Thirty and a Half Minutes: A Tragedy

Note: I’m struggling to come up with material at the moment, so for this blog I have decided to publish a script I had written last year. My deepest apologies, and I will humbly accept any criticism you may have.


The play is set in modern day and time in a hospital. The character Fate loves to make Death miserable by having people die in the worst possible occasions. Death remembers it all. One day Fate chooses to kill a pregnant woman the day she is about to undergo labour, and chooses a doctor that had lost his wife to the same event years past. The Doctor reacts with solemnity and empathy, the nurse is completely baffled by this unfortunate chain of events, and attempts to keep the Husband from fearing the worst. Death cannot help only stands helpless and watches until the woman’s time runs out; then he comes terms with himself and decides that it is time to do his duty.


Character Profiles


Death (male):                       as a result of the lives he’s taken he is miserable always watching the happiest moments quickly followed by his reluctant and swift hand. Death is kind and compassionate but he is alone. Always delays taking lives to until he cannot avoid it any longer just so the people will have more of life left to enjoy.


Fate (male or female):         Sarcastic and rude, fate is indifferent to anything that happens, he thinks himself god, and mocks death and treats him as a servant. His desire to control and exert power, leads him to mock death’s misery. Determines who is to die, and who is happy or not. Claiming lives is like winning awards.


Doctor:           He is a man who does his job as best he can, though he’s seen too many patients die to refuse their deaths. He sees himself powerless to fate but exhausts himself trying to be the best he can for those that need him.


Husband:       he is the only one kept in the dark (outside the operating room) and that causes him to be scared and anxious worrying for his wife, he is optimistic as well, but terrified at the same time.


Wife:              She is the essential anchor of the play, it is what happens to her that affects nearly all the characters; ex, she gives the doctor some hope by having her child survive, and brings reality into the nurse’s life.


Nurse:            contrasts the doctor, she is young and optimistic (where most would consider foolish) always hopes for the best and believes she can cheat fate’s cruel hand. She respects the doctor, but wishes he would brighten up.

 (Opening monologues can be read from clipboards held by doctor and nurse) (Doctor and wife stand together, Nurse and Husband stand together opposite of doc and wife )


Doctor :          He seeks us all, our bitter or better end. Had you met him prior to our encounter your presence here would have been something impossible or extraordinary, perhaps you’ve cheated him before. However you know of him, you are aware of his profession and you know the names of some of the lives he has claimed. Of course we speak of death himself: cold, unfeeling, unforgiving, but most of all indiscriminate is our opinion of him.


Wife:                         But despite popular belief, Death is what makes life beautiful; the fact that it ends,there is no second chance, no relapse. Death is what compels us to live life to the fullest, so that in our final moments we may embrace him willingly with open arms, and in peace. However, there is one thing that we are ignorant of: Death is miserable, he loves life but is forced to take it away when it is the most beautiful.


Doctor:                     The crushed flower plant, the unfortunate duckling, the pet that had to be put down, and the one whom you never saw again.


Wife:              He has no one but himself, in his solitude he watches over you protecting you as long as he can, until he makes a mistake. When he lays his hand on those you love it is he who grieves the most. His heart is heavy, for he harbours the sadness and misery of the souls of the reluctant ones and the unfortunate ones.


Wife and Doctor:      For it is in his melancholy he seeks you in your final moments and wishes to reunite you with the ones you cherish, and gently carries your soul. And if you were to listen very carefully, he weeps for you, and in his sobs you can hear him apologize.


Husband:                  And yet there is another, much more cruel; the keeper of time, the mastermind of the art of taking life at its most beautiful. His/her name is Fate. s/he is the one who holds the mighty grip on Death, and all of us to an extent.


Nurse:                      Oh darling, do not confuse him/her with destiny, for s/he is nothing of the sort, in the duality s/he represents the darker half; the perversion and twistedness of sadism. S/he is what makes us believe death as cold, unfeeling, unforgiving, but most of all indiscriminate.

This is the darker soul, similar to the side of yourself that you do not reveal to others; the one that you continue to suppress. The jealousy, the bitterness, the pettiness, the resentment, and the cruelty.


Husband:       Misfortune is his/her title. His/Her ultimate goal is to bring about a miserable chain of events, so that S/he may be entertained. Prolonging the endless misery of Death, is a pleasantry to fate. Children often ask why is fate so cruel. The answer lies within our very souls.


Nurse:                      Mankind has an incredible ability to summon strength and power from the smallest semblance of hope; committing acts of selflessness and heroism out of good faith.


