Drama in Spirit Life, by W. E. Burton

"Honor pricks me on. Yea; but how if honor pricks me off when I come on? How then? Can honor set-to a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honor hath no skill in surgery, then? No. What is honor? A word. What is that word, honor? Air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died o' Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. Is it insensible, then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it."

What is honor? A mere word. What is Heaven? A word?a phantasy. A vaporish place, too delicate and subtle for such fun-loving, corpulent specimens of the Creator's wisdom as old Jack Falstaff.

O rare Jack Falstaff! He was a child of nature, and to my thinking, his homely phrases displayed more intuitive knowledge of the laws of nature than the finest transcendental imaginings ever discovered.

We shock the feelings of a thousand playwrights and play-goers by asserting that in this impalpable land of souls we are guilty of encouraging the playhouse! But so it is; we cannot live on "honors;" the fame and glory which has been awarded to us by our fellow-men on earth is like chaff to us.

It was with hardly an emotion of surprise that I beheld theatres in the spirit land, though I have seen many who, having been fed on the false system of religion, and pampered on glittering imaginings, start back with alarm on beholding the magnificent buildings we have erected to the drama, thinking, that by some strange turning, they had entered through the wrong gate.

The drama with us is a source of both enjoyment and instruction. The history of past ages in the spirit world is enacted with thrilling interest, and each new spirit from earth has an opportunity thus to become acquainted with the transactions of the past in the land of spirits.

The gay and brilliant theatre of which I have been induced to take the management, is original in its structure, and of a light and beautiful style of architecture. The balconies are suspended and movable. Outside the building, and overlooking a placid sheet of water, are galleries connected with and corresponding to those within, where persons who desire may pass out during intermission, and regale themselves with the fresh fruit and the fine prospect.

The partitions are constructed of light frames with ornamented pillars, covered with a fabric resembling parchment. As the climate is warm, the partitions on the outside of the gallery are merely trellis-screens, and the whole building is open in structure and perfectly ventilated.

The plays which are enacted are generally composed by persons in the spiritual condition. We have many good farces; and an unending source of material for amusing plays is found in the relationship between the spirit world and earth, and the eccentric conditions growing out of that relationship. For instance, there is a laughable comedy being enacted at my theatre, depicting the adventures of a pious merchant, who, after the toils and cares of life, becomes a resident of the spirit world.

The graces and beauties of the angelic women whom he meets on every side enamour him; he forgets his past life, forgets the wife who has ruled him on earth, and in a moment of ecstasy chooses another mate.

While in the enjoyment of his bliss, and surrounded by bands of immortals, the news runs through the electric wire that his earth-wife is deceased, and has come in search of him. The consternation and fear of the poor man furnishes ample occasion for amusement, hilarity, and fellow-sympathy.

Our tragedies are cast in a higher mould; many of them are more sublime than those of earth, representing the catastrophes of worlds. We also have dramas which awaken the affections, representing the condition of those from earth who are neglected, or who, in consequence of a long career of vice and misery, cannot be approached by friends.

These brief hints will give a slight idea of the source and character of our dramatic representations.

Some men are born actors, as others are born painters, poets or preachers; and in the spirit world they can no more lay aside those powers which have become a part of them, than they can lay aside the gifts of observation or reflection. Understanding this fact, it will not surprise you to learn that those most famous in the histrionic art exercise their talents to listening thousands in the spirit world.

Garrick, Kemble, Kean, Booth, Cooke, also Rachel, Mrs. Siddons, and a host of illustrious actors of different nations, are now "treading the boards" of spiritual theatres.

Their time, however, is not exclusively devoted to the exercise of these gifts, as on earth. A considerable portion is spent in the study of the arts and sciences; and many a noted actor becomes an able painter or musician, and many a low comedian a philosopher. Our life is one round of pleasant progression.

What I have said about our attractive theatre and my enjoyable condition, I hope will not induce any of you, my fellow-players, to emigrate to these shores before you are sent for; but, like good Jack Falstaff, I trust you will live in your own world as long as you can, and when Dame Nature is done with you, we will give you a hearty welcome and a free pass to the dress circle.