Sunday, February 13, 2005

Something Miltonic

And now for something really self-indulgent: a while back I decided to turn my English-major experience into something useful -- a daunting and perhaps impossible goal -- so I decided to write a "what if" piece, namely "what if they made a musical out of a classic work of English literature that could never be musicalized." The result was a libretto for Paradise Lost: The Musical.

I never did anything with it, because I had no idea what could be done with something so silly, but now that I have a blog I might as well put it here, since what's a blog for if not for displaying silly things you've written?

This isn't actually the whole piece; it was, believe it or not, even longer than this, and included some lyrics for full-fledged production numbers. But this gives an idea of what former English majors do with their spare time. Those of you who chose another discipline will be reassured that you chose wisely.

Written by Jaime J. Weinman


Scene: The home of John Milton, 1667. The blind Milton is dictating the last lines of PARADISE LOST to his daughters, who take down his words.

MILTON: ...They--comma--hand in hand--comma--with wandering steps and slow--comma, new line--Through Eden took their solitary way, period. End of poem. Read that back.

DAUGHTERS [reading simultaneously]: "They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,/Through Eden took their solitary way."

DAUGHTER 1 [approvingly]: Lovely, father.

DAUGHTER 2: The best line yet.

DAUGHTER 1: What an ending!

DAUGHTER 2: How inspirational!

MILTON [after a pause]: No, it's no good.

DAUGHTER 1: But that line is--

MILTON: It's not the line. It's the whole poem. I've been thinking about this. The whole poem needs to be re-written.

DAUGHTER 2: You can't be serious.

MILTON: I can't, hm? The whole trouble with this poem is that it seems like I can't not be serious. It's all "of man's first dis-obedience" this, and "hail holy light" that. Too preachy.

DAUGHTER 1 [primly]: Father, you can never be too preachy.

DAUGHTER 2: I agree with her.

DAUGHTER 1: And I agree with her agreeing with me.


MILTON: Stop! My mind's made up. This poem needs some lightening up. It needs some fun. It

DAUGHTER 1 & DAUGHTER 2 [horrified]: Music??

MILTON: And dancing. And singing. And--take this down, kids.

DAUGHTER 1: But, father--

MILTON: Stop talking and start writing! The scene opens in hell, where Satan and his renegade angels have fallen. And they sing...

[Fade out. Fade in on scene 1.]

Scene 1

Scene: Hell. The devils get up from the ground and sing.

Well, well, well, sad to tell,
Here we are
In you-know-where.
Down we fell, down we fell,
Fast and far
To you-know-where.

Boy, are we slobs!

We're just a bunch of jerks!

We've lost our jobs
And all our special perks!

Silence, you imbeciles, you fools;
This place is ideal.
Once we were instruments and tools,
Always brought to heel.
We’ve now our own evil universe
Where we can be bad, and then be worse!

In Home Sweet Hell,
Where we're scorched and torched eternally,
In Home Sweet Hell
Ev'ryone has fun infernally.
Up there, where we sang God's praises,
No one misbehaved;
Down here in the burning blazes,
We've a chance to be depraved!
So here we'll dwell;
From the fire, who'd desire to roam?
We're doing well
In Home Sweet hell,
Our happy hellish home!
Just to embellish,
We really relish
Our happy hellish home!

[The chorus of Devils repeats the refrain, followed by a devilish dance.]

Scene 2

The exit from hell. Satan is fighting with DEATH. Enter SIN.

Oh, Sin! Is that you--you've--er, you've changed--
Your lower half's been rearranged.

I still remember those things you said
The day I popped out of your head.
I still rembember the things we did
That led to this delighful frightful kid.

I don't care that
He's my pappy,
Let me beat him
To a pulp.
I declare that
I'll be happy
If I eat him
In one gulp.

No girl could have a more obliging dad,
You gave me ev'rything you had.
What we did was a hideous crime,
How's about tryin' it one more time?

Hey, hey, big devil daddy,
Do you have to run?
What say, big devil daddy,
Leave your work undone,
Even devils need to have fun.
Let's play, big devil daddy,
You can choose the game.
They call me Sin, big devil daddy,
So come on in, big devil daddy,
And I'll show you how I got my name!

