YOURS, IN STRUGGLE

© 2017

All rights reserved.

Set in a refugee slum in London, England during the turbulent years of the Industrial Revolution, YOURS, IN STRUGGLE dramatizes events in the family life of one of the world’s most important revolutionaries and original thinkers, Karl Marx.

Cast of Characters

Karl Marx: German Revolutionary, Political Scientist and Philosopher living in exile with his family in London, England

Friedrich Engels: English Revolutionary and Friend of Karl Marx

Jenny Marx: Aristocratic Wife of Karl Marx

Helene Demuth: Servant of Karl and Jenny Marx

Edgar Marx: Son of Karl and Jenny Marx

Acknowledgements

YOURS, IN STRUGGLE was written with the financial aid of the Toronto Arts Council’s Grants to Writers Program, the Ontario Arts Council’s Playwright Recommender Program through Factory Theatre, and Factory Theatre through its Playwrights Lab. It was workshopped at Factory Theatre under the guidance of Brian Quirt and received a public reading at Harbourfront, Toronto, in March 2000 by ScriptLab with actors Marie-Josee Lefebvre, Alex Poch-Goldin, Earl Pastko and Angela Gei. The discussion was moderated by Virginia Reh.

ACT ONE

SCENE ONE

FRIEDRICH ENGELS enters and addresses the audience.

ENGELS
(as narrator)
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, friends and comrades. My name is Friedrich Engels. Do not be concerned: I am not here to try to convince you of anything, although I rather think I should be. After all, playwrights have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, really, is to change it.
(pause)
Bear with me. I am a man of contradictions. But that is what theatre is all about, is it not, the struggle between opposing forces – thesis, antithesis, synthesis?
(pause)
Very well. Perhaps I should get to the point.
(calls off)
Helene! Come out here and show yourself right away. Helene!!

HELENE enters in servant clothing.

ENGELS
Here she is. Nothing to be afraid of, Helene, these people are here because they care, you can look at them. No, never mind, she will not. This is the Helene of the 1850’s. She’s dead now, of course, as it is 1895 as I speak to you. But the main part of the story happens – happened – over 40 years ago. So you see her as she was then, just a girl really.
(pause)
Helene will not look at you simply because she is – how shall I say it? “Passive” is the wrong word. She certainly is not submissive. Never has been. “Respectful”? Yes, she has much respect for those she considers her betters. Helene has never questioned her role in life, her duty, her place. Only once, briefly. Which is why we are here.
(slight pause)
All right. Allow me to introduce to you two other people.

Lights come up on KARL MARX at work at a large table.

ENGELS
This man you may recognize, of course. He is none other than Karl Marx, the discoverer of the law of development of human history, the discoverer of the law of motion governing the present-day capitalist mode of production and the bourgeois society that this mode of production has created, and – as if that were not sufficient for one man’s life’s work – he was one of the founding members of the great International Working Men’s Association.

MARX growls fiercely, balls up some paper, and throws it away.

ENGELS
Marx is angry right now. He is preparing his own defense in a law suit over the matter of a small debt. Nothing to do with why we are here tonight, but just so you do not think him rude.

ENGLES bumps into JENNY who has crossed the stage carrying a piece of luggage, dressed in travel clothes.

ENGELS
Oh, pardon me, Jenny, how clumsy of me. Are you injured?

JENNY
(wiping her eyes)
No, Friedrich, I am not injured.

ENGELS
Well, how fortunate for that at least. May I offer you my handkerchief?

JENNY
That is kind of you, Friedrich, but I am alright. Please.

ENGELS
Yes, yes, carry on. As I was saying– Now where did Helene go?

HELENE enters the flat, holding the hand of EDGAR. She helps him off with his coat and then he runs into and then out of the back room, calling for his mother.

ENGELS
Ah. There she is. She is assisting Edgar. There is so much to do.

EDGAR
Mama! Mama!? Are you home?

JENNY
(moving into the flat)
I am here, my love. I am right here, my darling Edgar.

EDGAR runs into his mother’s embrace.

ENGELS
This lady, the one I nearly bowled over, is Karl Marx’s dearly beloved, Jenny Marx. A fine and gentle woman, a lady of enormous character and strength. From an aristocratic family, mind you, but dedicated – utterly devoted – to Marx and his work. She is tired and frightened, true, but do not for an instant mistake those emotional states for annoyance or regret or impatience or anything of the sort. Few women, I dare say, no other woman, would endure what she has so selflessly endured.
(notices something off)
Here! Here! I say!

(yells off)
What on earth do you think you are doing? Here! I insist that you cease what you are doing at once! Can you not see that there are children asleep in there? Use you wits, man! Simply inform me of the amount you are owed. No, Jenny, I insist. Let me settle the affair. How much, man?! Dear heavens. To think you would have a gentlewoman and her innocent babes sleep on the cold floor for such a sum. Disgraceful. Here. Take it and get out of my sight.
(slight pause)
Pardon me, where was I? Yes, yes. Here we are.

LIGHTS FADE.

SCENE TWO

The shabby front room of a two-room walk-up flat in Soho, London, England is fully revealed. It is dominated by a large table at which MARX works, immersed in papers and books. All of the furniture in the room is broken and dusty. Children’s battered toys lie strewn about.

MARX works by candlelight. HELENE works nearby.

MARX
Is something wrong, Helene?

HELENE
Sir?

MARX
You seem troubled. What’s wrong? Is one of the children ill?

HELENE
No, sir. Thank goodness. Only they miss their mother, quite desperately.

MARX
She will return soon. You’ve reassured them, no doubt.

HELENE
Yes, sir. They are sleeping now. Is there anything else you require?

MARX
Yes, Helene. Take this tea away.

HELENE
Sir?

MARX
Remove this tray.

HELENE
Is it not to your liking?

MARX
No, it is not. Take it away at once, woman, can you not understand plain German?!

HELENE
Of course, sir. Excuse me.
(removes the tray)

MARX
Now come and sit here.

HELENE
Sir?

MARX
You heard me. Come, come. Sit yourself right here.

HELENE goes to MARX’S chair and sits in it.

MARX
Now, tell me what you think of this passage, right here.
(shows her a book)
I’ve marked the spot.

HELENE
You want me to read it?

MARX
Of course. What else would one do with a book? I know you can read, Helene.

HELENE
Yes, sir. Aloud?

MARX
Yes, Helene. Aloud.

HELENE
“Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short….”

MARX
Well?

HELENE
Sir?

MARX
What do you think of that?

HELENE
Me?

MARX
Yes, you. What do you think of it?

HELENE
I don’t know, sir.

MARX
Wait here.
(moves to get tea tray)
Perhaps you are in need of a small refreshment.

HELENE
No, sir.

MARX
Sit down, Helene. I am trying to show you something. Here. Drink up. Go on. Drink it. Surely you’re not afraid of me after all these years. Are you?

HELENE
No, sir.

MARX
Good. Then drink.

HELENE sips the tea.

MARX
All right. Now that we have achieved that milestone, may I bring you your shawl?

HELENE
Sir, if you’ll forgive me, I don’t understand.

MARX
(getting shawl)
I am merely trying to ascertain if you are sufficiently comfortable, Helene. It is much easier to work if one is warm and fed.
(puts shawl around her shoulders)
There. That should help. Better?

HELENE
It’s not necessary, sir.

MARX
Of course it is. Now, look at the passage again, if you would be so kind as to indulge me.

HELENE
“Life in the state of nature…”

MARX
Go on.

HELENE
“Is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

MARX
Would you agree with that statement?

HELENE
No, sir.

MARX
You wouldn’t?

HELENE
No.

MARX
Very well then. You are decided. Why not?

HELENE
Because I see such things as he describes on the streets of London.

MARX
And so…you are saying–?

HELENE
England has laws, Mr. Marx, and government and all that.

MARX
Indeed.

HELENE
But life on the streets of London is just as he describes life in the state of nature: solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. I should think that life in the state of nature would be blissful compared to life on the streets of St. Giles.

MARX
I see. But he is not talking about real people on real streets. He is talking about Man – in general. Abstract man.

HELENE
Oh.
(slight pause)
Is there such a person?

MARX laughs.

HELENE
Well? Is there?

MARX
No, Helene, there is no such person. You are quite right. More right than you realize.
(picks up another book)
And now this one.

HELENE
Where?

MARX
Here.

HELENE
(reads)
“Man is born free…and yet everywhere he is in chains…” Well, I like the sentiment of this one better…

HELENE looks at the spine of the book.

MARX
Rousseau.

HELENE
And the other one?

MARX
Hobbes.

HELENE
But the observation is incorrect, isn’t it?

MARX
In what way?

HELENE
Well, men are not really born free, are they? You can’t choose what family you’re born into, or what country, or era…

MARX
Or class.

HELENE looks away.

MARX
Do not be ashamed, Helene. That was in no way a criticism of you.

HELENE
(getting up)
I forget myself.

MARX
Sit down.

HELENE sits again.

MARX
Are you hungry?

HELENE
What? No sir.

MARX
Very well.

MARX begins to exit to the back room.

HELENE
Mr. Marx.

