The Yellow Wallpaper by Heather Newman


This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent

SETTING: The Yellow Wallpaper Bedroom (May)

AT RISE: Charlotte and Mary enter. Charlotte is holding the baby.
Charlotte wears an ornate silver fountain pen on a long chain around
her neck.

Charlotte: Well, this is to be my room, my room for my cure? Oh
Mary, this room is ugly as sin, it is awful. I never saw worse
wallpaper in my life. Are you sure this is the room John said was for

Mary: Yes, Miss Charlotte the large room at the top of the house.

Charlotte: Well. It's dirty and there's no furniture, except this
nailed down bedstead. I thought Jennie was supposed to get everything
ready for us. She probably neglected this room on purpose knowing it
was to be mine.

Mary: Don't get upset, you are having a good day today. There is
no need to cry. It is a big house, maybe she didn't get a chance to
come up here.

Charlotte: You are being nice; it is horrible and I know you remember
how she's treated me in the past.

Mary: It's just a little dusty. I guess Jennie isn't perfect
after all. Aside from the dust, it's a nice room. It is the whole
floor nearly, air and sunshine galore. Let me open a few windows.
Come look, there's a nice view of the garden and the bay. You can
see for miles. There's the village we passed.

Charlotte: Yes that is nice. John said the village was 10 miles from
the house. We are quite alone here; there is nothing around for
miles. I wonder why there are bars on the windows.

Mary: I would guess it was a nursery or gymnasium at one time. Look at
the rings and things in the walls. I'm sure they barred the windows
to keep the children from falling out.

Charlotte: Or to keep anyone from coming in. This room does look
worn, worn out. I would guess a bunch of rough and tumble boys played
up here. Look how the wallpaper is ripped and the floor is worn.
(Pause) I know this adjustment will be hard for you, but I need your
help and I wouldn't trust anyone else with the baby. I am determined
to get better, thank you for, well thank you for being here.

Mary: Of course. You know I will help you in any way I can.

Charlotte: Well, for starters take him for a moment, I must take a
note before we get interrupted.

(Charlotte hands the baby to Mary. She writes in her journal.)

Charlotte: (Writing) The color of my room is repellent, almost
revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, faded by the sun.

(Charlotte hears something, Mary does not here it.)

Charlotte: Did you hear that?

Mary: No, I didn't hear anything.

Charlotte: Are you sure?

Mary: Yes, just the baby.

Charlotte: Between this wallpaper and whatever that noise was this
will not to. Close those windows. Let's go, tell your Father what
we think about this room.

(John enters with a chair from their home in the city.) 1A

John: Well, darling, what do you think? Isn't it nice?

Charlotte: I I am afraid I don't like the room one bit, there is
no furniture, and the wallpaper is hideous. I'd rather take the
room downstairs with the roses on the windows and all those pretty
old-fashioned chintz hangings.

John: Darling that is quite impossible. Jennie has taken that room.
It is too small for us anyway, and there is only one window. This room
is the largest and brightest in the entire house. I picked it
especially for you. It catches the afternoon sun, and there is a calm
cross breeze from the garden.

Charlotte: But the wallpaper!

John: I know, I know we must learn to bare this affront to our
aesthetic sensibilities.

Charlotte: John

John: Seriously though, Dr. Mitchell advises that patients should
have perfect rest and all the air they can get. That is why I've
chosen this room for you. I know why don't you go pick any
furniture you like from the rest of the house, and we'll make this
room just as nice as the one with the roses. Mary, will you help
Charlotte with this?

Mary: Yes, of course.

John: (Sees her journal) Have you been writing?

Charlotte: Yes.

John: You know that you are not supposed to be writing. That is one
of the most important parts of this cure.

Charlotte: I'm sorry, it was nothing; I only wrote a few lines
about the room. I wasn't working at all. Please don't be angry,

John: I am not angry, darling. But I need you to follow my
instructions if this cure is going to work. (Pause) I don't mean to
treat you like a naughty schoolgirl, but we need to be in complete
agreement about your treatment.

Charlotte: I apologize. Headmaster. I will cease writing. I will
take care of making this room home for the summer. It will do, at any
rate, you know best.

(Jennie and Lucy enter the room.) 1b

Jennie: Why hello. I hope you've found everything satisfactory
upon your arrival. Charlotte.

