Paradise Untapped Open Access

Wolfram, John (Spring 2022)

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Paradise Untapped, a one-act play rooted in critical fabulation, tells the story of Deborah Milton and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The two entered our world a lifetime apart in England to different world-renown intellectuals, tethered across time by a shared fiery intellect and creative compulsion. Both yearn to make a name for themselves and do right by their gifts, tell stories that will be remembered, but doing so proves diametrically opposed to their respective circumstances. Deborah, forced to transcribe Paradise Lost—her blind father’s magnum-opus-to-be—finds herself secretly rewriting his work to make it her own upon learning that John will marry her off once she outlives her use to him. Hers is a story of subterfuge, isolation, and heart-wrenching erasure.

A century away, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wants to tell a story of her own as well, but finds herself drowning in death and, accordingly, stories it seems no one but she can tell. Stories posed to die untold pile up one after the other as incessant deaths leave Mary in unfathomable isolation. A childless parent, a parentless child, and a bestower of life surrounded by the lifeless, Mary Shelley pours her own story and those that she carries into that of the Creature in her developing novel, Frankenstein, including—via the otherwise-silenced legacy embedded in Paradise Lost—Deborah’s.

The injustice of Deborah helping write Paradise Lost but dying uncredited in history may land tragically, as it rightfully should. However, intertwined with that tragedy comes the Shelley side of the story, which, in detailing how another woman drew on Deborah’s otherwise-erased legacy a full century later to become one of the most widely read authors in literature itself, opens the door to a more hopeful message of generational interconnectedness despite marginalization. This play may thus become less of a story about Deborah and Mary and more one of stories untold, writers never written, and a “paradise untapped,” simultaneously acknowledging the stories left to die nameless outside history’s gates while asserting that namelessness does not necessarily equate to powerlessness.

Table of Contents

-          Title/Cover Page,

1         Setting, Characters, Notes, Acknowledgements,

2         SCENE 1,

5         Transition—SCENE 2,

           SCENE 2,

10       Transition—SCENE 3,

11       SCENE 3,

12       SCENE 4,

14       SCENE 5,

15       SCENE 6,

20       Transition—SCENE 7,

           SCENE 7,

22       SCENE 8,

25       SCENE 9,

27       SCENE 10,

29       SCENE 11,

31       SCENE 12,

33       SCENE 13,

35       SCENE 14,

37       SCENE 15,

39       SCENE 16,

           SCENE 17.

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