Act Three, Scenes Six and Seven, involves the Murder of Nancy and Monks's unmasking by Mr. Brownlow as the playwright rapidly wraps up the story's plots.
What is interesting about these scenes is how they demonstrate both the methodology of the adaptor and the popular taste. Interior analysis occurs largely through asides and soliloquies, usually assigned to articulate villains such as Monks. Stage directions and dialogue are largely derived from the novel, but with simplifications, so that, for example, The Artful Dodger is present at the close of the play even though in the novel the Central Criminal Court has sentenced him to Australian transportation for the theft of a snuff box, perhaps (as Charley Bates suggests) robbing Jack Dawkins of his rightful place in the annals of crime. Moreover, Almar has entirely cut out Bull's-Eye in the concluding scene, despite his centrality in the Cruikshank illustration The Last Chance. The omission, therefore, works against Sikes' seeing Nancy's eyes at the crucial moment. The texts of the various Oliver Twist adaptations may have dispensed with Bull's-Eye because dogs, like young children, can be very difficult to manage on stage. The overall effect, however, is to emphasize the difficult position in which Nancy finds herself, for trying to stand by Oliver she realizes may be misconstrued as her failure to stand by her man, brute though he may be:
And by developing in several scenes Nancy's dilemnma, over whether to try to save Oliver or to remain completely loyal, and by contrasting her to Rose Maylie, the adapter was able to transfer to the stage Nancy's fairly complex motivation, her anguish, and her innate humaneness despite the life she leads — attributes which together make her an essentially credible and sympathetic creation in the romantic mould. All Almar had to do was select with some care from the materials Dickens had already built into his novel. [Fulkerson, 87]
That Almar only rendered the novel down to thirty-three scenes might suggest that his selection process was not quite rigorous enough, even though he cut most of the first movement of the novel, the workhouse scenes that had originally inspired the young editor of Bentley's Miscellany to pen the scenes that gradually coalesced into a full-blown Newgate novel.
The American script
The American script, also purportedly by Almar, Oliver Twist: A Serio Comic Burletta in Four Acts (French's Standard Drama, No. 228) "As performed at The Winter Garden" in New York City (7 March 1861), contains a dramatisation of Mr. Brownlow and Oliver's visiting Fagin in the condemned cell (IV, iv) immediately prior to the climactic scene in which Brownlow leads the police to Toby Crackit's safehouse on Folly Ditch and Sikes makes a final, desperate attempt to elude justice, as in the Cruikshank "Picture" (IV, vi) — presumably the illustration The Last Chance (Part 22, February 1839), which here serves as the closing tableau. Thus, the American adaptor of Almar's script, Joseph Jefferson, seems to have dispensed with the Almar scene in which Brownlow compels Monks to acknowledge his misdeeds and his involvement in Oliver's misfortunes. The last we see of Monks is his soliloquy in Act Three, Scene Two, in which he confides in the audience (with a nod to Shakespeare's Macbeth and Richard III), giving the audience some insight into Monks' motivations.
I have thrown the tokens of the locket and the ring into a mill-stream near at hand [The Evidence Destroyed, Part 17, August 1838]; and if the sea ever gives up its dead, as books say it will, it will keep its gold and silver to itself, and that trash among it. But here are papers I fear almost to carry about my person, in case they should be found. 
Thus, in the case of Monks, the Barnett version underwrites the villain through the omission of the sensational scene (in terms of the atmospheric setting and trapdoor), by having Monks narrate what he has just done, thereby avoiding the staging of the scene in the deserted factory, which has replaced the ruined castle or monastery of the Gothic novel. This economical but ineffective narration omits the possibility of realising on a stage a tableau vivant of the memorable illustration by George Cruikshank.
Act III, Scene VI: Sikes's garret, as before.
NANCY discovered asleep on the bed. Music. Enter Sikes, L. door, he puts out the light on the table.
Sikes. (rouses Nancy) Get up.
