Theater of the Avant-Garde


Copyright © 2001 by Yale University. All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, including illustrations, in any form (beyond that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press), without written permission from the publishers. Designed by James J.Johnson and set in Electra Roman & Gill Sans type by Keystone Typesetting, Inc., Orwigsburg, PA. Printed in the United States of America. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Theater of the avant-garde, 1890-1950: a critical anthology / edited by Bert Cardullo and Robert Knopf. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-300-08525-7 (cloth) - ISBN 0-300-08526-5 (pbk.) I. Drama—20th century. and criticism. 808.82'9ll-dc2l 2. Experimental drama—History II. Knopf, Robert, 1961 P N 6 I I 2 . T 4 2 200I 00-043891

I. Cardullo, Bert.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources. 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


Richard Gilman and Amo Selco
who taught us to love theater in all forms


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Editors' Note En Garde! The Theatrical Avant-Garde in Historical, Intellectual, and Cultural Context



I . Franco-Russian Symbolism
Maurice Maeterlinck, Interior (1891) Maurice Maeterlinck, "The Modern Drama" (1904) Valery Briusov, The Wayfarer (1910) Valery Briusov, "Against Naturalism in the Theater" (1902)

45 55 64 72

1 . Pataphysical Theater
Alfred Jarry, King Ubu (1896) Alfred Jarry, "Theater Questions" (1897)

84 123

I * I n t i m a t e Theater/Chamber Drama
August Strindberg, The Ghost Sonata (1907) August Strindberg, from Zones of the Spirit (1907)

134 161

4 . Correspondences
Wassily Kandinsky, The Yellow Sound (1909) Wassily Kandinsky, "On Stage Composition" (1912)

173 180

5 . I t a l i a n Futurism
Umberto Boccioni, Genius and Culture (1915) Francesco Cangiullo, Detonation (1915) Filippo Marinetti, Feet (1915) Filippo Marinetti, Emilio Settimelli, and Bruno Corra, "The Futurist Synthetic Theater, 1915" (1915)

195 198 199 201

6 . German Expressionism
Reinhard Sorge, The Beggar (1912) Yvan Goll, "Two Superdramas" (1918)

212 262

7 . Dada
|2 Tristan Tzara, The Gas Heart (1920) Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto, 1918 (1918)

272 283

8 . The Yheater of Pure Form
♦ .^ * Stanisiaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, The Cuttlefish (1922) Stanisiaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, "On a New Type of Play" (1920)

297 321

9. French Surrealism
Roger Vitrac, The Mysteries of Love (1927) Andre Breton, First Surrealist Manifesto (1924)

335 365

1 0 . The Theater of Cruelty
Antonin Artaud, The Spurt of Blood (1925) Antonin Artaud, "No More Masterpieces" (1938)

378 382

I I • Russian Oberiu
Aleksandr Vvedensky, Christmas at the Ivanovs (1938) Daniil Kharms, Aleksandr Vvedensky, and others, "The Oberiu Manifesto" (1928)

394 415

I I . American Dada and Surrealism
Gertrude Stein, Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights (1938) Gertrude Stein, "Plays" (1934)

425 450

1 1 . The Theater of the Absurd
Arthur Adamov, The Invasion (1949) Martin Esslin, "The Theater of the Absurd" (1961) General Bibliography Index

472 499 503 515


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Readers will find in the table of contents the titles of the plays and major theoretical pieces included in the anthology. In addition, though, each part contains biographies of the authors of those pieces, shorter critical excerpts about their works, and select bibliographies of criticism. These briefer items are not listed in the table of contents. A few very minor changes have been made here to the pieces reprinted from other sources, primarily for the sake of internal consistency of spelling and for grammatical correctness. We would like to thank Sarah Bay-Cheng and Kristen Tripp-Kelley for their tireless devotion to, and invaluable work on, this project.

E n Garde! The Theatrical Avant-Garde in Historical, Intellectual, and Cultural Context
Bert Cardullo

The plays, biocritical prefaces, and historical documents presented here, together with theoretical manifestos and bibliographies, are designed to provide a history of genuinely avant-garde drama, as isolated from twentiethcentury developments in conventional veristic forms. The materials assem­ bled in Theater of the Avant-Garde, 1890-1950 are thus meant to contribute to a revisionist history of modern drama, for many still persist in viewing modern drama as moving from the realistic (yet formally neoclassical) plays of Ibsen and the naturalistic plays of Strindberg to the socially, politically, and psychologically oriented "problem plays" of the twentieth century, even if occasionally influenced by "techniques" from aberrant avant-garde movements. Take, for example, Tennessee Williams' misguided homage to the as­ sorted unconventional techniques of Expressionism in his "Production Notes" to the otherwise romantically realistic Glass Menagerie (1944). Or consider the frequently misunderstood and overborrowed "alienation effect" of Bertolt Brecht (really a defamiliarizing or distancing device, which is not the same as an exclusively anti-illusionistic one). Brecht is excluded from Theater of the Avant-Garde not only because his dramatic work is already widely available in English translation but also because he was primarily a social realist whose real objection to the theater of Realism and Naturalism was its psychologization of human character, not its rendering of surface reality. Indeed, Brecht wrote his two greatest Schaustiicke, The Life of Galileo (1939) and Mother Courage and Her Children (1941), in an effort to bridge, not to widen, the gap between the often numbing prosaism of the modern social-problem play and the sometimes indulgent ethereality of

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avant-garde drama. Using Expressionistic techniques this politically revolu­ tionary playwright created, one could say, an anti-Expressionistic drama that evolved into mock-epic theater or faux-historical chronicle—with the cool, detached style, direct presentation of character, and episodic plotting that we have also come to recognize in related forms of narrative cinema. It is time, and in fact late, to bring genuine dramatic Expressionism, and the major innovative tradition of twentieth-century theater to which it belongs, into central focus. The problem in doing so has been that the plays and documents of the tradition are hard to find. The writings of some of its major figures are scattered in out-of-print translations or have not been translated at all, and no comprehensive collection in English—or any other language, for that matter—gives adequate recognition to the place as well as importance of the avant-garde in the development of a distinctive, freestand­ ing theatrical sensibility and vocabulary. This anthology illuminates not just a single national tradition or movement (as do Michael Benedikt and George Wellwarth's fine anthologies of French, German, and Spanish avantgarde plays or Walter Sokel's important collection of Expressionist drama), nor even one style or posture (such as "Absurd" or "Protest") that cuts across national boundaries, but instead the astonishing variety and daring of the writers in all Western countries and theatrical movements who since before the turn of the twentieth century have wrenched dramatic art out of every one of its habits, including the most fundamental of them. Represented in Theater of the Avant-Garde are particular movements, such as French and Russian Symbolism, Italian Futurism, German Expressionism, and DadaSurrealism, seminal figures like Alfred Jarry, August Strindberg, and Antonin Artaud, and Gesamtkiinstler like Wassily Kandinsky. In bringing together the works of such disparate yet fundamentally simi­ lar pioneers, we go beyond a purely historical accounting for this new drama to suggest intellectual and aesthetic contexts for theater and drama even broader than those which have already been proposed by critics and histo­ rians as an explanation for the avant-garde revolution. What becomes appar­ ent when these writers are assembled within a single volume is that the new movements were fed by the other arts as much as they were provoked by conventional drama itself. Poets, painters, filmmakers, musical composers, circus performers, architects, choreographers, photographers, cartoonists, sculptors—any but professional or commercial dramatists—were the models and sources for the radical shift in the aesthetics of theater and drama. To speak only of the movies, their presence was continually felt through­ out the vigorous theatrical experimentation of the 1920s. On the one hand,

the theater was seeking a new area of activity that the cinema—potentially the most literally representational or documentary "real" of the arts—could not usurp; on the other hand, the theater frequently tried to explore ways of imitating and incorporating the fantastic or visionary capability of film form. Throughout Europe, the dramatic avant-garde repeatedly expressed admira­ tion for the dreamlike fluidity of film, its power to convey interior states of mind, and its possibilities as a truly proletarian and antibourgeois art. Par­ ticularly in France, the Surrealist theatrical experiments of such writers as Andre Breton, Guillaume Apollinaire, Louis Aragon, and Antonin Artaud were perhaps better suited to the screen than to the stage, assaulting as they did the theater's traditional objectivity or exteriority and its bondage to con­ tinuous time and space. And a number of Surrealists did indeed move from the theater to the cinema, most notably Jean Cocteau. In Germany, film was one element among many of the influences that led to the development of dramatic Expressionism, with German cinema and theater freely borrowing from each other during the twenties. The debt to the stage of such pictures as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) has often been noted, and, to cite only one example, the characteristic roving spotlight of the Expressionist stage was an obvious attempt to control audience atten­ tion in the manner of a movie director. The attempts of the Bauhaus group to create a nonrepresentational, manifestly manufactured "total theater" in fact involved the incorporation of film into the ultimate theatrical experi­ ence, as did the production experiments of Marinettfs "Futurist Variety Theater" in Italy. The shift of drama to so simultaneously mechanical, democratic, and subjective a model as the cinema is intimately connected, of course, with the concepts of modernity and modernism. "Modernity" refers to the network of large-scale social, economic, technological, and philosophical changes wrought by the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. "Modernism" is usually used to denote that period of dramatic innovation in all the arts, from around the end of the nineteenth century (beginning with Symbolism and Aestheticism but going as far back as the Romantic movement) up to World War II and its immediate aftermath (associated with Absurdism), when the sense of a fundamental break with inherited modes of representa­ tion and expression became acute. Modernism relies on a distinctive kind of imagination, one whose general frame of reference resides only within itself. The modernist mind believes that we create the world in the act of perceiv­ ing it. Such a view is basically anti-intellectual, celebrating passion and will over deliberate and systematic morality.

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Most important, modernism implies historical discontinuity, social dis­ ruption, moral chaos, and a sense of fragmentation and alienation, of loss and despair—hence, of retreat within one's inner being or private conscious­ ness. This movement rejects not only history, however, but also the society of whose fabrication history is a record; modernism repudiates traditional values and assumptions, then, in addition to dismissing the rhetoric by which they were once communicated; and in the process it elevates the individual over the group, human beings' interior life over their communal existence. In many respects a reaction against Realism and Naturalism and the scientific postulates on which they rest, modernism has been marked by persistent, multidimensional experiments in subject matter, form, and lang u a g e - These literary excursions revel in a dense, often free-form actuality as opposed to a practical, regimented one, and they have been conducted by poets and novelists as vital yet diverse as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Stephane Mallarme, Arthur Rimbaud, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, W. B. Yeats, W. H. Auden, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Thomas Mann. Modernist or avant-garde, as opposed to modern, drama is similarly asso­ ciated, above all, with a pervasive, formal self-consciousness and inventive­ ness. The avant-garde thus becomes that element in the exercise of the imagination that we call art which finds itself unwilling (unable, really) to reiterate or refine what has already been created. Many would identify in the avant-garde not merely a tendency to retreat from the maddening disorder of the world for the purpose of creating, through art, an alternative, visionary, eternal order but also a tendency to absorb the world's chaos into the work of art itself. (The first tendency holds true for most writers of modernist fiction and verse, as it does for the Symbolist Yeats. Among avant-garde playwrights, however, most belong either in the second category —like Pirandello, the Humorist of the Grotesque—or in both categories simultaneously, like Jarry, the Pataphysician.) It is possible, additionally, to identify in the avant-garde a thematic preoc­ cupation with the modern city and its technologies—and concomitantly with the exhilaration of speed, energy, and rapid development, typical of the Italian Futurists—as well as with the urban potential for physical, social, and emotional dislocation. Renato Poggioli has described this avant-garde as a culture of negation (1968, 107-8), and indeed its commitment to ceaseless, radical critique—not only of the (bourgeois) art that went before it but also, in many instances, of the sociopolitical institutions and instruments of industrial-technological practice or power—may be seen as a prime instance of the modernist emphasis on the creation of the new.

In a rhetorical gesture utterly typical of the avant-garde, however, the Surrealist poet and playwright Robert Desnos lambasted the very notion of the "avant-garde," associated as it was for him with the Impressionists and the Aestheticism of Cocteau. The dynamic of "negation," then, is not restricted to a criticism of mass culture by everything outside it but operates within the field of avant-garde artistic practice as well. Nothing is more characteristic of the avant-garde than disputes within its ranks about which subgroup is most deserving of the epithet. On the surface, the avant-garde as a whole may seem united in terms of what it is against: accepted social institutions and established artistic conventions, or the tastes and values of the "general public" as that represents the existing order. Yet any positive program tends to be claimed as exclusive property by isolated and even mutually antagonis­ tic groupings. So modernist art appears fragmented and sectarian, defined as much by manifestos as by creative work and representing the amorphous complexity of postindustrial society in a multiplicity of dynamic but unstable movements focused on philosophical abstractions. Hence the use of "-isms" to describe them: Symbolism, Futurism, Expressionism, Dadaism, Surreal­ ism, and the like. All these modernist "-isms" nevertheless react against the same common enemy: the modern drama of Realism and Naturalism—that is, the socialproblem play as fathered by Ibsen (if it was not pioneered earlier by Friedrich Hebbel). Such realistic and naturalistic drama was based on the conven­ tional, long-lived triad of psychology (or motivation), causality (or connec­ tion), and morality (or providential design), but these problem plays ban­ ished theology as well as autocracy from their paradigm of human action, in this way deepening the dramatic role played by psychology, sociology, and linearity or linkage. That is, in modern drama, the patriarchal relationship between God and the individual soul has been replaced by the adversarial relationship between a person and his or her own psychology, the will to comprehend the self, even as the patriarchal relationship between ruler and subject has been replaced by the adversarial relationship between the indi­ vidual and society, in the form of society's drive to marginalize all those it cannot or will not homogenize. Thus the fundamental subject of almost all serious plays of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—in other words, of almost all of modern as well as modernist drama—becomes the attempt to resurrect fundamental ethical or philosophical certainties without resurrect­ ing the fundamental spiritual certainty of a judgmental God or the funda­ mental political certainty of a mindful monarch. Modernist, or avant-garde, drama, however, took modern drama a step further, by demonstrating that a play's movement could be governed by

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something completely outside the triad that links motive to act, act to logical sequence of events, and logical outcome to divine or regal judgment. In Maeterlinck's Symbolist play Pelleas and Melisande (1892), for instance, the characters are led to the slaughter like sheep, but for reasons that are never clear, either to them or to the audience. There is sequence but no causality— that is, one event follows another but is not caused by it. Even an otherwise representational work like Chekhov's hanov (1887) can intimate the avantgarde by breaking down the connection between the psychology of its central character and the causal pattern of his or her drama. There is a causal sequence leading to Ivanov's marital infidelity and suicide, but no sustained motive on his part—which is to say, one event is caused by another, but irrespective of this otherwise intelligent man's clear intent or wish. For the avant-garde, beginning in the late nineteenth century with Jarry, if not earlier with such German visionaries as Ludwig Tieck, Georg Biichner, and Christian Dietrich Grabbe, the nature of reality itself becomes the prime subject of plays because of a loss of confidence in the assumed model for dramatizing human behavior and thinking about human existence: in other words, the representation onstage of the illusion of reality becomes the demonstration of the reality of the illusion-making capacity, illusionprojecting essence, or illusion-embracing tendency of the human mind. Through the introduction of total subjectivity into drama—that mirror of a supposedly external reality—the Symbolists, in particular, imagined a new theatrical model, polyphonic in form and irreducible to rational analysis or univocal interpretation, thereby opening the door for the subsequent avantgarde movements that have dominated the stage in the twentieth century. The world, which the realists and (to a lesser extent) the naturalists had attempted to know fully and depict accurately, was revealed by the Symbol­ ists to be pure illusion—a veil of fleeting appearances behind which were hidden deeper truths. It was what lay buried within the psyche and con­ cealed behind the mirror that this radical new poetics of drama proposed to explore. Problems or issues of perception and epistemology thus subverted prior certainties as the arena of artistic representation moved from outside the human consciousness to within it. And the drama that emerged from such an aesthetic was paradoxically more sacred—or sacrilegious—than sec­ ular, thus returning theater to its ritualistic origins. For its themes and tech­ niques, Symbolist performance happened to be drawn, as was Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy (1872), to church ritual, pagan rites, folklore, fairy tales, popular superstition, and communal practices—in other words, to "primi­ tive" times before the advent of Realism. The locus of this visionary art was


not the here-and-now of daily life (as it was for the realists), not what can be seen and experienced in our normal waking hours; rather, that locus was the eternal bond of human beings to the unknown, to the mystery within them­ selves and within the universe as they journey toward ultimate extinction. In striving to put onstage what common sense declared to be nondramatic and undramatizable, the Symbolists liberated playwriting from mech­ anistic notions of chronological time and Euclidean space; they enlarged the frame of drama to include worlds and beings other than those inhabiting the bourgeois theater—which, to more than one of its foremost practitioners (among them Augustin Scribe, Emile Augier, and Alexandre Dumas /z/s), had no need to be more than the echo of society's whispers. Moreover, despite much adverse criticism, the Symbolists held firm in their conception of the acting appropriate to the production of their plays, for they felt it necessary to divert attention from external realism or representationalism to the mysterious inner as well as outer forces that control human destiny. A natural extension of this interest led the Symbolists to explore the possibili­ ties of puppet theater, which until then had been associated primarily with crude, popular entertainment. Gordon Craig's vision of the ideal actor as an Ubermarionette (itself influenced by Heinrich von Kleist's essay "On the Marionette Theater" [1810]) was paralleled by Maeterlinck's belief that puppets would be the most suitable performers for his early plays, and by Aurelien Lugne-Poe's original intention of founding his Theatre de l'Oeuvre as a puppet stage. Indeed, marionette theater presents a natural Symbolist aspect. Because marionettes are abstractions of the human form, individual experience does not obtrude on our perception of them, as it inevitably does with a human performer when the actor's personality comes into play; and their perception or apprehension reaches full expression only subjectively, in the spectator's mind, not objectively, on the stage. Symbolist designers took their own cue from the puppet theater, and as a result of their subtly atmospheric or evoca­ tive efforts, theater artists became aware of the illogicality of too much literal­ ism in the procedure of a medium that is essentially make-believe. The future, ideal stage of the Symbolists would thus be multiple, fluid, and polyvalent: a point of departure for imaginary voyages into uncharted re­ gions. For such drama there were no fixed forms, prescribed rules, or conven­ tional models to follow. Disdainfully rejecting the theater of commerce with all its practicalities, Symbolist poets wrote their plays for no existing audience or playhouse, their works sometimes remaining unperformed for many years. Nonetheless, Symbolism in the theater—as well as in poetry and paint-

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ing—was a truly international movement and spread not only throughout Europe but also to North and South America and parts of Asia. Only when the Theatre de TOeuvre closed its doors in 1899 did Symbolism begin to stir in Poland and particularly in Russia, where, in addition to Valery Briusov, the movement included Aleksandr Blok, Andrei Bely, and Leonid Andreyev among its dramatists. Likewise, in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Romania, the Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, and India, Symbolist theater enjoyed a second life after having been declared dead in Paris. Furthermore, rather than deriving from a reactionary, escapist tendency (as has often been depicted), Symbolist drama in Eastern Europe, Ireland, and India was a progressive or liberating force, awakening a consciousness of national and cultural identity, opposing all forms of repression, and protesting against the drabness of regimented modern life. Symbolism, then, battled against all restrictions and limitations, includ­ ing those which isolated theater from the allied arts of painting, poetry, and music. Taking its cues from Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk, on the one hand, and Mallarme's "theater of the mind," on the other, Symbolism aspired to be a total spectacle encompassing all of life. From our remove of more than a hundred years, that assault on the objectivity of the dramatic form seems an essential first step—perhaps none has been as important—in the series of modernist (and postmodernist) revolutions that have transformed the art of theater from the turn of the twentieth century to the present day. Each of the revolutionary movements and coalitions had its distinctive character. They were shaped by forces as varied as F. T. Marinetti's artistic expansionism, which sought to colonize all modernist manifestations and individual creators for the Futurist empire (hardly by accident, Futurism labeled war the supreme, health-bestowing activity); the libertarian individ­ ualism of Tristan Tzara's Dada; or Andre Breton's zealous defense of Surreal­ ist purity. Both within and outside these movements, however, the specific genius of individual avant-garde writers and artists flourished, the distinctive trace left by such individuals serving to remind us that historical categories and groupings are often suspect, reductive, or artificial. As we shall see, between Marinetti's machine-age bombastics and Kandinsky's abstract spir­ ituality, for example, lies a world of difference. Wassily Kandinsky, for his part, attempted to disrupt the concept of tradi­ tional theater as a reproductive or representational mechanism by advocat­ ing a synthetic, spiritualized art that would redirect people inside themselves and reveal the depths and heights of the human soul. Kandinsky believed he could synthesize music, dance, poetry, and painting into one monumental,

self-contained, and self-defined art form, or rather temple of art. Futurist synthetic theater, by contrast, rejected such an inward-looking art. For the Futurists, literature, painting, sculpture, theater, music, dance, morals, and politics should all be inspired by the scientific and technological discoveries that had changed the physical environment, and that should correspond­ ingly change human perceptions. Human beings should, in fact, become like machines, abandoning the weaknesses and sentimentalities of the past. Influenced by the superman of Nietzsche and D'Annunzio, the Futurists wrote of their own godlike being, who was aggressive, tireless, courageous, inhuman, and mechanical. Early heroes, accordingly, were those who had direct contact with machines: car drivers, pilots, journalists, telegraph opera­ tors, and the like. Later heroes represented a fusion of man and machine, assured of immortality because the parts were interchangeable. The Futurists' theories centered on the industrial age, with its machines and electricity, its urbanization, and the revolution in the means of transport and communication. Futurists welcomed the products of industrial society with an all-embracing optimism, for they saw them as the means by which people would dominate the environment and be able to extend knowledge indefinitely. The speed and change of the industrial age were also funda­ mental to the Futurists' love of the modern and their rejection of the static, lethargic past. The effects of the speed of transport and communication on modern sensibility were such that people were now aware not just of their immediate surroundings but of the whole world. The limits of time and space had been transcended; it was possible to live through events both distant and near at hand—in fact, to be everywhere at the same time. Simultaneita (simultaneity) was the word used by the Futurists to describe these extensions of perception. In their works, different times, places, and sounds, both real and imagined, are juxtaposed in an attempt to convey this new concept to the public. The Futurist embrace of simultaneity was accompanied by a desire for synthesis. The Futurists held that the speed of modern life called for a corresponding speed of communication in contemporary art, which was therefore—unlike the conventional theater—to convey the essence of an emotion or a situation without resorting to lengthy explanation or descrip­ tion. The sintesi teatrali (theatrical syntheses), then, were works of extreme brevity and concentration, in which the conventional three-act play was replaced by attimi (moments) intended to capture the essence and atmo­ sphere of an event or emotion as it happened. Movement, gesture, sound, and light became as important as the written word, and in some cases came