Oh, oh, big devil daddy,
Use that old free will;
Don't go, big devil daddy,
Till I've had my fill
Of that not-so-daughterly thrill.
You know, big devil daddy,
You've got time to spare.
I'm kind and sweet, big devil daddy,
So take a seat, big devil daddy,
And I'll show you why it's nice to share!

Scene 3

The garden of Eden. Enter SATAN.

Am I indeed in
The garden of Eden?
What a green and pleasant land!
It's green, it's clean,
It's keen, I mean--
It's everything I can't stand!
I'm here in this green garden, full of soul.
The challenge: bring disorder to the whole.

[Enter ADAM and EVE.]

It's a pleasant night
In this pleasant place
And the stars shine bright,
Throwing light on your face;
They highlight
Ev’ry section,
So worthy of inspection.

While my ears are filled
With the nightbird's coo,
I behold your build
And I'm thrilled by the view;
By twilight
My affection
Must go in your direction,
Instead of my reflection.

Um--shall we?

No objection.

[They exit. The ANIMALS--or, rather, a bunch of people in painfully phony animal costumes--enter and, after a few mood-setting "oohs," sing "Wedded Love."]

There's no trusting
Licentious lusting
Between a female and male,
It's merely dirty
If they get flirty,
But hail, wedded love, all hail.
Sex that comes up
Without God's thumbs up
Should land a couple in jail,
But married passion
Is simply smashin',
So hail, wedded love, all hail.
They get away with undressing
And messing around;
Once they possess heaven's blessing
They're safe and they're sound...
And they're down on the ground!
Theirs is pleasure
That's apt to measure
A ten-point-five on the scale,
And still it's moral,
So let's get choral
And hail, hail, hail, hail--
It gets a nod from God above,
So hail, without fail,
Wedded love,
Hail, hail, hail, hail,
Wedded love!

It was rude ‘a
Tamar and Judah
To let their hormones prevail,
But they’ve been cookin’
Since she stopped hookin’,
So hail, wedded love, all hail.

O pretty pair, little know you
How low you will stoop.
I'm on the job and I'll throw you
For oh, such a loop,
And you'll land in the soup.

Though they giggle
And squeal and wiggle,
It's fun that none can assail.
The fun's prodigious
When it's religious,
So hail, hail, hail, hail
That lovely thing we're singing of,
Oh, hail, without fail,
Wedded love.
Hail, hail, hail, hail,
Wedded love!

Scene 4
Another part of the garden.

I shall test a bunch of theses
On the female of the species.
I shall find her and waylay her
In a form that's long and scaly;
I'll bamboozle her and play her
Like a human ukelele.
As a serpent who can yammer
I will carry out my plan.
Please forgive my rotten grammar,
But: "Satan, you the man!"

[EVE enters.]

Hey, Eve!

I think I hear my name.

You're wanted for a little chat.

Why, a talking snake! Imagine that!

Oh, I once was a dumb one
In each sense of the word;
Till today I was someone
Who was seen and not heard.
Then I wised up, I woke up,
I stood up, I spoke up,
My inhibitions broke up
And went in smoke up.
My intellect is great,
My thoughts are new and free,
And all because I ate
An apple from that tree.

The apple made you wise?

It opened up my eyes
To secrets that were hidden.

But God says it's forbidden.

God trembles in his tower
Before the apple's power.
You'd beat him if you had it,
And that's why God forbade it.

[Eve plucks an apple from the tree and bites into it.]

I think it's good!

I thought you would.
Now wait a minute, you're not done--
Why not let Adam share the fun?

Why, that's a thought--
Of course I ought!
If this makes Adam twice as smart,
He'll still be dumb--but it's a start.

SERPENT [aside]
I hate humans, I hate all of them;
It's such fun to cause the fall of them!

[The serpent exits as Adam enters.]

EVE [handing him the apple]
Eat, eat, eat,
My sweet,
It's foolish to resist temptation,
Try a little mastication,
Adam, take your fill of it
For the thrill of it!

[Adam bites into the apple.]

I think it's good!