(Jennie and Charlotte don't quite know what to do; they end up
hugging awkwardly.)

John: Yes, sister, everything is just fine. Thank you.

Charlotte: It's good to see you; it's been awhile thank you
for coming to help.

Jennie: Anything for John, and you, of course.

Mary: (fussing with the baby) shh, shh, hush now.

(Charlotte takes the baby from Mary.)

Jennie: John, I've taken the liberty of hiring a cook for the
summer. She has excellent references and claims to make the best lamb
pie in the county, which I know is your favorite. Lucy, don't be
shy. Say hello. This is her first position with a family.

Lucy: Hello, very nice to make your acquaintance, sir.

John: And you too Lucy, I look forward to your lamb pie.

Lucy: Yes, sir. I used to cook for my family of 10.
And they never went hungry. My father says I'm the best cook in New
England. I helped with the gardening, household chores, and taking
care of the little ones.

Jennie: Thank you, we understand.

John: I'm sure you remember Mary.

Jennie: Yes, of course, good day.

Mary: Hello.

(The Sound of a Baby crying, and rises to a fever pitch and then
subsides a bit when Jennie takes him.}

Jennie: Here, allow me. Shh, shh (Pause) Charlotte, you don't
have to worry about at thing. We will take good care of him for the

Charlotte: What do you mean?

John: You remember we agreed we would start this part of the cure as
soon as we arrived. In order for you to have perfect rest and
recuperation, Mary will take charge of the baby for the remainder of
the summer.

Charlotte: But he's fussing and I should feed him, his crying made
my milk run, my dress is wet.

John: There is no need for that darling; we are starting him on a
bottle today, so you can regain your strength without any worries.

Charlotte: But this is so soon, so sudden. I I I'm not ready

John: Mary, please take the baby to the nursery. Lucy, you may go to
the kitchen now.

(Jennie hands the baby to Mary.)

Charlotte: Goodbye for now my sweet.

(She kisses the baby's head. Mary leaves with the baby &Lucy

John: I'm sorry. I know this is difficult for you. But, we need to
begin all aspects of the cure as soon as possible, so we can get you
back to normal. Darling, remember why we are here, so you can rest.
We talked about this; Mary will tend to the baby.

Charlotte: Fine, I feel so ridiculous, I hadn't really prepared for
this, I'm sorry. But I realize this is for the best.

John: Dr. Mitchell's treatment has been very successful, trust me.
Jennie, let's leave Charlotte to freshen up and to rest. We need
to discuss her schedule with the rest of the staff. She has a
specific diet, exercise routine and a strict regimen of tonics.

Jennie: Of course.

(John &Jennie exit.)

Charlotte: This room, this wallpaper but no writing?

(She pulls out her pen and defiantly opens her journal &reads the
first line)

The color of this room is repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering
unclean yellow, faded by the sun.

(She begins to write.) This paper is a dull yet lurid orange in some
places, a sickly sulfur tint in others. No wonder children hated it.
I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long. The
pattern is sprawling and flamboyant committing every artistic sin. It
is dull enough to confuse the eye if you follow it, pronounced enough
to constantly irritate and provoke study, and then when you follow the
lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit
suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in
unheard of contradictions. It is hideous, and yet fascinating. (She
stares at it for a moment.)
There is a very odd mark on that wall, low down, near the mopboard. It
runs round the room. It is a long; straight what would you call it,
its looks like a…a. "smooch", as if it had been rubbed over and
over. I wonder how it was done and who did it, and what they did it
for. Round and round and round—round and round and round—it makes me
dizzy! This room and this wallpaper are awful, how will I bear it?

End of Scene.

Scene 2

Setting: The Baby's Room (May the first night)

At Rise: It is night, there is a bassinet with the baby in it, and
Charlotte enters.

Charlotte: Hello my sweet, (She picks him up.) shh, shhh, we don't
want to wake the others, now do we. Mother is not supposed to be in
here, but I've been thinking about you all day. I'm so sorry.
Mother has been very tired lately. It's not your fault. Mother has
just had a hard time concentrating. Mother gets very angry. Not at
you darling, no. Mother needs to get well. She needs to rest. I need
to find out who I was before all of this. Believe it or not
sweetheart, you have a famous Mother, yes, that's right… a writer.
I've written two books, countless articles, a collection of poetry
and I was very popular on the lecture circuit. The last time I gave a
lecture you were kicking so hard, she knew it wouldn't be long till
you arrived. (Beat) I was so tired that day.

