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Stage Play The Undying Devotion Of Maria-Anne Lavoisier.A ten minute play for Middle School- High School students




The Undying Devotion Of Maria-Anne Lavoisier
A ten minute play


CHARACTERS


Marie-Anne Lavoisier


Female. She was 41 that year. She was short and very beautiful

Antoine Lavoisier


Male. He was 53 that year. Very tall

Jacques Paulze


Male in his sixties
 
Gang leader                       

Male or female
 
Judge Coffinhal
 

Male, essentially a thug
 
Jean-Paul Marat
 

Male, essentially a thug

Time: 1794 Paris France


SCENE 1

Black stage. Marie-Anne Lavoisier’s Voice Only.

Marie-Anne Lavoisier VO
My entire life was devoted to my beloved Antoine Lavoisier. As well it should have been. He was the most extraordinary of men and I loved him with all of my heart and all of my mind.

Lights up

Maria-Ann
His career as a chemist, biologist, financier, industrialist and economist  bore witness to the liberal thought of the Enlightenment and the first hopes of the Revolution. Born to a wealthy family in Paris, Antoine inherited a large fortune at the age of five with the passing of his mother. He trained as a lawyer and at the age of 23, he was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences, France's most elite scientific society, for an essay on street lighting and in recognition for his earlier research. His gas-lamp system became used all over the European and North American world. We have street lights today because of him because by studying oil and gases emitted from various rocks, he determined how to improve the quality of street lighting. To increase the sensitiveness of his eyes, he immersed herself for six weeks in a room hung with black, from which all light was excluded except that of the lamps experimented upon. He advocated the use of fire hydrants, so as to protect the city in times of fires. In 1769, he worked on the first geological map of France.
In 1768, after he had been elected to the French Academy of Sciences, Antoine met my father Jacques Paulze, a banker. My father held the controlling shares of the Fermés Generalé, a private enterprise that collected taxes for the government. They went into business together. We had a happy marriage, even without the blessing of children. I did much of my growing up with Antoine, since when we married, in the year 1771,  I was but 14 and he 28. Actually, his marriage to me was quite noble. The year before, when I was 13 year old, a received a marriage proposal from the horrid Count d’ Amerval, who was nearly three times my age. My father rejected it, of course, but the count was a very powerful man, as was all royalty then, before the revolution. The Count told my father quite simple that he would have my hand or he would ruin us. To thwart the marriage, my father begged his good friend Antoine Lavoisier to ask for my hand  instead. So, he did. He had no interest in me at first. None what so ever and was very dismissive of me. He was...how do you say? A fuddy duddy...but that was I loved him. And I was persistent in chase and I set out from the start to make myself useful to my beloved. I accompanied him to his beloved laboratory and it was there that you should have seen and heard this man with his precise mind, his clear intelligence, his high genius, the loftiness of his philosophical principles illuminating his conversation. He had an unremitting devotion to see all of his ideas work, but not out of sheer ambition or even from a mere sense of duty but rather from the love and devotion he felt for science, for France and her citizens. Before his unjust arrest and execution at the hands of those very people, he work in his beloved laboratory form 6 in the morning until ten at night.  His laboratory and science were his mistresses. He never grew weary of them. To save time for his experiments, he once put himself on a bread and milk diet!  Since I could listen in French and write in Latin and English, I took down his observations and recorded them in his notebooks. I kept strict records of the procedures followed, lending validity to the findings. In the mean time I studied what science he would teach me

Antoine
My dear, the universe is full of magical things that patiently await your wits to grow sharper 

Maria-Anne
And one day, to his surprise I think, he discovered that he was in love with me as well.

Antoine
There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved.  It is God's finger on man's shoulder. 

Antoine and Marie-Anne Lavoisier, and Marie-Anne’s father Jacques Paulze, sit in their living room. She serves them tea

Antoine (Speaking to Marie-Anne)
We must continue to collect data and we must work to have others in science collect data on their journeys in the realm. Especially data concerning the temperature of this earth. Someday I will compose this data into a theory about the changes that alter the surface of the earth’s temperature, because I believe the earth grows warmer and colder in cycles of time.

