“They are the true offspring of Adam and Eve, victims of all the ills that flesh is heir to. They have survived a thousand calamities by the skin of their teeth.” – by Thornton Wilder, from his Introduction to his Pulitzer Prize winning play “The Skin of Our Teeth.”
“The Skin of Our Teeth” – an abridgment:
Sabina: The whole world’s at sixes and sevens, and why the house hasn’t fallen down about our ears long ago is a miracle to me . . . In the midst of life we are in the midst of death
Mrs. Antrobus: Oh Sabina, I know you. When Mr. Antrobus raped you home from your Sabine hills, he did it to insult me. He did it for your pretty face and to insult me. You were the new wife, weren’t you?
Sabina: A girl like I can get a situation in a home . . . where the master of the house doesn’t pinch decent, self-respecting girls when he meets them in a dark corridor. I mention no names and make no charges.
Mr. Antrobus: Burn everything except Shakespeare.
Mrs. Antrobus: He knows I’d burn ten Shakespeares to prevent a child of mine from having a cold in the head.
Sabina: Mrs. Antrobus, I don’t want to leave a house that gets such interesting telegrams.
Antrobus & Fitzpatrick (together) : Miss Somerset!
Sabina: All right, I’ll say the lines but I won’t think about the play, and I advise you not to think about the play either.
Antrobus: Maggie, there’s an old man, particular friend of mine -
Mrs. Antrobus: I won’t listen to you . . . I don’t care if he perishes. We can do without reading and writing . . . Who are those old women?
Antrobus: Up in town there are nine sisters . . . They’re sort of music teachers . . . Besides, Maggie, listen! . . . Who’ve we got in the house but Sabina? Sabina’s always afraid the worst will happen . . . Maggie, these people never give up. They think they’ll live and work forever . . . Maggie-! Make yourself at home, friends. Sabina, pass the sandwiches.
Sabina: I thought I was working in a respectable house – that had respectable guests. I’m giving my notice, Mr. Antrobus, two weeks, that’s the law.
Antrobus: Booby, pass the sandwiches.
Sabina: I’m not going to play this particular scene tonight.
Fitzpatrick: Miss Somerset, we insist on your playing this scene.
Sabina: I’m sorry, Mr. Fitzpatick, but I can’t and I won’t. I’ve told the audience all they need know and now we can go on.
Fitzpatrick: And why can’t you play it?
Sabina: Because there are some lines in that scene that would hurt some people’s feelings and I don’t think the theatre is a place where people’s feelings out to be hurt.
Fitzpatrick: Why can’t you play it?
Sabina: Well if you must know, I have a personal guest in the audience tonight. Her life hasn’t been exactly a happy one. I wouldn’t have my friend hear some of these lines for the whole world. I don’t suppose it occurred to the author that some other women might have gone through the experience of losing their husbands like this.
Fitzpatrick: Miss Somerset, your friend will forgive you. . . . Go to your dressing room, I’ll read your lines myself! . . . Miss Somerset! We have to stop a moment.
Sabina: What’s the matter?
Fitzpatrick: There’s an explanation we have to make to the audience. – Lights, please . . . Now for those of you who are listening perhaps I should explain that at the end of this act, the men have come back from the war . . . and the author wants to show . . . that each of the hours is a philosopher . . . I don’t suppose it means anything. It’s just a kind of poetic effect.
Sabina: Not mean anything! Why it certainly does. Twelve o’clock goes by saying those wonderful things. I think it means that when people are asleep they have all those lovely thoughts, much better than when they’re awake.
Ivy: The ideas and thoughts of the great men are in the air around us all the time and they’re working on us, even when we don’t know it.
Sabina: Mrs. Antrobus . . . Mr. Antrobus is still thinking up new things. – He told me to give you his love. He’s got all sorts of ideas for peacetime, he says. No more laziness or idiocy, he says . . . the first thing he wants to see are his books . . . Everybody’s going to be beautiful, he says, and diligent, and very intelligent.
Henry: I’m not going to be a part of any peacetime of yours.
Antrobus: Henry, let’s try again . . . How can you make a world for people to live in, unless you’ve first put order in yourself? Mark my words: I shall continue fighting you until my last breath as long as you mix up your idea of liberty with your idea of hogging everything for yourself.
Sabina: Stop! Stop! Don’t play this scene. You know what happened last night. Stop the play.
Henry: In this scene it’s as though I were back in High School again. It’s like I had some big emptiness inside me, – the emptiness of being hated and blocked at every turn. And the emptiness fills up with the one thought that you have to strike and fight and kill. Listen, it’s as though you have to kill somebody else so as not to end up killing yourself.
Sabina: (In a whisper) I’ll go with him. You have to go on with the play. I’ve known him a long while. Come with me, Henry.
Antrobus: Maggie, – the dog died?
Mrs. Antrobus: Oh, yes. There are no dogs left in Excelsior.
Antrobus: Maggie! I didn’t dare ask you: my books! They haven’t been lost, have they? . . . when we finally did collect a few torn copies out of old cellars they ran in everyone’s head like a fever. They as good as rebuilt the world . . . all I ask is the chance to build new worlds . . . Maggie, you and I must remember in peace time all those resolves that were so clear to us in the days of war. Maggie, we’ve come a long ways. We’ve learned. We’re learning. And the steps of our journey are marked for us here.
Spinoza: ”And I saw that all the objects of my desire and fear were in themselves nothing good nor bad save insofar as the mind was affected by them. I at length determined to search out whether there was something truly good and communicable to man.”
Plato: ”How shall a man choose the ruler that he is willing should rule over him? Will he not choose a man who has first established order in himself, knowing that any decision that has its spring from anger or pride or vanity can be multiplied a thousand fold in its effects upon the citizens?”
Aristotle: ”This good estate of the mind possessing its object in energy we call divine. This we mortals have occasionally and it is this energy which is pleasantest and best.”
Sabina: Oh, oh, oh . . . the whole worlds’ at sixes and sevens . . . This is where you came in. We have to go on for ages and ages yet. You go home. The end of this play isn’t written yet.
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