Home  »  Three Plays  »  Fifth Avenue, New York. Three weeks later

Eugene O’Neill (1888–1953). Three Plays. 1922.

Scene V I. The Hairy Ape

Fifth Avenue, New York. Three weeks later

SCENEThree weeks later. A corner of Fifth Avenue in the Fifties on a fine, Sunday morning. A general atmosphere of clean, well-tidied, wide street; a flood of mellow, tempered sunshine; gentle, genteel breezes. In the rear, the show windows of two shops, a jewelry establishment on the corner, a furrier’s next to it. Here the adornments of extreme wealth are tantalizingly displayed. The jeweler’s window is gaudy with glittering diamonds, emeralds, rubies, pearls, etc., fashioned in ornate tiaras, crowns, necklaces, collars, etc. From each piece hangs an enormous tag from which a dollar sign and numerals in intermittent electric lights wink out the incredible prices. The same in the furrier’s. Rich furs of all varieties hang there bathed in a downpour of artificial light. The general effect is of a background of magnificence cheapened and made grotesque by commercialism, a background in tawdry disharmony with the clear light and sunshine on the street itself.

Up the side street YANK and LONG come swaggering. LONG is dressed in shore clothes, wears a black Windsor tie, cloth cap. YANK is in his dirty dungarees. A fireman’s cap with black peak is cocked defiantly on the side of his head. He has not shaved for days and around his fierce, resentful eyes—as around those of LONG to a lesser degree—the black smudge of coal dust still sticks like make-up. They hesitate and stand together at the corner, swaggering, looking about them with a forced, defiant contempt.

LONG—[Indicating it all with an oratorical gesture.] Well, ’ere we are. Fif’ Avenoo. This ’ere’s their bleedin’ private lane, as yer might say. [Bitterly.] We’re trespassers ’ere. Proletarians keep orf the grass!

YANK—[Dully.] I don’t see no grass, yuh boob. [Staring at the sidewalk.] Clean, ain’t it? Yuh could eat a fried egg offen it. The white wings got some job sweepin’ dis up. [Looking up and down the avenue—surlily.] Where’s all de white-collar stiffs yuh said was here—and de skoits—her kind?

LONG—In church, blarst ’em! Arskin’ Jesus to give ’em more money.

YANK—Choich, huh? I useter go to choich onct—sure—when I was a kid. Me old man and woman, dey made me. Dey never went demselves, dough. Always got too big a head on Sunday mornin’, dat was dem. [With a grin.] Dey was scrappers for fair, bot’ of dem. On Satiday nights when dey bot’ got a skinful dey could put up a bout oughter been staged at de Garden. When dey got trough dere wasn’t a chair or table wit a leg under it. Or else dey bot’ jumped on me for somep’n. Dat was where I loined to take punishment. [With a grin and a swagger.] I’m a chip offen de old block, get me?

LONG—Did yer old man follow the sea?

YANK—Naw. Worked along shore. I runned away when me old lady croaked wit de tremens. I helped at truckin’ and in de market. Den I shipped in de stokehole. Sure. Dat belongs. De rest was nothin’. [Looking around him.] I ain’t never seen dis before. De Brooklyn waterfront, dat was where I was dragged up. [Taking a deep breath.] Dis ain’t so bad at dat, huh?

LONG—Not bad? Well, we pays for it wiv our bloody sweat, if yer wants to know!

YANK—[With sudden angry disgust.] Aw, hell! I don’t see noone, see—like her. All dis gives me a pain. It don’t belong. Say, ain’t dere a backroom around dis dump? Let’s go shoot a ball. All dis is too clean and quiet and dolled-up, get me! It gives me a pain.

LONG—Wait and yer’ll bloody well see——

YANK—I don’t wait for noone. I keep on de move. Say, what yuh drag me up here for, anyway? Tryin’ to kid me, yuh simp, yuh?

LONG—Yer wants to get back at her, don’t yer? That’s what yer been saying’ every bloomin’ ’our since she hinsulted yer.

YANK—[Vehemently.] Sure ting I do! Didn’t I try to git even wit her in Southampton? Didn’t I sneak on de dock and wait for her by de gangplank? I was goin’ to spit in her pale mug, see! Sure, right in her pop-eyes! Dat woulda made me even, see? But no chanct. Dere was a whole army of plain clothes bulls around. Dey spotted me and gimme de bum’s rush. I never seen her. But I’ll git square wit her yet, you watch! [Furiously.] De lousey tart! She tinks she kin get away wit moider—but not wit me! I’ll fix her! I’ll tink of a way!