Husband and Nurse:            Fate waits patiently for the day where s/he breaks man; the day when his/her misery causes man to drop to his knees and suffer in his newfound squalor.



Fate:              Who should I pick today? (mockingly)


There’s a boy who might cross the street to see his mother later today, perhaps he shouldn’t?

Here is a man who has summoned the courage to propose, how about I make him terminally ill, maybe he’ll be due a few days before his wedding?

Here’s a girl that had just begun to realize her self-worth, maybe it would be too late?

Will you help me choose someone today, I’m rather indecisive at the moment.


Death:                      Stop it…Please just stop.


Fate:                         Humans may picture you as a skeleton, but you lack a spine. Why should I stop my job because you’re too cowardly to do your own? It would be a mockery of your existence.


Death:                      (out to audience) Of course you don’t understand do you? You sit here on your throne of bones, claiming lives like trophies, yet you’re indifferent to how much pain you cause, people curse us, they resent us because of what you enjoy, and on top of it all I have to do the dirty work. You haven’t stayed beside them up till their very last moments. When you kill someone, you murder a part of everyone else involved which will never know happiness again. My job is to take life, this is the sole purpose of my miserable existence, but why must you make me do so without mercy or respect?


Fate:                         You are weak. You need to realize I decide what happens, and in most cases, when it happens. My job is to regulate their lives, not their minds. If they feel grief or sadness it is not my doing, and not my intention. Emotions just follow. I can decide if a man will win the lottery or if he will lose all his money trying.


Death:                      (bitterly) Of all the empires in existence yours is the most horrific, dirt and skulls and bones. Go do your own bidding for once and witness for yourself how wonderful it feels.


You call me weak because I’m not like you, well you’ve never been up there, never seen their eyes moments before they recognize you… but there’s never hear you say you’re sorry for doing something you didn’t want, so they blame me.


Fate:                         Why does it concern you? You are death. Your responsibility is to end everything that lives.


Death:                      I am death and I do bring an end, but I only wish to end what needs to end. Their hearts beat, beat to live, they scream to live and you send me to silence them; silence perfectly beautiful hearts. I wish only to end life if only it has been lived.


Fate:              I have a present for you. There is a hospital… let me show you the way (change lights respective to hospital room, enter doctor, nurse, wife on bed, husband is waiting in the distance)


Death:                      What are you…


Fate:                         Why, it is my gift to you.


Death:                      (almost begging) No, stop, please. Stop, they don’t deserve this, please give them a few more years, (yelling) This is supposed to be the happiest day of their lives!


Fate:                         What they feel is not my fault.


Nurse :           (reads clipboard) Are you joking…Cardiomyopathy? Can we do a heart transplant?

we’ve got the means to keep the heart beating? Do something to keep her heart going? That could help her, couldn’t it? Emergency C-section? Artificial means to keep the nodes transmitting? We can save both of them can’t we?


Doctor:           I wish we could, but right now it’ll be impossible, the diagnosis came late and she’s

about to undergo labour, we would be risking two lives for the sake of one. I wish it were different, but under the current circumstances her heart won’t be able to handle it. And it we do it any other way, we risk the baby.


Nurse:                      I can’t believe it, you’re actually saying they’ll…die? They can’t, what are we going to tell the father…


Doctor:           (takes out locket from pocket, and then rubs wedding band) You should know, that, sometimes we don’t get what we want. I’ve been in this profession long enough to figure this out the hard way. Death is cruel you know; indiscriminate. In his world, all are truly equal.


Nurse:                      What are we going to do…


Doctor:           What we have to, at least one of them has to survive…


Nurse:                      There has to be a way, nothing has to end like this…


Doctor:           Welcome to reality my dear; I hope when you enlisted in this profession you anticipated the depths of sorrow it would take you to. This is just how everything is.


Nurse:                      How can you be so insensitive, about all this? She trusts you with her life and a baby!


Doctor:                     Someone else did too. Come we must not procrastinate, right now you’ve got to tell her husband, and I’ll tell her.


Wife:                         (Tired) I know, I know, just please promise me you’ll save the baby, even if you have to…


Doctor:           I’ll do what I can, you have my word. I’ll make sure the baby survives.


Wife:                         Thank you, thank you…


Scene 4


Nurse goes sees finds husband


Husband:       Oh thank goodness, am I a father yet!


