Gabriel Conroy has come to his aunt’s annual Christmas party out of family obligation and duty. They are, he thinks, far beneath him in the understanding of life and philosophy. He is solicitous toward his lovely wife, Gretta, and tolerant of other party guests. Little does he know that, on that night, the night on which snow begins to fall over Dublin, he will glimpse Gretta’s secret passion, a long-dead suitor who died for the love of her.
“Moments of their secret life together burst like stars upon his memory.”
From the Play
Gabriel Conroy: A college professor in his late 30’s.
Gretta Conroy: His wife, a woman in her early 30’s.
Aunt Julia: Gabriel’s aunt, a woman in her late 60’s.
Aunt Kate: Gabriel’s aunt, a woman in her early 70’s.
Molly Ivors : A woman in her late 30’s.
The Place: Dublin
The Time: Late 19th Century
The Scene: A bedroom converted as a cloak room for the annual Christmas dinner-dance. There is a bed in the background on which there are some coats and an open closet. The room is starkly furnished except for a few decorations to indicate that the action takes place during the Christmas season, sometime between New Year’s Day and Twelfth Night (January 6th).There is a large window on one side of the stage; on the other side is a door leading to a staircase. In the background someone is playing a waltz on a piano; music is heard throughout the play where necessary to give the effect of a festive occasion. The action takes place in Dublin, Ireland, during 1902.
From the Play:
Aunt Julia: What a comfort it is to have a servant like that, one you can depend on. There’s that Lily of ours. I’m sure I don’t know what’s come over her lately. She’s not the girl she was at all.
Gabriel: I meant to tell you that Lily was a little short with me. She almost snapped my head off.
Aunt Julia: Why, what did she say?
Gabriel: I asked her if she was still going to school. “Oh, no sir,” she answered. “I’m done schooling this year and more” And then I replied, “I suppose we’ll be going to your wedding one of these fine days with your young man.” And she answered me with great bitterness. “The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you.”
Aunt Julia: That’s strange. Lily’s never given back answers. That’s one thing I’ll not take from a servant. I’ll speak to her about it, Gabriel.
Gretta: Oh, Aunt Julia, don’t make such a fuss. Lily’s been such a good girl all these years. It would be petty to say anything.
Gabriel: (Annoyed) Are you calling me petty?
Gretta: Not precisely, but, admit it, you don’t understand young girls. Lily’s at that age when her head is filled with romantic notions and dreams about the ideal man. In time, she’ll learn there is no such thing.
Gabriel: (Laughing) A fine thing to say to your husband.
Gretta: You’re always taking everything personally. I’m talking about young girls in general. They’re sensitive when you question them about romance and marriage. I know about young girls. I was young once.
Gabriel: And still are and still lovely. I suppose you’re right about Lily.
Aunt Julia: (Wishing to change the subject) And how heavily was the snow coming down?
Gabriel: Fairly heavily, and the papers are predicting that it will be the heaviest snowfall in years. Rotten weather, I’d call it.
Aunt Kate: But what would Christmas be without snow? I love snow this time of year. It makes everything look like a picture postcard.
Gabriel: Then you agree with Gretta. She’d walk home in the snow if she were let. No matter how long she’s lived in Dublin, she’s still a country girl.
Gretta: Pay him no mind, Aunt Kate. He’s really an awful bother and a worry wart about health. He’s just so fussy about me and the children. Sometimes I think it’s his way of controlling us. He makes Tom wear green shades for his eyes at night and has him on a course of weight training with dumbbells. And as for Eva he forces her–literally forces her–to eat hot porridge every morning and the poor child simply hates the sight of it. Oh, but you’ll never guess what he makes me wear now?
Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia: (In unison) Whatever can it be ?
Gretta: Galoshes. That’s the latest. Whenever it’s wet underfoot, I must put on my galoshes. Tonight even he wanted me to put them on, but I wouldn’t. The next thing he will buy me is a diving suit.
Aunt Julia: And what are galoshes, Gabriel?
Aunt Kate: Galoshes, Julia, goodness me, don’t you know what galoshes are? You wear them over your . . .over your boots, don’t you, Gretta?
Gretta: Yes, we both have a pair now. Gabriel says their the latest rage in Paris and that everyone wears them on the Continent.
Aunt Julia: (Shocked) On the Continent.