Yesterday in Victorian Lit, my classmates and I became actors. In order to stress the important elements in a certain scene in Dracula, my professor (Brad) assembled a hand-picked cast and, after giving a few directions, let us work our magic.
I was given the role of Arthur Holmwood, the super-manly fiance of the now-vampire Lucy Westenra. One of my classmates, Drewe, was cast as Lucy. My roommate played Van Helsing and a couple of classmates took the roles of Quincy Morris and John Seward.
Here is the material we had to work with:
“Go on,” said Arthur hoarsely. “Tell me what I am to do.”
“Take this stake in your left hand, ready to place to the point over the heart, and the hammer in your right. Then when we begin our prayer for the dead, I shall read him, I have here the book, and the others shall follow, strike in God’s name, that so all may be well with the dead that we love and that the UnDead pass away.”
Arthur took the stake and the hammer, and when once his mind was set on action his hands never trembled nor even quivered. Van Helsing opened his missal and began to read, and Quincey and I followed as well as we could.
Arthur placed the point over the heart, and as I looked I could see its dint in the white flesh. Then he struck with all his might.
The thing in the coffin writhed, and a hideous, blood-curdling screech came from the opened red lips. The body shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions. The sharp white teeth champed together till the lips were cut, and the mouth was smeared with a crimson foam. But Arthur never faltered. He looked like a figure of Thor as his untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake, whilst the blood from the pierced heart welled and spurted up around it. His face was set, and high duty seemed to shine through it. The sight of it gave us courage so that our voices seemed to ring through the little vault.
And then the writhing and quivering of the body became less, and the teeth seemed to champ, and the face to quiver. Finally it lay still. The terrible task was over.
(Bram Stoker. Dracula. Chapter 16)
First of all, isn’t the passage absolutely fantastic?
Brad read the text in a dramatic voice as we played the scene.
Drewe, as my undead fiance, was sprawled out on the table at the front of the classroom. I towered over her, holding up my imaginary stake and hammer. Van Helsing and company (my roommate and peers) stood next to me reading out of an imaginary prayer-book. As Brad’s voice spelled out the portion about not trembling or quivering, I did my best to contort my face into an expression of boldness. I don’t think I was very successful. It was incredibly hard not to laugh.
Then, I drove the imaginary stake into Drewe’s heart. She thrashed. She flailed. She wriggled all over the table. I struggled to keep a straight face, trying to be as impressive and powerful as the Norse god Stoker compared Arthur to. (Again, I don’t think I was very successful.) I pounded and pounded on the stake. The deeper it was pounded, the more Drewe’s writhing increased.
Then, she stopped.
And I got to go back to my seat.
It was a fun and entertaining experience, that’s for sure. But if I learned one thing, it would be this: it’s a good thing I didn’t major in Theater, because I’m a terrible actor.