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to replace words altogether. This reduction to what the Futurists regarded as the essential part of the action was intended to create an immediate and dynamic contact with the public, so that the audience would respond intu­ itively to a theater that was now synthetic, hypertechnological, dynamic, simultaneous, alogical, discontinuous, autonomous, antiliterary, and unreal. F. T Marinetti was determined from the outset to bring his movement to the attention of the greatest possible number of people. In common with many other innovators in the arts of the time, he believed that art and literature could have a determining influence on society, and he described Futurism as the new formula of artistic action. The artist therefore became the leader and promoter of the new ideas, and the forger of links between art and action, art and society. The desire for ceaseless activity, the advocacy of bravery and heroism, and the insistence on aggression, accordingly, led the Futurists to go beyond mere theorizing. They involved themselves in a great deal of direct action, including their serate, or evenings, which usually consisted of readings from Futurist works of literature, and which often ended in a brawl. The serate doubtless gave the Futurists some general experience of the theater, whose importance for his movement Marinetti recognized, as he did that of the spettacolo (performance) in particular. Futurist performances became an ideal means of direct communication with the public; the expectation was that audience members would react directly and physically to what they saw and heard. Deliberate provocation of the audience, partly for the sake of being aggressive, partly in order to break down the barriers between audience and actors, became one of the impor­ tant techniques of the Futurist theater and influenced the staging of its plays. The Futurists thus realized the polemical importance of theatrical tech­ niques very early on, and in this sense Italian Futurist theater represents nothing less than the birth of the twentieth-century avant-garde. In its violent rhetoric and actions, in its blatant self-promotion and willful disrespect for the sacred cows of the (written) intellectual tradition, as well as in its allembracing (if prototypically Fascist) ideology, Futurism was the model or stereotype for all the "-isms" to come. Itself influenced by the Futurist synthetic theater, Dada had been founded in 1916 by a group of expatriate artists in Zurich, but as practi­ tioners adopted the banner in Berlin, Cologne, and New York, the move­ ment became an international one. The Romanian poet Tristan Tzara, the leader of the movement, moved to Paris, the major center for Dada, as it would be later for the Surrealism that sprang from Dada's ashes. "Dada" itself is a nonsense word, and as such is a clue to the nature of the move-

ment, which was anarchic, violently antitraditional, and vociferously antibourgeois—at least in its rhetoric. Many of the Dada artists had been in­ volved in World War I, and the Dada movement has been understood as a reaction of disgust toward a society that could sustain such a barbaric con­ flict. If the war was the end-product of a society supposedly built on the principles of rationality espoused by Enlightenment philosophers, then the means of protest against this society would have to be irrational. As conscientious objectors in neutral Switzerland (the fount of the move­ ment), moreover, Dadaists were expected to desist from overt political pro­ test; Switzerland prohibited citizens or visitors from taking a strong vocal stance on political occurrences beyond its borders, for fear that the country's neutrality might be compromised. The Dadaists' impulses of frustration and counteraggression had to manifest themselves in some way, yet if life had so little meaning for a world that was organizing and sanctioning its own de­ struction, how could art matter? Hence the antisensical anarchy of Dada art, whose pacifist authors wanted, not to escape from current events through fantasy, but rather to reflect the chaos of their present to make the public cry with laughter. Dada, in fact, struck out against all "-isms"—previous artistic movements that had, in effect, exhaustively and systematically emphasized the timeless and universal aspects of art without ever truly living in their own particular moment. This is the context in which Marcel Duchamp began to exhibit his "ready-mades"—ordinary objects like bicycle wheels and the urinal he named "Fountain," signed "R. Mutt," and presented as a sculpture. In doing so, Duchamp offended against not only the assumption that art involves creative effort but also the assumption that only certain things are appropri­ ate subject matter for art, which by definition would not include utterly utilitarian objects. Indeed, the Dadaists maintained that the artistic act, rather than the product, was first and foremost Dada; the tangible yield developing from the imaginative act (the painting, poem, sculpture, or dra­ matic text) was merely a by-product of the real art. But best of all for the antimaterialist Dada artists, the Dadaist use of language was not easily mer­ chandised. In the performance of a poem or a play, the Dadaists kept custody of their work, letting only the experience of the language and its effects on the listener stand as proof of its existence. Dadaists thereby succeeded not only in creating a presence in society for the artist-as-performer (as opposed to the actor-as-character) but also in keeping art out of the commodifying hands of bourgeois marketeers, principally because the art itself was a matter of heresay to those not fortunate enough to be present for the poetry reading

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or theatrical event. Dada thus sought to radically short-circuit the means by which art objects acquire financial, social, and spiritual value; in this man­ ner, the movement fulfilled one definition of the avant-garde, which is an attack on the foundations of artistic institutions themselves. And attack the avant-garde did, for the term "avant-garde" is, after all, military in origin—however synonymous with "esoteric" or "incomprehensible" it may now be—referring to the "advance party" that scouts out the terrain up ahead of the principal army. The expression was first used militarily around 1794, to designate the elite shock troups of the French army, whose mission was to engage the enemy first in order to prepare the way for the main body of soldiers to follow. The expression was first used metaphorically beginning around 1830, by members of French revolutionary political movements who spoke of themselves as being in the "vanguard." Used as early as 1825, in fact, by the Utopian socialist writer Olinde Rodrigues and later by Charles Fourier's disciple Gabriel Laverdant, the term "avant-garde" was applied to the "men of vision" of the coming societystatesmen, philosophers, scientists, and businessmen—whose actions would give direction to the future development of humanity. It was only during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, however, that the metaphor was trans­ ferred wholesale from politics to literary and artistic activities. Mainly at­ tached to them ever since, the metaphor has been used to identify successive movements of writers and artists who, within the larger cultural framework of modernism, generated a vital tradition of formal innovation or experimen­ tation and sociopolitical radicalism. Mikhail Bakunin, for example, titled the short-lived anarchist journal he published in Switzerland in 1878 L'Avant-Garde, and his aim in revolu­ tionizing aesthetics was to pave the way for social revolution. More than fifty years earlier, however, Claude-Henri de Saint-Simon had proclaimed in Uartiste, le savant et Vindustriel that "it is we artists who will serve as your avant-garde; the power of the arts is indeed the most immediate and the most rapid. We have weapons of all kinds We address ourselves to the imagina­ tion and to the feelings of man; and we must always take the swiftest and the most decisive action.... There is no more beautiful destiny for artists than to exert a powerful influence on society—this is our true calling—and to thrust ourselves into the fray with all our intellectual faculties, at the peak of their development!" (210-11, 216; my translation). To Saint-Simon, the avantgarde artist was a soldier-priest in the service of progress, and Saint-Simon's multivolume Oeuvres, published between 1868 and 1878, promulgated this belief with a vengeance. Hence, toward the end of the nineteenth century,

certainly, the use of the term "avant-garde" had been extended to encompass the idea of social renewal through cultural challenge rather than by means of overtly political activity. The avant-garde mentality, in its most rabid form, thus belongs to the past hundred years or so. But if we look at the matter in the context of French literary history, it is possible to suggest that we are not dealing with an absolutely new and separate phenomenon; it is, rather, the effect of a long and extremely complicated process, which is, of course, the general change­ over from the static or cyclical view of human existence to the evolutionary view. And evolutionism is, fundamentally, a scientific concept. Therefore, if my suggestion is correct, the term "avant-garde" is not simply a military metaphor, used first in politics and then transferred to literature and art; it is basically connected with science and with what is sometimes called the scientific revolution: the replacement of the medieval belief in a finished universe by the modern, scientific view of a universe evolving in time. The scientific view affected political and social thinking long before it penetrated into literature proper and the fine arts, and that is the real reason the meta­ phor was political first and literary or artistic afterward. In France, the first real signs of the modern evolutionary view occur in the seventeenth century, at the time of the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns. (This quarrel was fought from either an essentially conservative position—the championing of the ancient Greeks and Romans, codification of aesthetic rules, insistence on decorum and the purity of traditional literary genres, subordination of art to moral or social concerns—or a liberal one— the championing of the moderns, pragmatic and flexible treatment of all classical precepts, perception of art as an end in itself.) But the beginnings of the development can naturally be traced back to the Renaissance—to Copernicus, Machiavelli, and Montaigne—and, beyond the Renaissance, to ancient Greece, where most ideas existed at least in embryo. In seventeenth-century France, the first pale dawn of the scientific view seems to have had little or no effect on the aesthetic attitudes of creative artists, or at least on attitudes that were part of these artists' conscious make­ up. The extraordinary flowering of French neoclassical literature that was contemporaneous with the quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns owed al­ most nothing to it. Even those famous French thinkers of the earlier part of the grand siecle, Descartes and Pascal (like their Italian contemporary Gali­ leo), were not looking toward the future in the modern manner. It is true that, as they made their mathematical and scientific discoveries and tried to put their conflicting ideas in order, they made explosive statements. But we

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have no reason to believe that they themselves knew just how radically new their thinking was. In the eighteenth century, however, a dramatic change took place that has often been commented upon. Although scientific evolutionism was not yet fully established, the major thinkers of the French Enlightenment foresaw, or at least sensed, its implications. Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau, all of whom had some knowledge of science, were in a sense sociologists, trying to understand human life both as a dynamic process in time and as a secular process that cannot be accounted for in religious terms, more especially not in the light of Christian revelation. These philosophes were thus brought into conflict with orthodox Christian theology, which is based on the belief in a static relationship between human beings inside time and God outside time. The great controversy between science and religion, then—which was not to occur in England until the middle of the nineteenth century, with Darwin's formulation of evolutionary theory—had, for all intents and purposes, run its course in France by the end of the eighteenth century. This historical situation is the fundamental reason for which the conditions favoring the development of the avant-garde mentality were present earlier in France than anywhere else. In France, by the end of the eighteenth century, the modern evolutionary and secular view of the world had per­ vaded the consciousness of at least the intellectual elite. The situation that Nietzsche would express so dramatically in the nineteenth century with the phrase "God is dead" already existed before 1789. In fact, most of the great nineteenth-century themes are already present in the French Enlighten­ ment: we can find intimations of Hegel and Marx in Montesquieu, Diderot, and Rousseau; of Darwin and Freud in Diderot; of Freud and SacherMasoch in Rousseau; and of Freud, Sacher-Masoch, and Nietzsche in the Marquis de Sade. We might even say that the Marquis de Sade (himself an antisentimental, even irrationalist dramatist in such works as Oxtiem, ou Les Malheurs du libertinage [1791]) was the first great modern figure to go mad over the death of God, and that this is why he has been revived with such fervor over the past 175 years or so as the darling of successive avant-gardes. In other words, the intellectual watershed, as I see it, is the Enlighten­ ment. In the two to three centuries since, many sincere, ingenious, and elaborate attempts have been made to effect a compromise between the modern scientific view of the universe and the old Christian view, and the French themselves, from Auguste Comte and Hippolyte Taine to Henri Bergson and Simone Weil, have been particularly active in this effort. But it

seems obvious that no reconciliation has been brought about. The two different ways of looking at matters exist side by side, and the extremely tangled aesthetic history—not to speak of the social and political history—of the last 250 years or so can be seen in terms of the tensions between these attitudes and of the growing predominance of the scientific worldview. A crucial contribution of the Enlightenment was the concept of history as the continuously unfolding tale of human life on earth, seen, of course, against the backdrop of a much greater time scale—the evolutionary de­ velopment of the universe. This view presents human life as a process in time, which we can illuminate to some extent as we look back, or speculate about as we look forward, but which bears no definable relation to anything that might exist outside time—that is, to eternity or God. This is what is meant by "the death of God," and the implication is not only that no per­ sonal entity behind the universe provides us with a moral law, but also that human life can be given meaning, if it has any at all, only within the flux of history. And, if I may be allowed my largest generalization yet, the increasing prevalence of avant-garde attitudes reflects the growing effect of this percep­ tion that we live only in time and have to find our values in time. Avant-garde artists and thinkers sense the problem of finding values within flux, and they are trying—often perhaps neurotically—to adapt to what they see as the movement of history by anticipating the crest of the next wave (la nouvelle vague); alternately, they may be trying to escape from the dilemma of perpetual movement by finding some substitute for eternity— that is, some God-substitute. Quite often they are trying to achieve both ends at once, and that is why so many avant-gardes have both a progressive and a nonprogressive aspect. Insofar as they are nonprogressive, the expression "avant-garde" is a misnomer, because the movement is not forward but to the side, or even backward in time to pre-Enlightenment attitudes. It occa­ sionally happens, for instance, that an avant-garde artist (like the Expres­ sionist Reinhard Sorge or the Symbolist Paul Claudel) is consciously re­ converted to or reconfirmed in Christianity, and usually to old-fashioned Catholicism, because it offers the best escape from the cycle of change. Nonetheless, during the first phase of the Enlightenment (which con­ tinued well into the nineteenth century), considerable optimism prevailed about the possibility of arriving at the permanent truth concerning human nature; it was thought that, in the search, art might be used as an instrument. The French philosophes had looked back over history, had seen it as a record of success or failure (but mostly failure), and had assumed that over time, they and other thinkers would evolve a concept of humankind that would

allow them to correct the course of history. If history was such a record of crime and injustice, this was because it had not played out in accordance with human nature. Once that had been defined as a natural phenomenon like other phenomena, without all the mythical accretions of the past, so­ ciety would right itself, and the generations of the future would find themUJ

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selves in a social context that would allow the full, harmonious expression of their inherent possibilities. We now come to what I believe is the crux of the matter: in recent times the Enlightenment hope of ameliorating the definition of human nature has come to seem more and more illusory, at least to a great many important thinkers and artists. When the philosophes assumed that it would be possible to define human nature and create the perfect society, they imagined they were looking toward the future, but in fact they were falling back onto a static conception. The accumulation of knowledge has shown not only that human beings are part of the evolutionary process but that they are, as the only animals with culture, an exceptionally changeable part. It is possible to talk about the nature of the noncultural animals, such as the lion or the tiger, because that nature has not altered appreciably in the course of recorded history. But the more we learn about human beings, the more we realize that their so-called nature has included such a bewildering variety of customs, attitudes, beliefs, and artistic products that it is impossible for any one person to comprehend more than a very small part of the range. Moreover, we are more aware than ever before of the complex and mysterious forces at work within ourselves, forces that we do not wholly understand and therefore cannot wholly control. In other words, as some modern thinkers—in particular, French thinkers such as Andre Malraux—are fond of putting it, the death of God is now being followed by the death of Man (Temptation, 97). However much some people may wish to reject the past, precisely because they find it so difficult to contemplate, the knowledge of it weighs on them as an immense repository of largely unassimilable data, while the future stretches ahead, a vista of endless and ultimately meaningless change. The sheer fact of living in time thus becomes a form of existential anguish, because history is no more than a succession of moments, all in a way equally valid or invalid. Human nature, having ceased to be a unifying concept, henceforth describes only the suc­ cession of human manifestations. And of course this anguish of living in time is accompanied by the twin anguish of contingency, the sensation that scientific law holds sway over animate and inanimate nature, entirely without intelligible reference to

human consciousness and emotion. The result is a metaphysical dizziness or nihilistic despair over the very concept of human nature, which combines in all sorts of complicated ways with both the pastoral myth of original human nature and the millennial myth of ultimate human potential. Let me now try to indicate some of the consequences of all this for avant-garde art in general and avant-garde drama in particular. It is because people have been trying, since the Enlightenment, to un­ derstand matters rationally and scientifically that they face these dilemmas. Hence the widespread, often fascinated, disgust with the idea of science, which is taken as a further justification for the flight from reason. Hence also the search for methods of producing a sensation of mystic depth—in other words, an apparently meaningful, although ultimately incomprehensible, relationship with the transcendent—namely, something beyond ordinary or everyday existence. If nothing can be given a meaning in the general transitoriness of history, everything can be given a sort of mystic weight through existentialist awareness, which may range from hysterical euphoria to re­ signed nausea. In its extreme form, this awareness even eliminates the need to create a work of art. Anyone can be an artist, simply by picking up a stone or a found object, or drawing a line around some fragment of the given world and seeing it as an embodiment of mystery. This helps to explain collages, cut-outs, and the cult of the object among Surrealists and other avant-garde litterateurs. Such randomness is also connected with the dream, on the one hand, and, in its more frantic manifestations, with madness, on the other. Both are forms of unreason that have been much cultivated by different avant-gardes. It is interesting that while medicine and psychiatry, which are scientific in intention, try to interpret dreams and madness in rational terms, some avantgardes have reverted to the medieval attitude and accept the dream or the madman's perception as a truth higher than that perceptible by the sane or the waking mind. This inclination is particularly noticeable among the Surrealists and their descendants, who have taken Rimbaud's prescription about le dereglement de tous les sens (the disordering of all the senses) very seriously and who find in Freud's work their justification for an enlightened form of irrationalism. Moreover, since language is normally the vehicle of articulate meaning, it is in connection with language that the problem of meaning versus meaninglessness occurs most acutely among avant-garde writers. For some, all the ordinary uses of language are too comprehensible, so these avant-garde writers adopt various methods designed to break through language to a


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mystery that is supposed to lie beyond it; or, in the interests of escaping from mutability, they adopt imaginative ways of putting words together, yet, un­ like classical authors, avant-gardists ignore the purportedly changeless aspect of human nature in their writing. At one end of the scale are dramatists as different as Antonin Artaud and Gertrude Stein, who dispense with their existing languages almost altogether and replace them with collocations of more or less onomatopoeic sounds. (In rejecting cogency of plot and idea in favor of the sensuality or pure form of gesture and space as well as language, Stein was probably the first thoroughgoing American avant-garde dramatist.) These sounds could be intended as a return to the voice of our original pastoral or primitive nature, like the barking of dogs or the mooing of cows, or perhaps they are supposed to make us feel that all language is futile, since no language provides the key to the meaning of the evolving universe. Then come those playwrights, like the Dadaist Tzara, who treat words as objects, like the objects of the avantgarde painter or sculptor, and try to dissociate them from the articulate meanings they might have in a sentence. As a performance phenomenon and as dramatic art, Dada disposed of or­ ganic contexts by removing from language its readily recognizable character of communication. The Dadaist poet hacked up words and rearranged their syllables, exalting the outcome as new language whose meaning camped sometimes in inflection, sometimes in the resemblance to other, fixed words. Indeed, Dada poetry actively inconvenienced—or indeed eradicated—im­ mediate comprehension by aggrandizing language into art and then depriv­ ing that art of a clear and consistent aesthetic. Like Dada poetry, the Dada stage was an experiment in language, meddling with the word in order to reduce viewers' comprehension of theme, setting, and metaphoric meaning. For the Dadaists believed that language, like other representational art forms, required revivification if it was to escape from lifeless intellectualism. Lan­ guage, for them, had lost its artistic probity: as a tool, it was used to sustain ideological power structures, in the form not only of overt political propa­ ganda but also of truistic everyday speech. When Tzara demanded a poetry intentionally divorced from standard syntax and punctuation, he was not only exercising anarchism against the tyranny of Realism and Naturalism in the arts; he was, in addition, rebelling against both communication and the possibility of communicating Dada creativity (as well as desperation) to the rest of the world. Of course, writers have always been aware of words as objects with a shape, a rhythm, and a feel in the mouth, but traditional artists combined

this sense of words as tangible entities with the elaboration of more or less coherent statements. Coherence had become such a despised characteristic by the early twentieth century, however, that many dramatists tried to elimi­ nate it, just as the so-called literary or narrative element had been removed from much painting and sculpture. The play was meant to be sheerly a juxtaposition of words that did not allow the mind to pass through it in the usual way and so slip back into the cycle of time. The normal comprehen­ sion of any sentence is necessarily an act in time, so that if you could halt comprehension, the words would become or might appear to become ulti­ mate fragments of the universe, thereby producing a semblance of eternity. Andre Breton took a militant stand against all procedures that tended to destroy just such an approximation of eternity—and with it the enigma of existence—by submitting the unknown aspects of human words and actions to rational analysis. Breton's First Surrealist Manifesto (1924) therefore at­ tacked the psychological novel directly and, by implication, similar ap­ proaches to the drama. But Breton conceded that dialogue as verbal com­ munication was the most suitable channel for what he called automatic writing. "It is to the dialogue that the forms of Surrealist language are best adapted" (34), he declared. And in an effort "to restore dialogue to its abso­ lute truth" (35), Breton rejected the use of dialogue for polite or superficial conversation. Rather, it was to be a confrontation of two streams of spoken thought, neither particularly relevant to the other or having any inherent sequential order, but each provoking a spontaneous response from its op­ posite number. As a psychic release in which the speakers dispensed with decorum, Breton considered, such dialogue, when written down, was "auto­ matic" in the sense that it was as free as possible from the mental mechanism of criticism or self-censorship on the part of the author(s). One of the first pieces of writing acknowledged as "Surrealist," the play The Magnetic Fields (1919), on which Andre Breton and Philippe Soupault collaborated, was just such a form of dialogue: a juxtaposition of two soliloquies verbally bouncing off each other. Finally, language might be used to create a puzzle, a conundrum, or a game, as Jarry did in Caesar-Antichrist (1895). This is not quite the same thing as a sheer object, for it allows a kind of circular movement of com­ prehension within the terms of reference of the game itself. Here the writer produces a construct according to his own arbitrary rules, or to rules founded on the unexplained vagaries of his particular temperament, and we are intended to enjoy it as a sort of metaphysical trompe-Yoeil. The game pre­ sents the appearance of meaning, for the language of which it is composed

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conveys sense up to a point, but it is really a self-sufficient linguistic labyrinth from which the mind is not intended to escape. Such a work offers no exit to any reality other than its own and hence can be seen as a kind of antirealistic, quasi-Absurdist statement unto itself. Its overdeliberate arrangement is, in the last resort, equivalent to the randomness of some other avant-garde works. A common denominator among most avant-garde movements, in particular those which sprang up between 1910 and 1930, was skepticism about earlier modes of perception—skepticism, that is, about the possibility of articulating meaning through the logic of language or the language of logic. Realism, together with its more complex descendant, Naturalism, had been based on the assumption that material or positivistic reality can be discovered and articulated through the systematic application of the scientific method to objective or observable phenomena. The resultant tendency to ignore subjective elements and the inner life led, in the view of avant-garde artists, to an oversimplified view of the world. By contrast, as we have seen, the Symbolists, Aesthetes, and neo-Romantics had sought truth in such abstractions as mystery, destiny, beauty, and the ideal, which is to say that they placed ultimate reality outside our human ken. The dramatic move­ ments to come were as deeply concerned with truth and reality as their predecessors had been but, finding the old definitions and formulations in­ adequate, they sought new ones. In this pursuit they were not antiscientific; rather, they attempted to incorporate scientific discoveries into a more com­ prehensive vision of the world. And that revised vision was prompted as much by World War I, as I have already suggested, as by anything else. The assassination of the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sara­ jevo on June 28, 1914, started a four-year period of slaughter and mutila­ tion. Among the victims was the well-made realistic play. Although the nineteenth-century theater was not killed outright in the first of the great world wars, it did receive a series of blows from which it would never fully recover. The stable world of the prewar era, reflected in a theater that had catered to a bourgeois audience and had held the mirror up to their iives, manners, and morals, began to disintegrate. With a million killed at Verdun and another million during the Russian offensive of 1916, with countries appearing, disappearing, and reappearing on the map of Europe, what did it matter whether Mme Duclos committed adultery with her husband's best friend, or whether M. Dupont succeeded in marrying off his daughters? After the horrors of mechanized war, the theatrical depiction of the material and financial problems of the bourgeoisie seemed irrelevant, even obscene.