Nurse:                      (lying) At this point everything is going according to plan, the doc doesn’t tell me  what’s going on half the time, he’s a focused man and all… but he’s one of the best this hospital has got, so your wife is in good hands.


Husband:                  (relieved) Thank you, so much, she’s been stressed over so much lately. I can’t blame her, going through so much just so we all can have a better chance at happiness. We were so excited to find out all those months ago, and I’m just grateful, so so very grateful that I’ll get to live my life with our kicking and screaming bundle of joy. I’m just so happy. I stayed up all night once and got a room ready at our home for the baby, I haven’t let my wife know any of the details so I could surprise her.


Nurse:                      (smiles) Your baby will be lucky to have such a loving and caring father guiding it, I’m glad to hear that… please don’t change, always be there for them.


Husband:       (beaming) Such as a proud father’s duty, I can’t wait till he or she’s older and I get to take them to school and back, or perhaps when I’m back here again because a certain someone wanted a sibling.


Nurse:                      (starting to choke on her words) I have to go now.


Husband:       (grabs her hands) Thank you so much, for giving my baby a chance at life.


Scene 5


Wife:                         Whatever you have to do, please save the baby, I’m ready


Doctor:           Believe me, I won’t let the same mistake happen again Miss, you’ve got my word.


Wife:                         Same mistake?


Death:                      No…not this, I remember




Fate:                         Dear me, you remember? One would think that with millions dying everywhere by your hand you’d eventually forget.


Death:                      I remember them all, and they’re more to me than just trophies of power. I am with them at every stage of their lives, I love them and I try my best to protect them all that’s why I try my hardest not to catch them if they fall.



Doctor:           Yes. It was a few years ago… My wife and I were expecting, it was supposed to be the best day of our lives, I decided that it was best that I help her undergo the procedure; I was so excited so, very excited… But something–everything– went wrong, when the other staff saw her papers, we ran diagnostics and we found that her heart wasn’t capable of handling the stress, cardiomyopathy… I had to act fast, I had to to keep them alive. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I… I was too late. My wife…she, she died that day, giving childbirth because I couldn’t administer any of the proper procedures in my panic, and my son, my beautiful baby boy. She was glad to know that he had made it, at least until she closed her eyes. After that…my baby boy lived long enough only for his weak father to hold him for a few minutes.


Wife:                         I’m so sorry…I see why you’re so determined to not let this procedure fail. I trust you.


Doctor:           I wished I could’ve help them (looks at death)


Death:                      (unheard by everyone) I’m sorry. I wish I didn’t have to do it.


Wife:                         You can’t do anything for them now, they may have gone, but you still have another shot. Please help us


Doctor:           (breathy, tired, almost monotone) Alright


Doctor is now beginning the operation, Mother is dying, and giving birth


Death:                      Are you satisfied yet?


Fate:                         No, I’m hurt; won’t you stay just a bit longer? The best part hasn’t even commenced. You can see it can’t you, she’s got about 45 seconds left, and you’re going to have to you job now.


Death:                      You’re so right; it is time to do my job.


(Start countdown from 15s or 10 seconds and down stop when death steps to the bed)


(Wife is struggling, clinging on for life )


Nurse:                      What happened, she was stable a few moments ago, what’s going on!


Doctor:           The heart, it can’t handle much more, we’re losing her, no, no not again!


Fate:                         Do it


Death:                      You leave me no choice


Doctor:           No, stop! (looks at death)


Heart monitor stops


Death takes out a pocket watch and places it in the hand of the wife giving her around an thirty and a half minutes left to live.


Fate:                         You’ve just prolonged the inevitable fool, you’ve saved the child, but you can’t save her.


Doctor:           Why, why did you do this again, do you hate me that much monster, why did you take her! She was going to be a mother! (staring at death, but unaware he is facing back)


Cries of a baby are heard


Nurse:                      Doctor look!


Doctor:           (surprised) Oh, thank God.


Wife:                         Thank you Doctor


Doctor:           No, thank you, you’ve saved me. Congratulations Miss.


Nurse, we’ll need to check the baby now, take the baby to the room next door and I’ll be there shortly. I’ve got to congratulate a man into fatherhood.


Nurse:            We’ll be back shortly, you just rest here



Husband:       Doctor? Is everything alright?


Doctor (All):   I’ve come to congratulate you, you’re a father


Husband:       Thank you (embraces Doctor), can I see my wife now?


Doctor:           In a few minutes, she’s rather tired now, and I want to make sure you get to see your entire family


Husband:       Of course, my family, my wife and baby. Thank my stars. (Looks at Fate)


Fate:                         My my, you may just have done something worse than I could have imagined, tell me, what was the intent behind your procrastination?