Marie-Anne Lavoisier
Father, we have been working to establish a precise unit for metric mass, length and time.

Jacques Paulze
These are dangerous times my daughter. Better not to plan while mad men rule. They’ve guillotined at 16,000 people since they have taken over. Some say 40 thousand.

Marie-Anne Lavoisier
And the King, Louis XVI. I heard that after they beheaded him the crowd dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood and then sold them. Can you imagine?  

Jacques Paulze (Whispering)
I heard that they dumped his body and the body of Marie Antoinette into an unmarked pauper’s grave in the La Madeleine cemetery. Can you imagine? The king and the Queen? Last month They killed that awful Georges Jacues Danton, one of their own kind, the President of the People’s Committee for Safety. Do you know why? He was accused, accused only mind you, of leniency to the enemies of the Revolution

A voice screams from outside
Libérté, Fraterneté et Equalité - Liberty, Brotherhood and Equality. In the name of the French people, open this door!

Marie-Anne opens the door slightly and the crowd rushes in

Gang leader (Pointing to Jacques Paulze and Antoine)
Take them!

They are bound and pulled from the house

SCENE 2

A jail house, Jacques Paulze and Antoine have their hands tied behind their backs. Men are guarding them.

Judge Coffinhal
The is May 8, 1794, this the lawful hearings of the Revolutionary Tribunal to bring to justice and then execute thirty-two Farmers Generalon, private tax collectors. The charges are misappropriation of funds, excessive profits, abusive distribution of bonuses, unjustified delaying payments to the Public Treasury and of having used these profits in a plot against the French people tending to favor by all possible means the success of the enemies of France

Jean-Paul Marat
You are an enemy to the French people!
Marie-Anne rushes in. She removes her shawl.

Antoine
The less then honorable journalist Jean-Paul Marat! It has been many years!

Marie-Anne (Whispers)
Antoine, be careful. He is a powerful man in the revolution. He has armies of thugs under his command. He is feared.

Antoine
A powerful man? Mousier Marat? No. Mousier Marat is a scientist! Or so he fancied himself some years ago. Did you know his medical degree is honorary? He wrote a paper on  gonorrhea. The research done with his mistress, patron and former patient the  Marquise de l'Aubespine

Jean-Paul Marat
Enough! Jackal!

 Marie-Anne (Whispers)
Antoine, I beg you.

Antoine
It was the old woman’s patronage that brought him his place in our society. (Adding quickly) he is not a gentleman by birth.  In his guise as a great man of science, he wrote an utterly worthless pamphlet filled with childish ranting. He claimed to have seen fire appear from nowhere, therefore, one would reason, the cause of the creation of fire is....nothing! And when he attempted to admission to the French Academy of Science, I of course stopped opposed him and kept him out.

Jean-Paul Marat (twirling in circles to defend himself to the room)
They were appalled at my temerity to dare disagree with the great Issac Newton (BEAT with contempt) An Englishman! Even the great Goethe came to my defense! He called your action and the actions of the academy scientific despotism! I charge you Antoine Laurent Lavoisier with
plotting against the government by watering the soldiers' tobacco and appropriating revenue that belonged to the state.

Antoine
Watering the soldiers' tobacco? Are you insane?

Jean-Paul Marat
You deny it?

Marie-Anne
The technique moistened the leaves of the tobacco so it would not become dry and brittle! If anything, we have saved the brave and glorious soldiers of France money by making their tobacco ration last twice as long

Jean-Paul Marat
Quite woman! What would you know of it?

Marie-Anne
I invented it! Unlike you, I am a real scientist!

Antoine (imitating his wife)
Marie-Anne, please, I beg you

Marie-Anne (Very angry)
The man is a swine

Judge Coffinhal
But you do not deny, Mousier Lavoisier that you appropriated revenue that belonged to the state?
 