The realistic tradition and the well-made play were of course only maimed and shell-shocked; they continue to drag out a senile existence in the rest homes of our commercial theater. The Surrealist writer and painter Andre Masson described the artistic revolt of the twenties as having its origin in disgust with "the colossal slaugh­ ter" of World War I, with the "obscene 'brainwashing' that had been in­ flicted on civilians," with the "militant stupidity" and "sick society of the years 'between the wars'" (81, 96, and passim; my translation). Angrily re­ jecting the past, avant-garde dramatists also rejected traditional ways of re­ garding and portraying reality; or they lost confidence, to repeat the phrase used earlier, in the customary model for dramatizing human behavior and thinking about human existence—the representational one. These play­ wrights created daringly experimental drama that reflected their new ways of seeing people and the world. And if the Great War exploded old conventions and preconceptions for these artists, then the Russian Revolution of 1917 (preceded by the dress rehearsal of 1905) showed them that the most sacred structures were subject to violent change. Indeed, the October Revolution and World War I go hand in hand, for the former appeared to rescue the universal values of the French Revolution of 1789 from the European ashes of Verdun in 1916. October 1917 restored faith in the power of human agency (a power that would not be without its significance in the theater) at a moment when the carnage on the Western front seemed to prove that human beings were the helpless playthings of historical forces. For the entire European Left, the Russian Revolution sym­ bolized the resumption of history's forward march—and so it was seen, through thick and mostly thin, by many if not all leftists, until the counter­ revolution of 1989. Certainly neither international communism (with its rhetoric of the enemy class) nor nationalist fascism (with its rhetoric of the enemy race) would ever have become ruling creeds in the twentieth century had bourgeois society not thrown itself into the abyss of 1914. It was World War I that transformed both political "-isms" into agendas that spoke to the resentment, exhaustion, and horror of the men who returned from the trenches. Communism's own accomplishment, and the source of its appeal, was to formalize the terms of the bourgeoisie's guilty conscience, its remorse at its failure to practice what it preached: the idea of universality or action in the public interest, as well as the equality of all citizens, ideals the bourgeoisie claimed as its primary innovation and the foundation of democracy, but each of which it constantly negated through the unequal distribution of

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property and wealth perpetuated by the competition of its members. And communism gave expression also to the aesthetic self-loathing of the bour­ geois, their secret belief that money twisted the soul and that they knew the price of everything, yet the value of nothing. In this sense, the rise of commu­ nism was inseparable from the rise of Romanticism, the artistic rejection of all that was narrow, miserly, and vulgar about bourgeois capitalism. In Russia, such rejection, and the revolution that went with it, became the starting point for the new, theatrically and cinematically as well as politically and economically, and it made the Soviet stage pre-eminent for experimentation during the dozen years after Lenin's arrival at the Finland Station. Pilgrimages to Moscow to see the productions of Evgeny Vakhtangov, Aleksandr Tairov, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Nikolai Akimov, and Schlomo Mikhoels, and Sergei Eisenstein became mandatory for anyone interested in the future of the theater, or in the work of a Russian Futurist dramatist such as Vladimir Mayakovsky. As the pro-Marxist, pro-Soviet, yet artistically innovative Mayakovsky—whose Mystery-Bouffe (1918) enjoys the odd reputation of being both the greatest Bolshevik and the greatest Futurist drama—once wrote, the violence of World War I made a Futurist of everyone. As a result of the war, all stability, and all expectation of what is normal or can be taken for granted, were destroyed. The Russians Daniil Kharms and Aleksandr Vvedensky belonged to the Oberiuty, the last wave of postrevolutionary modernist writers able to express the new sense of uncertainty and repudiation as well as eagerness for novelty before being suffocated (like Mayakovsky before them) by Stalinist socialist realism—which would permit no confusion or commingling of revolution­ ary politics with revolutionary artistic methods. While stressing their rejec­ tion of representationalism, the Oberiuty also wanted it understood that, unlike some of the earlier twentieth-century avant-garde groups, such as the more extreme Futurists and the Dada-Surrealists, their goal was not to di­ vorce art from life but only to reflect the illogicality, fragmentation, and chaos of the life around them in a different, nonrepresentational way: by jarring the perceptions with unexpected, disjointed configurations of reality mixed with unreality; then by exploiting what such a collision of elements could yield in the way of shock, upset, and humor. If Westerners were unaware of the Russian Oberiuty at least until the early 1970s, they were equally unaware during the twenties and thirties of a lonely and misunderstood figure, the Polish painter-playwright-novelistphilosopher Stanistaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. "Witkacy," who had recently re­ turned from the tsarist army and direct observation of the Revolution, was

creating in the third decade of the twentieth century a proto-Absurdist the­ ater and a theory of abstract drama based on an analogy with modern paint­ ing. In this theater, meaning would be defined solely through internal scenic construction, the only logic would be that of pure form, and the only psy­ chology would be that of bizarre fantasy. In the West, German Expressionists such as Ernst Toller and Georg Kaiser were themselves radically transform­ ing dramatic structure and staging, but, unlike Witkiewicz, Kharms, and Vvedensky, with an impact that was soon felt across the Atlantic in the United States. As a result—and partly on account of the United States' increasing "globalization" after its successful participation in World War I— American theater joined the international mainstream of experimentation for the first time, as it produced the avant-garde drama of the early Eugene O'Neill, E. E. Cummings, and Gertrude Stein. After World War I, France, which had enjoyed commercial rather than artistic leadership in the field of drama as the nineteenth century marched in lockstep from Pixerecourt and Scribe to Sardou and Labiche, immediately regained its traditional importance in the avant-garde, and not only through the theatrical innovations of Jacques Copeau and his students (Louis Jouvet, Charles Dullin, Gaston Baty, and Georges Pitoeff). The French also reasserted their prominence in drama through the avant-garde experiments of such Surrealists as Philippe Soupault, Benjamin Peret, Louis Aragon, and Roger Vitrac, who—in the wake of a world war both imperialist and mecha­ nized—portrayed the ambiguity and irrationality of existence with incon­ gruous juxtapositions, with nonsense and non sequitur, and with humor and irony. (Guillaume Apollinaire was the first to use the term "Surrealism," in the preface to his play The Breasts ofTiresias [1917]: "When man wanted to imitate walking he created the wheel, which does not resemble a leg—and in the same way he has created Surrealism unconsciously" [56].) Artaud, whose radical insights bore fruit a generation later, himself be­ gan his work as playwright, actor, director, theorist—and prophet—during this renaissance in the French theater. And though in Italy Pirandello had shattered the traditional conceptions of representational theatrical illusion and unified dramatic character, it was the French productions by Dullin and Pitoeff that brought the Sicilian's dramatic vision to the rest of Europe and America—so much so in our own country that Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921) has surely become the most frequently anthologized, and deservedly the most influential, of avant-garde plays. (For this reason, we felt no need to anthologize it yet again here.) Whether it was French or Italian, German or Russian, the theatrical

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avant-garde of the post-World War I era was not revolutionary only in an artistic sense, however; as I have noted, it was also revolutionary in a socio­ political sense, which was itself complemented by a psychological revo­ lutionism. The patron saints of the theatrical revolutionists of this period happened to be an unlikely pair, Sigmund Freud and V. I. Lenin. (Coincidentally, in the year before the Russian Revolution, Lenin lived directly across the street from the Cabaret Voltaire, the famous Zurich cafe that was the birthplace of Dada.) Implosions and explosions, dreams and revolutions, the conquest of the irrational and the triumph of the proletariat—these psychological and sociopolitical extremes lent form and substance to the avant-garde theater of the teens and twenties. Expressionism and Surrealism, the two major movements in painting and drama of the period, unite the subjective and the societal, dream and revolution, with the aim of transcending and transforming reality by releasing the subconscious and leveling all social barriers. In their rejection of the old society, the Surrealist heirs of Dada looked eastward, toward Moscow, for fraternity as well as inspiration and maintained a prolonged, if stormy and vacillating, attachment to the French Communist Party and the Third International—an attachment that thus privileged social or political revolu­ tion over the spiritual revolt of Artaud's theater of cruelty. Unlike the war­ mongering Italian Futurists, the German Expressionists, almost to a man, were pacifists. Social change, for them, grows out of the dream of spiritual rebirth, and the grimly realistic therefore moves with shocking rapidity in their work toward the fantastic and the visionary. The extremism and distortion of Expressionist drama derive precisely from its closeness to the dream. Indeed, in its crude aspects, Expressionism is nothing more than dramatized daydream or fantasy. In its subtler and more interesting examples, however, Expressionism approaches the concealing symbolism and subliminal suggestiveness of night dreams, if not nightmares. Innovatively, Strindberg called the experimental plays he wrote when he passed beyond Naturalism dream plays: namely, To Damascus (1888-1904), A Dream Play (1902), and The Ghost Sonata (1907). In them the projection and embodiment of psychic forces take the place of the replication of exter­ nal fact; and the association of ideas supplants the construction of plot based on the logical connection of cause and effect. The old structural principle of causal interrelations linking character, incident, and action thus gives way to a new structural pattern, closer to music than to drama—the presentation of a theme and variations. Instead of being mimetic, the acting in Strindberg's dream plays, like that

in German Expressionist drama, would be "musical" as well. Rather than seek to reproduce everyday behavior on the stage, the expressionistic actor, according to Paul Kornfeld (in an epilogue appended to his play The Seduction [1913]), should combine passionate rhetoric with trancelike ecstasy, and "not be ashamed of the fact that he is acting. . . . The melody of a great gesture says more than the highest consummation of what is called natural­ ness. Let him think of the opera, in which the dying singer still gives forth a high C and with the sweetness of his melody tells more about death than if he were to crawl and writhe" (7-8). Strindberg's dream plays in turn became the inspiration for German Expressionists such as Georg Kaiser, Ernst Toller, Reinhard Sorge, and Wal­ ter Hasenclever. Unlike the French Surrealists of the twenties and thirties, though, the Expressionists rarely reproduced actual dreams, with their shift­ ing planes of reality and gross distortion of the "laws" of time, space, and causality. Instead, the structure of many of their plays resembled the formal pattern or movement of the human mind in dream and reverie. Not by accident, the influence of Strindberg coincided with that of psychoanalysis (Freud's Interpretation of Dreams having appeared two years before A Dream Play), and, in its Freudian form (as well as later in its Jungian one), psycho­ analysis had decisive significance for Expressionism. But even before Freud, German philosophy from Schelling to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, to­ gether with the intellectual atmosphere in Germany in the wake of Roman­ ticism, had offered intimations of the subconscious. Even those Expression­ ists who were not conversant with the actual works of Freud, then, were undoubtedly familiar with the climate of thought that had given rise to psychoanalysis in the first place. In adopting an episodic dream structure, the German Expressionists not only rejected the tradition of the well-made play and openly defied the ideal of an objective recording of everyday life, on which "realistic" theater had been based. In league, paradoxically, with the realists and naturalists, they also turned against the disdainful aloofness from contemporary urban reality that characterized those writers who sought to revive the Romanticism or even the Neoclassicism of the past. Along with the dominant art of bourgeois society, the Expressionists rejected, unmasked, and caricatured the mores, precepts, and institutions that denatured its urban reality, whose prevail­ ing authoritarian temper—whether in Wilhelmine Germany or Hapsburg Austria—they opposed. Thus, like the other avant-gardes of its time, Expres­ sionism constituted not merely an aesthetic revolt but also an ethical and sometimes even a political one, closely allied with humanitarian principles

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and socialist reform. However, since this revolt was in many cases neither specific nor rational, but instead vague and emotional, the otherwise pacifistic movement numbered among its members some who were afterward, in an apparent about-face, to contribute their support to militant communism. The Bolshevik Revolution and Freudian psychoanalysis, then, tore down both the external conventions of society and the internal walls of the self. No wonder the walls and conventions of the realistic theater were also demolished—walls between stage and auditorium, actor and audience, author and play, together with the conventions of illusion, character, and plot. It had been demonstrated that reality, the basis for "realism," was neither objective nor unchanging, neither absolute nor unified, but instead relative and fragmented. And with the loss of belief in objective, immutable truth understandably came the eclipse of illusionistic, representational playwriting and staging. The human psyche, psychoanalysts showed, was a heap of fragments, not an integrated whole; an entire society, the Bolsheviks proved, could be blown up, and with it every value that it had cherished, every belief that it had promulgated. The avant-garde writers of the twenties and beyond investigated dramatic form precisely for the purpose of expressing this shattered reality; instead of holding a mirror up to nature, creating an illusion of reality, or reflecting the surface of the world, they smashed that mirror, imagined illusions within illusions, and generated apocalyptic visions. It was in order to depict human society and human nature in constant, often violent, upheaval and disin­ tegration, to uncover subterranean faultlines in politics as well as people, that the new playwrights adopted the fluidity of dreams and the chaos of revolutions as dramatic devices. Avant-garde drama between the world wars thus reflects not the private domestic life of that period, but rather its gross communal instability: its shifting planes of reality, changing perspectives on society, drastic transpositions of time and space, and manifold takes on personality. Many of the new movements placed considerable emphasis on multiple images of personality, for example, through their exploration of the sub­ conscious—probably because Freud's theories provided a semiscientific ex­ planation for forces that the Symbolists had relegated to the realm of fate, mysticism, or the supernatural. Through the subconscious, the subjective and the objective worlds could be brought into logical relation onstage that synthesized the views of both the realist-naturalists and the Symbolists. And through the psychological probing of the Surrealists, the vast realms of the mind offered material for new explorations in performance, apart from any


concern for objective representation. Freud's theories were given new di­ mensions, moreover, by the work of Carl Jung. Beginning with Psychology of the Unconscious (1912), he argued that Freud's description of the structure of the mind is incomplete; to its three divisions of id, ego, and superego should be added a fourth, the "collective unconscious"—a division beyond the reach of psychoanalysis, for "by no analytical technique can it be brought to conscious recollection, being neither repressed nor forgotten" (319). The collective unconscious, according to Jung, is "nothing more than a potentiality... which from primordial times has been handed down to us in the specific form of mnemonic images, or expressed in anatomical forma­ tions in the very structure of the brain" (319), incorporating "the psychic residua of innumerable experiences of the same type" (320). In this manner, Jung pushed the concept of the unconscious one step further and suggested an explanation for psychological responses not accounted for by Freud. He went on to declare that there are essentially two kinds of art: the kind based on the personal unconscious and that based on the collective unconscious. The first is limited by the author's personal vision, but the second is more significant because it captures (through archetype, myth, and symbol) expe­ riences embedded in the collective unconscious, which are the ones best suited to compensate for what is missing from our lives in the present. From the point of view of avant-garde dramatists, Jung, in so extending Freud's conception of the unconscious, was implicitly arguing for a reality that is far more complex than surface appearance would suggest. New developments in physics were to prove as far-reaching as those in psychology. Beginning in 1905, Albert Einstein began formulating his the­ ory of relativity, which constitutes the most revolutionary, precise statement of perceptions of time and space that have greatly influenced not only twentieth-century science but art and literature as well. The theory is revolu­ tionary precisely because, in formulating it, Einstein sought to incorporate both spatial and temporal dimensions. Newtonian physics had depicted space as static and absolute by treating both time and point of view as fixed; starting with Einstein, space came to be seen by contrast as relative to a moving point of reference. To the three spatial dimensions, he added the fourth dimension of time, in the form of movement; and the faster the movement, the greater are the changes in the perceived dimensions of both time and space. Even though Einstein saw mass, length, time, and simultaneity as rela­ tive, he never doubted the orderliness of the universe, and he sought to harmonize the variables through mathematical formulas. Less scientifically

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oriented minds, however, were more attracted to the idea of relativity itself and elevated it as a principle by which they could not only question the linear progression of time or the related principle of inexorable, determinis­ tic causality but also postulate the purely subjective nature of human percep­ tion. For many the possibility of firm or absolute truth had vanished forever, in the same way that it had disappeared around a century before for the German Romantics in consequence of Kant's notion that "pure reason" cannot penetrate the essence of things, that the intellect cannot determine what is truth and what merely appears to be truth, that all perception is finally subjective. (This idea was expressed in his Critique of Pure Reason [1781] but later qualified—like Einstein's theory of relativity—and reconciled with a belief in God's moral law in both his Critique of Practical Reason [1788] and his Critique of Judgment [1790].) Kant's notion—which for Kleist shattered his Enlightenment belief in the power of reason to comprehend the universe and to perfect life on earth—lay at the heart of German Romanticism. Henceforth, the outer world was abandoned in favor of the inner, reality was created by the imagi­ nation, higher consciousness was gained through the unconscious, and the generally valid was reached by way of the most individual. But whereas Romantics like Tieck and Grabbe escaped from objective reality into a world of fairy-tale fantasy, literary satire, or nationalistic folklore, Kleist in­ corporated the obduracy of that reality into such dramas as Penthesilea (1808) and Prince Friedrich of Homburg (1811) and in this sense showed some affinity for the classicism of Goethe and Schiller (themselves erstwhile Sturmer-und-Dranger)y which had attempted to reconcile spirit and matter by harmonizing the inner and outer worlds. As a result of Einstein's work, however, the changed conceptions of time and space were soon evident on the surface of artistic forms (in addition to being manifest at their spiritual core)—particularly in their organizational patterns. Space in painting, for example, had since the Renaissance been conceived as fixed, and objects had been shown from a single point of view at a specific instant in time. In fact, the entire logic of perspective painting was based on this convention, which was grounded in Newtonian physics. The first major break with tradition came in the late nineteenth century when Paul Cezanne began to include in one painting objects that could be seen only from different "eye-points." But it was Cubism (usually said to have begun in 1907 and to have reached its height just before World War I) that first systematically introduced into a single painting several points of view, no one of which had more authority than the others. The Cubist paint-

ers, among whom Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque were the leading fig­ ures, sought not only to break down objects semigeometrically, into cubes, spheres, cylinders, and cones, but also to provide several views of the same object simultaneously. Cubism thus represented an attempt to deal analyt­ ically with space and to incorporate the dimension of time into painting. Similar attempts were made in drama, where time has traditionally been treated as linear (and events occur in proper succession from beginning to middle to end) rather than as simultaneous or relative. Just as fixed space had governed most painting, the orderly or sequential passing of time had gov­ erned drama, with most plays being unified through a cause-and-effect ar­ rangement of incidents that mimicked Newton's own theory of causality (according to which every thing or occurrence in the universe has its cause or origin). Less often, an overriding thought, theme, or thesis had been used to unify otherwise seemingly random, disjointed incidents (as in Aristopha­ nes' comedies and the medieval mystery plays). Nearly all nonrealistic dra­ matists have adopted some variation on this method, for most have orga­ nized their works around some central idea or motif, although the specific form of organization—musical, say, as in the case of Strindberg's Ghost Sonata, mentioned earlier, Mayakovsky's "bouffe" (comic opera) of a mys­ tery play, or, even later, Sam Shepard's Suicide in B-Flat (1976)—depends in large part on the assumptions the playwright has made about reality. Before the modern period most dramatists had assumed, of course, that ours is a logical universe presided over by a just God; behind any apparent chaos, therefore, lay ultimate harmony and justice. But as I have tried to make clear, avant-garde drama was directly affected by the new god of science—by new scientific discoveries and the advanced technologies of the machine age, in their constructive as well as destructive capacities. For this reason, the plays of the Expressionists, Futurists, and Surrealists have an essentially new tempo or rhythm that mirrors the fast pace of industrial life, the thrilling speed of the airplane, the automobile, and the motorcycle, and the quick cuts of edited film. Such drama overwhelms the spectator with its abrupt images and movement more in keeping with the sports arena and the movie screen than with the predictable pace of bourgeois, boulevard, or Broadway theater or even the Symbolist temple of art (where earthly dis­ continuity, illogicality, and obscurity could still be absorbed, reconciled, or overruled in a transcendent, ideal realm). Furthermore, avant-garde drama playfully calls attention to itself as drama, to its own artifice and spectacle (as realist or naturalist plays never would), and exuberantly com­ bines esoteric art with popular culture—with the circus, the cabaret, even

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the jazz of the twentieth century—in a way not seen since the two apogees of Western theater: those of ancient Greece and Elizabethan England. All the playfulness and exuberance ended, however, with the rise of fascism and the arrival of World War II, as an entire generation of artists was geographically displaced, politically silenced, morally co-opted, or simply executed (the fate of the sometime Surrealist Federico Garcia Lorca). State repression of the avant-garde was most conspicuous, of course, under the totalitarian regimes of the Soviet Union and Germany, in which, respectively, avant-garde practice was denigrated as "formalist" and "degenerate." In both cases, avant-gardism was stamped out because it conflicted with, or merely failed to serve, official government policy. The dramatic decline of the European avant-garde in the 1930s is thus connected with a paradoxical feature of the avant-garde ethos: avant-garde artistic practice can flourish only under liberal political regimes, which are willing to tolerate vigorous expressions of dissent against the state and society. In this respect the avantgarde bites the hand that feeds it, or conversely, in Poggioli's words, it pays "involuntary homage" to the bourgeois liberal democracies it attacks (106). World War II was thus a turning point not only in the individual lives of a great many artists and intellectuals but also in the history of the avant-garde as a whole. Avant-garde drama written after World War II, like the drama produced between the two world wars, was to be affected by new scientific discoveries and the advanced technologies of the machine age, but in this case those which made possible the splitting of the atom and the demented, conveyor-belt efficiency of gas chambers—which is to say, technologies whose immediate effect was overwhelmingly negative—indeed, incompre­ hensibly catastrophic. The horrors of World War II, especially the systematic displacement and extermination of vast numbers of people, created a crisis of conscience among many of the world's artists and intellectuals. Traditional values and morals seemed incapable of coping with such dilemmas as the American dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, or the Holocaust perpe­ trated by the Nazis against European Jewry (not to speak of the Soviet GULAG stretching from the Urals to the Pacific). Conventional values and morals, as a result, no longer seemed to rest on any solid foundation. As the full implications of a godless universe at last became evident, the search for absolute values or essential truths gave way to fundamental ques­ tions about human beings' existence and place in the universe. As Martin Esslin put it, "The decline of religious faith was masked until the end of the Second World War by the substitute religions of faith in progress, national­ ism, and various totalitarian fallacies. All this was shattered by the war. By


1942, Albert Camus was calmly putting the question why, since life had lost all meaning, man should not seek escape in suicide" (5). Camus, of course, was a leading exponent of existentialism, perhaps the most compelling force in postwar thought. (Although it can be traced as far back as the ancient Greeks, existentialism remained a relatively minor strain in philosophy until the mid-nineteenth century, where we find it beginning with Kierkegaard.) Whereas an essentialist philosopher might inquire into what it means to be human—what the essential human traits are—the existentialist begins by asking, "What does it mean 'to be' or 'to exist?" Existentialists like Albert Camus argued that human beings are, individually, responsible for making themselves what they are, and that without making a free and conscious choice before taking action, one cannot truly be said "to exist" as a human being. This philosophical movement thus sought to free the individual from external authority as well as from the authority or weight of the past and to force him or her to discover within the self the grounds for choosing and doing. (Hence the difference between traditional, expository characters who are victims of the past, and unconventional, existentialist characters who live in—and act out of—the eternal present.) Understandably, existentialism struck a responsive chord during and after World War II, for the world had seemingly gone mad, as personal choice was abdicated in favor of blind adherence to national leaders and policies, even when such obedience en­ tailed condoning almost unbelievable cruelties or crimes against humanity. Existentialism also struck a responsive chord in the theater. Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre wrote such plays as Caligula (1945) and The Flies (1943) to dramatize the tenets of their philosophy. These plays, along with those by Giraudoux, Anouilh, and Salacrou, create what could be called a form of aesthetic dissonance, however, for they posit, in Esslin's words, the ul­ timate "senselessness of life [and] the inevitable devaluation of ideals, purity, and purpose" (6). Yet the plays themselves are logical constructs that depend for their effect on ratiocinative devices, discursive thought, and consistent or coherent character. In this sense, existentialist playwrights have something in common with dramatists that went before them—Goethe, Schiller, and especially Kleist, a harbinger of the avant-garde. These Germans had at­ tempted to harmonize Romanticism—and its focus on the turbulent, inter­ nal life—with Neoclassicism, which emphasized the controlled, external world. Camus, Sartre, and company tried to express irrational content—that is, the theme of the irrationality of the human condition—in rational form. (Sartre and Camus were to be followed, in the late 1990s, by Tom Stoppard and Michael Frayn, whose Arcadia and Copenhagen, paradoxically, explore

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in conventional dramatic form, respectively, the way in which Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle exploded the traditional concept of cau­ sality, thus opening the door to "chaos theory.") The dramatists of the Theater of the Absurd, by contrast, strive to express their sense of metaphysical anguish at the senselessness of the human condition in a form which mirrors that meaninglessness or ultimate lack of purpose. Therefore, Absurdists like Samuel Beckett, Eugene lonesco, Jean Genet, and Arthur Adamov abandon the cause-and-effect relationship that traditionally governs the incidents in a play—the progression of exposition, complication, turning point, climax, and denouement—or reduce reliance on that pattern to an absolute minimum. Rather than chronicling the connective quality of events in a linear narrative, the action in plays like Waiting for Godot (1952), The Bald Soprano (1950), The Maids (1947), and The Invasion (1949) tends to be circular or ritualistic, as it concentrates on exploring the texture of a static situation or condition. In such drama, problems or dilemmas are seldom resolved, and characters tend toward the typical or archetypal rather than the specific or the individual. Often they even exchange roles or metamorphose into other characters, and some are given only generic or numerical designations. Moreover, time for these characters is flexible, as it is in dreams, just as place is generalized: the dramatis personae of Absurdist plays most often find themselves in a symbolic location, or in a void cut off from the concrete world as we (think we) know it. And in this dramatic limbo, language itself is downgraded. Although the characters frequently talk as volubly as do the figures of conventional theater, they usually recognize that they are indulg­ ing in a word-game that ridicules the very use of language by distorting it or making it as mechanical as possible. To compensate for this downgrading of language as a means of communication, Absurdist plays emphasize the met­ aphorical aspect through their scenery. Their poetry tends to emerge, ac­ cording to Esslin, "from the concrete and objectified images of the stage itself. . . . What happens on the stage transcends, and often contradicts, the words spoken by the characters" (7). What happens, moreover, never takes place in the context of traditional dramatic genres: instead, the somber often becomes the grotesque (as in the precursory esperpentos of Ramon Maria del Valle-Inclan from the twenties), and the comic frequently takes on tragic overtones (as in the anarchic farces of Joe Orton). The world is "neutralized," even turned on its head, by these writers' deriding of everything that in the past was taken seriously, or by their transforming of what most people have considered to be ludicrous into something ominous, powerful, and affecting. Despite such rejection of for-

mal purity, structural logic, integrated character, and linguistic cohesiveness, Absurdist drama is ultimately conceptual, for in the end it too seeks to project an intellectualized perception—however oblique or abstruse—about the human condition. The difference between such drama and earlier nonrealistic plays, from Symbolism onward, is precisely that perception or vision, rather than its techniques. Although the Absurdists were especially attuned to as well as inclined to imitate the work of Jarry, Artaud, Pirandello, the Futurists, the Dadaists, and perhaps above all the Surrealists, their subject becomes peo­ ple's entrapment in an irrational and hostile or impersonal and indifferent universe, an existence in which the search for truth is an exercise in futility. (This attitude, incidentally, does not seep into American drama, with Jack Gelber's The Connection [1959] and Edward Albee's The American Dream [ 1961 ], until postwar euphoria wears off, the Korean War erupts in the midst of the Cold War, and the Vietnam debacle looms on the horizon. The American avant-garde, however, is rooted more in performance than in text, in a radical performative technique that dismantles and then either discards or refashions the overwhelmingly "well-made" drama of the American stage, as the work of the Wooster Group, the Living Theater, the Open Theatre, the Bread and Puppet Theatre, Mabou Mines, and Ping Chong will attest.) The Theater of the Absurd, that is, gives up the search for a dramatic model through which to discover fundamental ethical or philosophical cer­ tainties about life and the world—something even the Surrealists attempted in their probing of the unconscious. To paraphrase Malraux, if the mission of the nineteenth century was to get rid of the gods, the mission of the twentieth century was to replace them with something—until we get to the Absurdists, who replace "something" with nothing or nothingness. The only certainty about human reality, in Ionesco's words, is that, "devoid of purpose . . . cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless" (quoted in Esslin, 5). And this "certainty," as I have already indicated, is reflected in the viciously cyclical nature of Absurdist dramatic form. Theater of the Avant-Garde does not go beyond 1950 and the inception of the Absurd, but not because avant-garde drama has ceased to be written. One need only witness from the 1970s, for example, the Austrian Peter Handke's Ride Across Lake Constance (1971), which demolishes even the remnants of mimesis through a relentless scrutiny of the semiotics of language and expe­ rience that allows for no progression of events, no resolution, no character­ ization, and hence no correspondence between behavior and language; the Frenchman Michel Vinaver's Overboard (1973), whose many discontinuous

