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by Hutchins Hapgood and Neith Boyce


Three more events took place beyond the four bills presented as a subscription series the summer of 1916 in Provincetown, though not all accounts acknowledge them.  Neith Boyce and Hutchins Hapgood had a new play titled Enemies for which there is some evidence to prove it was performed in the Whaft Theatre sometime that summer.  With Constancy, Boyce’s play from the summer before, presented in the third bill, it makes one wonder if Enemies wasn’t finished in time to present it or if this “extra” performance, of which no date is given in any account, was to try out the play first.  The evidence is only that the play is mentioned in the September 10 Boston Globe article. (1)  Photos of Boyce and Hapgood appear to show them performing the play in the Wharf Theatre; however, in a letter to Glaspell on September 12, Cook describes that the night before the Hapgoods and a photographer “took a picture of Enemies,” and that Cook had gotten Boyce “to arrange the set more like Constancy.”  Cook was encouraged by the Nordfeldts to let the two of them play the parts in New York, perhaps insinuating it had yet to be performed, perhaps given a reading that made them all familiar with it.(2)  Hapgood discusses the writing of the play in his autobiography, though he writes that it was the summer of 1915 they wrote it; the evidence seems to prove he just remembered wrong.  Many critics have contended that Boyce’s Constancy, while clearly about Reed and Dodge’s affair, also reflected many of the issues that Hapgood and Boyce faced in their marriage.  Enemies is a step beyond that, making a much bolder pronouncement about the goings on in the Hapgood-Boyce household.  Most dramatic critics attribute to O’Neill’s play Long Day’s Journey Into Night as one of the first American plays to use a playwright’s own life baldly as source material.  This has led to a more recent theatrical format in which the authors often perform the work themselves, sometimes in a monologue to the audience.  That Hapgood and Boyce performed this type of work themselves that summer, having also jointly written the dialogue, pre-dated O’Neill’s or more contemporary efforts and was highly unusual.  Boyce scholar Ellen Kay Trimberger believes that another extant one-act play, Dialogue, which most believe to be an early version of Enemies, was actually written by Hapgood alone.  She believes that the play’s “philosophical musings” match his writing in his autobiography, A Victorian in the Modern World and in his book Story of a Lover.  She indicates it would be unlikely that Boyce would allow how he “belittles ‘modern women’” or offers gender stereotypes in a play she had co-authored.  Trimberger sees Enemies as focusing more on Boyce’s “concerns with infidelity and male domination of the female psyche.”(3)  In evidence that lends more credence to Trimberger’s thesis, Hapgood wrote to Dodge on July 1, 1916 that he was writing, among other things, “a one-act play,” though no evidence of a play written only by him exists beyond Dialogue.(4) 

Enemies is, in fact, a “dialogue” that expounds on the philosophies of its male and female characters on love and marriage in the modern world.  Hapgood indicates that he wrote the lines for the character “He” and that Boyce wrote the lines for “She,” and that he felt it “vividly expressed the man’s and the woman’s point of view of the moment: the clash of temperament in words typical of a general situation.”(5)  Cook reportedly told Deutsch that the couple wrote it to “get it off their chests.”(6)  The play opens with She “lying in a long chair, smoking a cigarette and reading a book,” giving a definite and immediate visual representation of a Modern rather than Victorian woman.  He baits her to argue about trivial household idiosyncrasies, which she identifies he is trying to do, then He wonders aloud why she’s been with him for fifteen years if what she really wanted was to be left alone, deciding they should separate.  True to their real life traits, Boyce and Hapgood’s characters seem opposite in temperament: He is talkative and forever questioning; She is quiet and less expressive, which He addressed by saying “I would be more quiet if you were less so—less expressive if you were more so.”(7)  He accuses She of spiritual infidelity and clearly sees this as more severe than his sexual infidelities.  Again, like their characters, Hapgood had encouraged Boyce to participate in an affair in the same way he did, but when she finally did, he became completely undone by it, even when he knew that her affair was probably not a sexual one. 

Eventually the discussion reveals that, at his core, He is in pursuit to fill “the eternal need of that peculiar sympathy which has never been satisfied,” which she calls the “great illusion,” and it is understood that this is their most basic difference: that what she calls illusion, he calls truth.  When She assures him that he’s as attractive as he’s ever been, thus should have no problem in finding another woman, he starts to sentimentalize some and says “I never would have seen woman, if I hadn’t suffered you,” and she retorts in kind.(8)  When She asks, “Don’t you feel how far away from one another we are,” she agrees that perhaps they should separate, that they have “hurt one another too much,” which leads He to say, “We have destroyed one another—we are enemies.”(9)  They own their opposite approaches to life: He as an idealist, She as a realist.  He claims to want union, not perfection, which he believes is possible. She tells him that “you have wanted to treat our relation, and me, as clay, and model it into the form you saw in your imagination . . . life is not a plastic material. It models us.”(10)  After he owns his egotism and she tries to explain he won’t find what he’s looking for in the illusion of another woman, the play concludes somewhat cheaply with an attempt at comedy.  They confess that their life together has not been boring and they agree on a truce, with He saying at the curtain “Yes, and in a trice.”  Murphy astutely observes that the ending “suggests that the flawed order of things that exists at the beginning of the play, contemporary marriage, is irreparable . . .”(11)  Barlow suggests that “the debate about monogamy and double standard that raged within the feminist community was echoed in the Provincetown plays . . .”(12) 

© Jeff Kennedy 2007.

(1) “Many Literary Lights” Boston Globe, 10 September 1916.  In the photo of Hapgood and Boyce performing the play, one can see stage left the rolled up backdrop the Zorachs created for The Game and also Hapgood holding his script he had to use because he could not remember his lines (Hapgood, Victorian 295).

(2) George Cram Cook, Letter to Susan Glaspell, 12 September 1916, Berg Collection, New York Public Library.

(3) Trimberger, Intimate Warriors 179.

(4) Luhan, Intimate 478.

(5) Hapgood, Victorian 395-396.

(6) Deutsch 26. 

(7) Trimberger 188.

(8) Neith Boyce, Enemies, in The Provincetown Plays, eds. George Cram Cook and Frank Shay (Cincinnati: Stewart Kidd Co, 1921) 132.

(9) Boyce, Enemies 133.

(10) Boyce, Enemies 135.

(11) Murphy, Provincetown2/18-19. 

(12) Barlow, “Susan’s Sisters” 278.