Death:                      Her time was said to be over today, and that shall happen, but the child was unspoken for monster! This isn’t a game to me, I felt a heartbeat, small and fragile and I wasn’t going to take it away now. I gave her more time so the child could live, and the men wouldn’t take their lives. Am I wrong for possessing a soul?


Fate:                         You are not, you possess many. I hope you understand what you’ve done.


Death:                      I hope you understand why I did it.


All characters gather, Death and Fate are at the back, as are Nurse and Doctor, Husband and Wife are forward at the center of focus. Time to death for Wife is 5-3 minutes.


Nurse:                      Everything is set; you may enter now, this way. Oh and congratulations on fatherhood!


Husband:                  Fatherhood…


All:                  Fatherhood


Enters room


Wife:                         ( to baby) Look, it’s your papa


Husband:       Is it a boy or girl?


Wife:                         She’s so beautiful


Husband:       Let me see, oh you’re right, beautiful just like her mother


Wife:                         She’s going to have such an amazing father to take care of her, I’m so happy.


Husband:       She’s so squishy looking


Wife:                         I’m going to take that back (laughs) I love this


Husband:       That’s not nice


Wife                          I’m joking, you’re the most capable person I know.


Both take a moment to live in the moment mother kisses baby and husband

Death walks over and pays respects


Death:                      I’m so sorry.


Heart monitor gets louder and flat lines after a few seconds


Husband:       No, no no no why, hey wake up you’re sleeping right (to doctor) she’s just tired right? It’s all the drugs and the fatigue; yes she’s tired she’s just taking a rest, that’s it. Please wake up soon. She’s just resting, she’s just resting. I’ve got to tell you about the room I’ve made, and everything I’ve planned. And you’re going to be surprised, and I hope you love it


Nurse:                      She’s actually… oh my God. (to doctor) Is there anything we can do?


Husband takes baby and cries over bed


Death and Doctor:               I’m afraid not. I’m so sorry, her heart…


All Freeze except death


Death move forward


Death continues to walk quietly to center stage realizing he’s alone, Lights change to blue


All:                  All you do is bring misery


Death:            All I do is bring misery


All:                  You have served the villains of this world with utmost loyalty

Death:            I have served the villains of this world with utmost loyalty


All:                  Nobody will accept you


Death:            Nobody will accept me


All:                  We hate you


Death:            I love you


Wife gets up from bed and walks towards death, tapping his shoulder


Death:                      I’m sorry, there was nothing else I could have done, all I can seem to do is take life and bring misery. Hate and scorn me, I cannot blame you, I just wish that I…


Wife:                         (interrupts) Thank you


Death:                      Why would you thank me? I killed you, I’m the reason why your baby will never know her mother.


Wife:                         I wish I could live, but I’ll watch over her, and be with her every day. You let my baby live. (Takes out pocket watch,) You gave me this didn’t you, I saw you? You’re the reason why my baby gets to live life. I can’t thank you enough.


Embraces death


Death:                      No, thank you.






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One thought on “Thirty and a Half Minutes: A Tragedy

  1. Nilave,

    congrats sir. It’s been a long time since I’ve read your writing and I can see your writing has matured with the years. You’ve grasped the ability to write poetically and convey your ideas singularly, unaffected by the million of thoughts in your mind. This piece was great.

    The thing that struck me most about this was your characterization of Death. Never before have I seen death characterized an empathetic, almost victimized person. You flipped the traditional archetypes of cruel death and an unaffected fate to play them as powerful personality concepts that were locked in battle. This played out in a poignant and at times, truly emotional, plot. I think the idea of assigning powerful personalities to these themes is an often played card, but you managed it in a unique way. Why did you decide to play it like that? What made you sympathize with death over fate?

    Setting this piece to the backdrop of a hospital scene seems like an obvious choice, but even the you added an interesting sub narrative with the tortured doctor and repetition of a cruel fate. I would argue that you could’ve played with the audience even more if you had actually backed off and scaled down the dialogue, making it more sparse and abrupt instead of flowing like honey. It might have added to the notion of darkness (think absence of light=absence of sound) and humanized the charters by making their dialogue seem more broken and natural.

    Lastly, I think if you ever get a chance to put this into some sort of production, you could really play with the notion of time and space, using your stage as a representation of the pysche of death. Maybe?

    Congratulations again sir. You really brought it with this one.


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