(FLASHBACK) 2a Mid-Dec

(Charlotte leaves the nursery, and is in the middle of giving a
lecture. She is eight months pregnant.)

Charlotte: to free an entire half of humanity from an artificial
position; to release vast natural forces from a strained and clumsy
combination, and set them free to work smoothly and easily as they
were intended to work; to introduce conditions that will change
humanity from within, making for better motherhood and fatherhood,
better babyhood and childhood, better food, better homes, better
society, this is to work for human improvement along natural lines.

(Charlotte stops for a moment, she has lost her place. She staggers,
the baby is kicking hard and she is exhausted.)

Pardon me, I'm sorry, as you can see I am about to become a Mother.
I think, well, I think my lecture is over for tonight. To finish, we
need to band together and open our minds to new ideas. Thank you.

(Applause. John is in the audience and goes up to help her.)

Charlotte: John that was so embarrassing. I couldn't even get
through the end of the speech.

John: Are you alright?

Charlotte: Yes, I'm fine. I got a bit flustered up there. That's
never happened before.

John: Charlotte you are eight months pregnant. I am surprised you
made it up there at all tonight. It is a testament to your

Charlotte: I hope my faltering didn't take away from the message.
Rallying people for equality isn't easy.

John: Don't worry darling, they were listening very intently and
they loved it. Let's get you home so you can put your feet up. You
should be resting more; it won't be long now. Lecture circuit be

Charlotte: (laughing) Yes, they will have to make due without me for
a while.


(John exits. Charlotte is writing in her journal.)

Charlotte: It has been a long while since I have written. The birth
of my child is upon me and though I try I can not seem to return to my
work. I have been neglecting it over the past month due to ill
health. This day has not been a very successful one. I tried to
finish "A Protest to Petticoats" for the Women's Journal, but
ended up falling asleep from exhaustion. John has also not been well
lately, as he has been worrying about me. He has stayed home from his
practice; and has waited on me in every way. I worry he is angry with
me as I have done nothing in the way of domestic work. All I do is
sleep, idle and read a little. I try to act "the happy wife". I
know that this should be the happiest time in my life. I bear a
child. Many women never get to experience this. I should feel lucky.
But I don't. Ambition sleeps. I make no motion but just live.

(Charlotte is exhausted and lets her journal fall on the floor.)

John: Ready for bed? Let me.

(He picks up her journal and hands it to her.)

Charlotte: Thank you John.

John: I haven't seen you write in a long time.

Charlotte: Yes, I know. I haven't felt like it. Even that little
bit has taken a lot of me.

John: You haven't even taken down your hair. Here, let me.
Speaking of writing, you received two letters today, one from the
Women's Press Association asking for a lecture and the other from
the Journal wanting a new poem.

Charlotte: I'm having the hardest time doing the simplest things
right now. This is so frustrating. I would love to, but I…

John: Things will be easier once the baby comes, you'll gain your
strength back and Mary will help with the baby. You'll be able to
return to your world's work in no time.

Charlotte: I hope you are right.

John: I'm your doctor aren't I? You know darling, you belly does
look ripe for the picking.

Charlotte: Is this that your official opinion doctor?

John: Why, yes.

(They laugh. He kisses her cheek.)


(The baby is one month old. Charlotte is trying to work. The baby is
crying colicky, horribly loud.)

Charlotte: Will you stop crying, please, please stop crying. Mother
cannot work when you cry and cry and cry. Please stop. Oh god, what
do I do? I cannot make him stop crying. Mary, Mary, Mary!!!! Where
are you? I need you to come get him.

Mary: Yes, what is it? What's wrong?

(Charlotte drops her manuscript; a few sheets fly away.)

Charlotte: Oh, oh, can't you see what is wrong, Mary?! He WON'T
STOP CRYING! I can't take this. I can't work. I can't
concentrate. He is always crying. Take him as far away from me as
you can. Get OUT OF HERE!

Mary: Yes, Miss Charlotte.

(Mary takes the baby from her and exits as Charlotte sinks to the
floor. John enters.)

John: Charlotte what is wrong?