MARX
It’s all right, Helene. Please. Carry on. I shall go check on the children.

HELENE
(stands)
Mr. Marx–

MARX
Sit down, Helene. Sit!

HELENE sits.

MARX
Now I am going to tell you something very important and I want you to remember this. Consciousness does not determine being. Being determines consciousness.

HELENE
Sir?

MARX
You are not a servant because you think like a servant, Helene. You think like a servant because you serve. And tonight, for a change, I shall take the utmost pleasure in serving you.

MARX exits to the back room. We hear the sounds of factory machinery which begins to grow louder.

A LIGHT COMES UP ON ENGELS

ENGELS, working in his flat, picks up newspapers one by one and reads from each one. (From THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING CLASS IN ENGLAND, 1845, by F. Engels)

ENGELS
June 12. A boy in Manchester dies of lock-jaw, caused by his hand being crushed between wheels. June 16. A youth in Saddleworth is seized by a wheel and is carried away with it. Dies, horribly mangled. June 29. A young man at Green Acres Moor, at work in a machine shop, falls under the grindstone, which breaks two of his ribs and lacerates him terribly. July 24. A girl in Oldham dies, carried around fifty times by the strap. No bone unbroken. July 27. A girl in Manchester is seized by the blower… And dies of the injuries received.

The sounds reach a peak, a factory whistle blows. MARX enters from the back room. HELENE stands and and turns to face him. The sounds reach a peak and then shut off.

BLACKOUT.

SCENE THREE

JENNY is standing before MARX’S desk.

MARX
(finally)
Well, what is it?

JENNY
I have something to tell you.

MARX
I gathered that. Well, don’t just stand there staring at me. What is it this time?

JENNY
Helene is pregnant. She refuses to tell me who the father is and I have tried everything I can think of to break her resolve. I have made it very clear to her that if she were working for anyone else in England she would simply be let go.

MARX
Jenny, you will not dismiss her.

JENNY
No, Karl, I will not. I cannot manage without her. Nor can we replace her. We cannot even pay her what we owe her, as you well know, let alone hire someone else. And I cannot manage alone. Even with the two of us working ’round the clock we cannot keep up. And now, with another one coming–

MARX
Another one? You mean Helene’s.

JENNY
No, Karl. I mean mine. I too am pregnant. As far as I can tell, I’m due just before Helene.

MARX
Dear God…

JENNY
What’s that? Karl? Are you laughing?

MARX
Of course not. Of course not!

JENNY
It’s not the least bit funny.

MARX
I know that.

JENNY
Not the least bit.

MARX
What does Helene say?

JENNY
I just told you! She refuses to tell me anything and I–

MARX
I meant, will she agree to give up the child?

JENNY
(slight pause)
Give up the child?

MARX
Jenny. If Helene is not going, then the child must, obviously.

JENNY
Obviously?

MARX
Her options are quite clear.

JENNY
But…if we could find out who the–

MARX
For God’s sake, Jenny! Go and ask her. And let me know her decision as soon as you know it. And Jenny– Don’t rush her. Let her think it through.

JENNY
And if she agrees to give up the child, then what do we do?

MARX
I suspect that we shall have to enlist Friedrich’s help.

JENNY
Oh, Karl…

MARX
He’ll help us. He always does.

LIGHTS COME UP ON ENGELS IN HIS FLAT.

ENGELS
(writing; voice over)
“When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another, such injury that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society – and by that I mean the ruling power of society – places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and unnatural death, one which is quite as much death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live – forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence – knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of a single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which doesn’t seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains.”

Engels gets up and puts on a business jacket. He looks at himself in the mirror. He picks up his writing. He looks at himself in the mirror again and throws down the writing in disgust.

LIGHTS FADE.

SCENE FOUR

MORNING

Engels and Marx are in the Marx family’s apartment.

ENGELS
Jesus Christ, Karl.

MARX
I only ask because I must.

ENGELS
So it is not enough that I must masquerade as a capitalist, now I am required to play the role of father to your housekeeper’s child.

MARX
Please, Friedrich, think of my– What’s that you say?

ENGELS
I have accepted an offer of employment in my father’s mill.

MARX
Friedrich.

ENGELS
The decision is made and it is final.

MARX
He cannot force you. You must stand up to him. Friedrich–

ENGELS
It was my decision.

MARX
What do you mean, it was your decision? You owe the man nothing!

ENGELS
I am not doing it for him!

MARX moves away.

ENGELS
You must continue your work, Karl. That is all there is to it. There is too much at stake.

MARX
Not like this.

ENGELS
It is the only way!

MARX
It can’t be.

ENGELS
For God’s sake, Karl, I can do the job with one hand tied behind my back. It is simply writing foreign correspondence. Now, let us contend with the matter at hand. What in God’s name were you thinking? Karl?

MARX
I don’t know… Somehow we started talking…

ENGELS
Talking? About what?

MARX
Well, about Hobbes actually.

ENGELS
Hobbes?

MARX
And Rousseau.

ENGELS
And Rousseau?

MARX
Yes.

ENGELS
Hobbes and Rousseau.

MARX
That’s right. You are repeating everything I say this morning, Friedrich, are you aware of that?

ENGELS
Hobbes and Rousseau. You and Helene.

MARX
Yes.

ENGELS
Hobbes and Rousseau.

MARX
Yes, damn it, and she–

ENGELS
You and Helene engaged in a discussion about Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau which was so stimulating that it resulted in Helene’s pregnancy.

Slight pause.

MARX
She is a lovely woman, Friedrich. When she stops dusting.

ENGELS
Does she understand that she is at risk of being thrown out into the street?

MARX
Please. She knows full well that we would never do that.

ENGELS
You could send her back to Germany.

MARX
You know you don’t mean that. And besides, Jenny will not allow it.

ENGELS
I see. So all alternatives have been fully considered and rejected with the exception of the plan that involves me.

MARX
If I am discredited, the cause will suffer.

ENGELS
Oh my God!

MARX
It’s ridiculous, but it’s true. Our ideas are ridiculed enough without this.

ENGELS
And if I am discredited?

MARX
You are not married.

ENGELS
(long pause)
Very well.

MARX
Thank you.

ENGELS
For Jenny’s sake.

MARX
Of course.

ENGELS
I will do it for Jenny’s sake! Since she most certainly does not deserve this.

LIGHTS COME UP ON JENNY WHO IS WRITING A LETTER.

JENNY
(voice over)
“Dear Herr Weydemeyer: I beg you to send as soon as possible any money that has been or will be received from the Revue. We need it very, very much…. You know, dear Herr Weydemeyer, the sacrifices my husband has made for the paper… He sacrificed his printing press, he sacrificed all income, and before he left he even borrowed 300 thaler to pay the rent of the newly hired premises and the outstanding salaries of the editors, etc. And he was turned out by force. You know that we kept nothing for ourselves. I went to Frankfurt to pawn my silver and I sold my furniture in Cologne because I was in danger of having my linen and everything sequestrated. At the beginning of the unhappy period of the counter-revolution my husband went to Paris and I followed him with my three children. Hardly had we settled down in Paris when he was expelled and even my children and I were refused permission to reside there any longer. I followed him across the sea. A month later our fourth child was born. You have to know London and conditions here to understand what it means to have three children and give birth to a fourth… (pause) But do not think, dear Herr Weydemeyer, that these paltry worries have bowed me down. I know only too well that our struggle is not an isolated one and that I, in particular, am one of the chosen, happy, favoured ones, for my dear husband, the prop of my life, is still at my side.”

LIGHTS FADE.

SCENE FIVE

We hear the sounds of an infant crying and being soothed.

ENGELS
I’ve seen to everything, as you requested. It’s a good home. Working class people. Solid, decent. He will have to work, of course, as soon as he’s able, but they want a child, not a servant, so he should be well-treated. How is Helene?

MARX
She understands the situation better than any of us. (pause) I am unworthy of her loyalty, and she is indifferent to that fact.

ENGELS
Perhaps she is unaware, rather than indifferent.

MARX
She is all too aware of my failings, Friedrich. That is what makes her loyalty so valuable. She chooses to give it.

ENGELS
Perhaps there is some way you can make amends.

MARX
What would you do? What would you have me do?

ENGELS
I know that the situation is a difficult one. I meant only–

MARX
Then say what you mean!
(pause)
The child will be better off with the– What did you say their name was?

ENGELS
Mr. and Mrs. Lewis.

MARX
…with the Lewises than if he stayed in these two filthy rooms. Helene knows this. She is common sense personified. Without her these past few years we all would have starved to death. And without you, my dear friend–

ENGELS
(holds hand up)
I will never support him, you understand that.

MARX
Of course I do.

ENGELS
I want to make it very clear right now, Karl. My contribution to this fiasco ends here, today. I will be father to the boy in name only.

MARX
That is all I ask.

ENGELS
I will not support him and I will not be involved in his life.

MARX
No one expected that you would.

ENGELS
I cannot maintain this lie, Karl. I cannot continue to pretend, in front of the Lewises, in front of Jenny, that this is my child. It’s not right.

MARX
I understand.

