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Authors: Muriel Spark

Doctors of Philosophy

Doctors of Philosophy
A Play
Muriel Spark

Contents

Act One

Scene I

Scene II

Act Two

Scene I

Scene II

Act Three

Scene I

Scene II

A Biography of Muriel Spark

First performance at

The New Arts Theatre Club, London

Tuesday, October 2nd, 1962

Presented by Michael Codron

CHARACTERS IN ORDER OF THEIR APPEARANCE:

Charlie Delfont
LAURENCE HARD
Catherine,
his wife
GWEN CHERRELL
Leonora,
Catherine’s cousin
URSULA HOWELLS
Mrs. S.,
the daily help
HAZEL HUGHES
Daphne,
the Delfonts’ daughter
KATHLEEN BRECK
Charlie Brown,
a lorry driver
TOM BOWMAN
Young Charlie,
Daphne’s boyfriend
TIM PREECE
Annie Wood,
Catherine’s other cousin
FENELLA FIELDING
Mrs. Weston,
Young Charlie’s mother
ANNE WOODWARD

The action takes place in Charlie Delfont’s house overlooking the Regent’s Canal.

The play is in Three Acts.

The lights are lowered during the action to denote the passage of time.

Directed by Donald McWhinnie Designed by Hutchinson Scott

ACT ONE
SCENE I

I
T IS A SUMMER
night.

The
DELFONTS
live in a house overlooking the Regent’s Canal, and
t
he whole play takes place in the living-room and on the adjoining
t
errace.

CHARLIE
is writing at a desk.

CATHERINE
enters from the terrace, through the French windows.

CATHERINE.
Where’s Leonora ? …

CHARLIE.
She’s gone to bed.

CATHERINE.
I wanted her to come and look at the canal.

CHARLIE.
Well, she’s gone to bed.

CATHERINE.
I thought she might like to look at the water as it isn’t term-time. I quite see that during term a thing like the Regent’s Canal would be an idea to Leonora, it would be a geographical and historical and sociological idea, but during vacation I do think Leonora ought to take a look at reality. Are you listening, Charlie?

CHARLIE.
Yes, Catherine.

CATHERINE.
What was I saying?

CHARLIE.
Leonora ought to take a look at reality.

CATHERINE.
During the vacation.

CHARLIE.
In the vacation.

CATHERINE.
That’s all I ask. I quite see that when she’s in college she can’t go and look at a thing without feeling compelled to go and look it up, and consequently she doesn’t look at things at all. But in the holidays I feel she ought to take more interest in life.

CHARLIE.
The leopard can’t change its spots.

CATHERINE.
But Leonora isn’t a leopard, that’s my point. Human beings can change their spots, that’s my point. Do you realise, Charlie, that all last term I didn’t have a minute to look at the stars. Off to school in the morning, back in the afternoon to see what was going on in the house, homework in the evening, coaching the special boys on Saturdays, honestly I haven’t looked at the stars.

CHARLIE.
You can look at the stars in the holidays and in the term as well from now on.

CATHERINE.
I’m not going to give up my job.

CHARLIE.
I’m out of pocket with your job. I’ve always been out of pocket with your jobs. Extra help in the house, extra cigarettes, extra drinks to cheer you up, taxi-fares on the days when you have a row with the Head, extra clothes to maintain your authority over the boys. Extra …

CATHERINE.
Extra ink in my fountain pen. Shoe-leather, you’ve forgotten shoe-leather.

CHARLIE.
Extra shoe-leather. I’m out of pocket.

CATHERINE.
If you get your new appointment you’ll be able to afford my luxurious job in a grammar school. I have a mind as well as you and Leonora, Charlie.

CHARLIE.
You can give free lectures to the Mothers’ Union, it would be cheaper in the long run. I can’t count on any new appointment.

CATHERINE.
When will you know?

CHARLIE.
Within a week or two. It’s very doubtful. Don’t start buying anything, just go on looking at the stars and the canal, I pay for them with the rates.

CATHERINE.
Were you thinking of coming to bed or is your time too expensive?

CHARLIE.
As to that, perhaps not on the whole. But I’ve got to finish this tonight, so clear off.

The scene fades out.

It is later in the same evening,
CHARLIE
is still at his place.
LEONORA,
wearing a dressing-gown, enters by the door and stands behind
CHARLIE,
who does not look up from his work until she speaks.
CHARLIE.
What’s the matter?

LEONORA
. It isn’t Catherine.

CHARLIE.
Oh, it’s you, Leonora. What’s—
LEONORA.
Charlie, give me a child.

CHARLIE.
What?

L
EONORA.
A child, I want a child.

C
HARLIE.
Which child, what—?

L
EONORA.
I wish to conceive a child.

C
HARLIE.
Leonora, are you feeling all right?