LONG—[As disgusted as he dares to be.] Ain’t that why I brought yer up ’ere—to show yer? Yer been lookin’ at this ’ere ’ole affair wrong. Yer been actin’ an’ talkin’ ’s if it was all a bleedin’ personal matter between yer and that bloody cow. I wants to convince yer she was on’y a representative of ’er clarss. I wants to awaken yer bloody clarss consciousness. Then yer’ll see it’s ’er clarss yer’ve got to fight, not ’er alone. There’s a ’ole mob of ’em like ’er, Gawd blind ’em!

YANK—[Spitting on his hands—belligerently.] De more de merrier when I gits started. Bring on de gang!

LONG—Yer’ll see ’em in arf a mo’, when that church lets out. [He turns and sees the window display in the two stores for the first time.] Blimey! Look at that, will yer? [They both walk back and stand looking in the jewelers. LONG flies into a fury.] Just look at this ’ere bloomin’ mess! Just look at it! Look at the bleedin’ prices on ’em—more’n our ’old bloody stokehole makes in ten voyages sweatin’ in ’ell! And they—her and her bloody clarss—buys ’em for toys to dangle on ’em! One of these ’ere would buy scoff for a starvin’ family for a year!

YANK—Aw, cut de sob stuff! T’ hell wit de starvin’ family! Yuh’ll be passin’ de hat to me next. [With naïve admiration.] Say, dem tings is pretty, huh? Bet yuh dey’d hock for a piece of change aw right. [Then turning away, bored.] But, aw hell, what good are dey? Let her have ’em. Dey don’t belong no more’n she does. [With a gesture of sweeping the jewelers into oblivion.] All dat don’t count, get me?

LONG—[Who has moved to the furriers—indignantly.] And I s’pose this ’ere don’t count neither—skins of poor, ’armless animals slaughtered so as ’er and ’ers can keep their bleedin’ noses warm!

YANK—[Who has been staring at something inside—with queer excitement.] Take a slant at dat! Give it de once-over! Monkey fur—two t’ousand bucks! [Bewilderedly.] Is dat straight goods—monkey fur? What de hell——?

LONG—[Bitterly.] It’s straight enuf. [With grim humor.] They wouldn’t bloody well pay that for a ’airy ape’s skin—no, nor for the ’ole livin’ ape with all ’is ’ead, and body, and soul thrown in!

YANK—[Clenching his fists, his face growing pale with rage as if the skin in the window were a personal insult.] Trowin’ it up in my face! Christ! I’ll fix her!

LONG—[Excitedly.] Church is out. ’Ere they come, the bleedin’ swine. [After a glance at YANK’S lowering face—uneasily.] Easy goes, Comrade. Keep yer bloomin’ temper. Remember force defeats itself. It ain’t our weapon. We must impress our demands through peaceful means—the votes of the on-marching proletarians of the bloody world!

YANK—[With abysmal contempt.] Votes, hell! Votes is a joke, see. Votes for women! Let dem do it!

LONG—[Still more uneasily.] Calm, now. Treat ’em wiv the proper contempt. Observe the bleedin’ parasites but ’old yer ’orses.

YANK—[Angrily.] Git away from me! Yuh’re yellow, dat’s what. Force, dat’s me! De punch, dat’s me every time, see! [The crowd from church enter from the right, sauntering slowly and affectedly, their heads held stiffly up, looking neither to right nor left, talking in toneless, simpering voices. The women are rouged, calcimined, dyed, overdressed to the nth degree. The men are in Prince Alberts, high hats, spats, canes, etc. A procession of gaudy marionettes, yet with something of the relentless horror of Frankensteins in their detached, mechanical unawareness.]

  • VOICES—Dear Doctor Caiaphas! He is so sincere!
  • What was the sermon? I dozed off.
  • About the radicals, my dear—and the false doctrines that are being preached.
  • We must organize a hundred per cent American bazaar.
  • And let everyone contribute one one-hundredth percent of their income tax.
  • What an original idea!
  • We can devote the proceeds to rehabilitating the veil of the temple.
  • But that has been done so many times.
  • YANK—[Glaring from one to the other of them—with an insulting snort of scorn.] Huh! Huh! [Without seeming to see him, they make wide detours to avoid the spot where he stands in the middle of the sidewalk.]