ENGELS
Very well. Let us say no more. That is the end of it.

MARX
Of course. (slight pause) Except I must ask one more thing.

ENGELS
Oh for God’s sake!

MARX
I’m sorry, Friedrich. I need only your assurance that this–

ENGELS
Well…?

MARX
I do not want the boy to ever know of his true paternity.

ENGELS
Of course not.

MARX
It is very important, Friedrich.

ENGELS
I am agreeing with you, Karl!

MARX
Thank you, my friend. I am forever in your debt. You do understand–

ENGELS
Jesus…

MARX
You do understand, I hope, that this is not a matter of embarrassment. It is not a trivial matter, and I do not want–

ENGELS
Karl.

MARX
I have, as you know, Friedrich, numerous enemies. Ruthless enemies. And this is just the sort of thing that such people will use to point toward what they would describe as — as —

ENGELS
Hypocrisy?

MARX
How dare you.

ENGELS
Well that is what you meant.

MARX
(furious)
For a man who claims to stand on the side of the worker, yet every day climbs the stairs to the top floor of his father’s cotton mill, you might want to reconsider who you are calling a hypocrite!

ENGELS
You regretted saying that even as you did so.

MARX
Yes, you are correct. Add it to a very long list of regrets that we both have!

ENGELS
I remember a time not so long ago when we understood each other without having to speak and when we would not have even considered the possibility of insulting one another.

MARX
As do I.

HELENE and JENNY enter from the back room. HELENE carries a baby; JENNY carries a small travel bag.

JENNY
Good morning, Friedrich.

ENGELS
Jenny. How very lovely to see you again. I hope you are well. Helene, may I offer you some reassurance by informing you of the details of the arrangement?

MARX
(quickly)
That will not be necessary, Friedrich. Helene trusts you without reservation, do you not, Helene?

HELENE
Yes, sir.

JENNY
Very well. Friedrich, will you be able to manage everything by yourself? Karl, perhaps you should accompany him?

ENGELS
Thank you, Jenny. That will be most unnecessary. I have arranged for a driver.

(Pause.)

MARX
Well, then. As difficult as this is, I fear that any further delay will only bring about greater distress. Helene?

MARX takes the baby and gives him to ENGELS.

MARX
He has been named in your honour. Helene calls him “Frederick”.

ENGELS
(pause)
Very well then.

HELENE tries to move toward the baby but JENNY holds her back.

JENNY
Helene, they have to go now. The carriage is waiting.

MARX
Friedrich you must go.

ENGELS turns to go. HELENE strains against JENNY’S grasp.

JENNY
Helene. Control yourself this instant.

ENGELS turns back. HELENE tries to pull free.

JENNY
Helene, stop! Karl.

MARX
Friedrich, what are you doing? What are you waiting for?

ENGELS
You said this is what she wanted.

HELENE cries out.

ENGELS
You told me she was in agreement!

MARX
For God’s sake! What did you expect?!

ENGELS
I didn’t expect this!

MARX
Just go!

HELENE
Mr. Engels…

JENNY
Helene, you will stop this immediately.

MARX
(to Engels)
Can’t you see that you are making matters worse?!

JENNY
Helene!

MARX
Use your wits, Man. Get the hell out of here!

ENGELS
I can’t just– If she doesn’t want–

JENNY
(furious)
For God’s sake, Friedrich, it doesn’t matter what she wants!

MARX
Helene– Helene, listen to me. Listen to me. He will be all right. I promise you he will be all right. Mr. Engels has made the arrangements himself, personally.

HELENE stops struggling.

JENNY
Yes, of course. He will be just fine. Mr. Engels has seen to everything.

ENGELS rushes out.

HELENE
Frederick!!!

BLACKOUT.

END OF ACT ONE

ACT TWO

SCENE ONE

Marx and Engels are working at the table.

ENGELS
(holds up a piece of paper)
Where is the rest of this?

MARX
I’m still working on that chapter.

ENGELS
I see.

MARX
It is a question of clarifying the terminology, really. A “product” is not the same thing as a “commodity”; “labour” is not the same thing as “social labour”; “value”–

ENGELS
I get it. And this one?

MARX
More research is needed there.

ENGELS
Of course.

MARX
Don’t start with me, Friedrich.

ENGELS
Karl–

MARX
I said don’t start! If you had your way, I’d sit down one morning and write Das Kapital by nightfall, as if it were just another Communist Manifesto!

LIGHTS COME UP ON JENNY.

JENNY is sitting holding her baby.

JENNY
I have known Mr. Marx since our childhood in Germany. Our families lived beside each other in Trier. Mr. Marx’s sister, Sophie, was my best friend – and my younger brother, Edgar, was Mr. Marx’s friend. We all played together in our garden. I do not remember when I fell in love with Mr. Marx. I cannot remember a time when I did not love him. We became secretly engaged in the summer of 1836 when Mr. Marx was 18 years old and I was 22. My father, Baron Ludwig Von Westphalen, loved Karl and Karl loved him for teaching him that idealism is not a figment of the imagination, but a truth. Baron von Westphalen taught my future husband to appreciate Faust: “He who never ceases striving shall be redeemed.” However, despite their fondness for each other, I knew that my father would never approve of a marriage between his daughter and his young friend. Karl had no education, no social standing, no money, and no prospects. And, if that were not enough to disqualify him, he was also four years my junior. So the engagement remained secret – only Karl’s father and sister knew about it – and Karl went off to Berlin, to university, to study jurisprudence.

ENGELS
(to Marx)
People need something they can grasp.

MARX
Grasp?

ENGELS
Yes. Is that so mystifying?

MARX
Friedrich, I am many things. I am, however, rarely mystified.

ENGELS
People want a coherent system. A set of principles.

MARX
We have bourgeois socialists for that. I am a scientist.

ENGELS
I realize that; however–

MARX
Dammit, Friedrich, I do not seek slogans. I seek the truth! You know this.

JENNY
Meanwhile back in Trier, I waited. I waited six years. I hope you will not think me immodest when I tell you that I turned down many eligible suitors during that long interval. I tell you this only so that you might come to appreciate the depth of my devotion to this man. I don’t expect anyone to understand.

HELENE serves MARX and ENGELS tea, unable to hear JENNY.

JENNY
(continued)
Well, as you know, Mr. Marx never became a lawyer. And his hopes for a university post were dashed as a result of his radical leanings – as well as his association with other radical thinkers. And so, after receiving his Doctorate, Mr. Marx became the editor of a liberal newspaper in Cologne.
(slight pause)
He resigned a year and a half later when the paper was threatened with closure by the censor. Three months later, on June 19, 1843, about a year after my father’s death, Mr. Marx and I were married. In October, we moved to Paris and Mr. Marx began a new radical newspaper. However, only one issue of that paper was ever published, as it was seized in Prussia and a warrant was issued for my husband’s arrest. In the Spring of 1844 our first child, Jenny, was born. And in the summer of that same year, Mr. Marx spent a remarkable 10 days with Friedrich Engels who was visiting Paris from England.
Their friendship and their professional collaboration has continued since that time. Soon we were ordered to leave France. We moved to Brussels in 1848 where you joined our family thanks to my mother’s efforts. You know about the birth of Laura in 1845, and that of darling Edgar in 1846. And you know about the revolutions in Paris and Germany in 1848. On March 3, 1848, we received an invitation from the Provisional Government of France to return there and the next day we were arrested at 1:00 a.m. by the Belgian police and escorted to the French border. From Paris, my husband traveled to Cologne where he became the editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Shareholders began withdrawing their support after the first number was published. Eventually, it became difficult even to find a printer. Mr. Marx put every penny we had into that paper. I pawned all my silver. But, as with all premature revolutions, there was fierce reaction. In February 1849 Mr. Marx was charged with printing material insulting to officials. He spoke in his own defense and was released, but in May of that year he was ordered to leave Prussian territory on the grounds that the newspaper had called for the violent overthrow of the government. Mr. Marx left Cologne for Paris and then left Paris for London and we joined him here in September 1849. Two months later, in a furnished room in Chelsea, our second son, Guido, was born. And a few days later, Mr. Engels joined us in London. In the Spring of 1850 we had all of our household articles seized in Chelsea for arrears of rent and, after a brief stay in a hotel room, we moved to 64 Dean Street, Soho. By autumn, Guido was dead. A month later, we moved here, and, as you know, we have been struggling to survive ever since.

(pause)

HELENE moves to where Jenny is sitting.

Jenny
(continued)

So you see, Helene, events have had their collective effect upon our household, upon our lives. We find ourselves in very dire straits indeed. And we must not harbour any illusions that the worst is over. We are exiles in a foreign land, revolutionaries in a bourgeois world. We suspect, with good reason, that England will expel us as well. We may have no choice but to travel to America. No doubt you were unaware of the reality of our situation when my mother sent you to us in Brussels. No doubt you are quite hungry, frightened, and cold. And you are aware as well, I know, that we live under the constant threat of immediate eviction by mean-spirited, paranoid landlords.