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and seemingly unrelated scenes ultimately suggest that everything from the corporate world to the world of myth interconnects; the American Robert Wilson's three-hour speechless epic Deafman Glance (1971), which created a combination Theater of Silence-and-Images not unlike that of silent experi­ mental film; and the work of another American, Charles Ludlam, whose savagely nihilistic Ridiculous Theater parodied familiar genres and the absurdities of life as well as art, in plays like Bluebeard (1970) and Camille (1971). What has happened, however, is that since the late 1960s or so, we have entered the era of postmodernism (a term first used in architecture), during which two developments occurred to stop the "advance" of the avant-garde. The first was the embrace by postmodern dramatists of a stylistic pluralism, an eclectic and often self-reflexive mixing of different styles from different time periods. Under modernism, the argument goes, a variety of styles had flourished, but within any one (such as Expressionism or Surrealism) the artist sought unity by adhering consistently to the set of conventions associated with that mode. The problem with this definition of modernism, at least as it is extended to the history of drama, is that the mixing of radically different styles—and the playwrights' propensity to call attention to the process of artistic creation—was already evident in the work of avant-gardists from the 1920s, not to mention earlier, in the experimental plays of Strindberg. A more sophisticated version of the postmodern argument claims that it is not the mere presence of eclecticism and self-referentiality that distin­ guishes postmodernism, but rather their different cultural positioning and use within a postmodern context. Within an avant-garde ethos the selfconscious mixing of styles constituted a typical attempt to occupy the posi­ tion of "most advanced and subversive trend," whereas self-reflexive plural­ ism in postmodern culture marks an exhaustion of the subversive energies and ambitions once associated with the avant-garde. Over the past century, artists, chastened by what they saw happening in the world, have ceased believing in the efficacy of revolutionary art to change the world; yet they still mouth slogans about transforming the order of society and go through the motions of producing art designed to do just that. The ideologies and techniques of earlier avant-gardes are still conve­ niently lying around, ready to be picked through and recycled, though the heirs no longer see themselves as belonging to a single movement at all. (The quintessential example, in form as well as content, of the resulting drama is Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Millennium Approaches [1992].) What had begun before World War I, then, as a burgeoning involvement by artists in the future of their societies—if only as outcasts who believed (like

Artaud) that some day they would be regarded as prophets—had subsided by the decade of the 1970s into an acknowledgment that progressive artistic pro­ grams would never be adopted and experienced by the vast majority of any country's citizens. To paraphrase Fredric Jameson, all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak through the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum of the past. Or, as Ihab Hassan has put it, only indeterminacies—"discontinuity, heterodoxy, pluralism, randomness, perversion"— and deformations—"disintegration, deconstruction, displacement, disconti­ nuity, disjunction, decomposition, demystification, delegitimization"—can be identified as central to postmodernism (269). The avant-garde remains with us today as a sanctioned aesthetic predilec­ tion. Struggling within the confines of a self-reflexive formal orientation and against an ill-defined social context of liberal and diffuse pluralism, that avant-garde bears curious witness to an ambiguous state of mind. It attempts to display a creative and critical vitality yet raises only minimal expectations. It countenances an active and often aggressive assertion of individual will yet betrays an uneasy acquiescence and resignation. Its most significant efforts do continue to involve the self-conscious exploration of the nature, limits, and possibilities of drama and theater (the most naturally reflexive of art forms) in contemporary society; but the vision of the future—of the avantgarde's future as well as that of society and culture in general—provided by such work is tentative and unclear, as if the avant-garde could not move beyond doubt and distrust toward an inspired vision. Reworking the military metaphor underpinning the notion of avantgardism, one could argue that we have entered a period in which the culture of negation has been replaced by a demilitarized zone, flanked by avantgarde ghosts on the one side and a changing mass culture on the other. The once subversive styles of the avant-garde have been assimilated by mass culture, that is, so that the gap between nominally avant-garde products and popular, mass-cultural ones, such as Julie Taymor's Lion King on Broadway or television's MTV and "The Larry Sanders Show," is greatly reduced. If the historical avant-garde once consisted of wave after wave of antibourgeois, mostly left-leaning, angry yet visionary artists pouring onto a hostile shore (a beachhead, to continue the military metaphor), then each successive wave has been soaked up by the society it apparently hated and opposed—has been co-opted and made fashionable, turned into a style in competition with other styles, by the once and future enemy (the official culture's dogmathically imposed system of values and beliefs). The avant-garde, as a result, can today do little more than impotently


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express disenchantment with its own ideals, while popular culture is en­ chanted to assume the once radical posture of inventiveness, daring, and "difference." Indeed, in what could be the ultimate indignity, the very phrase "avant-garde" has itself become a marketing device, and now even the name of a new line of deodorant in Great Britain. Moreover, the objects of the avant-garde have become useful investment commodities for the "Establishment," in the form of paintings, sculptures, and even theatrical posters that adorn the walls of major corporations—purportedly in the name of culture, education, and refinement. The second development to stop the "advance" of the avant-garde was, and remains, the deification of postmodern performance, through the merging of author and director into a single "superstar" like Peter Brook or Jerzy Grotowski, Andrei Serban or Peter Sellars, Tadeusz Kantor or Robert Lepage, as well as through the breaking down of boundaries between dramatic forms and performance styles, between styles and periods, and between the arts themselves. Again, however, we see the presence particularly of the latter arts themselves. Again, however, we see the presence particularly of the latter breakdown within modernism: in the synesthesia of the Symbolists, for in­ instance, or in the writing of plays by artists from different media or according to the dictates of a different artistic medium. (Among these works can be counted Henri Rousseau's Visit to the Paris Exposition of 1889 [1889], Arnold Schonberg's Lucky Hand [1913], Jean Cocteau's Parade [1917], Guillaume Apollinaire's Color of Time [1918], Ernst Barlach's Poor Cousin [1919], Oskar Schlemmer's Figural Cabinet I and II [1922-23], and Pablo Picasso's Desire Caught by the Tail [ 1941 ].) When we see something like this breakdown after World War II, in the "happenings" of the painter Allan Kaprow from the late fifties (the original "performance art," in the sense that visual art was "performed" by objectified human bodies), we also begin to see the cultivation of performance as art unto itself, apart from or superior to any a priori text. First, attempts were made by artists other than Kaprow to move drama outside the confines of traditional, or text-based, theaters and into more accessible, less formal surroundings. Second, emphasis was shifted, in the "happenings," from passive observation to active participation—from the ar­ tistic product to the viewing process. Each spectator, in becoming the partial creator of a piece, derived any meaning that might be desired from the experience, thus downplaying the artist's intention or even existence. (So much for the work of such postmodern authors as Caryl Churchill and Heiner Muller.) Third, simultaneity and multiple focus tended to replace the orderly sequence of conventionally, or even unconventionally, scripted

drama; no pretense was maintained that everyone at such a multimedia event could see and hear the same things at the same time or in the same order. Many of these ideas were carried over into "environmental theater," a term popularized by Richard Schechner for something in between happen­ ings and traditional productions. In this kind of theater, among other things, all production elements speak their own language rather than being mere supports for words, and a text need be neither the starting point nor the goal of a production—indeed, a text is not even necessary, and therefore there may be none. In other words, fidelity to the text, that sacred tenet which had so long governed performance, has become irrelevant: postmodernism, both as critical inquiry and as theater, continues to challenge whether any text is authoritative, whether a dramatic text can be anything more than a performance script—whether, in fact, the play exists at all before it is staged. In Blooded Thought, Herbert Blau concedes that "so far as performance goes, the Text remains our best evidence after the fact, like the quartos and folios of the Elizabethan stage." But what, he asks, is "the nature of the Text before the fact?" The answer, he suggests, is that "the idea of performance has become the mediating, often subversive third term in the on-again off-again marriage of drama and theater" (37). And performance groups such as Mabou Mines and Grand Union, for their part, have become concerned less with what they are say­ ing—with content—than with form and formal experiment: with the means of communicating, the places where theatrical events take place, the persons employed as performers, and the relationship of performers, and perfor­ mance, to the audience. Enter "performance art" of the kind so loosely defined in this country that all the following qualify as, or have called themselves, "performance artists": Madonna, Karen Finley, Anna Deavere Smith, Amy Taubin, Eric Bogosian, Ann Magnuson, Martha Clarke, Stuart Sherman, Chris Burden, Linda Montano, Laurie Anderson, Jack Smith, Holly Hughes, Vito Acconci, Winston Tong, Meredith Monk, Spalding Gray, Rachel Rosenthal, Tim Miller, John Fleck, John Leguizamo, John Kelly, Joan Jonas, Gilbert and George, Deborah Hay, Bill Irwin, Bob Berky, David Shiner, the Kipper Kids, Michael Moschen, Avner ("the Eccentric") Eisenberg, and the Flying Karamazov Brothers. Anything can be called "art," in other words, as long as it is consecrated by performance—preferably of the narcissistic self. Yet even "performance art," especially in its original incarnation as Kaprow's "happening," harks back to ideas first introduced by the Futurists, Dadaists, and Surrealists. Impatient with established art forms, they turned

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first to the permissive, open-ended, hard-to-define medium of performance, with its endless variables and unabashed borrowings from literature, poetry, music, dance, drama, architecture, cinema, sculpture, and painting. Alfred Jarry's investiture of a new personality, or performative self, for himself; Oskar Kokoschka's manufacture of and formal marriage to a life-sized doll; the proto-Expressionist Frank Wedekind's enthusiastic participation in circus life, together with his practice of nudism, eurythmics, "free love," even onstage masturbation and urination; the Bateau-Lavoir's celebrated banquet in honor of le douanier Rousseau; the Dadaists' first program, which ended in riot at the Cabaret Voltaire in February 1916; Eisenstein's production of Sergei Tretyakov's Gas Masks (1923-24) in the Moscow Gas Factory—all these by turns playful and impassioned, casual and programmed, serious and childlike events could be called, by today's definition, "performance art." But avant-gardists tellingly termed them fumisteries (figuratively, practical jokes or mystifications), and the aesthetic motif that they embodied fumisme. Which is to say that these events were simultaneously the smoke­ screens and cannon shots through which the avant-garde initiated its frontal assault on the art of previous centuries. Fumisteries were never intended to be, as "performance art" is, the thing in itself. They were the products of artists who, when their creative rhythms were most accelerated, when their most pugnacious breakthroughs in aesthetic method and concept were oc­ curring, equated their roles as much with those of the carnival barker, circus clown, music-hall magician, or religious charlatan as with those of the sage and prophet. To put it another way, they had some perspective on what they were doing, or enough self-doubt not to take themselves too seriously, which is one of the reasons we can take them so seriously today. In word as well as deed, avant-gardists embodied the relativity, subjectivism, or tumult of their age—not the fragmentation, flattening, and solipsism of the one to follow.


Apollinaire, Guillaume. Preface to The Breasts ofTiresias: A Surrealist Drama. Trans. Louis Simpson. In Modem French Theatre: The Avant-Garde, Dada, and Surrealism; An Anthology of Plays, ed. Michael Benedikt and George E. Wellwarth, 56-62. New York: Dutton, 1964. Blau, Herbert. Blooded Thought: Occasions of Theatre. New York: PAJ Publications, 1982. Breton, Andre. Manifestoes of Surrealism. Trans. Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972. Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd. 1961. Rev. ed. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor/ Doubleday, 1969.

Hassan, Ihab. "Postface 1982: Toward a Concept of Postmodernism." In Hassan, The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature, 259-71. 1971. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982. Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991. Jung, C. G. "On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry" (1922). In The Portable Jung, ed. Joseph Campbell; trans. R. F. C. Hull, 301-22. New York: Viking, 1971. Kornfeld, Paul. "Epilogue to the Actor." Trans. Joseph Bernstein. In Anthology of German Expressionist Drama: A Prelude to the Absurd, ed. Walter H. Sokel, 6-8. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor/Doubleday, 1963. Malraux, Andre. The Metamorphosis of the Gods. Trans. Stuart Gilbert. New York: Doubleday, 1960. . The Temptation of the West. Trans. Robert Hollander. 1961. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. Masson, Andre. La memoire du monde. Geneva: Albert Skira, 1974. Poggioli, Renato. The Theory oftheAvant-Garde. Trans. Gerald Fitzgerald. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968. Saint-Simon, Claude-Henri de. Oeuvres (facsimile reprint of the 1868-78 Paris edition). Vol. 5. Geneva: Slatkine, 1977. Schechner, Richard. Environmental Theater. New York: Hawthorn, 1973.


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Franco-Russian Symbolism

™ ^ ^ / ^ aurice Maeterlinck, playwright, essayist, theorist, and W W I poet, was born on August 29, 1862, in Ghent, Belgium, ^ b i b ^ k where he was educated in the law, a profession he practiced during the early stages of his writing career. He joined the Parisian Symbolists in 1886 but did not relocate to France until 1897, following the success of his early plays—Princess Maleine (1889), The Intruder (1890), The Blind (1890), and Interior (1894)—which represent his primary contribution to avant-garde drama. In these plays, Maeterlinck sought to achieve a form of "total theater" that would harness all the elements of production in the creation of an overwhelming mood dominated by pessimism, loneliness, and fear of death. The characters in his early plays speak a language that seems to emanate from their souls, as if these figures exist in another dimension. His dialogue, emphasizing the repetition of words and sounds, helps create the ritualistic musicality of his plays. By allowing tone and atmosphere to dominate the structure of his early plays, he created what he termed a static drama, in which mood-images replace linear action, and silence and pauses reveal as much as, if not more than, dialogue does about the inner state of the characters as well as the outer state of the universe. In his major theoretical work, The Treasure of the Humble (1896), Maeterlinck argued that drama should seek to transcend reality; he even proposed the use of marionettes as one way of preserving the mystical atmosphere he sought in his early plays. In "The Modern Drama," from The Double Garden (1904), Maeterlinck, when he stated that "the sovereign law of the stage, its essential demand, will always be action" seemed to put forward a view of theater incompatible with his earlier, "static" one. But he was really talking about action or conflict of the internal kind, which enables us to penetrate deeper into the human consciousness—the very kind of action one finds in the quasiSymbolist plays of Ibsen and Hauptmann around the turn of the century, and that

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represents a happy compromise between Maeterlinck's own drama of stasis and traditional dramatic plotting. Aurelien Lugne-Poe directed Maeterlinck's early work at the Theatre d'Art and the Theatre de I'Oeuvre, capturing Maeterlinck's atmospherics through the use of dim lights as well as the actors' monotone vocal delivery and slow or measured movements. Claude Debussy composed the opera version of Pelleas and Melisande (1892), and in 1909 Konstantin Stanislavsky produced the Moscow premiere of Maeterlinck's last significant work for the theater, The Blue Bird (1908). Yet following Maeterlinck's acceptance of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1911, his influence waned. Perhaps under the adverse influence of his own essay "The Modern Drama," his plays became more optimistic, or in any event more accessible, as they began to conform to dramatic convention. Nevertheless, his early Symbolist dramas influenced a wide range of playwrights, ineluding Strindberg, Wilde, Yeats, and Synge, in addition to serving as distant precursors of the Theater of the Absurd. He died on May 6, 1949, in Nice, France.



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Evolution of European "Drama of the Interior"
n M Int&rieur (1891) Maeterlinck created a powerful and haunting la^^ J stage image to express his sense of the strangeness of ordinary r|^^ ^ k human life and the mysteries which we usually prefer not to contemplate. He makes us look with new eyes at a quite ordinary family of I M F ' father, mother, and three children by the simple, brilliant device of placing them behind glass in their commonplace house, so that we see but never hear them. Our viewpoint is that of an Old Man and a Stranger who stand in a corner of a garden looking into the lighted, curtainless room where the family are sitting, noting every small movement and waiting for the moment when the Old Man will have courage to go into the room and break the tragic news that one of their daughters has been found drowned. We are involved, so to speak, in a godlike position, seeing the pathos of the family's ignorant happiness, their unawareness of the pitying and curious eyes upon them and of the future that is already formed for them. Maeterlinck calls for a dreamlike effect in the move­ ments of the mute family; they should appear "grave, slow, apart, and as though spiritualised by the distance, the light, and the transparent film of the windowpane." He builds up subtle metaphysical implications through the situation of watching and being watched. The eavesdroppers watch the parents, who are watching their youngest child sleeping: they muse on the strangeness of this recession and are prompted to reflect, "We too are watched." At such moments the audience themselves, those other watchers, are drawn into the experience; it may cross their minds to wonder whether in some other sense it might be said of them also, "We are watched." r^—m

Although the people in the interior are so enclosed and separated, so unhearing and unseeing, they are allowed occasionally to have intuitions of what lies in the dark outside. When the Old Man and the Stranger are speaking of the drowned girl's hair pathetically floating on the water, her two sisters move uneasily in the room, their hair seeming to "tremble," while at another moment they are drawn to the window, where they stand looking into the garden as if they had a sense of someone there. "No one comes to the middle window," says one of the watchers, and surely then we feel a shudder of apprehension, as though a shadowy figure might slowly form there, the wraith of the drowned girl. Although the family do not learn the news until the Old Man goes into the house at the end of the play, delicate movements such as I have described suggest that, as Maeterlinck might say, the soul is responding to invisible pressures on it; that the interior can never be totally sealed off. The play ends, indeed, with the family plucked out of the safe, lighted interior. We see—though we do not hear—the Old Man breaking the news and the family leaving the room by a door at the back of the stage. They will find there the body
Excerpted from Katharine Worth, "Evolution of European 'Drama of the Interior': Maeterlinck, Wilde, and Yeats," Maske und Kothurn: Internationale Beitragezur Theaterwissenschafi 15.1-2 (1979): 161-70.

of the dead girl, but Maeterlinck supplies a stage direction which calls for an unexpected view. W h e n the door is thrown open, what we see is a moonlit sky with a lawn and fountain bathed in light; the moment of apprehending death is associated not with darkness but with emergence into the light. The effective­ ness of this subtle ending depends entirely upon stagecraft, and especially light­ ing, for its realisation. Maeterlinck is in this sense a pioneer of "total theatre" techniques. Interieur is a poetic demonstration of how the physical resources of theatre can be used to transmute ordinary reality and draw a mysterious patina over the surface of things, so making us realise that it is only a surface. Seen in the lighted frame, silently moving about their everyday business, unaware that they are being watched from their garden by a messenger bringing tidings of death, the characters of Interieur do indeed seem to inhabit some other dimension— which is the essence of the Symbolist aesthetic or enterprise in drama. u 3 ec JJJ w y ^ ♦ ^ Select Bibliography on Maeterlinck Halls, W D. Maeterlinck: A Study of His Life and Thought Oxford: Oxford University Press, I960. Knapp, Bettina L Maurice Maeterlinck. Boston: Twayne, 1975. Konrad, Linn Bratteteig. Modern Drama as Crisis: The Case of Maeterlinck. New York: Peter Lang, 1986. Mahony, Patrick. Maurice Maeterlinck, Mystic and Dramatist 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: In­ stitute for the Study of Man, 1984. Worth, Katharine. "Maeterlinck in the Light of the Absurd." In Around the Absurd: Essays on Modern and Postmodern Drama, ed. Enoch Brater and Ruby Cohn, 19-32. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990. . Maeterlinck's Plays in Performance (book and slide set). Cambridge, England: Chadwyck-Healey, 1985. See also Daniels; Deak; Lambert; Lilar; Mallinson; McFarlane; and Rose, in the General Bibliography.

Maurice Maeterlinck


In the Garden—

Granddaughters oftheOldMan

In the House—

Silent personages

The interval that elapses between the occurrence of a disaster and the breaking of the news to the bereaved is one full of tragedy; and here the pathetic ignorance of the drowned girls family and the painful knowledge of the reluctant bearers of the evil tidings provide material for a touching little play—slight material to all appearance, but in the hands of M. Maeterlinck sufficient for the display of a wealth of kindly wisdom and sympathetic knowledge of human nature. An old garden planted with willows. At the back, a house, with three of the ground-floor windows lighted up. Through them a family is pretty distinctly
Reprinted from The Nobel Prize Treasury, ed. Marshall McClintock; trans. William Archer (New York: Doubleday, 1948), 203-9.

visible, gathered for the evening round the lamp. The FATHER is seated at the chimney comer. The MOTHER, resting one elbow on the table, is gazing into vacancy. Two young girls, dressed in white, sit at their embroidery, dreaming and smiling in the tranquillity of the room. A child is asleep, his head resting on his mothers left arm. When one of them rises, walks, or makes a gesture, the movements appear grave, slow, apart, and as though spiritualized by the distance, the light, and the transparent film of the windowpanes. THE OLD MAN and THE STRANGER enter the garden cautiously. THE OLD MAN. Here we are in the part of the garden that lies behind the house. They never come here. The doors are on the other side. They are closed and the shutters shut. But there are no shutters on this side of the house, and I saw the light... Yes, they are still sitting up in the lamplight. It is well that they have not heard us; the mother or the girls would perhaps have come out, and then what should we have done? THE STRANGER. What are we going to do? THE OLD MAN. I want first to see if they are all in the room. Yes, I see the father seated at the chimney corner. He is doing nothing, his hands resting on his knees. The mother is leaning her elbow on the table .. . THE STRANGER. She is looking at us. THE OLD MAN. NO, she is looking at nothing; her eyes are fixed. She can­ not see us; we are in the shadow of the great trees. But do not go any nearer . . . There, too, are the dead girl's two sisters; they are embroider­ ing slowly. And the little child has fallen asleep. It is nine on the clock in the corner . . . They divine no evil, and they do not speak. THE STRANGER. If we were to attract the father's attention, and make some sign to him? He has turned his head this way. Shall I knock at one of the windows? One of them will have to hear of it before the others... THE OLD MAN. I do not know which to choose . . . We must be very careful. The father is old and ailing—the mother too—and the sisters are too young . . . And they all loved her as they will never love again. I have never seen a happier household . . . No, no! do not go up to the window; that would be the worst thing we could do. It is better that we should tell them of it as simply as we can, as though it were a commonplace occur­ rence; and we must not appear too sad, else they will feel that their sorrow must exceed ours, and they will not know what to do . . . Let us go round to the other side of the garden. We will knock at the door, and go in as if nothing had happened. I will go in first: they will not be surprised to see me; I sometimes look in of an evening, to bring them some flowers or fruit, and to pass an hour or two with them. THE STRANGER. Why do you want me to go with you? Go alone; I will wait until you call me. They have never seen me—I am only a passerby, a stranger. ..


