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
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
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
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.