(pause)

Jenny
(continued)
What I am trying to say, Helene, is this. I knew who I was marrying and why. And I will remain by Mr. Marx’s side, despite the hardships and the grief that we will, necessarily, encounter. My duty, as I see it, as I choose it, is to assist my husband in his efforts to bring about the world revolution of the working classes and – as importantly – to understand the economic and social conditions under which such revolution is inevitable. He alone, it seems, is capable of the latter achievement. Even Mr. Engles, a committed revolutionary, a brilliant writer and perceptive observer of social conditions, bows to him on all matters theoretical. Speaking of Mr. Engels, you should know that he has made a conscious decision to return to work in his father’s Manchester textile mill – despite his solidarity with the workers. His aim is to be able to support Mr. Marx in his philosophic and economic investigations. However, it seems that, as a member of the firm of Ermen and Engels, Friedrich now has a certain level of respectability to maintain in Manchester.

ENGELS
Now Jenny, don’t start that again! For God’s sake. If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard it–

(to audience)
I wrote letters. Foreign correspondence. I was a clerk! I sat in an office in a textile mill in lovely downtown Manchester and wrote foreign correspondence!

JENNY
Not to mention that he is apparently also supporting an Irish working girl by the name of-

ENGELS
Here we go.

JENNY
By the name of Mary Burns…and her family.

ENGELS
(to audience)
I cannot adequately express to you the feelings I had to forcefully suppress on a regular basis in order to get up each and every morning and go into that factory to do what I did. My solidarity with the workers who toiled below me remained, if not secret, suspect. Naturally. And I shared not one iota of anything significant with my fellow businessmen. Aside from Mary, my faithful and devoted companion – I was alone in Manchester. Meanwhile, of course, the Marx family persevered in a London slum. And I have to say that Karl was nearly the death of me with his incessant researching and note-taking.
(flips through a notebook)
This is too much.

MARX
Now what?

ENGELS
(to Marx)
All this note taking. You take far too many notes. I have to ask you, in all earnestness, Karl: is this really necessary?

MARX
Statements like that, my dear friend, reveal with the utmost clarity why it is that I am the philosopher and you are the clerk.

ENGELS
(to audience)
All right. Yes. I admit it. From time to time I simplified his thinking. So what? I knew what I was doing. I’m a far cry from a total idiot! It was either simplify his teachings or allow them to become nothing more than nesting places for the mice! I was the first “Marxist”, yes! Because I was the first and perhaps only living person, next to Jenny, who understood the magnitude of his genius. What was I to do? Allow him to die in obscurity in a London slum like countless other half-starved, eccentric refugees?! I sacrificed everything – EVERYTHING – to be the midwife to this man’s intellectual creations! Living in a town I loathed, working with people for whom I felt nothing but contempt, allowing my own creative powers to assume the role of Karl Marx’s administrative assistant– DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT VULGARIZING MARX! I understand the complexities of his thought! I practically handed him historical materialism on a platter, for Christ’s sake! It is I who grew up surrounded by factories, it is I who worked, since boyhood, for the capitalists! Just because I wasn’t packed up and shipped off to Berlin to sit in the clubs and talk about Hegel – what? – am I incapable of grasping the concept of DIALECTICS? Would he have me writing all these articles for him if you didn’t think I was capable?!!

JENNY
So… This is how it is, Helene. You have discovered yourself in the midst of a very unusual and, in many respects, unappealing situation. And I want you to know that you are free to leave us now, to return to Germany, even to my mother’s house, if you wish. I do not know how we will get you there, but we will, if you desire to go. I will write to Mr. Engels myself to request your fare. Please do not misunderstand me, Helene. Next to my husband, you are my greatest source of strength. Your valiant efforts to care for me, my husband, and my children – in the poorest of conditions and, now, under the strain of your own enormous grief… How can I ever sufficiently express my appreciation? I want you to stay, Helene. But I will understand if you go. And you must not worry about us, because we are strong and very resourceful and we derive sustenance from the certain knowledge that our efforts will not be in vain. We shall continue to strive, Helene, like Faust. And we shall be redeemed. We know this, my dearest “Nim”, we know this because we work, like all workers work, on the side of Progress. On the side of History. We work for the emancipation of Mankind, Helene. How petty we would be to count how much it has cost us.

HELENE
Frau Marx. I can see that you are in great pain.

JENNY
(wipes her eyes)
Helene. My breasts are raw and bleeding. She is drinking my blood.

HELENE
May I?
(examines Jenny’s breast)
Frau Marx. If you will allow me to say so, you cannot continue like this. There are signs of infection.

JENNY
If I stop, she will starve.

HELENE
There is another way. If you will permit me, I shall nurse her.

JENNY
No, Helene. I cannot ask that of you.

HELENE
Ma’am, it would be quite a relief. My breasts are very full now. It seems like such a waste. I would be honoured if you would allow me to help you. It is not painful for me, Ma’am, if that is your concern.

JENNY
What am I doing wrong, Nim?

HELENE
Not a thing. Your constitution is a delicate one, as it should be, of course.

JENNY
She feels my desperation.

HELENE
Yes. But most of all, she knows your love.

JENNY
How can such a natural thing cause such pain?

HELENE
(soaks cloth in water)
You must apply hot compresses several times a day. And you must rest. You must. For the sake of the other children.

JENNY gives the baby to HELENE who sits and proceeds to nurse her. JENNY holds the compress to her breast. Both women lean back and close their eyes.

MARX watches HELENE and JENNY while ENGELS works.

LIGHTS FADE.

SCENE TWO

Marx is working at his table. Helene enters and stands before him.

MARX
Helene. What is it? What’s wrong? Speak woman! What’s happened?

HELENE
I’m afraid that I must ask you– Herr Marx. Sir. Forgive me, but I must ask you for your coat.

MARX
I beg your pardon.

HELENE
Your coat, sir. I must have it. I’m on my way to the pawn shop and I need something to pawn.

MARX
I see.
(pause)
Is this my wife’s idea?

HELENE
No, sir. She doesn’t know.

MARX
Then you are in charge today, Helene.

HELENE
It is a matter of necessity, sir.

MARX
I need my coat, Helene. It’s winter.

HELENE
Yes, sir. I know.

MARX
Is there nothing else? Have you looked in the other room? Helene… What will I do without my coat?

HELENE
You will eat, sir.

Long pause. Marx shuffles papers and books.

MARX
Where exactly is Frau Marx?

HELENE
She is running an errand, sir.

MARX
And the children?

HELENE
They are playing with the children from next door.

(Long pause.)

MARX
I am trying to think of a way to apologize to you, Helene.

HELENE
For what, sir?

MARX
Well, that’s just it. I’m not sure exactly. I would say for taking advantage of you, but that would be insulting to you, no doubt.

HELENE
Yes, sir.

MARX
I would say for allowing your son to be taken from you, but, in fact, I honoured your decision in the matter. Did I not?

HELENE
Yes. You did, sir.

MARX
I would say for having been the cause of an event that has caused you immense suffering and tremendous grief… Yet I do not regret my actions – any of them – strangely… And I sense that you regret none of yours.

HELENE
No, sir.

MARX
Tell me then, Nim, is there anything – anything at all – that you require from me.

HELENE
Your coat, sir. I need your coat.

Marx removes his coat and moves to Helene.

MARX
Forgive me.
(presses the coat into her arms)
Forgive me.

LIGHTS FADE.

SCENE THREE

It is nighttime. Marx works by candlelight at his table. Helene sits by another candle, sewing. Jenny enters from the back room, holding Edgar’s hand.

JENNY
Karl, if you will excuse us, Edgar is asking for his father.

MARX
Edgar! What are you doing up? Don’t you know that it is the middle of the night?

EDGAR
I had a dream, sir. It woke me up.

MARX
(sternly)
Come here.

EDGAR goes to him.

MARX
Did this dream frighten you?

EDGAR
Yes, sir.

MARX
And did you cry out?

EDGAR
I cried for Mama. But then I wanted you.

MARX
Good boy.
(lifts Edgar into his lap)
You must always cry out when you are frightened. That way we know that you need us – and we will come to you.

HELENE covers her mouth with her hand.

MARX
Did you wake your sisters?

EDGAR
No, sir. They never wake.

MARX
What do you suppose is their secret?

EDGAR
They have each other, sir.

MARX
Of course.

EDGAR
(slips off Marx’s lap)
But I will be brave now.

MARX
Edgar! You are brave, my son. It takes great courage to cry out when you are in need. Always resist the temptation to retreat under the covers. Cry out! Make people listen!

EDGAR
All right, Papa. I will.

MARX
Good night, Son.

EDGAR
Good night, Papa.
(kisses Marx)
Good night, Nim.
(kisses Helene)

HELENE
Good night, Edgar.

JENNY and EDGAR exit to the back room. MARX goes to HELENE and offers her his handkerchief which she takes to wipe her eyes.

MARX
I have some good news to share with you, Helene. The New York Daily Tribune – in America – has commissioned a series of articles from me. On European affairs. The first series will be on revolution and counter-revolution in Germany. It means there will be some money coming in – not much at first – but possibly fairly regularly. Of course, I’m swamped right now with my research on economics, so Mr. Engels has agreed to write the first few articles.