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THE OLD MAN. It is better that I should not be alone. A misfortune announced by a single voice seems more definite and crushing. I thought of that as I came along . . . If I go in alone, I shall have to speak at the very first moment; they will know all in a few words; I shall have nothing more to say; and I dread the silence which follows the last words that tell of a misfortune. It is then that the heart is torn. If we enter together, I shall go roundabout to work; I shall tell them, for example: "They found her thus, or thus . . . She was floating on the stream, and her hands were clasped. .." THE STRANGER. Her hands were not clasped, her arms were floating at her sides. THE OLD MAN. You see, in spite of ourselves we begin to talk—and the misfortune is shrouded in its details. Otherwise, if I go in alone, I know them well enough to be sure that the very first words would produce a terrible effect, and God knows what would happen. But if we speak to them in turns, they will listen to us, and will forget to look the evil tidings in the face. Do not forget that the mother will be there, and that her life hangs by a thread . . . It is well that the first wave of sorrow should waste its strength in unnecessary words. It is wisest to let people gather round the unfortunate and talk as they will. Even the most indifferent carry off, without knowing it, some portion of the sorrow. It is dispersed without effort and without noise, like air or light.. . THE STRANGER. Your clothes are soaked and are dripping on the flagstones. THE OLD MAN. It is only the skirt of my mantle that has trailed a little in the water. You seem to be cold. Your coat is all muddy . . . I did not notice it on the way, it was so dark. THE STRANGER. I went into the water up to my waist. THE OLD MAN. Had you found her long before I came up? THE STRANGER. Only a few moments. I was going toward the village; it was already late, and the dusk was falling on the riverbank. I was walking along with my eyes fixed on the river, because it was lighter than the road, when I saw something strange close by a tuft of reeds . . . I drew nearer, and I saw her hair, which had floated up almost into a circle round her head, and was swaying hither and thither with the c u r r e n t . . . (In the room the two young girls turn their heads towards the window.) THE OLD MAN. Did you see her two sisters' hair trembling on their shoulders? THE STRANGER. They turned their heads in our direction—they simply turned their heads. Perhaps I was speaking too loudly. (The two girls resume their former position.) They have turned away again already . . . I went into the water up to my waist, and then I managed to grasp her hand and easily drew her to the bank. She was as beautiful as her sisters... THE OLD MAN. I think she was more beautiful . . . I do not know why I have lost all my courage . ..

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What courage do you mean? We did all that man could do. She had been dead for more than an hour. THE OLD MAN. She was living this morning! I met her coming out of church. She told me that she was going away; she was going to see her grand­ mother on the other side of the river in which you found her. She did not know when I should see her again . . . She seemed to be on the point of asking me something; then I suppose she did not dare, and she left me abruptly. But now that I think of it—and I noticed nothing at the time!— she smiled as people smile who want to be silent, or who fear that they will not be understood . . . Even hope seemed like a pain to her; her eyes were veiled, and she scarcely looked at me. THE STRANGER. Some peasants told me that they saw her wandering all the afternoon on the bank. They thought she was looking for flowers . . . It is possible that her death . . . THE OLD MAN. No one can t e l l . . . What can anyone know? She was perhaps

one of those who shrink from speech, and everyone bears in his breast more than one reason for ceasing to live. You cannot see into the soul as you see into that room. T h e y are all like that—they say nothing but trivial things, and no one dreams that there is aught amiss. You live for months

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by the side of one who is no longer of this world, and whose soul cannot stoop to it; you answer her unthinkingly; and you see what happens. They look like lifeless puppets, and all the time so many things are passing in their souls. They do not themselves know what they are. She might have lived as the others live. She might have said to the day of her death: "Sir, or Madam, it will rain this morning," or, "We are going to lunch; we shall be thirteen at table," or "The fruit is not yet ripe." They speak smilingly of the flowers that have fallen, and they weep in the darkness. An angel from heaven would not see what ought to be seen; and men understand nothing until after all is over . . . Yesterday evening she was there, sitting in the lamplight like her sisters; and you would not see them now as they ought to be seen if this had not happened . . . I seem to see her for the first time . . . Something new must come into our ordinary life before we can understand it. They are at your side day and night; and you do not really see them until the moment when they depart forever. And yet, what a strange little soul she must have had—what a poor little, artless, unfathomable soul she must have had—to have said what she must have said, and done what she must have done! THE STRANGER. See, they are smiling in the silence of the room . . . THE OLD MAN. They are not at all anxious—they did not expect her this evening. THE STRANGER. They sit motionless and smiling. But see, the father puts his fingers to his lips . . . THE OLD MAN. He points to the child asleep on its mother's breast... THE STRANGER. She dares not raise her head for fear of disturbing it. ..

THE OLD MAN. They are not sewing any more. There is a dead silence . .. THE STRANGER. They have let fall their skein of white silk . . . THE OLD MAN. They are looking at the child .. . THE STRANGER. They do not know that others are looking at them . . . THE OLD MAN. We, too, are watched . . . THE STRANGER. They have raised their eyes . . . THE OLD MAN. And yet they can see nothing . . . THE STRANGER. They seem to be happy, and yet there is something—I cannot tell what.. . THE OLD MAN. They think themselves beyond the reach of danger. They have closed the doors, and the windows are barred with iron. They have strengthened the walls of the old house; they have shot the bolts of the three oaken doors. They have foreseen everything that can be foreseen... THE STRANGER. Sooner or later we must tell them. Someone might come in and blurt it out abruptly. There was a crowd of peasants in the meadow where we left the dead girl—if one of them were to come and knock at the d o o r . . . THE OLD MAN. Martha and Mary are watching the little body. The peasants were going to make a litter of branches, and I told my eldest granddaughter to hurry on and let us know the moment they made a start. Let us wait till she comes; she will go with me. . . . I wish we had not been able to watch them in this way. I thought there was nothing to do but to knock at the door, to enter quite simply, and to tell all in a few phrases. . . . But I have watched them too long, living in the lamplight.... (Enter MARY.) MARY. They are coming, grandfather. THE OLD MAN. IS that you? Where are they? MARY. They are at the foot of the last slope. THE OLD MAN. They are coming silently. MARY. I told them to pray in a low voice. Martha is with them. THE OLD MAN. Are there many of them? MARY. The whole village is around the bier. They had brought lanterns; I bade them put them out. THE OLD MAN. What way are they coming? MARY. They are coming by the little path. They are moving slowly. THE OLD MAN. It is time .. . MARY. Have you told them, grandfather? THE OLD MAN. YOU can see that we have told them nothing. There they are, still sitting in the lamplight. Look, my child, look: you will see what life is... MARY. Oh! how peaceful they seem! I feel as though I were seeing them in a dream.

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Look there—I saw the two sisters give a start. THE OLD MAN. They are rising . . . THE STRANGER. I believe they are coming to the windows. (At this moment one of the two sisters comes up to the first window, the other to the third; and resting their hands against the panes they stand gazing into the darkness.) THE OLD MAN. No one comes to the middle window. MARY. They are looking out; they are listening . .. THE OLD MAN. The elder is smiling at what she does not see. THE STRANGER. The eyes of the second are full of fear. THE OLD MAN. Take care: who knows how far the soul may extend around the body. . . . (A long silence, MARY nestles close to THE OLD MAN'S breast and kisses him.)

MARY. Grandfather!

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THE OLD MAN. Do not weep, my child; our turn will come. (A pause.) THE STRANGER. They are looking long. . . . THE OLD MAN. Poor things, they would see nothing though they looked for a hundred thousand years—the night is too dark. They are looking this way; and it is from the other side that misfortune is coming. THE STRANGER. It is well that they are looking this way. Something, I do not know what, is approaching by way of the meadows. MARY. I think it is the crowd; they are too far off for us to see clearly. THE STRANGER. They are following the windings of the path—there they come in sight again on that moonlit slope. MARY. Oh! how many they seem to be. Even when I left, people were coming up from the outskirts of the town. They are taking a very roundabout way.... THE OLD MAN. They will arrive at last, nonetheless. I see them, too—they are crossing the meadows—they look so small that one can scarcely dis­ tinguish them among the herbage. You might think them children play­ ing in the moonlight; if the girls saw them, they would not understand. Turn their backs to it as they may, misfortune is approaching step by step, and has been looming larger for more than two hours past. They cannot bid it stay; and those who are bringing it are powerless to stop it. It has mastered them, too, and they must needs serve it. It knows its goal, and it takes its course. It is unwearying, and it has but one idea. They have to lend it their strength. They are sad, but they draw nearer. Their hearts are full of pity, but they must advance.... MARY. The elder has ceased to smile, grandfather. THE STRANGER. They are leaving the windows.... MARY. They are kissing their mother. . . .


The elder is stroking the child's curls without wakening it. MARY. Ah! the father wants them to kiss him, too.. .. THE STRANGER. Now there is silence.. .. MARY. They have returned to their mother's side. THE STRANGER. And the father keeps his eyes fixed on the great pendulum of the clock . . . MARY. They seem to be praying without knowing what they d o . . . . THE STRANGER. They seem to be listening to their own souls.... (A pause.) MARY. Grandfather, do not tell them this evening! THE OLD MAN. You see, you are losing courage, too. I knew you ought not to look at them. I am nearly eighty-three years old, and this is the first time that the reality of life has come home to me. I do not know why all they do appears to me so strange and solemn. There they sit awaiting the night, simply, under their lamp, as we should under our own; and yet I seem to see them from the altitude of another world, because I know a little fact which as yet they do not k n o w . . . Is it so, my children? Tell me, why are you, too, pale? Perhaps there is something else that we cannot put in words, and that makes us weep? I did not know that there was anything so sad in life, or that it could strike such terror to those who look on at it. And even if nothing had happened, it would frighten me to see them sit there so peacefully. They have too much confidence in this world. There they sit, separated from the enemy by only a few poor panes of glass. They think that nothing will happen because they have closed their doors, and they do not know that it is in the soul that things always happen, and that the world does not end at their house-door. They are so secure of their little life, and do not dream that so many others know more of it than they, and that I, poor old man, at two steps from their door, hold all their little happiness, like a wounded bird, in the hollow of my old hands, and dare not open them . .. MARY. Have pity on them, grandfather.... THE OLD MAN. We have pity on them, my child, but no one has pity on us. MARY. Tell them tomorrow, grandfather; tell them when it is light, then they will not be so sad. THE OLD MAN. Perhaps you are right, my child.... It would be better to leave all this in the night. And the daylight is sweet to sorrow. . . . But what would they say to us tomorrow? Misfortune makes people jealous; those upon whom it has fallen want to know of it before strangers—they do not like to leave it in unknown hands. We should seem to have robbed them of something. THE STRANGER. Besides, it is too late now; already I can hear the murmur of prayers. MARY. They are here—they are passing behind the hedges. (Enter MARTHA.)


Here I am. I have guided them hither—I told them to wait in the road. (Cries of children are heard.) Ah! the children are still crying. I forbade them to come, but they want to see, too, and the mothers would not obey me. I will go and tell them—no, they have stopped crying. Is everything ready? I have brought the little ring that was found upon her. I have some fruit, too, for the child. I laid her to rest myself upon the bier. She looks as though she were sleeping. I had a great deal of trouble with her hair—I could not arrange it properly. I made them gather marguerites—it is a pity there were no other flowers. What are you doing here? Why are you not with them? (She looks in at the windows.) They are not weeping! They—you have not told them!

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THE OLD MAN. Martha, Martha, there is too much life in your soul; you cannot understand.. .. MARTHA. Why should I not understand? (After a silence, and in a tone ofgrave reproach.) You really ought not to have done that, grandfather.... THE OLD MAN. Martha, you do not know.. .. MARTHA. I will go and tell them. THE OLD MAN. Remain here, my child, and look for a moment. MARTHA. Oh, how I pity them! They must wait no longer.... THE OLD MAN. Why not? MARTHA. I do not know, but it is not possible! THE OLD MAN. Come here, my c h i l d . . . . MARTHA. How patient they are! THE OLD MAN. Come here, my c h i l d . . . . MARTHA (turning). Where are you, grandfather? I am so unhappy, I cannot see you any more. I do not myself know now what to do. . . . THE OLD MAN. Do not look any more; until they know all.. .. MARTHA. I want to go with you THE OLD MAN. No, Martha, stay here. Sit beside your sister on this old stone bench against the wall of the house, and do not look. You are too young, you would never be able to forget it. You cannot know what a face looks like at the moment when Death is passing into its eyes. Perhaps they will cry out, too . . . Do not turn round. Perhaps there will be no sound at all. Above all things, if there is no sound, be sure you do not turn and look. One can never foresee the course that sorrow will take. A few little sobs wrung from the depths, and generally that is all. I do not know myself what I shall do when I hear them—they do not belong to this life. Kiss me, my child, before I go. (The murmur of prayers has gradually drawn nearer. A portion of the crowd forces its way into the garden. There is a sound of deadened footfalls and of whispering.)

(to the crowd). Stop here—do not go near the window. Where

is she?

A PEASANT. W h o ?

The others—the bearers. They are coming by the avenue that leads up to the door, (THE OLD MAN goes out. MARTHA and MARY have seated themselves on the bench, their backs to the windows. Low murmurings are heard among the crowd.) THE STRANGER. Hush! Do not speak. (In the room the taller of the two sisters rises, goes to the door, and shoots the bolts.) MARTHA. She is opening the door! THE STRANGER. On the contrary, she is fastening it. (A pause.) MARTHA. Grandfather has not come in? THE STRANGER. No. She takes her seat again at her mother's side. The others do not move, and the child is still sleeping. (A pause.) MARTHA. My little sister, give me your hands. MARY. Martha! (They embrace and kiss each other.) THE STRANGER. He must have knocked—they have all raised their heads at the same time—they are looking at each other. MARTHA. Oh! oh! my poor little sister! I can scarcely help crying out, too. (She smothers her sobs on her sister's shoulder.) THE STRANGER. He must have knocked again. The father is looking at the clock. He rises.... MARTHA. Sister, sister, I must go in too—they cannot be left alone. MARY. Martha, Martha! (She holds her back.) THE STRANGER. The father is at the door—he is drawing the bolts—he is opening it cautiously.



MARTHA. Oh!—you do not see the . . .

What? The bearers... THE STRANGER. He has only opened it a very little. I see nothing but a corner of the lawn and the fountain. He keeps his hand on the door—he takes a step back—he seems to be saying, "Ah, it is you!" He raises his arms. He carefully closes the door again. Your grandfather has entered the room . . . (The crowd has come up to the window, MARTHA and MARY half rise from their seat, then rise altogether and follow the rest toward the windows, pressing close to each other, THE OLD MAN is seen advancing into the room. The two SISTERS rise; the MOTHER also rises, and carefully settles the CHILD in the armchair which she has left, so that from outside the little one can be seen sleeping, his head a little bent forward, in the middle of the room. The MOTHER advances to meet THE OLD MAN, and holds out her hand to him, but draws it back again before he has had time to take it. One of the girls wants to take off the visitor's mantle, and the other pushes forward an armchair for him. But THE OLD MAN makes a little gesture of

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refusal The FATHER smiles with an air of astonishment, THE OLD MAN looks toward the windows.) THE STRANGER. He dares not tell them. He is looking toward us. (Murmurs in the crowd.) THE STRANGER. Hush! (THE OLD MAN, seeing faces at the windows, quickly averts his eyes. As one of the girls is still offering him the armchair, he at last sits down and passes his right hand several times over his forehead.) THE STRANGER. He is sitting down.... (The others who are in the room also sit down, while the FATHER seems to be speaking volubly. At last THE OLD MAN opens his mouth, and the sound of his voice seems to arouse their attention. But the FATHER interrupts him. THE OLD MAN begins to speak again, and little by little the others grow tense with apprehension. All of a sudden the MOTHER starts and rises.) MARTHA. Oh! the mother begins to understand! (She turns away and hides her face in her hands. Renewed murmurs among the crowd. They elbow each other. Children cry to be lifted up, so that they may see too. Most of the mothers do as they wish.) THE STRANGER. Hush! he has not told them yet.... (The MOTHER is seen to be questioning THE OLD MAN with anxiety. He says a few more words; then, suddenly, all the others rise, too, and seem to question him. Then he slowly makes an affirmative movement of his head.) THE STRANGER. He has told them—he has told them all at once! VOICES IN THE CROWD. He has told them! he has told them! THE STRANGER. I can hear nothing.... (THE OLD MAN also rises, and, without turning, makes a gesture indicating the door, which is behind him. The MOTHER, the FATHER, and the two DAUGHTERS rush to this door, which the FATHER has difficulty in opening, THE OLD MAN tries to prevent the MOTHER from going out.) VOICES IN THE CROWD. They are going out! they are going out! (Confusion among the crowd in the garden. All hurry to the other side of the house and disappear, except THE STRANGER, who remains at the windows. In the room, the folding door is at last thrown wide open; all go out at the same time. Beyond can be seen the starry sky, the lawn, and the fountain in the moonlight; while, left alone in the middle of the room, the CHILD continues to sleep peacefully in the armchair. A pause.) THE STRANGER. The child has not wakened! (He also goes out.)

T h e Modern Drama
Maurice Maeterlinck

I When I speak of the modern drama, I naturally refer only to those regions of dramatic literature that, sparsely inhabited as they may be, are yet essentially new. Down below, in the ordinary theatre, ordinary and traditional drama is doubtless yielding slowly to the influence of the vanguard; but it were idle to wait for the laggards when we have the pioneers at our call. The first thing that strikes us in the drama of the day is the decay, one might almost say the creeping paralysis, of external action. Next we note a very pronounced desire to penetrate deeper and deeper into human con­ sciousness, and place moral problems upon a high pedestal; and finally the search, still very timid and halting, for a kind of new beauty that shall be less abstract than was the old. It is certain that, on the actual stage, we have far fewer extraordinary and violent adventures. Bloodshed has grown less frequent, passions less tur­ bulent; heroism has become less unbending, courage less material and less ferocious. People still die on the stage, it is true, as in reality they still must die, but death has ceased—or will cease, let us hope, very soon—to be re­ garded as the indispensable setting, the ultima ratio, the inevitable end, of every dramatic poem. In the most formidable crises of our life—which, cruel though it may be, is cruel in silent and hidden ways—we rarely look to death for a solution; and for all that the theatre is slower than the other arts to follow the evolution of human consciousness, it will still be at last compelled, in some measure, to take this into account.
Reprinted from Maurice Maeterlinck, The Double Garden, trans. Alfred Sutro (New York: Dodd,Mead, 1904), 115-35.

When we consider the ancient and tragical anecdotes that constitute the entire basis of the classical drama, the Italian, Scandinavian, Spanish, or mythical stories that provided the plots, not only for all the plays of the Shakespearian period, but also—not altogether to pass over an art that was infinitely less spontaneous—for those of French and German Romanticism, we discover at once that these anecdotes are no longer able to offer us the direct interest they presented at a time when they appeared highly natural and possible, at a time, when, at any rate, the circumstances, manners, and sentiments they recalled were not yet extinct in the minds of those who witnessed their reproduction. II ^ 3 {jj t ^

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To us, however, these adventures no longer correspond to a living and actual reality. Should a youth of our own time love, and meet obstacles not unlike those which, in another order of ideas and events, beset Romeo's passion, we need no telling that his adventure will be embellished by none of the features that gave poetry and grandeur to the episode of Verona. Gone beyond recall is the entrancing atmosphere of a lordly, passionate life; gone the brawls in picturesque streets, the interludes of bloodshed and splendour, the mysterious poisons, the majestic, complaisant tombs! And where shall we look for that exquisite summer's night, which owes its vastness, its savour, the very appeal that it makes to us, to the shadow of an heroic, inevitable death that already lay heavy upon it? Divest the story of Romeo and Juliet of these beautiful trappings, and we have only the very simple and ordinary desire of a noble-hearted, unfortunate youth for a maiden whose obdurate parents deny him her hand. All the poetry, the splendour, the passionate life of this desire, result from the glamour, the nobility, tragedy, that are proper to the environment wherein it has come to flower; nor is there a kiss, a murmur of love, a cry of anger, grief, or despair but borrows its majesty, grace, its heroicism, tenderness—in a word, every image that has helped it to visible form— from the beings and objects around it; for it is not in the kiss itself that the sweetness and beauty are found, but in the circumstance, hour, and place wherein it was given. Again, the same objections would hold if we chose to imagine a man of our time who should be jealous as Othello was jealous, possessed of MacbeuYs ambition, unhappy as Lear; or, like Hamlet, restless and wavering, bowed down beneath the weight of a frightful and unrealisable duty. Ill These conditions no longer exist. The adventure of the modern Romeo—to consider only the external events which it might provoke—would not pro­ vide material for a couple of acts. Against this it may be urged that a modern poet who desires to put on the stage an analogous poem of youthful love is

perfectly justified in borrowing from days gone by a more decorative setting, one that shall be more fertile in heroic and tragical incident. Granted; but what can the result be of such an expedient? Would not the feelings and passions that demand for their fullest, most perfect expression and develop­ ment the atmosphere of today (for the passions and feelings of a modern poet must, in despite of himself, be entirely and exclusively modern), would not these suddenly find themselves transplanted to a soil where all things pre­ vented their living? They no longer believe, yet are charged with the fear and hope of eternal judgement. In their hours of distress they have discovered new forces to cling to, that seem trustworthy, human and just; and behold them thrust back to a century wherein prayer and the sword decide all! They have profited, unconsciously perhaps, by every moral advance we have made—and they are suddenly flung into abysmal days when the least gesture was governed by prejudices at which they can only shudder or smile. In such an atmosphere, what can they do; how hope that they truly can live there? IV But we need dwell no further on the necessarily artificial poems that arise from the impossible marriage of past and present. Let us rather consider the drama that actually stands for the reality of our time, as Greek drama stood for Greek reality, and the drama of the Renaissance for the reality of the Renaissance. Its scene is a modern house, it passes between men and women of today. The names of the invisible protagonists—the passions and i d e a s are the same, more or less, as of old. We see love, hatred, ambition, jealousy, envy, greed; the sense of justice and idea of duty; pity, goodness, devotion, piety, selfishness, vanity, pride, etc. But although the names have remained more or less the same, how great is the difference we find in the aspect and quality, the extent and influence, of these ideal actors! Of all their ancient weapons not one is left them, not one of the marvellous moments of olden days. It is seldom that cries are heard now; bloodshed is rare, and tears not often seen. It is in a small room, round a table, close to the fire, that the joys and sorrows of mankind are decided. We suffer, or make others suffer, we love, we die, there in our corner; and it were the strangest chance should a door or a window suddenly, for an instant, fly open, beneath the pressure of extraordinary despair or rejoicing. Accidental, adventitious beauty exists no longer; there remains only an external poetry that has not yet become poetic. And what poetry, if we probe to the root of things—what poetry is there that does not borrow nearly all of its charm, nearly all of its ecstasy, from elements that are wholly external? Last of all, there is no longer a God to widen, or master, the action; nor is there an inexorable fate to form a mysterious, solemn, and tragical background for the slightest gesture of man; nor the sombre and abundant atmosphere that was able to ennoble even his most contemptible weaknesses, his least pardonable crimes. There still abides with us, it is true, a terrible unknown; but it is so diverse

and elusive, it becomes so arbitrary, so vague and contradictory, the moment we try to locate it, that we cannot evoke it without great danger; cannot even, without the mightiest difficulty, avail ourselves of it, though in all loyalty, to raise to the point of mystery the gestures, actions, and words of the men we pass every day. The endeavour has been made; the formidable, problematic enigma of heredity, the grandiose but improbable enigma of inherent jus­ tice, and many others beside, have each in their turn been put forward as a substitute for the vast enigma of the Providence or Fatality of old. And it is curious to note how these youthful enigmas, born but of yesterday, already seem older, more arbitrary, more unlikely, than those whose places they took in an access of pride.

