War Brides (Marian Craig Wentworth, 1915)

A one-act play set in a farming community in an unnamed country. It quickly becomes obvious that there are no men present — only women and children. The reason is war. The war has lasted so long and depleted the army to such an extent that now no sooner does a boy come of age than he is called to the front. The emperor, the generals, and the priests collude to bring about an emergency measure where young men, in their few days before being drafted, are married to whatever single women are at hand in mass wedding ceremonies. It’s an act of patriotism. It’s for love of the fatherland.

Hedwig is the first war bride, or so she’s called, and carries a child conceived by her husband, now at the front. She acts strangely. All throughout the play, she says she has a message for the emperor, but it can’t be sent until she hears news of her husband. At last, that news comes: he and all his brothers are dead. Hedwig knows that the war has no goal and can have no end. She and the other women are merely being used to breed new generations to be killed at the front. If the emperor won’t stop the war, then the women will. And so she sends her message by sweeping up a pistol and shooting herself to death.

Inscription: signed by the author, Marian Craig Wentworth, and inscribed with a quote from the text, “January 1917, New York City, ‘To remind men — of peace.'”

The Fortunes of Garin (Mary Johnston, 1915)

In medieval France, a squire named Garin rescues a shepherdess from Jaufre, a knight who, one might say, was threatening her maiden virtue. Montmaure, Jaufre’s father, is a great overlord and Garin is forced to flee to escape reprisal. He joins the crusade and spends eight years at war in Syria, where he becomes a troubadour-knight and wins renown for his valor and poetry. Meanwhile, Jaufre desires to marry Audiart, the Princess of Roche-à-Frêne, but she refuses him because, unknown to him, she was that shepherdess he attacked. He lays siege to the town, assisted greatly by Richard, the Duke of Aquitaine.

When Garin returns, the lands around Roche-à-Frêne have been laid to waste, and while the town itself remains strongly defended, Jaufre’s blockade threatens to starve them into capitulation. Garin joins Audiart, who recognizes him as the squire who once rescued her. She devises a plan wherein she will again become a shepherdess, Garin will become her jongleur brother, and the two will sneak across the enemy lines to meet with Richard and convince him to withdraw his troops. He does. Without Aquitaine’s help, Montmaure is unable to maintain the siege and Roche-à-Frêne is saved. Audiart asks Garin to marry her.

The Passionate Crime (E. Temple Thurston, 1915)

Anthony Sorel is a poet who lives in a remote cabin in the mountains of southern Ireland. He traveled there some years ago in an attempt to purify himself — to make his soul as simple as those of the native inhabitants. He has a theory that the faeries of Irish folklore are real — not in a literal sense, but rather the faeries one sees are a manifestation of one’s own emotion.

Anna Quartermaine is one of the natives, but not of the simple peasant class Anthony idolizes. She’s wealthy, well traveled, and anglicized. She’s loved by all men and she enjoys all men’s attention, but it’s not until Anthony arrives that she finds herself in love. Malachi, Anthony closest friend, warns him of the dangers women pose to poets. Anthony is at once smitten by Anna, but he tries to break away, at last deciding to leave the village and seek a new hermitage elsewhere.

The night before his departure, Anthony is visited by what he takes to be a faery in the guise of Anna, who beckons him to stay and love her. His resistance spent, he gives in. In the morning, Anthony discovers that the spirit actually was Anna. Disgusted at the loss of his ideal, he stabs her to death with a kitchen knife.