Marie-Anne (Very angry)
It is no crime for my husband to invest his mother's inheritance in the Fermés Generalé. The fermiérs paid a fixed sum of money every year to the King. It was then their responsibility to collect the taxes for their region - taxes on the tobacco, the salt, the materials that come and go from each city. He merely wanted a reliable source of income so that he would have the time and money to finance his laboratory and his work for the Academy of Science. Antoine has been almost the sole support of the work at the Academy of Sciences. He spares no expense for his laboratory. He has been a man devoted to the people of France. It was he who helped abolish the detestable tax piéd forchu against the Jews.

Judge Coffinhal (Smarmy)
And you see this as a good thing? Helping the Jews avoid paying their share?

Marie-Anne (Very angry)
It was nothing more than a tax for being a Jew! (Beat. She calms down) My husband despised the 
notion of schools only for the rich so he established...with his own money... free schools for the peasant people of his tax district!

Jean-Paul Marat
Do you deny that he tried to disarm the artillery protecting Paris?

Marie-Anne
You are an idiot! And all who listen to your nonsense are idiots! Those silly Citizen mobs listen to any story they hear, and they hear them from you!

Judge Coffinhal
So you deny the charge?

Marie-Anne
The charge is insane! As director of the powder-works, Antoine supervised the moving of the low-grade gunpowder out of the Artillery and brought the better quality gunpowder in! He improved the manufacture of gunpowder so as to add one-third to its explosive force, thereby reversing the previous superiority of English over French ordnance.

Jean-Paul Marat
As a member of the Ferme Générale

Marie-Anne
As a member of the Ferme Générale, he attempted to introduce reforms in the monetary and taxation system to help the peasants and he did help develop the metric system to secure uniformity of weights and measures throughout France, securing efficiency and uniformity for business. 

Jean-Paul Marat
The taxes you collected for the King worsened the plight of the poorest people in France who fight a daily struggle with malnutrition, you are part of the class that drove us to bankruptcy with your endless wars,  made worse by the monarchy's military failures and ineptitude, and the lack of social services while famine threatens the land? You allow the Church, the largest landowner in the country, to rob us with a crop tax?

Antoine
I did none of these things!

Jean-Paul Marat
Ah! Perhaps, but nor did you do anything to stop it!

Judge Coffinhal
What do the people of France care for your weights and measures? Enough! Take then away!

SCENE 3

Antoine jail cell

Marie-Anne
They came to the house, Antoine, the most wretched men. They took all of your notebooks, your chemical laboratory is destroyed. I managed to get back almost everything they took before they destroyed it. It cost, dearly.  We have so, little money left. They have taken everything. 

Antoine
As I expected they would. It’s all they want. Money. Then they will leave us alone. We can now earn out keep as neighborhood chemists in a quaint apothecary anywhere you like, my love.

Marie-Anne
By why you, Antoine? Why were you arrested? It is politically motivated by those swine in the French Academy of Science, they know that in science the credit goes to the one who convinces the world not to the one to whom the idea first occurred.

She walks into a dark stage, when it lights she stands before Judge Coffinhal

Marie-Anne
 And so often, they simply stole my Antoine’s research as their own. The very men who have visited our home, eaten many fine meals with us, spent many hours conversing with all manner of learned men from all of Europe in our drawing rooms. They too have their jealousies toward you. They forget that your work in the Fermés Generalé, that they now hold in such contempt, that very work supported all of their science over all these decades, but this they forget. Instead they prefer to spread their petty rumors and gossip. I heard, just today, with my own ears, the scandalous rumor that you were admitted into the Academy at such a young age because your father and aunt pulled their aristocratic strings for your admission.  They forget his gold medal from the King for his street lamp design. They forget your work mapping the geology and mineralogy of France

SCENE 4

All the lights rise. Jean-Paul Marat stands next o the judge

Marie-Anne
I have a petition signed by the greatest minds in the known world to spare his life. I beg this court to spare his life, in the name of France! He is a genius who....

Coffinhal (slams his gravel)
The Republic needs neither scientists nor chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed.

Jean-Paul Marat
Off with his head!

Marie-Anne
It will take him only an instant to cut of his head but France will not produce another like him in a century. Isn’t a sad state affairs that the have gather knowledge form science faster then the people of France have gathered wisdom?