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Where are we to look, then, for the grandeur and beauty that we find no longer in visible action, or in words, stripped as these are of their attraction and glamour? For words are only a kind of mirror which reflects the beauty of all that surrounds it; and the beauty of the new world wherein we live does not seem as yet able to project its rays on these somewhat reluctant mirrors. Where shall we look for the horizon, the poetry, now that we no longer can seek it in a mystery which, for all that it still exists, does yet fade from us the moment we endeavour to give it a name? The modern drama would seem to be vaguely conscious of this. Incapa­ ble of outside movement, deprived of external ornament, daring no longer to make serious appeal to a determined divinity or fatality, it has fallen back on itself, and seeks to discover, in the regions of psychology and of moral prob­ lems, the equivalent of what once was offered by exterior life. It has pene­ trated deeper into human consciousness but has encountered difficulties there no less strange than unexpected. To penetrate deeply into human consciousness is the privilege, even the duty, of the thinker, the moralist, the historian, the novelist, and to a degree, of the lyrical poet; but not of the dramatist. Whatever the temptation, he dare not sink into inactivity, become mere philosopher or observer. Do what one will, discover what marvels one may, the sovereign law of the stage, its essential demand, will always be action. With the rise of the curtain, the high intellectual desire within us undergoes transformation; and in place of the thinker, psychologist, mystic, or moralist there stands the mere instinctive spectator, the man electrified negatively by the crowd, the man whose one desire it is to see something happen. This transformation or substitution is incontestable, strange as it may seem; and is due, perhaps, to the influence of the human polypier, to some undeniable faculty of our soul, which is endowed with a special, primitive, almost unimprovable organ, whereby men can think, and feel, and be moved, en masse. And there are no words so profound, so noble and admirable, but they will soon weary us if they leave

the situation unchanged, if they lead to no action, bring about no decisive conflict, or hasten no definite solution. VI But whence is it that action arises in the consciousness of man? In its first stage it springs from the struggle between diverse conflicting passions. But no sooner has it raised itself somewhat—and this is true, if we examine it closely, of the first stage also—than it would seem to be solely due to the conflict between a passion and a moral law, between a duty and a desire. Hence the eagerness with which modern dramatists have plunged into all the problems of contemporary morality; and it may safely be said that at this moment they confine themselves almost exclusively to the discussion of these different problems. This movement was initiated by the dramas of Alexandre Dumas fils, dramas which brought the most elementary of moral conflicts onto the stage; dramas, indeed, whose entire existence was based on problems such as the spectator, who must always be regarded as the ideal moralist, would never put to himself in the course of his whole spiritual existence, so evident is their solution. Should the faithless husband or wife be forgiven? Is it well to avenge infidelity by infidelity? Has the illegitimate child any rights? Is the marriage of inclination—such is the name it bears in those regionspreferable to the marriage for money? Have parents the right to oppose a marriage for love? Is divorce to be deprecated when a child has been born of the union? Is the sin of the adulterous wife greater than that of the adulterous husband? etc., etc. Indeed, it may be said here that the entire French theatre of today, and a considerable proportion of the foreign theatre, which is only its echo, exist solely on questions of this kind, and on the entirely superfluous answers to which they give rise. On the other hand, however, the highest point of human consciousness is attained by the dramas of Bjornson, of Hauptmann, and, above all, of Ibsen. Here we touch the limit of the resources of modern dramaturgy. For, in truth, the further we penetrate into the consciousness of man, the less struggle do we discover. It is impossible to penetrate far into any conscious­ ness unless that consciousness be very enlightened; for, whether we advance ten steps, or a thousand, in the depths of a soul that is plunged into darkness, we shall find nothing there that can be unexpected, or new; for darkness everywhere will resemble only itself. But a consciousness that is truly en­ lightened will possess passions and desires infinitely less exacting, infinitely more peaceful and patient, more salutary, abstract, and general, than are those that reside in the ordinary consciousness. Thence, far less struggle—or at least a struggle of far less violence—between these nobler and wiser pas­ sions; and this for the very reason that they have become vaster and loftier;

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for if there be nothing more restless, destructive, and savage than a dammedup stream, there is nothing more tranquil, beneficent, and silent than the beautiful river whose banks ever widen. VII Again, this enlightened consciousness will yield to infinitely fewer laws, admit infinitely fewer doubtful or harmful duties. There is, one may say, scarcely a falsehood or error, a prejudice, half-truth or convention, that is not capable of assuming, that does not actually assume, when the occasion presents itself, the form of a duty in an uncertain consciousness. It is thus that honour, in the chivalrous, conjugal sense of the word (I refer to the honour of the husband, which is supposed to suffer by the infidelity of the wife), that revenge, a kind of morbid prudishness, pride, vanity, piety to certain gods, and a thousand other illusions have been, and still remain, the unquenchable source of a multitude of duties that are still regarded as absolutely sacred, absolutely incontrovertible, by a vast number of inferior consciousnesses. And these so-called duties are the pivot of almost all the dramas of the Romantic period, as of most of those of today. But not one of these sombre, pitiless duties that so fatally impel mankind to death and disaster can readily take root in the consciousness that a healthy, living light has adequately penetrated; in such there will be no room for honour or ven­ geance, for conventions that clamour for blood. It will hold no prejudices that exact tears, no injustice eager for sorrow. It will have cast from their throne the gods who insist on sacrifice, and the love that craves for death. For when the sun has entered into the consciousness of him who is wise, as we may hope that it will some day enter into that of all men, it will reveal one duty, and one alone, which is that we should do the least possible harm and love others as we love ourselves; and from this duty no drama can spring. VIII Let us consider what happens in Ibsen's plays. He often leads us far down into human consciousness, but the drama remains possible only because there goes with us a singular flame, a sort of red light, which, sombre, capri­ cious—unhallowed, one almost might say—falls only on singular phantoms. And indeed nearly all the duties which form the active principle of Ibsen's tragedies are duties situated no longer within, but without the healthy, il­ lumined consciousness; and the duties we believe we discover outside this consciousness often come perilously near an unjust pride, or a kind of soured and morbid madness. Let it not be imagined, however—for indeed this would be wholly to misunderstand me—that these remarks of mine in any way detract from my admiration for the great Scandinavian poet. For, if it be true that Ibsen has

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contributed few salutary elements to the morality of our time, he is perhaps the only writer for the stage who has caught sight of, and set in motion, a new, though still disagreeable poetry, which he has succeeded in investing with a kind of age, gloomy beauty, and grandeur (surely too savage and gloomy for it to become general or definitive); as he is the only one who owes nothing to the poetry of the violently illumined dramas of antiquity or of the Renaissance. But, while we wait for the time when human consciousness shall recog­ nise more useful passions and less nefarious duties, for the time when the world's stage shall consequently present more happiness and fewer tragedies, there still remains, in the depths of every heart of loyal intention, a great duty of charity and justice that eclipses all others. And it is perhaps from the struggle of this duty against our egoism and ignorance that the veritable drama of our century shall spring. When this goal has been attained—in real life as on the stage—it will be permissible perhaps to speak of a new theatre, a theatre of peace, and of beauty without tears.

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^ _ _ alery Briusov, playwright, poet, novelist, critic, and translator, ^ 7 ^ was born on December 13, 1873, in Moscow. As the editor of w^ several anthologies of Russian Symbolist poetry in the mid18905, Briusov was responsible for bringing this artistic work to a E H P * wider audience. By the early 1900s, he had become a central figure and mentor to a new generation of Symbolists. Briusov began writing plays around 1893. The first, a comedy called Country Passions, was banned at the time and remains unpublished. His drama The Earth (1905) captures a negative Utopian vision of the future, in which society's technological overdevelopment results in the complete isolation of human beings from nature. The Wayfarer (1910), a oneact with two characters, only one of whom speaks, is an example of monodrama—a genre favored by the Russian Symbolists for its mystical or "inner" possibilities and given a theoretical foundation by Nikolai Evreinov in his Introduction to Monodrama (1909). In his theoretical writings on drama, Briusov argued against the Naturalism of the Moscow A r t Theater, which, he believed, failed to challenge the ingrained and complacent viewing habits of Russian audiences. In his opinion, which followed the French Symbolist models of Verlaine, Mallarme, and Rimbaud, the author's task is to evoke moods and reveal essences through intimation or suggestion, rather than to present a total representational picture through the precise recording of surface appearances. Briusov also translated several plays into Russian, including works by Moliere, Maeterlinck, and Wilde. Following the October Revolution, he tried to write plays that embraced the Revolution, but he failed to recapture the success and influence of his Symbolist period. He died on October 9, 1924, in Moscow.

Yalery Briusov, Russian Symbolist
^ L he projection of a single consciousness and its inner workings, I The Wayfarer is a play about the insurmountability of human % / loneliness. In her solitude and anguish, Julia is a dreamlike character in contact with the netherworld. Invoking the presence of the mute y^F Wayfarer, she creates imaginary lives for him and for herself in a desper­ ate attempt to know something other than the self and to break out of intoler­ able human isolation. For Julia, there is no fixed boundary between the real world and the imaginary one, between dreaming and waking, life and fantasy. By penetrating deeper and deeper into the kingdom of her visions, at the same time as she speaks directly to the audience, Julia implicitly posits that what we com­ monly consider imaginary may be the highest reality, and that the reality ac­ knowledged by everyone may be the most frightful delirium. Briusov's mode in this work, as well as its meaning, is thus thoroughly Symbolist: The Wayfarer's drama is both internalized within the mind of the dreamer and externalized within the mystery of the universe. -.^^ lk^* fMf"'

Select Bibliography on Briusov
See Borovsky; Gerould, Doubles, Demons, and Dreamers; Green; Kalbous; and Segal, Twentieth-Century Russian Drama, in the General Bibliography.

Excerpted from Daniel Gerould, "Valerii Briusov, Russian Symbolist," Performing Arts Journal 3.3 (Winter 1979): 8 5 - 9 1 . Johns Hopkins University Press. Reprinted by arrangement with PAJ.

T h e Wayfarer A Psychodrama in One Act
Valery Briusov



JULIA, the daughter of a forester a nonspeaking character

A room in the foresters house. A wet, stormy night. The windows are closed and shuttered. The howling of the wind and the beating of the rain can be heard. The room is dimly lighted by a kerosene lamp. The stove is burning. Knocking at the gate. A dog barking.

(At the window, trying to peer through a gap in the shutter.) Who's there? I cannot let you in: I am alone. Go to the miller's, along the path, to the left, Across the brook . . . But, look, youVe got to stop That knocking now. You'll simply hurt your hands! The door is strong, you'll never break it in. There's not a chance I'll open up. And we've got A vicious dog. Be on your way in peace. The miller's place is less than two miles off. They'll let you in . . . (Aside.) But he can really bang! (She moves away from the window. The knocking continues. The dog barks.)

Reprinted from Doubles, Demons, and Dreamers: An International Collection of Symbolist Drama, ed. and trans. Daniel Gerould (New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1985), 191-200. © 1985. Reprinted by permission of PAJ Publications.

JULIA: (She comes back to the window, but still does not open the shutters.) Listen, whatever your name is! You hear me talking: I am a young girl, and alone in the house, I do not know you. Then judge for yourself Whether I can let you in. What would The neighbors have to say about me if You spent the night with me! Out of the question! And, when he left, my father ordered me Not to let anyone in. And what's so bad About your walking two miles under the pines? Well, rain is rain! You really won't get soaked. (Silence. Knocking at the gate. The dog barks.) JULIA: (To herself.) He just stands there and knocks . . . He looks so tired, And perhaps he's even sick. Since wedging himself Against the door-frame, he hasn't moved away, And, like a robot, beats the board with his hand. Just look, the poor boy's drenched right through. He's dressed In city clothes—he's young and pale—or so It seems to me, in the dark. He mustn't be From here, he doesn't know his way through the woods... Well, should I let him in? (Aloud.) Listen! Tell me, Where are you from? Where are you going? Just what Do you want here? Do answer me! How can I let a total stranger into the house! What's wrong with you? Has the cat got your tongue? If you're planning to keep silent, t h e n Adieu, you've seen the last of me! Stay there. Keep on knocking till sunrise! Nothing on earth Will make me open. (She moves away from the window.) Thinks he's someone grand! Some prince or other! Doesn't want to talk, Well, then, get drenched. (Silence. Knocking at the gate.) Good heavens! He won't give Me any peace all night long. Or he'll die On my doorstep—that would be the last straw! A city boy in fancy clothes, got lost While walking, spied the house—and now won't leave. Afraid of wolves in the forest. The cursed nuisance! What can you do with him? (She goes to the window once again.)

Look here—what's wrong with you? Passer-by prince! Be so kind as to show That you don't have a weapon with you. Open Your overcoat! Now raise your hands, that's right. .. Well, fine! I'm sorry for you. I'm opening up. {She runs out Sound of a bolt being slid back. A dog barking. Enter Julia and the Wayfarer, thoroughly drenched.)

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The dog is on the chain, don't be afraid. Well, didn't you get soaked! Right through! Take off Your coat and boots. There's a lap robe on the b e n c h Take it, use it. Slippers are under the b e n c h Yes, put them on. That's good. Now just sit down, And warm yourself, I'll throw some wood in the stove. WAYFARER: {He takes off his overcoat and boots, puts on the slippers, and wraps himself up in the lap robe. Julia tosses logs into the stove.) JULIA: Want a little vodka? Well, go ahead! {She brings out the bottle and pours him a small glassful.) WAYFARER: {He nods his head as a sign of appreciation and drinks.) JULIA: But there's nothing to eat, not even any bread. WAYFARER: {He shakes his head negatively, indicating that he is not hungry.)

Well, listen to me. For the night I'll give You this room here. The sofa's comfortable, Lie down, and sleep until tomorrow morning. And I will go to bed behind that partition. I've got a gun there, and if you come near The doorway, I shall instantly and with Unerring aim put a bullet through your head. And Polka will not let me be abused! You understand? Well then, we're friends for now. WAYFARER: {He nods his head.) JULIA: But why don't you say anything? Answer me! WAYFARER: {He makes a sign with his hand.) JULIA: What does that mean? WAYFARER: {He makes the same sign again.)

I do not understand. Or are you mute? WAYFARER: {He makes a sign that is neither affirmative nor negative.)

I don't believe it. That's

Your way of trying to make fun of me! Hey, watch out! I won't let you abuse me! WAYFARER: {He grabs Julia's hand and kisses it respectfully.)

Well, that's enough, I didn't do a thing. So then you're mute? Now it's all clear to me. That's why you kept so silent all the while. But you're not deaf? WAYFARER: {He shakes his head negatively.) JULIA: You u n d e r s t a n d m e , d o n ' t you? WAYFARER: {He nods his head affirmatively.)

Oh, oh, poor boy, poor boy! Come now, forgive me. You see: my father left for town this morning; Tomorrow he'll come back. The miller's two Miles off, t h e village beyond t h e river, a n d n o o n e In t h e whole house. Just m e a n d Polka. It's obvious W h y I was afraid to let a m a n in. But you're completely different, dear. W h y , you're So pale a n d thin, a n d weak a n d sickly-looking. You must b e quite u n h a p p y . WAYFARER: {He nods affirmatively.)

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But then, tell me: Are you really from town? Do you live there? WAYFARER: {He shakes his head negatively.) JULIA: N o t in t h e town? T h e n where? Far, far away? WAYFARER: {He nods his head affirmatively.)

And what's your n a m e ? Sergei? Ivan? or Peter? Nikita? Nikolai? or Alexander? WAYFARER: {He shakes his head negatively.)

Well, what does it matter! I am Julia. I'll call you Robert. That's a name that I Have always liked a lot. So tell me, Robert, Where were you going? To the mill? Or further, To Otradnoye village? Or to the estate, To the Voznitsins'? Or even further still? WAYFARER: {He shakes his head negatively and covers his face with his hands.) JULIA: D o n ' t want to tell m e ? W h a t is it—a secret? WAYFARER: {He nods his head affirmatively.)


A secret? Oh, that's what! Like in a novel? I've read quite a few. Two years ago There was a lady living in Otradnoye Who used to give me books. I still have two Of them now: The Scullery-Maid Who Became Countess And The Black Prince. Have you read them? WAYFARER: (He shakes his head negatively.)

Too bad.
Fve read them eight times each at least, and still Whenever I come to the touching scenes, Right off I start to cry—I can't help it! A Gypsy stole the countess's baby daughter, She didn't know she was herself a countess, Grew up like a poor beggar, had to work, And suddenly . . . But then, I won't describe it a l l . . . Sometimes The idea suddenly strikes me: what if Instead of being a forester's daughter, I too am a countess! Just don't laugh. That's all Pure nonsense. Well, if you want to, drink some vodka. (She offers him a glass.) WAYFARER: (He shakes his head negatively.) (Silence.)

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Robert, you know, I am very unhappy! I've spent all of my life here in the forest. My mother died long ago. My father's surly, Always tramping through the woods, for days On end, out hunting, or on business. Guests Come here but rarely—and then who? The sexton, The gardener from the Voznitsins', and the miller . . . It's only in summer that ladies and gentlemen visit Otradnoye—but how can I go up to them? I'm so ashamed; I don't know how to speak Their language; they laugh at me; I'm not at all Well educated . .. But I simply cannot Live this life any more! I'm bored, I'm bored! I feel the need of something else. I like Nice clothes and luxury. I want to go To theaters and to balls. I want to chat In drawing rooms. I'm sure I would know how

To seem no sillier than any countess. Really, I am quite beautiful! My eyes Are large, my ears are small, and I have legs That are elegant and a body smooth as marble! Fd hold my own with any other countess With all her airs and ingratiating ways! Fd quickly learn to play the pianoforte And dance all of the latest dances. Fve An innate sense of elegance. But here Who is there to see me? Pine trees, birds, My father, and the peasants! And what do I hear? Barking, swearing, shooting, and the howling of wolves As they come running toward us through the snow . . . Fd like to lean back in an easy chair And, with a tea cup casually in hand, Listen to amorous whisperings in French . . . But no—J have to sweep the floors, prepare The dinner, do the wash, and bring the water For our horse, and to think that for all eternity There is nothing else Fll ever know! (The charcoal in the stove goes out) Well, Fll get married soon. To whom? A forester Of course! Or even worse, it may well be A miller! And then I shall put on weight, Count bags of meal, and all night long hear The wheels creak as the water makes them turn .. . My unloved husband will kiss me on the cheeks And lips—with his gross, over-heavy lips; Sometimes he'll pet me roughly, with a sneer, Sometimes, when he's half-drunk, he'll pull my braids! Once children come, Fll wash their hands and cut their hair, Cook them porridge, whip them with willow switches... And slowly Fll forget my girlish dreams Like the ends of candles that have burned out! Oh, no! Fve not the strength to think of it! (Silence.) Robert! You think that, living in the forest, Like all the country wenches, I did not Preserve my virtue? Now by all that's holy, I swear to you: until this moment no one Has ever kissed me, and there is no one To whom Fve spoken words of love. I am Pure, as the summer sky, as water from the spring, I would not shame the royal bed of a king.

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The most malicious slanderer could not Speak ill of m e ! . . . What am I waiting for? I do not know. Perhaps I am waiting to Find out that I'm the daughter of a count, Waiting for some prince to come to my country And tell me: I have been looking for you throughout The world, and now I have found you, come with me To my sumptuous palace and be the tsarina! I am waiting, the years pass, I am alone, There is no joy, nor will there be, that's clear! And, if I tell the truth, yes, there are times I am ashamed that I have been so chaste! (Silence. It grows darker and darker in the room.) But perhaps I am complaining without cause, And the day that I was waiting for has come, And Robert, you're the one who has been sent To me to answer all my prayers! I did Expect the prince to come in a golden coach, With throngs of servants, followed by his retinue, But he came on foot, alone. I did expect He would be wearing velvet and brocade, And he appeared in a jacket and overcoat! I had imagined that on bended knee He would express his love for me eloquently In a long speech, full of passionate compliments, But he is mute! .. . Well, still! Isn't it clear That he's the one! How odd! Robert, answer! Did You know that you were sent to me by Fate? You are the one that I was waiting for! You are the one the Lord ordained for me! My betrothed! My beloved! My sweetheart! Yes! I recognize your eyes, your sad And wistful look, the slender, delicately Bent fingers of your beautiful hands! Robert! Robert! Tell me that I'm the one! WAYFARER: (He makes no response at all.)

Well, no matter, listen! Whoever you are, The one or not the one, what matter to us? I won't find something better, and where will you Ever meet another girl like me? You think I'm beautiful? And young? Till now I've never kissed a man! All of the strength Of my virginal tenderness I'll give to you!

To you I'll give my innocence, as if You were my fiance, my husband, my master! Fm going to believe that you're some prince, Traveling in disguise, who has lost his throne, And must in the meantime conceal his name! I shall serve you like a faithful servant, And, like a tsarina, caress and care For you! Believe in me! Stay here with me! You'll spend this night as in a fairy tale! And even you'll believe we live in a castle, That above our bed there hangs a canopy Of gold brocade, and that hundreds of servants Wait zealously outside the door, that all We do is say the word—the hall will blaze With fire, and a chorus of musicians burst out! Oh, how I am going to adore you, And fondle and caress you! Your every wish I shall fulfill! I will be passionate, Submissive, tender, whatever you want me to be! Upon awaking in the morning, you Will see the daughter of a forester, Bustling about the house. She'll offer you Some milk. And you will think you dreamed a strange Dream. You'll say thanks, put on your overcoat, And go away, leaving these parts forever, And, if you want to, you'll forget about me . . . Robert! My prince! My lord and master! Take Me, as though I were some precious pearl Cast at your feet from the depths of the sea! Take me, as the gift of a nameless fairy, Who caught sight of you in the thick of the forest! Take me! Possess me! I am yours, all yours! {She throws herself at the Wayfarer.) Let me squeeze against you! Give me your lips, To press mine against yours! Give me your hands, To put them around my waist! . . . Why don't you want to? {She stares fixedly at him and suddenly recoils in horror.) Robert! Robert! It cannot be! He's dead! {Once again she bends over the Wayfarer sitting immobile in the armchair, then in fright rushes to the window.) He's dead! Who's there! You people! Help me! Help!

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A g a i n s t Naturalism in the Theater
Valery Briusov

It is three years now that the Art Theater has been with us in Moscow. Somehow it was an immediate success with everyone—the public, the press, the partisans of the new art and the defenders of the old. Not long ago, it was the custom to cite the Maly Theater as the model of the Russian stage; these days people only laugh at its routine. And this same Maly Theater and another Moscow theater—Korsh's—have begun to adopt the new methods. For Muscovites the Art Theater has become a kind of idol; they are proud of it, and it is the first thing they hasten to show off to the visitor. When the Art Theater visited Petersburg, it performed here to packed houses, arousing universal interest. The Art Theater ventured to stage plays that had failed in other theaters—Chekhov's Seagull, for example—and was successful. Most surprising of all, it was the Art Theater's experimental spirit, its innovations in decor and acting, its daring choice of plays, that won the sympathy of the crowd. What is the Art Theater, then? Is it really the theater of the future, as some have called it? Has it made a step toward the spiritualization of art, toward the overcoming of the fatal contradictions between the essence and the surface of art? Simple probability says no. If the Art Theater has set itself such tasks, it would hardly have won universal acclaim so quickly. Success attests that what the Art Theater offers its audience is not the genuinely new, but the old refurbished, that it offers no threat to the deep-rooted habits of the theatergoer. It has only achieved with greater perfection what other theaters, including its rival the Maly, have aimed at. Together with the entire European theater, with insignificant exceptions, it is on a false path.
Reprinted from "Unnecessary Truth," in The Russian Symbolist Theatre: An Anthology of Plays and Critical Texts, ed. Michael Green (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1986), 25-30.