    LONG—[Frightenedly.] Keep yer bloomin’ mouth shut, I tells yer.

    YANK—[Viciously.] G’wan! Tell it to Sweeney! [He swaggers away and deliberately lurches into a top-hatted gentleman, then glares at him pugnaciously.] Say, who d’yuh tink yuh’re bumpin’? Tink yuh own de oith?

    GENTLEMAN—[Coldly and affectedly.] I beg your pardon. [He has not looked at YANK and passes on without a glance, leaving him bewildered.]

    LONG—[Rushing up and grabbing YANK’S arm.] ’Ere! Come away! This wasn’t what I meant. Yer’ll ’ave the bloody coppers down on us.

    YANK—[Savagely—giving him a push that sends him sprawling.] G’wan!

    LONG—[Picks himself up—hysterically.] I’ll pop orf then. This ain’t what I meant. And whatever ’appens, yer can’t blame me. [He slinks off left.]

    YANK—T’ hell wit youse! [He approaches a lady—with a vicious grin and a smirking wink.] Hello, Kiddo. How’s every little ting? Got anyting on for to-night? I know an old boiler down to de docks we kin crawl into. [The lady stalks by without a look, without a change of pace. YANK turns to others—insultingly.] Holy smokes, what a mug! Go hide yuhself before de horses shy at yuh. Gee, pipe de heinie on dat one! Say, youse, yuh look like de stoin of a ferryboat. Paint and powder! All dolled up to kill! Yuh look like stiffs laid out for de boneyard! Aw, g’wan, de lot of youse! Yuh give me de eye-ache. Yuh don’t belong, get me! Look at me, why don’t youse dare? I belong, dat’s me! [Pointing to a skyscraper across the street which is in process of construction—with bravado.] See dat building goin’ up dere? See de steel work? Steel, dat’s me! Youse guys live on it and tink yuh’re somep’n. But I’m in it, see! I’m de hoistin’ engine dat makes it go up! I’m it—de inside and bottom of it! Sure! I’m steel and steam and smoke and de rest of it! It moves—speed—twenty-five stories up—and me at de top and bottom—movin’! Youse simps don’t move. Yuh’re on’y dolls I winds up to see’m spin. Yuh’re de garbage, get me—de leavins—de ashes we dump over de side! Now, whata yuh gotto say? [But as they seem neither to see nor hear him, he flies into a fury.] Bums! Pigs! Tarts! Bitches! [He turns in a rage on the men, bumping viciously into them but not jarring them the least bit. Rather it is he who recoils after each collision. He keeps growling.] Git off de oith! G’wan, yuh bum! Look where yuh’re goin,’ can’t yuh? Git outa here! Fight, why don’t yuh? Put up yer mits! Don’t be a dog! Fight or I’ll knock yuh dead! [But, without seeming to see him, they all answer with mechanical affected politeness:] I beg your pardon. [Then at a cry from one of the women, they all scurry to the furrier’s window.]

    THE WOMAN—[Ecstatically, with a gasp of delight.] Monkey fur! [The whole crowd of men and women chorus after her in the same tone of affected delight.] Monkey fur!

    YANK—[With a jerk of his head back on his shoulders, as if he had received a punch full in the face—raging.] I see yuh, all in white! I see yuh, yuh white-faced tart, yuh! Hairy ape, huh? I’ll hairy ape yuh! [He bends down and grips at the street curbing as if to pluck it out and hurl it. Foiled in this, snarling with passion, he leaps to the lamp-post on the corner and tries to pull it up for a club. Just at that moment a bus is heard rumbling up. A fat, high-hatted, spatted gentleman runs out from the side street. He calls out plaintively: “Bus! Bus! Stop there!” and runs full tilt into the bending, straining YANK, who is bowled off his balance.]

    YANK—[Seeing a fight—with a roar of joy as he springs to his feet.] At last! Bus, huh? I’ll bust yuh! [He lets drive a terrific swing, his fist landing full on the fat gentleman’s face. But the gentleman stands unmoved as if nothing had happened.]

    GENTLEMAN—I beg your pardon. [Then irritably.] You have made me lose my bus. [He claps his hands and begins to scream:] Officer! Officer! [Many police whistles shrill out on the instant and a whole platoon of policemen rush in on YANK from all sides. He tries to fight but is clubbed to the pavement and fallen upon. The crowd at the window have not moved or noticed this disturbance. The clanging gong of the patrol wagon approaches with a clamoring din.]