When the story about Bernard Madoff first broke, I immediately thought of the Nineteenth Century Playwright Harley Granville Barker. His play The Voysey Inheritance begins with a son finding out from his father that the family business is no more than a Ponzi scheme. The son is asked by the father to inherit the business and perpetuate the ruse. If you have the time to read the rather long excerpt from the first act, I highly recommend it. You can find it below. If not, here is the link to Google Books. Print it out and take it home. It’s worth it and very timely. It’s a comedy, I think.
I haven’t used block quotes in order to put more text on the page. I’ve done some editing to make it easier to read than what I copied and pasted it from. The scene begins in Mr. Voysey’s office.
Just after Act I begins:
MR. VOYSEY. Good morning, my dear boy.
EDWARD has little of his father in him and that little
is undermost. It is a refined face but self-conscious-
ness takes the place in it of imagination and in
suppressing traits of brutality in his character it
looks as if the young man had suppressed his sense
of humour too. But whether or no, that would not
be much in evidence now, for EDWARD is obviously
going through some experience which is scaring
him (there is no better word). He looks not to
have slept for a night or two, and his standing there,
clutching and unclutching the bundle of papers he
carries, his eyes on his father, half appealingly but
half accusingly too, his whole being altogether so un-
strung and desperate, makes MR. VOYSEY ‘s uninter-
rupted arranging of the flowers seem very calculated
indeed. At last the little tension of silence is broken.
EDWARD. Father . .
MR. VOYSEY. Well?
EDWARD. I’m glad to see you.
This is a statement of fact. He doesn’t know that
the commonplace phrase sounds ridiculous at such
MR. VOYSEY. I see you’ve the papers there.
MR. VOYSEY. You’ve been through them ?
EDWARD. As you wished me . .
MR. VOYSEY. Well ? [EDWARD doesn’t answer. Refer-
ence to the papers seems to overwhelm him with shame. MR.
VOYSEY goes on with cheerful impatience.] Come, come,
my dear boy, you mustn’t take it like this. You’re puzzled
and worried, of course. But why didn’t you come down
to me on Saturday night? I expected you . . I told you
to come. Then your mother was wondering, of course,
why you weren’t with us for dinner yesterday.
EDWARD. I went through all the papers twice. I
wanted to make quite sure.
MR. VOYSEY. Sure of what? I told you to come
EDWARD, [he is very near crying.] Oh, father.
MR. VOYSEY. Now look here, Edward, I’m going to
ring’ and dispose of these letters. Please pull yourself
together. [He pushes the little button on his table.]
EDWARD. I didn’t leave my rooms all day yesterday.
MR. VOYSEY. A pleasant Sunday! You must learn
whatever the business may be to leave it behind
you at the Office. Why, life’s not worth living else.
PEACEY comes in to find MR. VOYSEY before the fire
ostentatiously warming and rubbing his hands.
MR. VOYSEY. Oh, there isn’t much else, Peacey. Tell Simmons that if
he satisfies you about the details of this lease it’ll be all
right. Make a note for me of Mr. Grainger’s address at
Mentone. I shall have several letters to dictate to At-
kinson. I’ll whistle for him.
PEACEY. Mr. Burnett . . Burnett v Marks had just
come in, Mr. Edward.
EDWARD, [without turning.} It’s only fresh instruc-
tions. Will you take them?
PEACEY. All right.
PEACEY goes, lifting his eyebrow at the queerness of
EDWARD’S manner. This MR. VOYSEY sees, re-
turning to his table with a little scowl.
MR. VOYSEY. Now sit down. I’ve given you a bad
forty-eight hours, it seems. Well, I’ve been anxious about
you. Never mind, we’ll thresh the thing out now. Go
through the two accounts. Mrs. Murberry’s first . . how
do you find it stands?
EDWARD, [his feelings choking him.] I hoped you
were playing some trick on me.
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