Modern theaters aim at the utmost verisimilitude in their depiction of life. They think that if everything on the stage is as it is in reality, then they have worthily fulfilled their function. Actors endeavor to speak as they would in a drawing room, scene painters copy views from nature, costume de­ signers work in accordance with archaeological data. In spite of all this, however, there remains much that the theater has not succeeded in counter­ feiting. The Art Theater has set itself the aim of reducing this "much." The actors there have begun to sit with their backs to the audience without constraint; they have begun to talk to each other instead of "out" to the audience. In place of the usual box set has appeared the room placed at an oblique angle: other rooms are visible through the open doors, so that an entire apartment is presented to the viewer's gaze. The furniture is arranged as it usually is in people's homes. If a forest or a garden is to be represented, several trees are placed on the forestage. If the play requires rain to fall, the audience is made to listen to the sound of water. If the play is set in winter, snow can be seen falling outside the windows. If it is windy, curtains flutter, and so on. First of all, one has to say that these innovations are very timid. They are concerned with secondary matters and leave the essential traditions of the theater undisturbed. And until these traditions, which comprise the essence of any stage production, are changed, no alteration of detail will bring the theater closer to reality. All theaters, including the Art Theater, try to make everything on stage visible and audible. Stages are lit by footlights and strip lights, but in real life light either falls from the sky or pours in through windows or is cast by a lamp or a candle. If there is a night scene, the Art Theater has ventured to leave the stage in greater darkness than is customary, although it has not dared to extinguish all the lights in the theater; however, if it were really night on stage, the audience would obviously be unable to see anything. Similarly, the Art Theater is at pains to ensure that all stage conversation is audible to the auditorium. Even if a large gathering is repre­ sented, only one actor speaks at a time. When a new group begins to speak, the previous one "moves upstage" and begins gesticulating energetically— and this a quarter of a century after Villiers de ITsle Adam in his drama Le nouveau monde bracketed two pages of dialogue with the direction "Every­ body speaks at once!" But even if the Art Theater were more daring, it would still fall short of its purpose. To reproduce life faithfully on the stage is impossible. The stage is conventional by its very nature. One set of conventions may be replaced by another, that is all. In Shakespeare's day a board would be set up with the inscription "forest." Not so long ago we used to be content with a backdrop of a forest with side wings depicting trees with branches incomprehensibly intertwined against the sky. In time to come, forests will be constructed from artificial three-dimensional trees with foliage and rounded trunks, or even from living trees with roots hidden in tubs under the stage... And all this, the last word in stage technique, will, like the Shakespearean inscription, be for

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the audience no more than a reminder, no more than a symbol of a forest. The modern theatergoer is not in the least taken in by a painted tree—he knows that a particular piece of lathe and canvas is intended to stand for a tree. In much the same way, a signboard meant "forest" to an Elizabethan audience and a stage sapling will mean a tree growing naturally to the audience of the future. The set is no more than a pointer to the imagination. In the Greek theater, an actor playing someone who had just returned from foreign parts would enter from the left. At the Art Theater, the actor is admitted to a small vestibule where he divests himself of sheepskin and galoshes as a sign that he has come from afar. But who among the audience is likely to forget that he arrived from the wings? In what way is the conven­ tion by which an actor removes his sheepskin more subtle than the one by which it is understood that if he enters from the left he is coming from foreign parts? Not only the art of the theater, but art of any kind cannot avoid formal convention, cannot be transformed into a re-creation of reality. Never, in looking at a picture by one of the great realist painters, will we be deceived like the birds of Zeuxis into thinking that before us are fruits or an open window through which we may glimpse a distant horizon. By infinitesimal gradations of light and shade, by the most elusive signals, the eye is able to distinguish reality from representation. Never will we bow to the marble bust of an acquaintance. It is unheard of that someone, on reading a story in which the author recounts in the first person how he came to commit suicide, should order a mass to be sung for the repose of his soul. And if there do exist reproductions of people and things that deceive the eye, such, for example, as bridges in a painted panorama or wax figures so convincing that they frighten children, we have difficulty in recognizing these creations as works of art. Not a single one of the spectators sitting in the orchestra and paying three or four rubles for his seat is going to believe that he is really looking at Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and that in the final scene the prince lies dead. Each new technical device in art, be it that of the theater or another, arouses only curiosity and suspicion in the spectator. A certain contempo­ rary artist has, it is said, painted a new series of pictures in which the effect of moonlight is strikingly conveyed. When we see them, our first thought will be: How did he manage to do that? And then we will captiously seek out every discrepancy with reality. Only when we have satisfied our curiosity will we start looking at the picture as a work of art. When an avalanche of wadding descends on the stage, the members of the audience ask each other: How was that done? If Rubek and Irene simply walked off into the wings [in Ibsen's When We Dead Awaken], the audience would believe more readily in their destruction than it does now, when before their eyes two straw-stuffed dummies and armfuls of wadding go rolling over the boards. "It faded on the crowing of the cock," someone says of the Ghost in Hamlet, and this is enough for the audience to imagine the crowing of the cock. But in Uncle

Vanya the Art Theater has a cricket chirping. No one in the audience will imagine that the cricket is real, and the more lifelike the sound, the less convincing the illusion. In time, audiences will become used to the devices they now find so novel and will cease to notice them. But this will not come about because the audience will take wadding for snow in real earnest, or the rope that tugs at the curtains for wind, but because these devices will simply be numbered among the usual theatrical conventions. Would it not then be better to abandon the fruitless battle against the invincible conventions of the theater, which only spring up with renewed strength, and rather than seeking to eradicate them, attempt to subjugate, to tame, to harness, to saddle them? There are two kinds of convention. One kind arises from the inability to create successfully. A bad poet says of a beautiful woman: "She is as fresh as a rose." It may be that the poet really understood the vernal freshness of the woman's soul, but he was unable to express his feelings, substituting cliche for genuine expression. In the same way, people want to speak on the stage as they do in life but are unable to, stressing words unnaturally, pronouncing endings too emphatically and so on. But there is another kind of convention—that which is deliberately applied. It is a convention that statues of marble and bronze are left unpainted. They could be painted—at one time they even were—but it is unnecessary, since sculpture is concerned with form, not color. An engraving in which leaves are black and the sky striped observes certain conventions, but it nevertheless affords pure aesthetic en­ joyment. Wherever there is art, there is convention. To oppose this is as absurd as to demand that science would dispense with logic and explain phenomena other than by their causal relationship. It is time that the theater stopped counterfeiting reality. A cloud depicted in a painting is flat, it does not move or change its form or luminiscence—but there is something about it that gives us the same feeling as a real cloud. The stage must provide everything that can most effectively help the spectator to re-create the setting demanded by the play in his imagination. If a battle is to be represented, it is absurd to send on stage a couple of dozen—or even a thousand—extras waving wooden swords: perhaps the audience will be bet­ ter served by a musical picture from the orchestra. If a wind is called for, there is no need to blow a whistle and tug at the curtain with a rope: the actors themselves must convey the storm by behaving as people do in a strong wind. There is no need to do away with the setting, but it must be deliberately conventionalized. The setting must be, as it were, stylized. Types of setting must be devised that will be comprehensible to everyone, as a received language is comprehensible, as white statues, flat paintings, and black engravings are comprehensible. Simplicity of setting will not be equiv­ alent to banality and monotony. The principle will be changed, and there will be ample scope in particulars for the imagination of Messrs. the set designers and technicians. Dramatists too must in some degree perfect their artistic method. They


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are sovereign artists only when their work is read; on the stage their plays are only forms into which the actors pour their own content. Dramatists must renounce all superfluous, unnecessary, and ultimately futile copying of life. Everything external in their work must be reduced to a minimum because it has little to do with the conduct of the drama. The drama can convey the external only through an intermediary—through the souls of the dramatis personae. The sculptor cannot take soul and emotion in his hands; he has to give the spirit bodily incarnation. The dramatist, on the contrary, should make it possible for the actor to express the physical in the spiritual. Some­ thing has already been achieved in the creation of a new drama. The most interesting attempts of this kind are the plays of Maeterlinck and the latest dramas of Ibsen. It is noteworthy that it is in the staging of these plays that the modern theater has shown itself to be particularly ineffectual. The ancient theater had a single permanent set—the palace. With slight alterations it was made to represent the interior of a house, a square, the seashore. Actors wore masks and buskins, which forced them to put aside any thought of imitating everyday life. The chorus sang sacred hymns around the altar and also intervened in the action. Everything was at once thoroughly conventionalized and utterly alive; the audience devoted its attention to the action and not to the setting, "for tragedy," says Aristotle, "is the imitation not of men, but of action." In our day, such simplicity of setting has been preserved in the folk theater. I chanced to see a performance of [Aleksei Remizov's] Tsar Maximilian given by factory workers. The scenery and props consisted of two chairs, the tsar's paper crown and the paper chains of his rebellious son Adolph. Watching this performance, I understood what powerful resources the theater has at its disposal and how misguided it is in seeking the aid of painters and technicians. The creative urge is the only reality that exists on earth. Everything external is, in the poet's words, "only a dream, a fleeting dream." Grant that in the theater we may be partakers of the highest truth, the profoundest reality. Grant the actor his rightful place, set him upon the pedestal of the stage that he may rule it as an artist. By his art he will give content to the dramatic performance. Let your setting aim not at truth, but at the sugges­ tion of truth. I summon you away from the unnecessary truth of the modern stage to the deliberate conventionalization of the ancient theater.

Pataphysical Theater

Ifred Jarry, novelist and playwright, was born on September 8, 1873, in Laval, France. As a fifteen-year-old schoolboy, he be1 gan writing his most influential play, the five-act satirical farce " ^ King Ubu. Jarry originally performed King Ubu with marionettes, and I M F * over the next eight years he continued to revise the play. As the assisw-^^m tant to Aurelien Lugne-Poe, the director of the Theatre de POeuvre in " ^ Paris, he succeeded in securing a production there of King Ubu in 1896. n ^ * This premiere, with designs by Bonnard, Vuillard, and Toulouse-Lautrec, _ caused a riot in the theater (comparable to the one caused by the U w ^ staging of Victor Hugo's Hernani in 1830, during the heyday of Romanticism) because of Jarry's use of profanity and mangled diction, as well as on account of the enormity of the characters' greed and cruelty. Jarry championed the use of puppets in place of actors long before Gordon Craig proposed the Ubermarionette; the use of masks, which Jarry wanted for King Ubu but did not get, would have been the first step toward his desired depersonalization of the performer. He thus shared Maeterlinck's preference for an abstract theater rather than a realistic one, and the violent, absurd vision of the world captured in his plays and in his invention of "pataphysics"-—"the science of imaginary solutions," which bears much the same relation to the scientific or rational way of analyzing and describing the world as Jarry's anti-theater does to conventional drama—influenced the Surrealists and Dadaists of the 1920s, Antonin Artaud, and the Theater of the Absurd. The sequels to King Ubu—Ubu Cuckolded (1888) and Ubu Bound (1900)--were not published or produced until long after Jarry's death. In the last years of his life he gave in to his addictions to absinthe and ether, and began to live life as the character of Ubu. He died on November 1, 1907, in Paris. A vicious satire of Jarry's despised physics teacher, King Ubu parodied in the process not only Shakespearean tragedy, most evidently Macbeth, but also all the


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turn-of-the-century thematic and stylistic expectations of serious drama. This was parody that went beyond the literary, however, for King Ubu is a disparaging attack against the fundamental concepts of Western civilization, specifically as they are embodied in bourgeois aims, attitudes, and practices. The grossly fat and loathsome Ubu is the ugly personification of the baser instincts and antiso­ cial qualities—rapacity, cruelty, stupidity, gluttony, cowardice, conceit, vulgarity, treachery, and ingratitude—all of which he inspires as well in the people who surround him, particularly those who are esteemed as honorable, heroic, al­ truistic, patriotic, idealistic, or simply socially conventional. Thus Ubu, who at his wife's urging murders the unsuspecting Wenceslas, king of an imaginary Poland, himself reduces kingship to gorging on sausages and wearing an immense hat; economic competition to a kicking, struggling race; social reform to slaughter motivated solely by envious cupidity; the waging of war to boastful brawling; and religious faith to fearful superstition, manipulated by the unscrupulous for their own benefit. In other words, a figure symbolizing all that bourgeois morality condemns is accepted as the representative and mainstay of bourgeois society, which then stands condemned by its own principies. The creation of such a character as the apocalyptic twentieth century was dawning—a character spawned, in essence, by the bourgeoisie—was gruesomely prophetic, particularly since the Ubus survive the Polish revolt (led by both the Russian tsar and the only surviving son of King Wenceslas) and sail off at the end to comfortable exile in France. Ubu's tyrannical savagery, which was seen by many as the creation of a deranged mind, seems tame indeed when compared with the massacres, genocides, and holocausts of subsequent generations.

Jarry and the Modern Theatre
H H bu Ro' stands at a turning point in the evolution of the mod­ | ^ ern theatre. In an age in which the traditional distinction ^ ^ f c between poetry and prose was breaking down (with the in­ vention of the vers fibre) and painting was taking its first steps in the I M F * direction of abstraction, it was only natural that the theatre should attempt to follow a similar path of self-examination and redefinition. Jarry him­ self was in the forefront of such developments (all the more so as he was him­ self fully abreast of similar movements in the fields of poetry and painting and had close personal links with many of those most responsible for them): his work in the theatre sets out to revolutionize that genre in respect of its language, of its forms of expression, and of the underlying purpose and function of the theatre itself. The starting point of Jarry and of a host of subsequent playwrights is an effort to break once and for all with the principles and traditions of the Realist and Naturalist theatre, with its attempt to create on the stage an illusion of the "real" world (or what its practitioners took to be the "real" world) outside the theatre. The first significant parallel lies therefore in the efforts to create, in opposition to such conventions, a theatre based on the principles of deliberate stylization and simplification, and on the adoption of purely "schematic" modes of representation. Jarry's endeavours in this domain were echoed to some ex­ tent by those of the Symbolist theatre, and by the ideas of theatrical reformers and visionaries of his own time and of the early years of this century such as Adolphe Appia and Edward Gordon Craig. Today, of course, an element of simplification and stylization is an accepted part of production methods in the modern theatre even in relation to plays written in a traditional Realist or Naturalist mode. But the real revolution in our time has been widespread total abandonment of this mode by a string of major playwrights, who see the true force of the theatre as lying in the adoption of conventions diametrically op­ posed to those of Realism. The second feature of the theatre of his time rejected by Jarry in which he can again be seen as a precursor is its essentially narrative and psychological function. The theatre, he argues, is not the proper place for "telling a story" or for the portrayal and analysis of psychological conflicts, which belong more properly to the novel. Nor is it the place for dealing with social issues or problems. Whether or not there is a necessary relationship between a theatre which, thematically, is oriented towards the expression of social issues and problems and the Realist mode of expression, the fact remains that historically the two have been closely linked. The inevitable corollary is the desire to create a theatre which will be concerned with a portrayal of "situations" and "types," or more exactly archetypes, and with the expression of the universal and eternal rather than purely with historically limited social issues and themes. Jarry thus
Excerpted from Keith Beaumont, "Jarry and the Modern Theatre," "Ubu Roi": A Critical Guide (London: Grant and Cutler, 1987), 86-95.

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implicitly looks forward to the call of Artaud for a "metaphysical" theatre which will be concerned with the portrayal of aspects of an unchanging "human condi­ tion," a conception fully realized in the work of playwrights such as Beckett, lonesco, or (in his early plays) Adamov. He also implicitly anticipates Artaud's call for a theatre of "myth," in the sense of a creation of universal and archetypal images. What after all is Ubu but a "myth" in this sense, an archetypal image of mankind as seen by Jarry? The creation of such a theatre has profound implications for the portrayal of character on the stage, and here a further parallel can be found. To reject the portrayal of psychological conflicts is also to reject psychological complexity, and implicitly to advocate a deliberately simplified and schematic presentation of human character—a presentation which, at its most extreme point of development, finds its outward expression in the use of masks or the portrayal of human beings in terms of mere puppets. And this too is not only a central feature of the work of Jarry but has been a significant (though certainly not universal) trend in the theatre of the twentieth century, most strikingly in evidence in the work of lonesco, particularly in his early one-act plays or in a highly stylized later work such as Macbett With this simplification of character goes also on occasion an abandonment of psychological coherence and motivation, which in turn can have a profound effect upon the plot and action of the play. The unpredictability of Ubu's behaviour—his sudden and unexpected changes from resolution to cowardice or his apparently gratuitous acts of cruelty—indicates in such instances an absence of coherence and logical motivation which looks forward in embryonic form to the topsy-turvy world of, for example, those same early plays of lonesco. A similar absence of logic in the relationship between events can be found in certain plays of Arrabal, whilst discontinuity is a fundamental feature of the theatre of Beckett. Such a portrayal of character points also to the sources of inspiration of the above playwrights and others, which indicate a further parallel between Jarry and his successors. In all intended revolutions, whether political or artistic, men tend to turn back, in order to create something radically different from the present or from that which immediately preceded it, to a more distant past for inspiration. Jarry's attempt to revitalize the theatre of his time by a return to the "simpler" and more "naive" art of the mime and the puppet theatre has been echoed by many since. Directors and theoreticians of an earlier generation such as Craig and Gaston Baty have exalted the expressive possibilities of marionettes, and playwrights such as Ghelderode, lonesco, and Arrabal have spoken of their child­ hood delight in the guignol, which has been a source of inspiration in their own work. In the work of Jarry as of these and other playwrights, moreover, the figure of the puppet provides more than simply a source of inspiration but takes on a functional significance also, providing an image of man himself and his situa­ tion in the world and forming an essential part of the playwright's own vision. "Simplification," in both characterization and themes, does not, however, as Jarry understood it, mean mere simplicity, but rather a condensation or synthe­ sis of complexity. Thus the figure of Ubu is simple only in the sense that he synthesizes and implicitly embodies a multiplicity of different potential meanings.

Hence Jarry's invitation to the audience at the premiere of Ubu Roi to place its own interpretation upon the play, a statement that looks forward to the concept of the "openness" of the work of art. Such a concept is central to Jarry's whole literary aesthetic and underlies his reflections on the possibility of an "abstract" theatre, in which the play would constitute no more than a kind of abstract framework into which the members of the audience would be invited to project their own meaning—thereby participating actively, he maintains, through the exercise of the imagination, in the process of creation itself. It is this urge towards abstraction which explains the nature of the setting of Ubu Roi—its Nowhere/Everywhere achieved by a canceling out of mutually contradictory elements—and to which there corresponds a similar imprecision in the work of such playwrights as lonesco (anonymous but archetypal provincial town), Vian (block of flats in an unnamed town), Arrabal (mythical desert island), or Beckett (deserted country road). A sixth parallel, of a quite different nature, can be found in the deliberate provocation of Jarry's flouting of the linguistic and theatrical conventions of his time, in his calculated attack upon both the moral and aesthetic susceptibilities of his audience. The original production of Ubu Roi provides in this respect an outstanding example of theatrical aggression which has been followed by many directors and playwrights since, from Artaud to Peter Brook and Charles Marowitz, and from the Dadist and Surrealist theatre to certain of the works of Weingarten (the first performance of whose Akara in 1948 was likened by critics to the opening night of Ubu Ro/), Genet, lonesco (whose first play was provoca­ tively subtitled "Anti-piece"), Vauthier, and Arrabal. Where, however, it was the linguistic and moral aspect of that aggressiveness which had most impact on Jarry's contemporaries, from our point of view today its most significant feature was its artistic subversiveness, Jarry's creation of forms of deliberate incoherence and logical contradiction which can be seen implicitly to call into question the very nature and existence of the work of art itself. There is in fact present in Jarry a dual impulse, a desire to create radically new artistic forms which exists alongside and simultaneously with a secret wish to subvert all forms of art from within. The tension resulting from these two conflicting impulses was in fact never resolved in his work, and can be seen in his theatre, in much of his poetry, and in such novels as Messaline and Le surmale, where the apparent reality of the narrative is secretly undermined from within. This subversive intention is not, however, restricted to Jarry (though he was among the first of modern writers to manifest it), but it is shared with a number of modern playwrights and novelists and is in fact characteristic of the intensely self-conscious and introspective age in which we live. It expresses itself at times, as in Jarry, in the inclusion within a work of deliberately contradictory details, and at times also, in the theatre, through the presence within the play itself of elements of dialogue or action whose function is to remind us that what we are watching is a "fiction," a "play" in the primary sense of the word. No modern playwright so fully exemplifies this conception of what has been called "the selfconscious stage" as Beckett, in whose plays the affirmation of the essentially "fic­ tional" and "theatrical" nature of what we are watching is a recurrent feature.

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Jarry can also be seen as a precursor in his creation and exploitation of a form of humor to which contemporary audiences totally failed to respond (or responded with bewilderment and hostility) but which has become widespread in our own time, a humour based on the deliberate exploitation of incongruity or of outright logical contradiction in both action and word—a form of humour which can legitimately be described as "absurd" humour. The clash of conflicting elements in the set for Ubu Roi in 1896, no less than the clock of lonesco's La cantatrice chauve which strikes successively seven, three, naught, five, and two times in the course of the first scene, or Ubu's statement that "I am going to light a fire while I'm waiting for him to bring some firewood," lonesco's demonstration in the same play that when a doorbell rings it means that "sometimes there is somebody, at other times there is nobody" and Clov's statement in Fin de partie that "If I don't kill that rat, it is going to die," all provide examples of a form of humour which deliberately flies in the face of the laws of logic or causality. Not only, moreover, is this form of humour widely accepted and exploited in our own age, but it seems to have a particular appeal to those of an intellectual bent, through the provision of a much-needed liberation from the constraints of logic and the processes of reasoning. It is also, finally, a decidedly subversive and destructive form of humour, sweeping all before it in a total derision of rational values, anticipating and responding to Artaud's call for a rediscovery of "the anarchic power of dissociation in laughter," which, along with a true sense of the tragic, Western civilization had lost. Lastly, Jarry in Ubu Roi brought to the theatre—or more exactly restored to it—the spirit of childhood which had been a part of the medieval theatre, but which had been proscribed by the dominant rationalism of the intervening cen­ turies. The vision which presided at the creation of Ubu Roi, with its crude exaggeration, its violence, its frequent absence of logical relationships and co­ herent motivation of action, is that of a child's conception of the world; and the character of Ubu himself is nothing more than that of an overgrown child, displaying a primeval innocence, but one which is no less terrifying and brutal for all that. It was a vision which Jarry alone among his school fellows had the insight and the artistic sense to preserve, but which looks forward to playwrights such as lonesco, Vian, and Arrabal, whose work at times either focuses on similarly childlike figures or portrays in other ways an equally terrifying or disturbing innocence. Even more important than this vision itself, however, is the spirit which informs Jarry's play, and which expresses itself in a spontaneous and innocent love of nonsense, of wordplay and linguistic distortion, and of sheer absurdity. To laugh at such "absurd" forms of humour requires a willingness to suspend the normal habits of rational thinking characteristic of the adult mind, and to enter once again, at least momentarily, into the spirit of childhood. And insofar as we are able to do this today, we are all heirs of Jarry. In all of these ways, then, Jarry can be seen as a precursor of the modern theatre, or at least of one major current in it. That current is a sufficiently important and widespread one to make of Jarry, as result of the extensive parallels outlined above, a major figure in the emergence of modern culture, and to make of Ubu Roi an archetype for our own time.

Select Bibliography on Jarry
Beaumont, Keith. Alfred Jarry: A Critical and Biographical Study, 86-119. Leicester, England: Leicester University Press, 1984. New York: St. Martin's, 1984. Church, Dan M. "Pere Ubu: The Creation of a Literary Type." Drama Survey 43 (1965): 233-43. LaBelle, Maurice Marc. Alfred Jarry: Nihilism and the Theatre of the Absurd. New York: New York University Press, 1980. Lamont, Rosette C. "Ubu Roi: A Collage." Dada 4 (1974): 17-26. Lobert, Patrick. "Ubu Roi, Jarry's Satire of Naturalism." French Literature Series 14(1987): 124-32. See also Braun; Innes, Avant Garde Theatre; Schumacher, Alfred Jarry and Guillaume Apollinaire; and Shattuck, in the General Bibliography.

Alfred Jarry

Then Father Ubu shakes his peare, who was afterwards yclept SHAKESPEARE by the Englishe, and you have from him in his own hand manie lovely tragedies under this name.


UBU: Casual gray suit, a cane always stuffed in his right-hand pocket, bowler hat. A crown over his hat at the beginning of Act II, Scene 2. Bareheaded at the beginning of Act II, Scene 6. Act HI, Scene 2, crown and white hood, flaring to a royal cape. Act III, Scene 4, cloak, cap pulled down over his ears; same outfit, but with bare head in Scene 7. Scene 8, hood, helmet, a sword stuck in his belt, a hook, chisels, a knife, a cane still in his right-hand pocket. A bottle bounces at his side. Act IV, Scene 5, cloak and cap but without above weapons or stick. In the sailing scene a small suitcase is in Father Ubu's hand. MOTHER UBU: Concierge's clothes or a toiletries saleswoman's ensemble. Pink bonnet or a hat with flowers and feathers and a veil. An apron in the feasting scene. Royal cloak at the opening of Act II, Scene 6. CAPTAIN BORDURE: Hungarian musician's costume, very close-fitting, red. Big mantle, large sword, crenelated boots, feathery hat.

Reprinted from Modem French Theatre: The Avant-Garde, Daday and Surrealism; An Anthology of Plays, ed. Michael Benedikt and George E. Wellwarth; trans. Michael Benedikt and George E. Wellwarth (New York: Dutton, 1964), 1-54.


