTER, CONTINUES BEHIND--)


WILLIAM: Stop laughing! Stop it! Stop it, I say!


VOICES: (LAUGHTER STOPS)


SAMUEL: Keep quiet, you idiot! Do you expect men like these to believe that you could write such masterful things? You, a - a stupid, ignorant featherbrain?


WILLIAM: (SHOCKED) Father, I-- (RESOLVED) Very well then. I'll show you. (SOUND: RUSTLE OF PAPER, IN AGREEMENT WITH--) Here's the same paper "The Tragedy of Vortigern" was written on. And here -- here is the pen it was written with. And this -- this is the very ink I used -- the ink you all swore was two hundred years old! Here, watch closely, and in the twinkling of an eye -- (SOUND: SCRATCH OF PEN ON PAPER) -- the signature of William Shakespeare!


PARR: Good Lord, it's perfect!


WILLIAM: Or here! The signature of John Heming! (SOUND: SCRATCH OF PEN ON PAPER) Well? 


WHARTON: (LOW, ASTONISHED) Incredible. It's utterly incredible.


WILLIAM: (TRIUMPHANT, A LITTLE HYSTERICAL) Is that enough, my dear experts? Or shall I pen you a little love note, or perhaps a scene of my new play or--?


WHARTON: You - you blackguard!


PARR: Forger!


BOSWELL: Hanging's too good for you!


WILLIAM: (MOCKING) Hanging?! Why, gentlemen, gentlemen! Aren't my writings as beautiful now as they were an hour ago when they were Shakespeare's? (BEAT) Come, Mr. Boswell, you called my Lear divine! And you, Dr. Wharton, you judged my works glorious!


SAMUEL: William, shut your mouth!


WILLIAM: (GENUINELY) Oh, I'm sorry for you, Father. For you, I am sorry. But it's all your own fault.


SAMUEL: But I would have read your verses if that is what you--


WILLIAM: (INTERRUPTS) And you would have called them drivel, and so would you, gentlemen. But as soon as that drivel became two hundred years old and was signed by a great name, you sank to your knees before it! So, if an idiot can give the scholars some advice, sit you down again and study your Shakespeare, for if you knew your business, Shakespeare would be Shakespeare, and William Ireland, great! Good night, and forgive me, Father.


MUSIC: BEHIND IRELAND--


DEAD IRELAND: But they never forgave me. No, after that, whatever I wrote they ridiculed into oblivion, and why? Because I had kicked pomposity square in the belly and never was that to be forgiven! I ask no favor but justice. Justice for William Ireland! My great works are forgotten! I am dust in a pauper's grave. I call to you from the starry heavens: do justice to William Ireland! 


SHAKESPEARE: (DRY) Methinks thou dost protest too much.


DEAD IRELAND: (STARTLED) Who's that? Who said that?


SHAKESPEARE: Surely you know me, Mr. Ireland.


DEAD IRELAND: (ASTONISHED WHISPER) Shakespeare!


SHAKESPEARE: Indeed, your very own.


DEAD IRELAND: Oh, forgive me, forgive me!


SHAKESPEARE: I? For what?


DEAD IRELAND: (ASHAMED) I - I copied your "King Lear."


SHAKESPEARE: Oh, that? It can stand editing. Come, let's take a stroll for a bit. Ben Johnson's up there on yonder cloud. He's still laughing. Let's visit him. Come.


DEAD IRELAND: (SURPRISED) Thank you.


SHAKESPEARE: There's something that's been troubling me. Do you recall that speech in "Hamlet" -- "To be, or not to be" -- something like that?


DEAD IRELAND: (ARE YOU KIDDING?) Why, of course.


SHAKESPEARE: Well, I've been wondering. Do you think it's too long? (MOVING OFF) Or perhaps if I rearranged the scene so that Hamlet comes on-- 


MUSIC: SNEAKS IN DURING ABOVE ... UP, FOR A BRIEF CURTAIN


ANNOUNCER: The Columbia Workshop has presented "William Ireland's Confession" by Arthur Miller. This was Mr. Miller's first radio play. In tonight's cast, Young William Ireland was played by Ian Martin; Dead Ireland by Alfred Shirley; Samuel Ireland, Cecil Humphries; Edmond Malone, Charles Derwent; Boswell was Eustace Wyatt; Dr. Parr, J. P. Wilson; Dr. Wyatt, Horace Braham; Dr. Wharton, Burford Hampden; Shakespeare, Lowell Gilmore; and Joseph, Ed Broadley. The entire production was under the direction of Brewster Morgan. 


Next week, the Workshop will present an original piece in the form of a modern fable titled "A Letter from Above" by Elizabeth and Ben Vine. These also are new names on the Workshop schedule. 


Many listeners in our regular Thursday evening audience will be glad to hear that an anthology of Workshop plays has recently been published by Whittlesey House of the firm of McGraw-Hill. The book is called "Columbia Workshop Plays" and is available at your local bookstore. 


This is the Columbia Broadcasting System.


MUSIC: FOR A CLOSE


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