Chapter 13 Summary
John Yates, an acquaintance of Tom Bertram, is introduced in the narrative. Yates loves acting and was about to be in a play. But three days before the performance, the grandmother of one of the actor's died, so the play was cancelled. When Yates remembers that Tom had invited him to stay at Mansfield Park for a while, he hurries over to the estate. Upon greeting Tom, Yates talks up the idea of putting on a play there.
Tom is excited and talks about the possibilities to his brother and sisters. Yates, Tom announces, would be the manager. It would be a small performance, just for the group of them. There would be no audience and no publicity. As Tom wanders through the manor, he searches for a place to stage the play. He finally settles on two of his father's rooms that adjoin one another.
Edmund is against the idea. He protests that his father would disapprove of the performance, especially if there is any expense. Tom says there would be little money spent, as they would mostly make do with what was available. There is the question of scenery and other stage props, but Maria suggests that they make the play itself the focus of their attention rather than the stage and its decorations.
Edmund continues to argue and hopes his mother will state her objections. Lady Bertram, who is somewhat drowsy through the entire discussion, does not stand against the idea. Tom takes advantage of the situation and proclaims that the play might be a pleasant diversion for their mother. Lady Bertram has, after all, been apprehensive about her husband's upcoming return. The play would help ease their mother's tension.
Then Edmund thinks about confronting Mrs. Norris and imploring her to be on his side. However, when Mrs. Norris comes to the house, Edmund is dismayed. Mrs. Norris likes the idea and becomes quite animated as she thinks about how she might assist the young actors and their endeavors.
Edmund then brings up the concept that maybe it would be all right for the men to be involved, but that his father might be very disagreeable with his sisters taking part. Edmund reminds Tom that although he and Tom put on performances all through their childhood, their sisters were never involved. Julia protests that she is free to do as she wants. And when Henry Crawford arrives, he speaks for his sister, who he is sure would be delighted to take part.
Fanny is the only one who takes Edmond's position. She tries to console him by saying that maybe the group will fail to find a play they all agree on. Tom has already suggested that they perform a comedy, while his sisters want to do a drama.