(POE chews pen and thinks,
begins to write again, speaks as he writes each word. ACTOR 1 will
begin to talk with POE saying the same words together. Then POE will
stop speaking and ACTOR 1 will continue. POE will join other actors
to emphasize parts of the story through vocal sounds and physical movement)
nervous very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am ...
POE & ACTOR 1: But
why will you say that I am mad?
ACTOR 1: The disease
had sharpened my senses not destroyed not dulled them.
Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in
heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then, am I
mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily how calmly I can tell
you the whole story.
ACTOR 1: It is
impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain. But once
conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none.
Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me.
He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire.
ACTOR 2: 1 think it was
ACTOR 1: Yes, it was this!
ACTOR 3: One of his
eyes resembled that of a vulture a pale blue eye, with a film
ACTOR 1: Whenever it
fell upon me, my blood ran cold; so by degrees-very gradually
I made up my mind...
ACTOR 3: I made up my mind...
ACTOR 2: 1 made up my mind...
ACTOR 1: ... to take
the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.
ACTOR 1: Now this is
the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have
seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded...
ACTOR 2: With what caution...
ACTOR 3: With what foresight...
ACTOR 1: With what
dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than
during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about
midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it...
ACTOR 2: Oh, so gently!
ACTOR 1: Oh, you would
have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust my head in! I moved it slowly...
ACTOR 3: Very, very slowly...
ACTOR 1: It took me an
hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could
see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! Would a madman be so wise? I did
this for seven long nights. Upon the eighth night I was more than
usually cautious in opening the door. Perhaps he heard me though, for
he moved on the bed...
ACTOR 3: Suddenly!
ACTOR 1: As if
startled. Now you may think that I drew back...
ACTOR 2: But no!
ACTOR 1: I had my head
in and was about to open the lantern, when presently I heard a slight groan...
ACTORS 1 & 3:
ACTOR 1: And I knew it
was the groan of mortal terror. I say I knew it well. I knew what the
old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew he
had been lying awake, his fears had been growing upon him. He was
thinking that he had heard nothing. He was saying to himself...
ACTOR 3: "It is
nothing but the wind in the chimney it is only a mouse
crossing the floor."
ACTOR 2: "It is
merely a cricket which has made a single chirp."
ACTOR 1: Yes, he was
trying to comfort himself with these suppositions; but he had found
all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him, had
stalked his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim.
ACTOR 2: So I opened
ACTOR 3: You cannot
imagine how stealthily, stealthily...
ACTOR 1: Until, at
length, a single dim ray, like a thread of a spider, shot out from
the crevice and full upon the vulture eye! I could see nothing else
of the old man's face, for I had directed the ray as if by instinct,
precisely upon the damned spot.
ACTOR 1: And now have I
not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness
of the senses? Now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick
sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that
sound well too. It was the beating...
(POE may beat drum quietly
at this point and build to end)
ACTOR 2: Beating!
ACTOR 1: It was the
beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating
of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.
ACTOR 1: But even yet I
refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern
motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the
eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew...
ACTOR 2: Quicker! Quicker!
ACTOR 3: Louder! Louder!
ACTOR 1: The old man's
terror must have been extreme! It grew louder and louder every
minute! Do you mark me well? I have told you I am nervous; so I am.
And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of
that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to
uncontrollable terror. Yet for some minutes longer I refrained and
ACTOR 3: But the
beating grew louder and louder!
ACTOR 1: I thought the
heart might burst. And now a new anxiety seized me the sound
would be heard by a neighbor! The old man's hour had come! With a
loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He
shrieked once once only. In an instant I dragged him to the
floor and pulled the heavy bed covers over him. I then smiled gaily,
to find the deed so far done.
ACTOR 2: But, for many
minutes the heart beat on with a muffled sound.
ACTOR 1: This, however,
did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall.
ACTOR 3: At length, it ceased.
ACTOR 1: The old man
was dead. I removed the bed covers and examined the corpse. Yes, he
was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it
there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His
eye would trouble me no more.
ACTOR 1: If still you
think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise
precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned,
and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the
corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs. I then took up
three planks from the flooring of the chamber, deposited all between
the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly,
that no human eye...
ACTOR 2: Not even his?
ACTOR 1: Could have
detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out no
stain of any kind no blood spot whatever. I had been too wary
for that. A tub had caught all ha! ha! When I had made an end
of these labors, it was four o'clock. As the bell sounded the hour,
there came a knocking at the street door. I opened it for what
had I to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves as...
ACTOR 2: Officers of
ACTOR 3: A shriek has
been heard in the night.
ACTOR 2: There is
suspicion of foul play.
ACTOR 3: We have been
deputed to search the premises.
ACTOR 1: I smiled, for
what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome.
The Tell Tale Heart continues...
Note: This is a
sample from the actual script. To review the entire play, order
the PERUSAL SCRIPT (online instant download).