James Boaden, The Italian Monk (Haymarket Theatre, 15 August 1796), from The Plays of James Boaden, ed. Steven Cohan (NY: Garland, 1980).


Other maidens bait their hooks
With practis'd glances, tender looks,
And study tricks from subtle books,
To hold the lover fast.
Their golden line of locks so fine
Before his simple eye they cast,
With bending bait, and swimming gait,
To make him sure at last.
Nonny, nonny, nonnino,
Nonny, nonny, nonnino,
Nonny, nonny, nonnino--
To make him sure at last.

When the village youth would bear
Me trinkets from the distant fair,
However they were rich or rare,
My Paullo pleased me best:
What though, the work of costly art,
They call'd for praise in ev'ry part?
My Paullo with it gave his heart;
And what was all the rest,
Nonny, nonny, etc.
And what was all the rest?


SCENE--Draws, and discovers ELLENA sleeping upon a wretched Pallet-bed; a Table, and empty Bowl on it.

SCHEDONI enters with the Lamp.

Yes, she's asleep! Fie on these shaking joints!
Does not my interest tell me she must die?
Hush! sure she speaks!--She never will speak more.
Oh! such weak thinkings will unman me quite.
How deep that sigh!--Her whole frame seems convuls'd.--
Can I remove her robe and not awake her--

(He looks at her Breast, and seeing a Picture starts; then eagerly detaches it, drops the dagger, and shuddering draws back in an Agony of Horror.)

Am I alive? and do my eyes see truly?
Or are these features but a fancied charm,
To bind that devil, which tempts me to destruction?
Ellen!--awake! awake!

(ELLENA starts up, shrieks, and falls at his Feet.)

O save me! save me!
Spalatro will destroy me!

Quickly, tell me,
How came you by this picture?

'Twas my mother's.

Whose the resemblance--tell me, on your life?

It is my father's portrait, and--

His name?

The Count de Marinella.

My child, my child--In me behold that father.
Yet spare me--I shall blast you with my touch.
Stand off! The springs of love are poison'd here.
O misery! To have a star unknown,
Beaming with brightness rise upon my view,
While all the hemisphere is stain'd with blood.
Let me gaze on thee! O that sweet alarm!
Be hush'd my child--no danger shall approach thee.
I'll make this breast a bulwark to defend thee.
I rave! O pardon me! and bless your father.

I stand amaz'd--eternal Providence!
A father, my deliverer! O Sir, tell me,
Why the first care I meet with from my parent
Preserves the life he gave? My infant years
Ne'er knew a daughter's duty; but my heart
Is apt I feel to learn its filial lesson.

You shall know all, my child. But ah! the drink!

Distrusting it, I threw it down, between
The bars of yonder window. (Seeing it on the ground.)
Ha! a dagger!
The villain would have stabb'd me as I slept,
Had not the father sav'd me from the blow.

SCHEDONI. (Walks from her in the greatest Agony.)
My Ellen, if you would not blast my senses,
Mention this scene no more. Blot it from memory,
Here, from this hour of terror and of transport.
Promise, if possible, never to think of it.

O, should I not? when it reminds my heart,
How infinite the debt I owe my father!
Where is Spalatro? Send that villain hence.
Supported even by you, I dare not see him.

He shall not meet your eye. Retire my child.
The morning dawns. Get on your cloak, your veil,
We will set out his moment. When I call,
Come forth my sweet one. [Exit ELLENA.


The Chamber of secret Examination--The MONK sitting in his Inquisitor's Garb.

SCHEDONI brought in.

Most holy Father, let me break through forms,
And, by confession of my crimes, dismiss
The frigid toil of slow and creeping proof.
I am a wretch for whom no hope remains
In being, and do therefore beg to die.

Does this despair proceed from conscience, son?
Or from unlook'd for proofs of your offences?

>From both. But deem not that I state it so
To shun, by sorrow for repented guilt,
One torture of my punishment. By heaven
I could as soon clap Etna in his rage,
And think his flaming fountain were the soft
Descenden, CT: Yale UP, 1923; NY: Archon, 1970) 72-74.

Clara Frances McIntyre, Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time, Yale Studies in English 62 (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1923; NY: Archon, 1970) 72-74.

