Unusual interest attaches to the fall production of the Dramatic Club. To some extent this is due to the success of the performances last year, but to a far greater extent to the wise selection of the play to be produced. "The Scarecrow," by Percy MacKaye '97, whose "Jeanne d'Arc," "Sappho and Phaon," and "Mater," have been seen in New York and elsewhere, is undoubtedly Mr. MacKaye's most distinguished work. Though published in 1908, it has never been performed, and the Dramatic Club, therefore, has the distinction of presenting for the first time a play which is considered by eminent critics here and abroad one of the most significant contributions to American dramatic literature.
"The Scarecrow" is based on Hawthorne's tale of "Feathertop," but is in no way a dramatization of it. "Starting with the same basic theme," Mr. MacKaye writes in his introduction to the published play, "I have sought to elaborate it, by my own treatment, to a different and more inclusive issue." He builds from Hawthorne's satire of coxcombry and charlatanism, "a tragedy of the ludicrous." In Hawthorne, "the scarecrow Feathertop is ridiculous, as the emblem of a superficial fop;" in Mr. MacKaye's play, "the scarecrow Ravensbane is pitiful, as the emblem of human bathos." The play has a profound significance. It shows man growing through sympathy and affection from a thing of straw into a spiritual being.
All this sounds very serious, indeed, but the underlying tragedy of the theme comes to the surface only at intervals. The prevailing note is comedy, and there is much rich humor of character and situation. The first act, in the blacksmith shop of Goody Rickby, the witch, in a seventeenth century Massachusetts village, shows the creation and early training of the scarecrow, who, under the title of Lord Ravensbane, is sent into the world to avenge on Rachel, the daughter of Justice Merton, the wrong that the latter in his youth has inflicted on the witch. Attended by Dickon, "a Yankee impersonation of the Prince of Darkness," Ravensbane, a perfect straw-man, goes forth.
In the second act, Ravensbane enters the family of the Justice. He fascinates Rachel, who, in, turn, inspires in him an emotion that gradually becomes actual human love. Rachel throws over Richard, her betrothed, who challenges Ravensbane to a duel. In the third act, as the climax of a series of scenes, humorous on the surface, yet large with tragic significance, Ravensbane is suddenly confronted with his scarecrow self, in the the glass of Truth. At the beginning of the fourth act, he is found in the deepest agonies of despair, for his kindled spirit revolts at sight of himself, as he really is. He at last recognizes the fiend in Dickon, revolts from his tutelage, breaks the pipe whose smoke has been the breath of his body, and falls at Rachel's feet, dying--but a man.
So the play ends. It is original, and masterfully done. The Club is to be congratulated on its wisdom in selecting this work of a graduate rather than attempting to present a play by an undergraduate which would, of necessity, be vastly inferior. The purpose of the Dramatic Club is to give good plays by Harvard men, be they in College or out. This purpose could not be better fulfilled than in the selection of Mr. MacKaye's "Scarecrow.