ENGELS delivers papers, picks up more letters.

MARX
But after that… Do you miss Germany, Helene?

HELENE
I miss my sister, sir.

MARX
Your sister?

HELENE
We write to each other.

MARX
Is your sister in service also?

HELENE
Yes, sir. She’s a maid.

MARX
As skilled as you are?

HELENE
Yes, sir. More so. She’s older.

MARX
I see. Would your sister ever consider coming to England?

ENGELS looks up from his work.

HELENE
You mean…to work here?

MARX
Yes, yes. You see, if these articles begin to… to get noticed… It could lead to other things. We may be through the worst of it, Helene. We may have turned a corner.

JENNY enters carrying a stack of bills.

JENNY
Karl, we must deal with these bills.

MARX
Jenny. You were going to get some rest.

JENNY
(opening bills)
I cannot sleep. My mind is racing.

MARX
Jenny, listen.

JENNY
Oh, no. Karl, you are being sued again. This is unbearable.

ENGELS goes to Jenny, takes the letter, reads it and then slips it into his pocket.

MARX
Helene tells me that her sister is in service in Germany.

JENNY
What?

MARX
Helene’s sister. She’s a maid. In Germany. Did you know that?

JENNY
Yes, Karl. Of course. She works for my mother.

MARX
Indeed! Did you tell me that once?

JENNY
Certainly. (slight pause) What is it? What’s going on?

MARX
Nothing Jenny. I was just suggesting to Helene that as our situation here improves, perhaps we could offer some form of employment to her sister, if she’s interested – and if your mother is agreeable. Apparently she is quite skilled – Helene’s sister, that is, not your mother – which doesn’t surprise me.

JENNY
Karl… I–

MARX
Of course, it goes without saying that we shall have to find larger quarters.

JENNY
Helene. Herr Marx recently received news from the editor of The New York Daily Tribune – a Mr. Dana–

MARX
She knows.

JENNY
And he’s feeling rather optimistic–

MARX
With good reason.

JENNY
…About the future of our financial circumstances.

MARX
They couldn’t get any worse.

JENNY
It is, however, imperative that you do not raise your hopes about something that may not even be feasible. For some time at least.

HELENE
Yes, ma’am.

MARX
You might like to know, Jenny–

JENNY
Karl.

MARX
You might know that I am also working on an idea for a series of articles on the history of German philosophy from Kant right up to the present.

Silence.

ENGELS squeezes the bridge of his nose.

JENNY
Kant.

MARX
Yes, Jenny, Kant. Immanuel Kant. A philosophical genius if ever there was one. I have every reason to believe that Mr. Dana will accept my proposal but, if he refuses, for whatever reason, my intention is to seek regular employment at the railway office as a clerk.

JENNY chokes on a mouthful of tea.

ENGELS drops papers on the table.

MARX
Well? What so startling about that? If I’d known it was this easy to silence the two of you, I would have mentioned it years ago.

JENNY
The railway office?

HELENE
A clerk?

MARX
It’s honest work!

JENNY
Yes, yes it is.

MARX
I don’t see anything humourous about it.

JENNY
Of course not, Karl. However, I do wonder…

MARX
Well?!! Spit it out! About what do you wonder?!

JENNY
Well, Karl, there is the question of your… Your handwriting. Not that I’m trying to persuade you one way or the other, of course, but… Doesn’t a clerk have to have somewhat legible handwriting?

JENNY and HELENE get the giggles.

MARX
All right. I’ve had enough.

JENNY
I’m just asking.

MARX
(shouts)
Get out of here! Both of you! Out!! Out!!!

HELENE and JENNY burst into laughter and rush out.

ENGELS
(reading from a letter he finds on the table)
“The bitter cold, which has broken out here, and the very real lack of coal in our house, forces me to press you once again – even though I find it the most painful of all things. I decided to do it only as a result of heavy pressure from without. In other words, I must write and therefore I am writing. In truth, if these conditions are to go on, I would sooner be one hundred fathoms under the earth, than to go on vegetating. To be a constant burden to others and to be continually plagued by the most petty filth cannot be borne for long…”
(to audience)
He could pay neither rent, taxes, nor debts. He could not purchase food or coal. His children went without shoes and therefore could not attend school. I learned after the fact that once, for a period of ten days, the entire family ate nothing but bread and potatoes. Finally, agonized at having to do so, Karl wrote to me. I sent what I could, as often as I could. It was, however, gone before it arrived, as money was always owed to the butcher, the baker, the landlord, and the doctor. And through it all, Marx worked.

Marx resumes work at the table.

ENGELS
(continued)
He studied books on money and credit, he read the works of Hume, Locke, and Ricardo, among others. He laid the foundations for his greatest work, Capital, in the Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy. He studied the Asiatic mode of production, he studied the history of the East India Company, he studied everything from slavery to mathematics. He wrote articles on subjects ranging from Austrian economics to Napoleon III. He was able, somehow, to understand and then to synthesize German philosophy, English economic theory, and French socialism. The result was scientific socialism, the realization that a workers’ revolution is not merely the goal of a few idealistic do-gooders, but a necessary and inevitable conclusion to the capitalist mode of production. You see, Marx showed that there are inherent contradictions in each historical epoch. The revolution will come about not because we want it to come about, but because it must. Marx taught the worker his role in history, his historical mission. Marx taught the worker to know himself.

LIGHTS FADE.

SCENE FOUR

JENNY is looking out the window. MARX rushes in.

MARX
Any sign?

JENNY
Nothing.

MARX
Damn it, where is she?

JENNY
Something’s happened. Oh, Karl, something dreadful has happened to her, I just know it.

MARX
I’ll check the route from the market again. It’s so foggy out there, I could have walked right past her–

JENNY
Ah, Karl! I’m imagining the worst.

MARX
Jenny. Jenny! Do not lose hope. Do you hear me? Do not lose hope, whatever you do. I will find her. I promise you that I will find her.

MARX embraces JENNY and goes out.

JENNY
To live in two rooms, surrounded by people – people who love me and whom I love – and yet, to be alone… Completely alone.

(Long pause)

HELENE enters.

JENNY
(continued)
Helene! My God, where have you been, we’ve been worried sick!

HELENE
I’m fine, Ma’am. I’m sorry if I gave you cause for concern.

JENNY
Do you have any idea what time it is? Herr Marx is out searching the streets for you. Do you have any idea what could happen to a young woman out alone at this hour? Helene, I can see that you are frightened, but I insist that you tell me what you’ve been up to.

HELENE
It was my afternoon off, Ma’am. I did my duties before I left. I wasn’t shirking my duties.

JENNY
We are not the least bit concerned about your duties, Helene. We are concerned for your safety, your personal well-being. Don’t you understand that?

HELENE
I didn’t mean to cause alarm. I was only… I was… Please, Ma’am. It was my afternoon off. I didn’t know how long it would take and I sort of got lost on the way back and–

JENNY
On the way back from where, Helene? I insist that you answer me! Come now! You are being absolutely ridiculous! I am exhausted and I want to go to bed. Tell me where you have been this instant, or I will let Herr Marx reprimand you.

HELENE looks to ENGELS who is on the periphery of the scene. He nods to her.

HELENE
Mrs. Lewis’s.

JENNY
Speak so that I can hear you.

HELENE
I went to Mrs. Lewis’s, ma’am.

JENNY
Mrs. Lewis’s? Well who on Earth is Mrs. Lewis? I have never even heard of a Mrs. Lewis.

HELENE
She is Freddy’s foster mother, ma’am.

JENNY
You mean… But… But how in the world did you…?

HELENE again looks to ENGELS. He nods.

HELENE
Herr Engels told me. But it was farther than I thought.

JENNY
Herr Engels told you where Freddy lives without mentioning anything to my husband or to me?

HELENE
Please don’t blame him, Ma’am. I would have found it anyhow, I swear. You won’t tell Herr Marx, will you?

JENNY
I don’t know. I–

MARX enters.

MARX
Helene! Good God, woman, where the hell have you been?

JENNY
Karl–

MARX
Well? What do you have to say for yourself?

JENNY
I’ve already spoken to her, Karl. I’ve taken care of it.

MARX
Very well. Then will someone please inform me why I have just spent half the night searching the streets and back alleys of London FOR MY SERVANT?!

ENGELS
(on the periphery of the scene)
Jesus.

MARX
I will have an answer.

JENNY
It was her afternoon off.

MARX
I am aware of the day of the week, Jenny. What no one else seems to be cognizant of is the time of day!

ENGELS
Jesus Christ.

JENNY
Helene, you may retire now.

MARX
I will tell her when she is dismissed! I WILL TELL HER WHEN SHE IS DISMISSED!

JENNY
Stop it, Karl! You will wake the children.

MARX
I will wake the entire neighbourhood if I have to!

JENNY
For God’s sake–

MARX
I want an answer!

ENGELS
(to Helene)
Tell him!

HELENE
Sir–

MARX
She speaks!

HELENE
I went to see Freddy, sir.

MARX
(pause)
Who?

HELENE
My son, Frederick.

JENNY
(to Marx)
Are you quite satisfied?