Mr. Boaden tried his hand at a dramatization of The Italian, in The Italian Monk, acted at the Haymarket, August 15, 1797. The reviews of this play are for the most part less favorable than those of Fontainville Forest. The comment of Genest upon it is:

This play in 3 acts is Mrs. Radcliffe's interesting Romance badly dramatized by Boaden. . . . It is written partly in blank verse and partly in prose. . . . It would have been better if the whole had been in prose.

A scathing review appeared in The Monthly Visitor for August, 1797. In this, The Italian Monk is considered as a sort of parody on The Italian. Mr Boaden is blamed for changing the characters, and for introducing needless buffoonery. His only successful passages, according to this writer, are those in which he keeps very close to Mrs. Radcliffe's own words.

Certainly the songs, quoted in some of the reviews, and published separately in the Lady's Magazine for September, 1797, are not at all in keeping with the sombre tone of Mrs. Radcliffe's work. One of them is sung by Fioresca, a character created by Mr. Boaden, to make a sweetheart for Paullo, the (supposedly) humorous servant. . . . Mr. Boaden also changed the character of Schedoni, and the whole climax of the plot. Instead of having actually murdered his brother, the monk merely thinks he has murdered his wife. In the end he discovers his mistake, and is happily reunited to her, instead of dying in agony, as in Mrs. Radcliffe's version.

On the whole, The Italian Monk seems to have been quite in the fashion of the day. It was much the same sort of thing which Lewis did in The Castle Spectre, a hash of melodrama and absurdity, with here and there a touch of flippancy, showing that the author himself did not take it very seriously. It surely is not an adequate dramatization of The Italian, a book which contains material for an excellent melodrama, or even, if correctly managed, a genuine tragedy.

Steven Cohan, Introduction to The Plays of James Boaden, ed. Steven Cohan (NY: Garland, 1980) xxiii-xxvi.

Boaden's reformation of Schedoni's character, which emphasizes how closely the story of the monk's past resembles that of The Winter's Tale, should not be dismissed as a betrayal of the Gothic mode; rather, it is the key to what Boaden wanted to do dramatically with his Gothic narrative. It is revealing, in this respect, that years later Boaden still remembered how he had seen Palmer's performance as Schedoni "draw tears from George Steevens." Boaden's Schedoni is not a mere villain like the Marquis in Fontainville Forest; the character of the monk is more important in terms of the play's Gothic structure because he provides an emotional center for the narrative. By revising Radcliffe's ending, Boaden allowed spectators a range of emotions from terror to pathos within a conservative and sentimental moral framework. Schedoni is reformed, and the play ends by reuniting and revitalizing a family that had been torn apart by the father's passions. In addition, the revised ending somewhat transformed the play generically, attuning it more closely to notions of serious drama. By the end Schedoni's figure draws tears rather than shudders from the audience.

In thus attempting to enlarge what I think Boaden felt were the emotional limitations of Gothic fiction, The Italian Monk marked his most ambitious dramatic undertaking, and, given his desire to move his audience to tears as well as screams, it would turn out to be his most imaginatively coherent rendering of Gothic fiction on stage. Despite an ending that should have bothered any admirer of Radcliffe's novel, The Italian Monk "was highly applauded throughout" [Young, Memoirs of Mrs. Crouch] and performed twelve times; it played four times the following season (once as a benefit at Drury Lane) and two more times the season after that. The audience at Haymarket was as delighted with the Gothic machinery of this play as it had been at Fontainville Forest--even though Boaden had not included a ghost among the dramatis personae. In particular, the scene in which Schedoni is about to plunge a dagger into the heart of the sleeping heroine (at the end of Act II) "had such effect as to occasion screams" [Oulton, A History of the Theatres of London, 1795-1817]. Clearly, though he had softened Schedoni's character and even domesticated the effect of the monk's passionate, violent temper, Boaden did not want to move too far away from the Gothic mode. Like the novel, The Italian Monk abounds with Gothic elements: separated lovers, unknown parents, mysterious kidnappings, hired assassins, attempted murders, malevolent nuns and priests, and the most secret and deadly tribunal of all--the Inquisition. Gothic conventions were important to Boaden's imagination because they held his sentimentality in check with a threatening reminder of human horror: this is always the dramatic tension in his plays. The further he moved away from the Gothic mode in his later plays, the less imaginatively credible and dramatically satisfying they were.