Trial by Jury

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Performed 2009, 1970, 1963, 1958, 1938.

                                                Trial by Jury

The curtain rises and we see the interior of a court of justice,  the barristers, solicitors and jury are already in their places. The Usher, a functionary of the old school, at once proceeds to give some homely and informal advice to the jurymen, telling them to listen to the case with minds free from vulgar prejudice. With that he goes on to try to soften their masculine hearts over the plight of poor Angelina.

When the defendant enters the twelve good men and true shake their fists in his face, hail him as a "monster," and bid him "dread our damages." Edwin ventures to suggest that, as they are in the dark as to the merits of his case, these proceedings are strange. He tells how he once rapturously adored the lady, how she then began to bore him intensly, and how at last he became "another's love-sick boy." The jury reflect that they, too, were rather inconstant in their own youthful days, but now that they are older and "shine with a virtue resplendent" they "haven't a scrap of sympathy with the defendant."

The Judge takes his seat on the bench. The genial soul, as a prelude to the duties of the day, confides how he rose to judicial eminence. For years he searched in vain for briefs, and then he found an easy escape from poverty by marrying a rich attorney's elderly, ugly daughter. He would, his father-in-law said, soon get used to her looks, and in the meanwhile he promised to deluge him with briefs for the "Sessions and Ancient Bailey." By these means he prospered, and then he "threw over that rich attorney's elderly ugly daughter." And now he is ready to try this present breach of promise of marriage.

Counsel for the plaintiff having taken his place, the jury are sworn well and truly to try the case, which they do by kneeling low down in the box and, with the exception of their upraised hands, quite out of sight. The plaintiff's arrival is heralded by that of a beautiful bevy of bridesmaids. The Judge, having taken a fancy to one of them, pens her a little note, which she kisses rapturously. Yet when he sees the plaintiff, a still brighter vision of loveliness, he orders that the note shall be taken from the bridesmaid and given to her. Judge and jury alike are entranced. Counsel proceeds to open the case, and with bitter reproaches he assails the traitor whose heartless wile victimised his interesting client. The plaintiff weeps. When she is led to the witness-box she falls in a faint on to the foreman's shoulders, but upon the Judge inquiring whether she would not rather recline on him, the fair lady jumps on to the bench and sits down fondly by the side of the Judge.

Edwin, regarded by all as an object of villainy, now proceeds to state his case, and can only offer to marry the lady to-day and then marry his new love to-morrow. The judge suggests that this may be a fair proposition, but counsel holds that, on the other hand, "to marry two at once is burglaree." Angelina, with a view to increasing the damages, now embraces her inconstant lover and calls upon the jury to witness what a loss she has to deplore. Edwin, in the hope in turn of reducing them, declares that at heart he is a ruffian and a bully, and that she could never endure him a day. The Judge suggests that, as the man declares that when tipsy he would thrash her and kick her, the best plan would be for them to make him tipsy and see. Objection is raised to this on every side, and then the man of law, losing his temper and scattering the books hither and thither, declares that as nothing will please them he will marry the lady himself. This solution seems to carry general agreement. The judge, having claimed her hand, sings :-
"Though homeward as you trudge
You declare my law is fudge,
Yet of beauty I'm a judge."
To which all in court reply, "And a good judge too!"