Nancy. (rises) Is that you, Bill? Oh, I'm so glad! but you've put out the candle.
Sikes. There's light enough for what I've got to do.
Nancy. I'll open the window.
Sikes. Stay where you are; I want you (seizes her)
Nancy. Oh, tell me what I've done. I won't scream or cry out. What's the matter?
Sikes. You know well enough; you’ve been watched tonight; I know all about it.
Nancy. Then spare my life, as I spared yours. Oh, you cannot have the heart to kill me. I will not loose my hand till you say, you forgive me.
Sikes. Let go, will you?
Nancy. Stop and hear me, Bill — I have been true to you — I have, upon my guilty soul.
Sikes. It's a lie.
Nancy. No, it's the truth. The good lady and gentleman told me of a home where I could end my days in peace. Let me see them again, and beg them to show the same mercy to you; we will lead better lives, and forget how wicked we have been — It is never too late to repent — never — never.
Sikes. Will you let go?
Nancy. No, never, not till you say you forgive me.
Sikes. Then die. (strikes her with pistol — a fearful struggle ensues — and drags her off, R., a pistol shot is heard — a pause, and SIKES re-enters trembling, he falls on the bed — a groan is heard, he starts up, goes to the R. door, looks off, staggers across and exits, L. D.) [Almar, T. H. Lacy, p. 44].
The American text (Samuel French, probably printed in 1861) adds the following dialogue and stage directions for Sikes:
There is blood upon these hands and she is dead! [Rushes out. [p. 40]
SCENE III. — Music. — SIKES enters L. H. — Expresses horror at the deed he has committed, and dread of discovery. — looks cautiously behind him and steals off, R. H. [p. 41]
Scene VII: Monks' Comeuppance.
— Parlor at Mr. Brownlow's. (1st grooves)
Enter MR. BROWNLOW, followed by MONKS, who is brought on by SERVANTS, L.
Monks. By what authority am I brought here?
Mr. Br. By mine. Edward Leeford, I was your father's oldest friend; you have a brother, named Oliver.
Monks. 'Tis false — I am an only child.
Mr. Br. Your father had issue by another, whom he married under a false name, and then deserted her. She fled from [44/45] the world to hide her shame, and in the parish workhouse gave birth to Oliver and expired; soon after your father died, leaving a will.
Monks. He did — bequeathing to myself and my mother the whole of his property.
Mr. B. False, sir; he left you half only, leaving the other half to Oliver, if he survived. To appropriate the whole, you have sought to destroy the boy, but heaven sent the orphan a protector in me. Now, Edward Leeford, do you brave me still?
Monks. (aside) Perdition! does he know so much?
OLIVER entering, L.
Oliver. Oh, Mr. Brownlow, Nancy has been murdered by Sikes, and the police are seeking him everywhere!
Mr. B. (to MONKS) Now, sir, here is your wronged brother, take him by the hand, ask for pardon, and all shall be forgotten and forgiven.
Monks. Never! never! you have triumphed over me, and may my curse rest on you all! Exit, L.
Oliver. Ha! My brother? — oh let me hasten after him, and ——
Enter BUMBLE, L.
Bumb. Oh, Mr. Brownlow, here's such a to do — they have racked the murderer of Nancy to a houseby the river side, and the people are running after him to secure him, and —
Oh, Mr. Brown[low], let not the murderer escape!
Mr. B. Fear not, my boy, he shall not escape if money or zeal can prevent it — follow me, friends. Music. — Exeunt, L.
Related material, including portions of the 1838 adaptation of Oliver Twist, possibly by George Almar
- Oliver Twist (homepage)
- Early dramatic adaptation
- Early dramatic adaptations of Oliver Twist, 1838-42
- Transcription of Act One, Scene One, of
Oliver Twist by George Almar (?)
- Transcription of Act Three, Scene Eight, of Oliver Twist by George Almar (?)
Last Modified 1 March 2016