Charlotte: The baby!!!...

John: (pulling her up from the floor) What am I going to do with you?
Charlotte you cannot do this every day! I know it is hard to
concentrate, but you mustn't become hysterical whenever the baby

Charlotte: John, what is wrong with me? I should be happy. I should
be getting back to work. I should be feeling well again. You need to
help me; I need to get back to my normal life. I thought things would
be better after the birth.

John: Don't worry, you are still recovering. It is perfectly normal
for you to be feeling overwhelmed. You will be back to your old self
soon. I promise.

(FLASHBACK) 2d (April 3mos old)

(Charlotte is nursing the baby staring out straight in front of her.
Journal, papers are still on the floor. John enters.)

John: Charlotte, How are you today? (She doesn't answer.) Mary said
you've been awfully quiet today. (Still no answer.) What is wrong?
(She doesn't answer.) Has something happened? This cannot continue.
It has been 3 months, and I still can't find anything wrong with
you. I don't know why you are still like this.

Charlotte: I don't either.

John: Where is my happy wife? Where is the woman who wants to change
the world? I miss her.

(FLASHBACK) 2e (April)

(John and Dr. Mitchell are discussing Charlotte's case.)

Dr. MitchellAnd that is the theory behind the cure. Effective, but
not terribly complicated. I'm glad you came to see me.

John: I am as well. I am relieved Dr. Knight referred me. He said
you might be interested in Charlotte's case as you have treated
hundreds of patients with nervous disorders. And that you are known to
be discreet with people who are in the public eye.

Dr. Mitchell: Dr. Knight was correct. I am effective, I am discreet
and I am interested. Tell me more about your examinations of her.

John: Well, I examined her numerous times since the birth, which was
normal and the baby is healthy. But I can't seem to find anything
physically wrong with her. It has been three months and her energy
hasn't picked up and she is still tired and is extremely emotional.
We went to Dr. Knight for a second opinion. He agrees that she
doesn't have an ailment per se, but is experiencing some nervousness
and frustration adjusting to our new baby.

Dr. M: Ah, yes, there is no greater way to make a household wretched
that a woman who is nervous and feeble, who craves pity and likes
power. You can quote me on that. Your diagnosis is spot on. I
wouldn't say she is 'sick' either. She seems to be suffering
from a nervous disorder, or neurasthenia, quite common in women
directly following childbirth. This condition may be enhanced by the
fact that your wife is a creative person.

John: Really? How so?

Dr. M: Well, women become forgetful of self with the addition of the
emotional excitement that comes with giving birth. They are swayed by
their hopes and fears and they forget what one needs in the way of air
and food. On top of this, your wife is a creative soul and they are
even more neglectful of themselves because of their worries about
their work. This leads to every small task becoming a great effort.
To this end, I created my 'Rest Cure' to help people return to
their normal routines, after times of nervousness. Doctor to Doctor,
I have used my 'Rest Cure' to treat Walt Whitman, George Meredith,
Edith Wharton, Jane Addams, and Virginia Woolf, just to name a few.

John: That is quite an impressive list. I think this might be
exactly what she needs. You would be able to take her on as a

Dr. M: Yes, you could send her up anytime, although, I have a
different idea. You know, I'm always looking to teach my theories
to other doctors and Dr. Knight said you are a highly competent
physician. How would you like to administer my 'Rest Cure' to
your wife?

John: That would be an honor, sir. And I would rather not have to send
her away.

Dr. Mitchell: Naturally. Well, in order for the treatment to take
its best effect, you must strictly adhere to my directions. Be sure to
take her out of her natural surroundings, maybe some place outside the
city. If her condition has not improved by autumn, you can send her
up here to the sanitarium. Remember: the most important step to this
cure is complete and utter rest. And for our famous writer, no

(Dr. Mitchell exits)

(Back to present May)

(The baby begins to cry. Charlotte tries to quiet him, but can't,
puts him down and runs out of the room.)

Charlotte: Shh, darling, shh, you'll wake Mary. Hush, hush, now.
I'll see you soon my darling. Mother loves you.

(After Charlotte is gone, Mary comes into the room and checks on the

Mary: Shh, shh what's wrong? Oh, I know you miss your mother,
angel. She'll be better soon, don't you worry.

End of Scene

[end of extract]


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