Coffinhal
The people of France may will take the head of Madam’s husband and father.  I suggest that unless Madam wishes to join them she mind her tongue!  


SCENE 5

Antoine (Writes at a desk with a  quill pen) Marie-Anne reads as he writes

Marie-Anne
The tribunal has decided. I am to die tomorrow, as his your father, at the Guillotin. Do you remember him? Joseph Guillotin? King Louis XVI appointed Dr. Guillotin and the American, Benjamin Franklin to investigate the preposterous claims of that Austrian charlatan, Mesmer. Franz Mesmer wasn’t it? Yes, I’m sure it was Franz. Mesmer and his insane animal magnetism theory! Do you recall that? He said that there existed "magnetic fluids" in nature, which could rid the body and mind of diseases. (Lowering his voice) Marie Antoinette made him! As dumb as a brick that women. She couldn’t see that all of his incantations were nothing more than hypnotism (BEAT) or as I dubbed it "mesmerized." King Louis was not so taken.

Marie-Anne(Writes at a desk with a  quill pen) Antoine reads as she writes

Antoine
My Beloved. Since they have taken you there are so many little dyings it almost doesn’t matter which of them is death. Do you recall when we were so young that death was nothing more to us then a distant rumor?  I hate those who will take you from me. Life preys upon life, this is a fundamental fact of biology, is it not? I will fight for your life my love.

She stands and walks across stage and stands before an committee
I beg the just and reasonable members of  the Committee of Public Safety to hear me
And equipped with the five senses, we explored the universe around us, calling this great adventure Science and because money was never our concern we approached the great temple of science as one should, with pure souls. Through science we discovered, daily, sometimes hourly!.....the great antidotes to the poison of superstition. Other days, sometimes months, were devoted to research, which is the scientists way of saying we didn’t know what we were doing until we discovered it under a microscope and oh, the loveliest of poems are composed by nature for the microscope! I learned so much from him. We investigated the composition of water and air, which at the time were considered elements. We determined that the components of water were oxygen and hydrogen, and that air was a mixture of gases, primarily nitrogen and oxygen. He devised a systematic chemical nomenclature, which facilitated communication of discoveries between chemists of different backgrounds and is still largely in use today, including names such as sulfuric acid, sulfates, and sulfites.

Walks over to and stands before an committee
I beg the just and reasonable members of le Conseil des Cinq-Cents to hear me
We discovered  composition of air, and combustion theory. He also determined that all substances have chemical compounds, which in turn are made of basic elements. For instance, his experiments showed that water condenses out of free oxygen and free hydrogen in the air when temperature and air pressure conditions are right, and thus figured out that hydrogen and oxygen are the components of water. He created a solar-powered combustion engine, devised a means of determining the caloric content of food still used today, and proved that living creatures use oxygen as part of their respiration and survival. New ways of purifying food, inexpensive artificial dyes, and the foundations of what would become the iron lung and other artificial respirators came out of our laboratories  Together, we rebuilt the field of chemistry, which having its roots in alchemy had developed into a convoluted science dominated by the theory of phlogiston, a fire-like element which are gained or released during a material’s combustion. Science had grown lazy and used this witch craft to describe the property changes that species exhibited when burned. Because I had mastered e English, Latin, and French languages, I was able to translate various works about phlogiston into French for me consider. He relied on Marie-Anne’s translation of foreign works to keep him abreast of current developments in chemistry. I both translated and critiqued the papers I translated, adding footnotes as I went along and pointing out errors in the chemistry made throughout the various so-called scientific paper I researched. In the case of phlogiston the translation that convinced him the idea was incorrect ultimately leading to his studies of combustion and his discovery of oxygen gas.