MARX
Good God, Helene. You do realize that all of this…all of this – disruption – could have been avoided had you simply told us where you were off to in the first place.

HELENE
Yes, sir.

MARX
Frau Marx was worried sick.

HELENE
I’m sorry, sir. Ma’am. I got a bit lost on the way back, it being dark and…

MARX
But you are all right?

HELENE
Yes, sir. It won’t happen again.

MARX
It won’t?

HELENE
No, sir.

MARX
Very well then.

HELENE
I know my way now. I’ll be back at the proper hour next time, sir.

MARX
Next time?

HELENE
Yes, sir. Next time.

JENNY
Thank you, Helene. That is most reassuring. You may retire now.

HELENE begins to exit, then stops and looks to MARX.

MARX
Yes, yes. That will be all.

HELENE exits to the back room.

MARX
What?

JENNY
Nothing.

MARX
If you have something to say, Jenny, just say it.

JENNY
You didn’t ask her how Freddy was.

MARX
No I didn’t.

JENNY
Don’t you care?

MARX
No. Not really. Should I?

LIGHTS FADE.

END OF ACT TWO

ACT THREE

SCENE ONE

MARX
(voice over)
“In the social production of their lives, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material forces of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society – the real foundation on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which corresponded definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life determines the social, political and intellectual life process in general.
It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being determines their consciousness.”

MARX begins to push the books off his desk one at a time. Finally, he takes his arm and clears the desk.

HELENE enters from the back room.

HELENE
Is everything all right, sir?

MARX
Helene. I’ve woken you. I’m not the least bit surprised. I will wake the entire world, you’ll see.

HELENE
It is not the world I fear for, sir, it is your wife and children. They need their sleep.

MARX
Look here Helene.

HELENE
What is it sir?

MARX
Well, come here and see and then you’ll know.

HELENE moves to where she can see the mess of books and papers on the floor.

HELENE
You’ve made quite a mess, sir.

MARX
Yes I have.

HELENE
(slight pause)
Shall I tidy up then?

MARX
No Helene. This mess is quite deliberate.

HELENE
Deliberate?

MARX
Yes yes. I did it on purpose.

HELENE
(picking up a book)
I don’t see how that makes it easier for the person who has to clean it up, sir.

MARX
Do you see whose book that is?

HELENE
It is late Herr Marx.

MARX
I insist Helene. Who is the author of that book?

HELENE does not respond.

MARX
His name is Hegel.

HELENE
(looks at the spine of the book)
So it is.

MARX
I’ve turned the old goat on his head.

HELENE
Yes you have.
(places the book on the table)
And I shall set him right again.

MARX
(throws the book across the room)
I am not speaking of the book itself, Helene. I am referring to the man’s theories, his ideas, his System! I’ve turned Hegel on his head, woman!
(pause)
You have absolutely no comprehension of the scope of my accomplishments, do you?

HELENE
No, sir. Nor do I consider that a failing on my part.

MARX
Well, well. Such outspokenness at three o’clock in the morning. Perhaps we should arrange for all of our conversations to occur at this hour.

HELENE
If you can manage to convince the rest of the world to follow our example, I will be happy to oblige you, sir. Otherwise, it probably makes more sense for me to be awake when the pawnshop is open. My conversations with the broker are less invigorating but, no doubt, more useful.

HELENE makes to return to the back room. MARX grabs her arm and swings her around to face him.

MARX
Do you know what I want?

HELENE
No, sir.

MARX
You don’t?

HELENE
No.

MARX
Then I will tell you what I want. I want to live to see the birth pangs of late capitalism give way to the next and last phase of history. I want my wife to be happy and my children healthy. And I want to re-live that moment with you not so long ago when nothing else mattered and no one else existed and it was sweet, for once, to feel the blood coursing through my veins, carrying life, bringing hope, giving strength…

HELENE
Please, sir.

MARX
(moves away from her)
You went to see Frederick again, didn’t you?

HELENE
Yes, sir.

MARX
Helene. There are women who place their loyalty to their husbands above their loyalty to their children. And there are those for whom their children come first. I take it you are the latter kind.

HELENE
Herr Marx… I have no husband and so it seems to me that I match neither description.

MARX
Nevertheless, you will let your maternal feelings interfere with your loyalty to this family.

HELENE
No, sir.

MARX
No sir?

HELENE
Nothing will interfere with my loyalty to you or to your family.

MARX
Nothing?

HELENE
No, sir. Nothing.

MARX
Helene. If you are loyal to the boy, you cannot maintain your loyalty to the family who rejected him.

HELENE
I can, sir.

MARX
How?

HELENE
I don’t know how. But I can.
(pause)
I shall leave tomorrow, sir, if you require it.

MARX
Don’t talk nonsense.

HELENE
I shall.

MARX
You will leave tomorrow over my dead body, Helene, now stop it!!

HELENE
If you could see him, sir…

MARX
Helene.

HELENE
If you could see him, you’d understand.

MARX
Stop.

HELENE
Please, sir. If you’d just let me–

MARX
(covers Helene’s mouth)
No. No, I will not let you. I will stop you. I will prevent you from ever speaking to me of him. Now listen to me. I will never let my love for you nor my pity for the boy alter the course I have set in motion for myself, for this family, for history. I cannot and will not give in. I will not give in, Helene. And you know it.

JENNY is seen in a light.

JENNY
My one year old daughter, Franziska, died today, April 14, 1852. Karl is trying to borrow some money from a neighbour – another refugee – so that we may bury her. I have three other children. Jenny is the eldest. She is eight. Laura is seven. My son, Edgar, is five. I had another son, Guido. He died two years ago, at the age of one year. From convulsions.
(pause)
Three years from now, in the spring of 1855 I will lose Edgar also. Eleanor, my fourth daughter, will be three months old at the time. In the summer of 1857 I will deliver another baby, but it will be stillborn. My darling Jenny will die suddenly in 1883 when she is not yet 40, about a year after my own death from cancer. Karl will be too ill to attend my funeral and he will die barely two months after Jenny. Both Eleanor and Laura will take their own lives near the turn of the century and shortly thereafter, respectively.
(pause)
And on his deathbed, in 1895, Friedrich Engles will announce to the world what I always knew: that little Freddy was not his child, as he claimed at the time, but Karl’s.

LIGHTS FADE.

SCENE TWO

Engles arrives at the flat.

HELENE
Herr Engels.

ENGELS
Helene.

HELENE
Please, sir. Come in.

ENGELS
(entering)
I don’t need the “sir”, Helene. I’m nobody’s master.

HELENE
Of course, sir. Herr Marx has just stepped out for some tobacco and asked that you make yourself comfortable. May I bring you a cup of tea?

ENGELS
No, thank you, Helene. You have enough to do.

HELENE
It’s no trouble, sir.

ENGELS
How is Mrs. Marx?

HELENE
She is very strong, sir…

ENGELS
But?

HELENE
But this latest confinement– She is quite tired, sir. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her this tired.

ENGELS
I see. And, if I may inquire, without imposing upon you, of course… How is Frederick?

HELENE
He is very well, sir. Thank you for asking.

ENGELS
Do you see him often?

HELENE
Whenever I can, sir.

ENGELS
How often is that, Helene?

HELENE
Well, sir, I have my duties here, of course. And in winter, without proper clothing…it’s…

ENGELS
It’s not possible.

HELENE
No, sir. But he’s well looked after, thanks to you, Herr Engels.

ENGELS
Helene. You do realize, I hope, that Herr Marx’s financial circumstances may not improve substantially for some time. If ever.

(Silence.)

ENGELS
I’m sorry… What I mean to say is– What I’m trying to explain– As I am sure you are aware, Helene, there are countless well-to-do people in London – or in Manchester, where I live – who could use the services of a competent and loyal servant and who are capable of paying a decent wage on a regular basis. You would be paid regularly, have proper clothing, your own quarters, a regular half day off… I would be most happy to provide you with an excellent reference.

HELENE
Herr Engels. Has Herr Marx asked you to dismiss me?

ENGELS
No, Helene! No. Of course not. And I would never do such a thing, even if he asked me to do so, which he has not – and will not. I have only your best interests in mind.

HELENE
And what would they be?

ENGELS
Forgive me Helene. When you told me you had so very little free time– And no winter clothing to speak of– I– I know how very loyal you are to the Marxes, and how fond you are of the children… But– What about you, Helene? What about you?

HELENE
Herr Engels–

ENGELS
Please. Speak freely, Helene. For God’s sake.

HELENE
Would the position in Manchester that you speak of enable me to be a mother to my son?

ENGELS
I am afraid not. Frederick would remain with his foster family.

HELENE
And would the clothes and private quarters and the money that await me – would they take the place of being known and valued as Helene Demuth?

ENGELS
You would be valued, Helene. Trust me.

HELENE
My skills would be valued, no doubt. But I would remain faceless, nameless.

ENGELS
Not necessarily, Helene. In time, there would be the possibility of advancement.