I thought you would.

But oh! Here's something really bad--
I've realized that we're unclad!

Remaining nude
Would be too crude.
Our shame is great, what's more, immense;
Let's get some leafy fashion sense!

[Adam and Eve make some garments out of fig leaves. Thunder and lightening. A group of angels appears.]

You stupid finks,
We're here to tell you:
God thinks this stinks,
And he sent us to expel you!

You've done a very, very, very bad thing,
You've done a very, very, very bad thing.
You two were blessed, now you're screwed,
All because you chewed
The forbidden food.
You're in a very, very, very bad fix,
Your life was going very well until you fell for Satan's tricks,
The law was clearly written:
Once you've bitten, you'll be smitten,
And the verdict's coming down from heaven's king:
You've done a very, very, very bad thing.

Every pomegranate on the planet
Could have been yours by right.
When you had your lunches, grapes in bunches
Would have been yours to bite.
You could pluck any plumb
Or the prune it soon would be,
You had mangoes and bananas
You could pick right off a tree,
You had passion fruit, a smashin' fruit
That others would be glad to have,
But no! It was an apple that you had to have!
There was fruit, lots of fruit, from the Erie to the Tiber,
But your fruitful days are done.
We've a pear for a pair with apparent moral fiber,
But we've none for one with none.

[Dance number. Adam and Eve take their solitary way through Eden. Blackout.]

Scene 5

Hell. Satan enters in triumph.

You did your devils proud,
Exactly as you vowed,
And so we're shouting clear and loud:
Satan! Satan! You're the victor!
Eve was tricky, but you tricked her!
Dressed up as a boa constrictor!
Satan! Satan! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!
From now on you'll be history!
You'll be his– You'll be hiss--
You'll be hiss--hiss--hiss--

[They have all turned into snakes, which is to say that they fall on the ground and slip into painfully phony-looking snake suits.]

We're serpents! An even worse fate than man's!

Hey, Satan, got any more brilliant plans?

In home sweet hell,
Hear us sighing, crying, dithering.
In home sweet hell,
See us make like snakelike slithering!
We've suffered a super setback,
Life's no longer sweet,
We'd spend any sum to get back
To the days when we had feet!
So give a yell,
From the fire, we desire to roam!
We're not so well,
But home sweet hell
Is still our hellish home!



Milton's home. Milton is dictating in song.

MILTON: ..."But home sweet hell is still our hellish home! Our hellish home! Our hellish ho-o-o-ome!" Big snake dance, or big fire effect, or something, as long as it's big, and that's that.

DAUGHTER 1: Father, if you could see our faces, you would see expressions of shock and horror.

DAUGHTER 2: Mine looks shocked.

DAUGHTER 1: And mine looks horrified. You can't really plan to unleash this sinful songfest on the world?

DAUGHTER 2: Think of your reputation.

DAUGHTER 1: Think of our reputation!

DAUGHTER 2: Especially our reputation!

MILTON: It's brilliant, and it's fun. And if it's sinful, well, tough. The old, boring Milton would have cared about that, but I'm a new, fun-loving Milton, and I want the world to know it. Send it off to my publisher first thing in the morning. Now, I'm going back to my room for a hedonistic celebration: I'm going to drink strong tea and recite French poetry!

[He slowly makes his way offstage.]

DAUGHTER 2: What shall we do? He seems resolute. Oh, how wrong it is to be resolute in the service of pleasure!

DAUGHTER 1: Well put, my sister. But remember, we still have father's first draft. And that is what his publisher, and the world, will see. The work of father as he used to be before this strange obsession with musical theatre: a man dedicated to virtue and opposed to all forms of enjoyment.

DAUGHTER 2: But what will father say when he finds out we've gone against his wishes and had his first draft published?

DAUGHTER 1: Why should he find out? He can't see it.

DAUGHTER 2: And this new, "musical" version?

DAUGHTER 1: It was for literature like this that God created fire. Also for Americans to burn witches with.

DAUGHTER 2: Didn't father say that book-burning is wrong?

DAUGHTER 1: I don't remember it if you don't.

[They start to burn the manuscript as the curtain falls.]

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