Walks over to and stands before an committee
I beg the just and reasonable members of le Conseil des Anciens to hear me. My Husband
 invented the analytical balance and showed that chemical elements are neither created nor destroyed, just combined into different compounds in chemical reactions. From this work follows one of the most fundamental principles of physics, the conservation of mass. He showed that diamonds and graphite are both forms of carbon by burning each to make carbon dioxide. He showed that candles burning and humans working both exhale carbon dioxide, pointing the way to understanding biochemistry and metabolism, that is, respiratory gas exchange is a combustion, like that of a candle burning. In the 1789 we published  Lavoisier’s Elementary Treatise on Chemistry, the Traité Élémentaire, which presented a unified view of chemistry as a field. The work is considered to be the first modern chemistry textbook. In a crucial step in the advancement of chemistry, he, we, us, we showed that, although matter can change its state in a chemical reaction, the quantity of matter is the same at the end as at the beginning of every chemical change. This work proved pivotal in the progression of chemistry, as it presented the idea of conservation of mass, as well as a list of elements and a new system for chemical nomenclature. The Treatise on Chemistry also contained a list of elements that included oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, phosphorus, mercury, zinc, sulfur, light and caloric, which,  we incorrectly believed to be material substances. While many leading chemists of the time refused to accept our new ideas, the Traité Élémentaire was sufficiently sound to convince the next generation.

She walks across stage and sits. Across stage Antoine writes at a desk with a quill pen. Marie-Anne reads as he writes

Marie-Anne
Marie-Anne. How wonderful it is to write your name. Unfortunately a mans death is more the woe of his survivors them he. But You are giving yourself a lot of trouble, exhausting yourself both physically and emotionally, and alas, I cannot share your burden. I have had a long and successful career, and have enjoyed a happy existence ever since I can remember. You have contributed and continue to contribute to that happiness every day by the signs of affection you show me. You still have a long life ahead of you. Do not jeopardize it. I thought I noticed yesterday that you were sad. Why be so since I am resigned to everything?. I lived at risk (Beat) You lived at risk. But isn’t that what scientist are to do in the world? To live at risk? The study of life, of its essence, has been everything to me and now I realize that when I was exploring the vast greatness of the science that makes up our magnificent world, I not only learned to live because of it, I was also learning how to die. So I am prepared to die. I have lived a full and complete life in that I have given life my all, my best. I scoff at the fear of death and I will not stand in awe of it because it demeans life
Anyway, just think, I will not have to live through the wear and ear of old age. In your eyes, I will be forever young and in my heart you will be forever my love. How lucky I am for this.

Gang leader
Antoine Lavoisier. It is time. The Justice of the people of France awaits you.

His Father-in-Law Jacques Paulze and two other prisoners are waiting. He puts down the pen. Stands and arranges his suit and walks arrogantly in front of the guard, who ties Antoine’s hands behind his back, Antoine rushes towards his execution, causing the guards to rush to keep up with him. The walk off stage

SCENE 6
Alone on stage

Marie-Anne
And so my father and my beloved husband were executed. Cela leur a pris seulement un instant pour lui couper la tête, mais la France pourrait ne pas en produire un autre pareil en un siècle.
One and a half years  after they murdered my husband, he was officially exonerated by the French government. Of course, it was due mostly to the world wide outrage over what they had done, which forced them to concede any wrong at all. And they barely did that much.  When his private belongings were delivered to me, (She holds up a brown paper package)  there was a brief note was included that read simply (She takes the note and reads it) "To the widow of Lavoisier, who was falsely convicted." As for Mousier Marat, our chief excuser, he was stabbed to death in his bath by one of his followers, a Miss Charlotte Corday,  with whom he had fallen out.  
I remarried, not happily, but because I had too. The French government took all of our money, our properties. They seized all of Antoine’s notebooks, his laboratory equipment. I went into bankruptcy. (BEAT) I secured my Antoine’s legacy by organizing  the publication of his final memoirs and a compilation of his papers that demonstrated the principles of the new chemistry he introduced. In the preface I told the world how, in their jealousy, Antoine’s contemporaries influenced the revolutionaries to take his life. Even after I married, to the British physicist Count Rumford, I retained my husbands name to demonstrate my undying devotion to him

Black stage. Marie-Anne Lavoisier’s Voice Only.

Marie-Anne Lavoisier VO
My entire life was devoted to my beloved Antoine Lavoisier. As well it should have been. He was the most extraordinary of men and I loved him with all of my heart and all of my mind.

Lights out
THE END