HELENE
Herr Engels. You praise my loyalty in one breath and ask me to forsake Frau Marx in the next. May I remind you that I have delivered three of her children. I have nursed her daughter, taken food off my plate for her son. I have held her while she grieved for two dead babies. I have comforted her when she was sick, as she has comforted me. I have no desire whatsoever to live my life in the stifling rooms of a middle-class house, a faceless, nameless soldier in an army of complacent servants. Surely, Herr Engels – surely you know me well enough by now to understand this.

ENGELS
Yes, Helene. I do. Except that, at times it seems that the price you have paid is too great.

HELENE
And you, sir? If I may? Have your sacrifices been worthwhile?

ENGELS
I am not sure that I have made many sacrifices, Helene.

HELENE
No?

ENGELS
If anything, I feel that I should have made many more.

HELENE
I read your book, sir.

ENGELS
(slight pause)
You did?

HELENE
You wrote it before you met Herr Marx.

ENGELS
Yes, I dare say that I was full of youthful enthusiasm in those days.

HELENE
What’s wrong with that?

ENGELS
Well, nothing, except that, thanks to Herr Marx, we now have a science of capitalism and of history.

HELENE
Science?

ENGELS
Indeed.

HELENE
Herr Engels, you know that my son will no doubt become an English worker.

ENGELS
Yes. It is highly likely.

HELENE
You talk here of limbs being torn off and machines breaking every bone in a young person’s body.

ENGELS
The mills are very dangerous places, Helene. However–

HELENE
You talk of strikes and slums and alcoholism and debauchery to dull the pain of a joyless life. You say here that
(reading)
“thousands of industrious and worthy people – far worthier and more respected than all the rich of London – find themselves in a condition unworthy of human beings; and that every proletarian, every one, without exception, is exposed to a similar fate without any fault of his own and in spite of every possible effort.”
(continues reading)
“Hence it comes, too, that the social war, the war of each against all, is here openly declared… people regard each other only as useful objects; each exploits the other, and the end of it all is that the stronger treads the weaker under foot, and that the powerful few, the capitalists, seize everything for themselves, while to the weak many, the poor, scarcely a bare existence remains.”
(pause)
I ask you, Herr Engels, from the standpoint of the worker, how is Herr Marx’s “science” better than this?

ENGELS
Well now. How do I explain? You see, Helene, I only wrote about what I could see and hear and smell. Herr Marx writes about what we cannot see. That is his genius–

HELENE
You talk to me about the sacrifices I have made to stay with this family. If you will allow me to say so, I think you sacrificed your passion to Herr Marx’s intellect.

ENGELS
If so, Helene, it was a most valuable tradeoff. No one can argue with science.

HELENE
No, but they can ignore it. Passion, it seems to me, is less easy to dismiss.

ENGELS
Helene. While other well-meaning socialists have devised utopian schemes and created inspiring slogans, Herr Marx discovered a law of history. A law of history, Helene. Even if his work is ignored by men – and I shall endeavor to ensure that it is not – history cannot ignore it. The working class is not a group of people to be pitied, but rather a historical force with which to be reckoned. The revolution will come, Helene. And that truth is more powerful than all the moral outrage a naive and idealistic youth new to industrial England could muster.
(pause)
It has been an honour to serve Herr Marx. A rare privilege.

HELENE
Indeed, it has been.

Marx enters.

MARX
(furious)
A man cannot even obtain a can of tobacco without a struggle! Helene, did we not pay that imbecile? I had to restrain myself from challenging him to a duel at sunrise. Friedrich! Have you been waiting long? I hope not. The more impatient you are the more you will nag me about my book. Helene, what are you standing there for? You look like you’ve had some kind of seizure or something. What is it? Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on?

ENGELS
I was just suggesting to Helene that she take a post in a house with more financial stability.

MARX
What? Our Helene?! Polishing silver for some pillar of the establishment? Stitching lace on some lady’s evening gown? Or perhaps washing the wine glasses after a banquet? Friedrich, sometimes you seem to be somewhat removed from the push and pull of everyday reality. But then, you are the victim of your upbringing, as are we all. Helene. Pay no attention to this capitalist. He means well. They all mean well! Well? What is everyone looking at me for?

A child begins to cry in the street.

HELENE
Excuse me, sir. Herr Engels.

Helene exits.

MARX
(shouting out the window)
Girls! Girls!! What’s all the fuss about?
(pause)
Well, take it back then, if it’s yours. She what? All right, then. Better wait for the reinforcements. Helene is on her way down. There she is. All’s well now.

(turns back to Engels)

Have you gone insane?

ENGELS
I am a sane as I ever was, which may not be saying much.

MARX
Need I point out that my wife is struggling to feed, clothe, keep clean, and educate three children in conditions which any peasant woman would find intolerable – and here you come, from the luxury of your capitalist world, suggesting that her only source of support – and a loyal source at that – resign and obtain employment in more optimum conditions. What in the name of all that’s holy has gotten into you?

ENGELS
You haven’t finished your work, have you?

MARX
No, I haven’t. I have pus oozing from three carbuncles on my back, my liver is enlarged and I cannot see. I have four creditors threatening suits by Monday if I do not pay, my wife has been disfigured by smallpox and is ill once again with grief and worry, the cholera is raging through this slum and I fear for the health of my children – oh! – and I forgot to mention: I have been worried lately that Helene is not fulfilled in her present employment!

ENGELS
(picking up some papers)
What is this?

MARX
I have been studying mathematics.

ENGELS
Mathematics?

MARX
Yes, as a matter of fact. And integral and differential calculus. It relaxes me.

ENGELS
It relaxes you.

MARX
Don’t start, Friedrich! I’ve been up for two nights!

ENGELS
So what? You always work at night!

MARX
I wasn’t working! I wasn’t working because I was busy with other matters!

ENGELS
Such as what? Discussing the relevance of Leviathan with your housekeeper?!

(Silence.)

ENGELS
I’m sorry…

MARX
Edgar is not well.

ENGELS
What?

MARX
Edgar. He is quite ill.

ENGELS
Jesus, Karl. Why didn’t you just say so?

MARX
I have not admitted this to Jenny, of course, but I must tell you that I fear the worst. At night he cannot sleep for the weight on his chest. He rests sitting up, in my lap.

ENGELS
(reaches in his pocket)
You must contact the doctor.

MARX
What can he do?

ENGELS
(puts money on the table)
Karl, listen to me–

MARX
He cannot put coal in the stove or food on the table. He cannot remove the soot from the sky or the damp from the air. He cannot give the boy a heartier constitution.

ENGELS
There must be something. Medication, treatments…

MARX
He is spitting up blood now. Helene tends to him as discreetly as possible, for Jenny’s sake. She is expecting again you know. Oh, Friedrich, he is the heart and soul – the life blood – of this family and I just don’t know–
(wipes his face with his handkerchief)
Did you bring the articles for The Tribune?

ENGELS
Yes.

MARX
Good. Very good, Friedrich. Did anyone offer you a cup of tea? Helene?

ENGELS
I’m fine, Karl.

MARX
Helene!!

ENGELS
Karl, leave her be! I don’t want any.

MARX
We shall not alter our course. Things may take a little longer – but we shall stay the course. Yes?
(pause)
If I had known, Friedrich, I would not have married. I have loved her my whole life, from childhood, but if I had known, I would never have allowed her to suffer this. There is nowhere to go, nothing we can do. We have exhausted all possibilities. We have begged and borrowed from relatives, we have sought advances on inheritances, we have sold anything and everything, we have run up accounts everywhere and there is no way to rectify the situation in the foreseeable future.
(pause)
I think of you every day in that factory.

ENGELS
It is nothing.

MARX
It is a complete waste of your talent and you know it!

ENGELS
It is nothing! Karl, listen to me. We do what we must. We, at least, are conscious of our choices. We accept the consequences–

MARX
I don’t accept them! I don’t! First Guido, then Franziska. And now Edgar.

ENGELS
We will get help. Karl–

MARX
(overlapping Engels)
I cannot– I will not– I– I–
(collapsing)
Friedrich– Friedrich–

ENGELS
(embracing Marx)
Karl, for God’s sake. For God’s sake.

(Engels holds Marx)

MARX
I’m all right.

ENGELS
Come and sit down.

MARX
I’m a little dizzy, that’s all.

Engels helps Marx to a chair. Helene enters with tea.

HELENE
(to Engels)
What happened?

ENGELS
It’s all right.

HELENE
Herr Marx?

ENGELS
He’s all right.

HELENE
Sir?

MARX
I’m all right, Helene. I– Just… see to the children.

HELENE
(puts tea tray down; kneels by Marx)
Sir?

MARX
(takes her hands)
I’ll be fine. I will.
(kisses her hands)
Go on now. Do as you’re told.

Helene does not move and Marx does not let go.

SCENE THREE

We hear the cries of a woman in labour.

When the lights come up we see Marx, sitting in a chair, holding Edgar gently in his lap. Edgar appears to be sleeping.

Helene enters from the back room. She wears an apron which is splattered with blood and she is drying her hands on a towel.

HELENE
Will you permit me to go for the Doctor?

MARX
What’s wrong?

HELENE
She is very tired, sir.

MARX
Let her rest then.

HELENE
She cannot rest. She has to push.

