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The Gift of the Magi

Screenplay based on the short story by O. Henry


Della (Mrs. James Dillingham Young)
Jim (Mr. James Dillingham Young)
Madame Sofronie
New York City, in an apartment in the late 1920s – early 1930s.
Props: table, mirror, coins, hair combs, a watch chain


NARRATOR: Think back a few decades. Times were hard in America during the Depression era. People had little money and the cost of living was high. It’s Christmas time in New York City, Christmas Eve in fact – the 24th of December. A young married couple is anxious to celebrate their first Christmas with each other. They are not wealthy and not exactly beggars, but they lead meager lives. There are two things in their young family that are worthy enough to be treasured: Della, the young wife, has hair envied by all women, and admired by all men; and Jim, the young husband, owns a watch that has been passed down from generation to generation – a truly fine antique. The story begins with Della.

(Scene opens with Della at a table counting her money – three times she counts the coins. She’s crying.)

DELLA: (crying and sobbing) Christmas Eve and I have no gift for my dear Jim – NOTHING, and I have saved for months. One dollar and eighty-seven cents is all I have.

(Della wipes her tears and walks to the mirror. She looks into the mirror admiring her long hair. It’s beautiful as she swings it side to side turning her body from left to right.)

DELLA: I have to find a gift for Jim. He is so good to me. I have no choice – I must sell my hair.

(Quickly putting on her coat and hat she runs out of the apartment and down the street.


NARRATOR: Della has made the decision to have her hair cut in order to earn money for a gift for her dear Jim. She is now in the beauty shop of Madame Sofronie, a strange and stingy woman. She has been asking to buy Della’s hair for years.

(Della enters Madame Sofronie’s store.)

MADAME SOFRONIE: Well, if it isn’t Della Young. How can I help you, dear?

DELLA: Will you buy my hair?

MADAME SOFRONIE: I buy hair. Take off your hat and let’s have a look at what you’re offering.

(Della’s hair falls from her hat and she swings it back and forth.)

MADAME SOFRONIE: Twenty dollars. Twenty dollars is what I will give you for your marvelous hair.

(Madame Sofronie is touching and lifting Della’s hair.)

DELLA: Cut it quickly please.


(Back in the apartment)

NARRATOR: Next Della rushed to the boutique where she knew she’d find what she wanted. A watch chain – the perfect color and length to hold Jim’s antique watch. She purchased the watch chain and hurried home to make their Christmas Eve dinner.

DELLA: Jim will love my gift for him! I’m so pleased. But what will he think of my hair? He’s always loved my long hair.

(She examines herself in the mirror.)

(The sounds of footsteps can be heard on the staircase and the door to the apartment opens.)

DELLA: (under her breath) Oh please let him think I am still beautiful.

(Jim enters)

JIM: Merry Christmas darling! (He says without looking at Della as he takes off his coat, scarf and hat.)

(Slowly turning to speak with her, he is struck dumb when he sees Della without her hair. His mouth is wide open.)

DELLA: (Her eyes have begun to water.) Jim, it will grow back. Please don’t think I’m ugly. I’m still the same Della you married. Please say something.

JIM: Della, my love, I will always consider you beautiful – you are my wife and I love you. But... but... oh here. (He gives her a small package.)

(Della opens the package and finds a set of beautiful combs she’d been admiring for months – they were made of real tortoise shell and encrusted with shiny gems – she turns them over and over again.)

DELLA: (Screaming with delight.) Oh Jim! They’re beautiful! But...but.. (She touches her shorn hair.) Oh! Jim, it will grow back. My hair grows really fast – you’ll see. (Della remembers her gift for Jim.)

DELLA: Here Jim, I bought this for you – for your beautiful watch. (She gives Jim the package and he unwraps it holding the watch chain stupidly in his hand.)

JIM: Oh! Della – it’s wonderful, but I sold my watch to buy your combs. Oh, Della (He hangs his head).

(They look at each other and smile – they hug and stifle their tears)

JIM: So, we’re having pork chops for dinner huh?

DELLA: Yes, I’ll get dinner started.

NARRATOR: The Magi, as you know were wise men – wonderfully wise men who brought gifts to the Baby Jesus in the manger more than 2,000 years ago. Some say they invented the art of gift giving.

While Jim and Della gave each other gifts that proved to be useless, they, in fact, gave each other the greatest gift either of them could ever hope for – each other. They both gave up something very dear and important to themselves (making sacrifices) in order to make the other happy. So while their gifts may seem foolish and futile, I think the Magi would agree that these young lovers were wise indeed.



By now in New York City,
there’s snow on the ground
And out in California,
the sunshine’s falling down.
Maybe down in Memphis,
Graceland’s all in lights.
And in Atlanta, Georgia,
there’s peace on earth tonight.
Christmas in Dixie,
it’s snowing in the pines
Merry Christmas from Dixie to everyone tonight.
It’s windy in Chicago, kids are out of school.
There’s magic in Mo’town, the city’s on the move.
In Jackson, Mississippi, to Charlotte, Carolina,
And all across the nation,
it’s a peaceful Christmas time.
Christmas in Dixie, it’s snowing in the pines –
Merry Christmas from Dixie to everyone tonight.
And from Ft. Wayne Alabama,
Merry Christmas tonight!


I’ll be home for Christmas,
you can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe,
and presents on the tree.

Christmas Eve will find me
where the love might be
I’ll be home for Christmas
if only in my dreams.

Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me,
where the love light gleams.

Yes, I’ll be home for Christmas,
if only in my dream.

Эту пьесу мы ставили и готовили с моей коллегой из Америки – Анжелой Полк в 2004 году с учащимися гимназии города Переславля-Залесского.

Compiled by Angela Paulk, Nadezhda Prokhorova ,