L
EONORA.
No, because I want a child. Before it’s too late. I want—

C
HARLIE.
Leonora. You’ve been overworking.

The scene fades out.

It is the next morning, and now one sees the room from a different angle, and out, beyond the tenace, to the canal.
CHARLES
and
CATHERINE
are in the room.

CATHERINE.
It is you, Charlie, who’ve been overworking. I know what it is, you sit there at night and—

CHARLIE.
I’m not the imaginative type, Catherine. You are always saying so. Look — I sat here. She stood there—

CATHERINE.
Why didn’t you call me then, why didn’t you wake me up? You’re always waking me up to discuss something or other. Why didn’t—

CHARLIE.
I was stunned. I was embarrassed. I just lay awake and thought about it.

CATHERINE.
I think it was a dream. I mean to say, when you think of Leonora, when you just think of Leonora, I mean to say, Charlie. I can’t think of Leonora standing here in her nightdress and saying—

CHARLIE.
Her dressing-gown. Be perfectly fair.

CATHERINE.
After all, if I don’t know my own cousin, I mean, Charlie, we grew up together. Leonora’s not that type. She’s a
born
virgin. I ought to know. One always had to be very careful what one said to Leonora.

CHARLIE.
That’s the dangerous type.

CATHERINE.
You’ve never thought her dangerous before.

CHARLIE.
That makes her more dangerous now.

CATHERINE.
No-one would believe that a university teacher like Leonora—

CHARLIE.
That makes her more dangerous than ever. Remember Sarah Desmond.

CATHERINE
. Who?

CHARLIE.
Senior lecturer in comparative religions. The author of
The Life Force.
Life. Force. She was discovered in the bath with a wine waiter in a Folkestone hotel. It was hushed up, but she had to resign. What’s more they were both naked.

CATHERINE.
Leonora doesn’t teach the Life Force. Greek is a very different thing from the Life Force, Greek is an old sound subject.

CHARLIE.
It comes to the same thing in a woman scholar. Once they break out, they break out.

CATHERINE.
I’ve got as good a degree as Leonora has, and I don’t go round inviting men to give me a child.

CHARLIE.
You’ve got a daughter of sorts and you’ve got a good husband. When will Leonora be back from her walk?

MRS. S
. comes in with a carton from which she lifts various garments as CHARLIE, at the same time, places various papers in his brief-case.

CATHERINE.
She’s usually back by half past ten. Where are you going? You mustn’t leave me alone with her.

MRS. S
. What you want to throw this away for?

CATHERINE.
I’ve finished with it, Mrs. S. You can keep it if you like.

MRS. S
. And what you want to throw this away for?

CHARLIE.
I couldn’t face her.

CATHERINE.
Well, Charlie, neither can I, in a way.

CHARLIE.
I’m glad to hear it.

CATHERINE.
Although, of course, it’s incredible.

MRS. S.
A good vest, what’s wrong with it?

CATHERINE.
It got shrunk in the laundry.

MRS. S
. It would come in for Daphne. She’s filling out.

CATHERINE.
She doesn’t wear vests. Charlie, you’re a rat.

CHARLIE
is putting more things in his brief-case
.

MRS. S
. Yes she does. She wears a vest in the winter when she isn’t going out with a boy.

CATHERINE.
Not her father’s vests. Charlie, you aren’t going to your club, are you ?

CHARLIE.
Yes I am, I’m getting out of this till you’ve sorted things out.

MRS. S
. It’ll do nicely for my niece’s husband that is to be. It’s his build, but of course he’s young. But on the other hand, of course, he’s fussy, so he might decline. She says he can’t have children, I said how does he know if he hasn’t had a bash at it? He must have done. She says the doctors can tell. Well you’re damn lucky then, I said, in one sense, but you watch out for him in the psychological sense.

CATHERINE.
It was going to be my birthday today, Charlie.

CHARLIE.
It was your birthday last week.

MRS. S.
Charlie was out of pocket over it, unless my ears deceived me.

CATHERINE.
A rat. I was saving up my birthday for Daphne.

CHARLIE.
I’ll ring you after lunch. Ask her if she’s ever walked in her sleep before.

MRS. S.
If they walk in their sleep they don’t talk in their sleep. She walked and she talked as far as I’ve made it my business to gather. It’s nerve-wracking, Mrs. D., as between one scholar and another scholar. Charlie’s not cut out for it.

CHARLIE
goes out.

She sits down and points to another chair.

Take a seat. Rest yourself.

CATHERINE.
Mrs. S., can you put all those things somewhere out of the way? Daphne will be home before lunch and Mrs. Wood will be here after lunch.

MRS. S
. Oh, Annie Wood’s coming, is she? You didn’t tell me Annie was coming. Well that puts a different complexion on things, doesn’t it? That just about puts the tin hat on it, doesn’t it? What you want to invite Annie for?

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