MARX
The doctor cannot make her less tired, Helene.

HELENE
No. But if the baby dies inside her, perhaps he can save her, at least.
(pause)
Herr Marx.

MARX
He won’t come.

HELENE
You can’t be sure, sir.
(pause)
At least let me try!

MARX
(exploding)
I owe him 26 pounds, woman! He won’t come!

The labour cries transform into an angry wail of grief.

Edgar slumps in Marx’s lap.

Helene kneels in prayer.

Engels tears open a letter.

ENGELS
(reading from the letter)
“Poor Musch is no more. He went to sleep in my arms today between five and six o’clock…”

HELENE
“Our father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…”

Engels picks up a lamp and hurls it across the room.

MARX (V.O.)
“In the midst of all the suffering which I have gone through in these days, the thought of you and your friendship, and the hope that we may still have something reasonable to do in this world together, has kept me upright.”

Jenny is seen standing in a light.

JENNY
I weep for my dead children. Guido. Franziska. And Edgar. I know it would be easier for everyone if I would stop, somehow, and move on. But I cannot.
(pause)
The children of the workers die, too. Every day. They starve to death – slowly – when their parents are forced out of work by machines. Or they die of hideous and painful diseases brought on by chronic malnourishment and overwork in inhuman conditions. They are forced into the factories or the mines or the fields – where they die at the hands of unthinking machinery – or from the explosions that rip through the mines daily. They die at home, as well, sedated with opium, while their mothers stand in the mills, the milk dripping from their breasts. I wonder every day, every moment of every day: how many children will be sacrificed before the revolution comes?

LIGHTS FADE.

Marx is seated before his work. Helene stands before him.

HELENE
You once taught me to express my opinions.

MARX
That was before you had any. Now you’re full of opinions – on things that don’t concern you – and I don’t want to hear it!

HELENE
If there is no food to eat – for your children, your wife, nor me – is that not something which should concern me?

MARX
I am sure that it matters to you, Helene, but it is not your responsibility. Do you see the difference?

HELENE
Herr Marx–

MARX
You used to be a good servant.

Pause.

HELENE
If you are not satisfied with the quality of my services, Herr Marx, perhaps you should dismiss me.

MARX
Thank you, Helene, for informing me of my options. I should dismiss you. For your own sake, as well as my own. However, my wife has grown very fond of you and would never hear of it.

HELENE
I see.

MARX
Not to mention that we could never find a girl who possesses the skills you have acquired. Oh, why am I even discussing this petty, ridiculous, insignificant matter with you? Why is my time taken up with such banal nonsense?! I have work to do! I have WORK to do!! And my work is constantly at the mercy of the landlord, the baker, the butcher, the bailiff, the boot-maker and all the stupid little creatures who exist from one day to the next and are content with that!
(pause)
Oh, would that I could be content with such a life, Helene. Then perhaps I would never be cruel to you or speak such unforgivably absurd nonsense as I have spoken today. Helene. Helene…
(pause)
You are absolutely certain that there is nothing else.

HELENE
Yes.

Marx removes his boots.

MARX
I insist that you get a decent price for these.

HELENE
I shall do my best.

MARX
And I need some writing paper.
(pause)
I saw that.

HELENE
Sir?

MARX
I saw that look on your face.

HELENE
I really–

MARX
Don’t play the innocent with me, Helene. I saw that look on your face when I mentioned writing paper! Well?

HELENE
I have no opinion about your writing paper, sir.

MARX
Oh, yes you do. You do indeed. You think that it is wrong of me to spend money from the sale of my boots on writing paper when my children are hungry. Don’t you?

HELENE
Please, sir.

MARX
Please, sir… No, sir… Yes, sir. Damn it, Helene! You are equal to me when it serves your needs, but a groveling servant when you are not up to the challenge! How very convenient!

HELENE
Herr Marx! I have behaved as your equal only when you have insisted that I do so – much to my confusion and consternation. I am a servant and so I behave as one. It is all that I know or care to know. As for your writing paper: I would pawn my own boots and walk barefoot through the streets of London to buy it, should you request me to do so, sir. But – and here I will take the liberty of contradicting you, Herr Marx, whether you will allow me to or not – I have never, to my knowledge, ever groveled!

MARX
Well, well. I stand corrected. Of course you have the advantage over me since I stand before you in my sock feet. Helene…

HELENE
(attempts to exit)
I must go.

MARX
(stopping her from leaving)
Wait. Wait, let me speak. Please. I must.

HELENE
Your children require food for their supper, Herr Marx. Let me go.

MARX
Will it never stop, Helene? Tell me. Will I be tortured like this to the end of my days…?

HELENE
Sir…

MARX
I cannot go on much longer like this, Helene, I simply… I can’t—

HELENE
If there is anything that I have done, anything at all –

MARX
No! You have done nothing, Helene, you are innocent and blameless and do not deserve my wrath. It is presumptuous of me to assume that you will tolerate it and forgive me each time, always, and so frequently.

HELENE
But I do. I do forgive you, Sir. Fully and completely. If we only loved when it was easy to do so, how would we know the depth of that feeling? How would we know that it is capable of withstanding any and all challenges to its veracity?

MARX
Helene?

HELENE
I am your loyal and devoted servant. Always and forever.

MARX
(pause)
And Frederick?

HELENE
Sir?

MARX
Frederick. Our son. How is Frederick?

HELENE
Sir?

MARX
I need to know. Tell me. Please, Helene.

HELENE
He thrives, Sir.

MARX
(pause; Marx wipes his face with his handkerchief)
I once thought that it would have been better that he had died in your arms in the squalour of these two rooms than to have been taken from you…so cruelly, against your will…

HELENE
No, Sir.

MARX
Frederick thrives, you say? He is well?

HELENE
Yes, sir.

MARX
(long pause)
Do you believe we have a purpose here in this life, Helene?

HELENE
I don’t know sir. Do you?

MARX
(long pause)
I believe, Helene, that we are all … We are all servants of History, the long hard journey to a better place. Not in men’s minds, Helene, but here, in this solid world, for real. It is coming, as sure as the night follows the day… Revolution, Helene, it is not a dream, not a hope, it is a necessity. At first people pretend to ignore oppression, then they ask for it to stop. And then, Helene, mark my words, they make it stop.

HELENE
Yes, Sir.

Jenny enters wearing a black shawl and carrying her newest child, Eleanor.

JENNY
What’s wrong?

MARX
Nothing’s wrong, Jenny. I’ve asked Helene to buy me some paper.

JENNY
Paper.

MARX
Yes.

JENNY
You mean writing paper.

MARX
Yes.

JENNY
I see. Very well. Where are Jenny and Laura?

MARX
They are playing with the children from next door. So Helene tells me.

JENNY
Helene?

HELENE
Ma’am?

JENNY
Are the girls next door?
(pause)
Helene, I asked you a simple question. Are my children next door?

HELENE
I…

JENNY
(putting Eleanor in a bassinet)
Karl, please excuse us.

MARX
I can’t. She has my boots.

JENNY
Helene, give Herr Marx his boots.

HELENE
(clutching the boots)
The girls are next door, ma’am. They are playing.

JENNY
And is there food in the house for their supper?

HELENE
No. I–

JENNY
Helene…?

HELENE
No, ma’am. There is nothing.

Jenny removes her shawl and folds it.

MARX
Jenny, no. No!

JENNY
(to Helene)
Take it.

MARX
Jenny, I will not allow this. Helene, do not take that. Jenny, did you hear me?

Jenny exchanges her shawl for Marx’s boots.

JENNY
(to Helene)
Go. Find what you can for their supper. Purchase whatever it is that Herr Marx needs to continue his work. And then return as quickly as you can.

HELENE
Yes, ma’am.

Helene exits.

Jenny gives Marx his boots.

MARX
You know what this means?

JENNY
No, what does it mean?

MARX
You have no choice now but to allow me to keep you warm.

Jenny goes to Marx and he embraces her.

MARX
You are my life. You are my life.

LIGHTS COME UP ON ENGELS in 1895.

ENGELS
(to audience)
They stayed in those two rooms for five long years. In 1856, when Jenny received a small legacy after the death of her mother, they moved to somewhat larger quarters, but they struggled financially for the rest of their lives. Jenny died in 1881. Marx succumbed to his illnesses two years later. Helene had served him faithfully for nearly 40 years. She was the last person to speak to him in this world.
(points to his throat)
You will excuse my voice. They tell me it’s cancer. Strange. I have been as healthy as a horse all my life.
(pause)
Helene is gone now too. She died five years ago. After Marx’s death she came to work for me. Her son visited her regularly, entering my home through the back door. Freddy became, as his mother predicted, an English worker, a machinist, and a good trade unionist.
(pause)
I tell you this story for one reason and one reason only. It is the truth. And I am the last person alive who knows it. Karl Marx sought the truth in all things. He taught the worker to know himself. I trust that he would forgive me for betraying my promise to him. And I hope that Frederick will, in time, forgive us all.

LIGHTS OUT.

CURTAIN

Yours, In Struggle

by Beth French
© 2017
All rights reserved.

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