Royal mantle and the crown Ubu wears after murdering

him. The mantle and crown Mother Ubu later wears. BOLESLAS, LADISLAS (sons of King Wenceslas and Queen Rosemonde): Gray Polish costumes, heavily frogged; short pants. BOUGRELAS (the youngest son): Dressed as a child in a little skirt and bonnet. GENERAL LASCY: Polish costume, with an admiral's hat with white plumes, and a sword. STANISLAS LECZINSKY: Polish costume. White beard. JOHN SOBIESKI, NICHOLAS RENSKY: Polish costume. THE TSAR, EMPEROR ALEXIS: Black clothing, enormous yellow sword, dagger, numerous military decorations, big boots. Huge frill at the throat. Hat in the form of a black cone. THE PALOTINS (GIRON, PILE, COTICE): Long beards, fur-trimmed greatcoats, shitr-colored; or red or green if necessary; tights beneath. CROWD: Polish costume. MICHAEL FEDEROVITCH: Same. Fur hat. NOBLES: Polish costume, with cloaks edged with fur or embroidery. ADVISERS, FINANCIERS: Swathed in black, with astrologers' hats, eyeglasses, pointed noses.

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Polish costume. THE POLISH ARMY: In gray, with frogging and fur trimmings: three men with rifles. THE RUSSIAN ARMY: Two horsemen: uniform like that of the Poles, but green, with fur headgear. They carry cardboard horses' heads. A RUSSIAN FOOTSOLDIER: In green, with headgear. MOTHER UBTJ'S GUARDS: Polish costume, with halberds. A CAPTAIN: General Lascy. THE BEAR: Bordure in bearskin. THE PHYNANCIAL HORSE: Large wooden rocking horse on casters, or else cardboard horse's head, as required. THE CREW: Two men in sailor suits, in blue, collars turned down, and so on. THE CAPTAIN OF THE SHIP: In a French naval officer's uniform.
PEASANTS: JAILER * MESSENGER * * Jarry did not include suggestions for the costuming of these two characters in these notes, which were published from manuscript by the College de Tataphysique in 1951.


Oboes Pipes Blutwurst Large Bass Flageolets Transverse Flutes Flute Little Bassoon Big Bassoon Triple Bassoon Little Black Cornets Shrill White Cornets Horns Sackbuts Trombones Green Hunting Horns Reeds Bagpipes Bombardons Timbals Drum Bass Drum Grand Organs ACT I


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Father Ubu, Mother Ubu.
FATHER UBU: S h i t r !

Well, that's a fine way to talk, Father Ubu. What a pigheaded ass you are! FATHER UBU: I don't know what keeps me from bouncing your head off the wall, Mother Ubu! MOTHER UBU: It's not my head you ought to be cracking, Father Ubu. FATHER UBU: By my green candle, I don't know what you're talking about. MOTHER UBU: What's this, Father Ubu, you mean to tell me you're satisfied with the way things are? FATHER UBU: By my green candle, shitr, madam, certainly I'm satisfied with the way things are. After all, aren't I Captain of the Dragoons, con­ fidential adviser to King Wenceslas, decorated with the order of the Red Eagle of Poland, and ex-King of Aragon—what more do you want? MOTHER UBU: What's this! After having been King of Aragon you're satisfied with leading fifty-odd flunkies armed with cabbage-cutters to parades? When you could just as well have the crown of Poland replace the crown of Aragon on your big fat nut? FATHER UBU: Ah! Mother Ubu I don't know what you're talking about. MOTHER UBU: You're so stupid!

UBU: By my green candle, King Wenceslas is still very much alive; and even if he does die he's still got hordes of children, hasn't he? MOTHER UBU: What's stopping you from chopping up his whole family and putting yourself in their place? FATHER UBU: Ah! Mother Ubu, you're doing me an injustice, and I'll stick you in your stewpot in a minute. MOTHER UBU: Ha! Poor wretch, if I were stuck in the pot who'd sew up the seat of your pants? FATHER UBU: Oh, really! And what of it? Don't I have an ass like everyone else? MOTHER UBU: If I were you, I'd want to install that ass on a throne. You could get any amount of money, eat sausages all the time, and roll around the streets in a carriage. FATHER UBU: If I were king I'd have them build me a big helmet just like the one I had in Aragon which those Spanish swine had the nerve to steal from me. MOTHER UBU: You could also get yourself an umbrella and a big cape which would reach to your heels. FATHER UBU: Ah! that does it! I succumb to temptation. That crock of shitr, that shitr of crock, if I ever run into him in a dark alley, I'll give him a bad fifteen minutes. MOTHER UBU: Ah! Fine, Father Ubu, at last you're acting like a real man. FATHER UBU: Oh, no! Me, the Captain of the Dragoons slaughter the King of Poland! Better far to die! MOTHER UBU (aside): Oh, shitr! (Aloud.) So, then, you want to stay as poor as a churchmouse, Father Ubu? FATHER UBU: Zounds, by my green candle, I'd rather be as poor as a starving, good rat than as rich as a wicked, fat cat. MOTHER UBU: And the helmet? And the umbrella? And the big cape? FATHER UBU: And what about them, Mother Ubu? He leaves, slamming the door. MOTHER UBU (alone): Crap, shitr, it's hard to get him started, but, crap, shitr, I think I've stirred him up. With the help of God and of myself, perhaps in eight days I'll be Queen of Poland.

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A room in Father Uhus house, with a splendidly laid table. Father Ubu, Mother Ubu. MOTHER UBU: So! Our guests are very late.

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UBU: Yes, by my green candle, Fm dying of hunger. Mother Ubu, you're really ugly today. Is it because company's coming? MOTHER UBU (shrugging her shoulders): Shitr! FATHER UBU (grabbing a roast chicken): Gad, Fm hungry; Fm going to have a piece of this bird. It's a chicken, I think. Not bad at all. MOTHER UBU: What are you doing, you swine? What will be left for our guests? FATHER UBU: There will be plenty left for them. I won't touch another thing. Mother Ubu, go to the window and see if our guests are coming. MOTHER UBU (going): I don't see anything. Meanwhile, Father Ubu takes a piece of veal Ah, here come Captain Bordure and his boys. What are you eating now, Father Ubu? FATHER UBU: Nothing, a little veal. MOTHER UBU: Oh! the veal! the veal! The ox! He's eaten the veal! Help, help! FATHER UBU: By my green candle, Fll scratch your eyes out. The door opens.

Father Ubu, Mother Ubu, Captain Bordure and his followers. MOTHER UBU: Good day, gentlemen; we've been anxiously awaiting you. Sit down. CAPTAIN BORDURE: Good day, madam. Where's Father Ubu? FATHER UBU: Here I am, here I am! Good lord, by my green candle, I'm fat enough, aren't I? CAPTAIN BORDURE: Good day, Father Ubu. Sit down, boys. They all sit. FATHER UBU: Oof, a little more, and Fd have busted my chair. CAPTAIN BORDURE: Well, Mother Ubu! What have you got that's good today? MOTHER UBU: Here's the menu. FATHER UBU: Oh! That interests me. MOTHER UBU: Polish soup, roast ram, veal, chicken, chopped dog's liver, turkey's ass, charlotte russe . . . FATHER UBU: Hey, that's plenty, I should think. You mean there's more? MOTHER UBU (continuing): Frozen pudding, salad, fruits, dessert, boiled beef, Jerusalem artichokes, cauliflower a la shitr. FATHER UBU: Hey! Do you think Fm the Emperor of China, to give all that away? MOTHER UBU: Don't listen to him, he's feeble-minded.

UBU: Ah! I'll sharpen my teeth on your shanks. MOTHER UBU: Try this instead, Father Ubu. Here's the Polish soup. FATHER UBU: Crap, is that lousy! CAPTAIN BORDURE: Hmm—it isn't very good, at that. MOTHER UBU: What do you want, you bunch of crooks! FATHER UBU (striking his forehead): Wait, Fve got an idea. I'll be right back. He leaves. MOTHER UBU: Let's try the veal now, gentlemen. CAPTAIN BORDURE: It's very good—I'm through. MOTHER UBU: To the turkey's ass, next. CAPTAIN BORDURE: Delicious, delicious! Long live Mother Ubu! ALL: Long live Mother Ubu! FATHER UBU (returning): And you will soon be shouting long live Father Ubu. (He has a toilet brush in his hand, and he throws it on the festive board.) MOTHER UBU: Miserable creature, what are you up to now?

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FATHER UBU: Try a little.

Several try it, and fall, poisoned. Mother Ubu, pass me the roast ram chops, so that I can serve them. Here they are. FATHER UBU: Everyone out! Captain Bordure, I want to talk to you. THE OTHERS: But we haven't eaten yet. FATHER UBU: What's that, you haven't eaten yet? Out, out, everyone out! Stay here, Bordure. Nobody moves. You haven't gone yet? By my green candle, I'll give you your ram chops. (He begins to throw them.) ALL: Oh! Ouch! Help! Woe! Help! Misery! I'm dead! FATHER UBU: Shitr, shitr, shitr! Outside! I want my way! ALL: Everyone for himself! Miserable Father Ubu! Traitor! Meanie! FATHER UBU: Ah! They've gone. I can breathe again—but I've had a rotten dinner. Come on, Bordure. They go out with Mother Ubu.

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Father Ubu, Mother Ubu, Captain Bordure. UBU: Well, now, Captain, have you have a good dinner? CAPTAIN BORDURE: Very good, sir, except for the shitr. FATHER UBU: Oh, come now, the shitr wasn't bad at all.


Chacun a son gout. Captain Bordure, Fve decided to make you Duke of Lithuania. CAPTAIN BORDURE: Why, I thought you were miserably poor, Father Ubu. FATHER UBU: If you choose, Fll be King of Poland in a few days. CAPTAIN BORDURE: You're going to kill Wenceslas? FATHER UBU: He's not so stupid, the idiot; he's guessed it. CAPTAIN BORDURE: If it's a question of killing, Wenceslas, Fm for it. Fm his mortal enemy, and I can answer for my men. FATHER UBU (throwing his arms around him): Oh! Oh! How I love you, Bordure. CAPTAIN BORDURE: Ugh, you stink, Father Ubu. Don't you ever wash?

I'll stamp on your toes.


MOTHER UBU: Big shitr!

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right, Bordure, that's all for now; but, by my green candle, I swear on Mother Ubu to make you Duke of Lithuania.



Be quiet, my sweet child They go out.

Father Ubu, Mother Ubu, a messenger. FATHER UBU: Sir, what do you want? Beat it, you're boring me. THE MESSENGER: Sir, the king summons you. He leaves. FATHER UBU: Oh, shitr! Great Jumping Jupiter, by my green candle, Fve been discovered; they'll cut my head off, alas! alas! MOTHER UBU: What a spineless clod! And just when time's getting short. FATHER UBU: Oh, I've got an idea: I'll say that it was Mother Ubu and Bordure. MOTHER UBU: You fat Ubu, if you do that. .. FATHER UBU: I'm off right now. He leaves. MOTHER UBU (running after him): Oh, Father Ubu, Father Ubu, Fll give you some sausage! She leaves. FATHER UBU (from the wings): Oh, shitr! You're a prize sausage yourself.


The palace. King Wenceslas, surrounded by his officers; Captain Bordure; the king's sons, Boleslas, Ladislas, and Bougrelas; and Father Ubu. FATHER UBU (entering): Oh! You know, it wasn't me, it was Mother Ubu and Bordure. KING WENCESLAS: What's the matter with you, Father Ubu? CAPTAIN BORDURE: He's drunk. KING WENCESLAS: So was I, this morning. FATHER UBU: Yes, I'm potted, because I've drunk too much French wine. KING WENCESLAS: Father Ubu, I desire to recompense your numerous ser­ vices as Captain of the Dragoons, and I'm going to make you Count of Sandomir today. FATHER UBU: Oh, Mr. Wenceslas, I don't know how to thank you. KING WENCESLAS: Don't thank me, Father Ubu, and don't forget to appear tomorrow morning at the big parade. FATHER UBU: I'll be there, but be good enough to accept this toy whistle. (He presents the king with a toy whistle.) KING WENCESLAS: What can I do with a toy whistle at my age? I'll give it to Bougrelas. BOUGRELAS: What an idiot Father Ubu is! FATHER UBU: And now I'll scram. (He falls as he turns around.) Oh! Ouch! Help! By my green candle, I've split my gut and bruised my butt! KING WENCESLAS (helping him up): Did you hurt yourself, Father Ubu? FATHER UBU: Yes, I certainly did, and I'll probably die soon. What will become of Mother Ubu? KING WENCESLAS: We shall provide for her upkeep. FATHER UBU: Your kindness is unparalleled. (He leaves.) But you'll be slaugh­ tered just the same, King Wenceslas.

D .?

♦ S

Father Vbus house. Giron, Pile, Cotice, Father Ubu, Mother Ubu, Conspirators and Soldiers, Captain Bordure. FATHER UBU: Well, my good friends, it's about time we discussed the plan of the conspiracy. Let each one give his advice. First of all, I'll give mine, if you'll permit me. CAPTAIN BORDURE: Speak, Father Ubu. FATHER UBU: Very well, my friends, I'm in favor of simply poisoning the king

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by slipping a little arsenic in his lunch. At the first nibble he'll drop dead, and then Fll be king. ALL: How base! FATHER UBU: What's that? You don't like my suggestion? Let Bordure give his. CAPTAIN BORDURE: Fm of the opinion that we should give him one good stroke of the sword and slice him in two, lengthwise. ALL: Hooray! How noble and valiant. FATHER UBU: And what if he kicks you? I remember now that he always puts on iron shoes, which hurt a great deal, for parades. If I had any sense Fd go off and denounce you for dragging me into this dirty mess, and I think he'd give me plenty of money. MOTHER UBU: Oh! The traitor, the coward, the villain, and sneak. ALL: Down with Father Ubu! FATHER UBU: Gentlemen, keep calm, or Fll get mad. In any case, I agree to stick out my neck for you. Bordure, I put you in charge of slicing the king in half. CAPTAIN BORDURE: Wouldn't it be better to throw ourselves on the king all together, screaming and yelling? That way we might win the troops to our side. FATHER UBU: All right, then. I'll attempt to tread on his toes; he'll protest, and then I'll say, SHITR, and at this signal you'll all throw yourselves on him. MOTHER UBU: Yes, and as soon as he's dead you'll take his scepter and crown. CAPTAIN BORDURE: And I'll pursue the royal family with my men. FATHER UBU: Yes, and be extra sure that you catch young Bougrelas. They go out (Running after them and bringing them back.) Gentlemen, we have for­ gotten an indispensable ceremony: we must swear to fight bravely. CAPTAIN BORDURE: How are we going to do that? We don't have a priest. FATHER UBU: Mother Ubu will take his place. ALL: Very well, so be it. FATHER UBU: Then you really swear to kill the king? ALL: Yes, we swear it. Long live Father Ubu! ACT II

The palace. King Wenceslas, Queen Rosemonde, Boleslas, Ladislas, and Bougrelas. KING WENCESLAS: Mr. Bougrelas, you were very impertinent this morning

with Mr. Ubu, knight of my orders and Count of Sandomir. That's why I'm forbidding you to appear at my parade. QUEEN ROSEMONDE: But, Wenceslas, you need your whole family around you to protect you. KING WENCESLAS: Madam, I never retract my commands. You weary me with your chatter. BOUGRELAS: It shall be as you desire, my father. QUEEN ROSEMONDE: Sire, have you definitely decided to attend this parade?
KING WENCESLAS: Why shouldn't I, madam?

For the last time, didn't I tell you that I dreamed that I saw you being knocked down by a mob of his men and thrown into the Vistula, and an eagle just like the one in the arms of Poland placing the crown on his head?



What nonsense! Count de Ubu is a very fine gentleman who would let himself be torn apart by horses in my service. QUEEN ROSEMONDE and BOUGRELAS: What a delusion! KING WENCESLAS: Be quiet, you little ape. And as for you, madam, just to show you how little I fear Mr. Ubu, I'll go to the parade just as I am, without sword or armor. QUEEN ROSEMONDE: Fatal imprudence! I shall never see you alive again. KING WENCESLAS: Come along, Ladislas, come along, Boleslas. They go out. Queen Rosemonde and Bougrelas go to the window. QUEEN ROSEMONDE and BOUGRELAS: May God and holy Saint Nicholas protect you! QUEEN ROSEMONDE: Bougrelas, come to the chapel with me to pray for your father and your brothers.

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The parade grounds. The Polish Army, King Wenceslas, Boleslas, Ladislas, Father Ubu, Captain Bordure and his men, Giron, Pile, Cotice. KING WENCESLAS: Noble Father Ubu, accompany me with your companions while I inspect the troops. FATHER UBU (to his men): On your toes, boys. (To the king.) Coming, sir, coming. Ubu s men surround the king. KING WENCESLAS: Ah! Here is the Dantzick Horseguard Regiment. Aren't they magnificent!

You really think so? They look rotten to me. Look at this one. (To the soldier.) When did you last shave, varlet? KING WENCESLAS: But this soldier is absolutely impeccable. What's the mat­ ter with you, Father Ubu? FATHER UBU: Take that! (He stamps on his foot)


UBU: Shitr! Come on, men! Hooray! Charge! They all hit the king; a Palotin explodes. KING WENCESLAS: Oh! Help! Holy Mother, I'm dead. BOLESLAS (to Ladislas): What's going on? Let's draw. FATHER UBU: Ah, I've got the crown! To the others, now. CAPTAIN BORDURE: After the traitors! The princes flee, pursued by all.


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Queen Rosemonde and Bougrelas. At last I can begin to relax. BOUGRELAS: You've no reason to be afraid. A frightful din is heard from outside. Oh! What's this I see? My two brothers pursued by Father Ubu and his men. QUEEN ROSEMONDE: Oh, my God! Holy Mother, they're losing, they're los­ ing ground! BOUGRELAS: The whole army is following Father Ubu. I don't see the king. Horror! Help! QUEEN ROSEMONDE: There's Boleslas, dead! He's been shot. BOUGRELAS: Hey! Defend yourself! Hooray, Ladislas!

QUEEN ROSEMONDE: Oh! He's surrounded.

He's finished. Bordure's just sliced him in half like a sausage. Alas! Those madmen have broken into the palace; they're coming up the stairs. The din grows louder. QUEEN ROSEMONDE and BOUGRELAS (on their knees): Oh, God, defend us! BOUGRELAS: Oh! That Father Ubu! The swine, the wretch, if I could get my hands on him . . .

The same. The door is smashed down. Father Ubu and his rabble break through.

So, Bougrelas, what's that you want to do to me? BOUGRELAS: Great God! I'll defend my mother to the death! The first man to make a move dies. FATHER UBU: Oh! Bordure, I'm scared. Let me out of here. A SOLDIER {advancing): Give yourself up, Bougrelas! BOUGRELAS: Here, scum, take that! {He splits his skull) QUEEN ROSEMONDE: Hold your ground, Bougrelas; hold your ground! SEVERAL {advancing): Bougrelas, we promise to let you go. BOUGRELAS: Good-for-nothings, sots, turncoats! {He swings his sword and kills them all)

Mother, escape by the secret staircase. ROSEMONDE: And what about you, my son? What about you?

BOUGRELAS: I'll follow you.

Try to catch the queen. Oh, there she goes. As for you, you little . . . {He approaches Bougrelas.) BOUGRELAS: Great God! Here is my vengeance! {With a terrible blow of his sword he rips open Father Ubus paunch-protector.) Mother, I'm coming!
He disappears down the secret staircase.

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A cave in the mountains. Young Bougrelas enters, followed by Queen Rosemonde. BOUGRELAS: We'll be safe here. QUEEN ROSEMONDE: Yes, I think so. Bougrelas, help me! {She falls to the snow.) BOUGRELAS: What's the matter, Mother? QUEEN ROSEMONDE: Believe me, I'm very sick, Bougrelas. I don't have more than two hours to live. BOUGRELAS: What do you mean? Has the cold got you? QUEEN ROSEMONDE: How can I bear up against so many blows? The king massacred, our family destroyed, and you, the representative of the most noble race that has ever worn a sword, forced to flee into the mountains like a common brigand. BOUGRELAS: And by whom, O Lord, by whom? A vulgar fellow like Father Ubu, an adventurer coming from no one knows where, a vile blackguard, a shameless vagabond! And when I think that my father decorated him and made him a count and that the next day this low-bred dog had the nerve to raise his hand against him. QUEEN ROSEMONDE: Oh, Bougrelas! When I remember how happy we were before this Father Ubu came! But now, alas! All is changed!


What can we do? Let us wait in hope and never renounce our

rights. May your wish be granted, my dear child, but as for me, I shall never see that happy day. BOUGRELAS: WhaFs the matter with you? Ah, she pales, she falls. Help me! But Fm in a desert! Oh, my God! Her heart is stilled forever. She is dead? Can it be? Another victim for Father Ubu! (He hides his face in his hands, and weeps.) Oh, my God! How sad it is to have such a terrible vengeance to fulfill! And Fm only fourteen years old! (He falls down in the throes of a most extravagant despair.) Meanwhile, the souls ofWenceslas, Boleslas, Ladislas, and Queen Rosemonde enter the cave. Their ancestors, accompanying them, fill up the cave. The oldest goes to Bougrelas and gently awakes him. Ah! WhaFs this I see? My whole family, all my ancestors . . . how can this be? THE SHADE: Know, Bougrelas, that during my life I was the Lord Mathias of Konigsberg, the first king and founder of our house. I entrust our ven­ geance to your hands. (He gives him a large sword.) And may this sword which I have given you never rest until it has brought about the death of the usurper. All vanish, and Bougrelas remains alone, in an attitude of ecstasy.

The palace. Father Ubu, Mother Ubu, Captain Bordure. FATHER UBU: No! Never! I don't want to! Do you want me to ruin myself for these buffroons? CAPTAIN BORDURE: But after all, Father Ubu, don't you see that the people are waiting for the gifts to celebrate your joyous coronation? MOTHER UBU: If you don't give out meat and gold, you'll be overthrown in two hours. FATHER UBU: Meat, yes! Gold, no! Slaughter the three oldest horses—that'll be good enough for those apes. MOTHER UBU: Ape, yourself! How did I ever get stuck with an animal like you? FATHER UBU: Once and for all, Fm trying to get rich; Fm not going to let go of a cent. MOTHER UBU: But we've got the whole Polish treasury at our disposal. CAPTAIN BORDURE: Yes, I happen to know that there's an enormous treasure in the royal chapel; we'll distribute it. FATHER UBU: Just you dare, you wretch! CAPTAIN BORDURE: But, Father Ubu, if you don't distribute money to the people, they'll refuse to pay the taxes.


UBU: Is that a fact?

MOTHER UBU: Yes, of course!

UBU: Oh, well, in that case I agree to everything. Withdraw three million, roast a hundred and fifty cattle and sheep—especially since I'll have some myself! They go out

The palace courtyard full of people. Father Ubu crowned, Mother Ubu, Captain Bordure, flunkies carrying meat. PEOPLE: There's the king! Long live the king! Hooray! FATHER UBU: {throwing gold): Here, that's for you. It doesn't make me very happy to give you any money; it's Mother Ubu who wanted me to. At least promise me you'll really pay the taxes. ALL: Yes! Yes! CAPTAIN BORDURE: Look how they're fighting over that gold, Mother Ubu. What a battle! MOTHER UBU: It's really awful. Ugh! There's one just had his skull split open. FATHER UBU: What a beautiful sight! Bring on more gold. CAPTAIN BORDURE: How about making them race for it? FATHER UBU: Good idea! {To the people.) My friends, take a look at this chest of gold. It contains three hundred thousand Polish coins, of the purest gold, guaranteed genuine. Let those who wish to complete for it assem­ ble at the end of the courtyard. The race will begin when I wave my handkerchief, and the first one to get here wins the chest. As for those who don't win, they will share this other chest as a consolation prize. ALL: Yes! Long live Father Ubu! What a king! We never had anything like this in the days of Wenceslas. FATHER UBU {to Mother Ubu> with joy): Listen to them! All the people line up at the end of the courtyard. One, two, three! Ready? ALL: Yes! Yes!


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They start, falling all over one another. Cries and tumult. CAPTAIN BORDURE: They're coming! They're coming! FATHER UBU: Look! The leader's losing ground. MOTHER UBU: No, he's going ahead again. CAPTAIN BORDURE: He's losing, he's losing! He's lost! The other one won. ALL: Long live Michael Federovitch! Long live Michael Federovitch!

MICHAEL FEDEROVITCH: Sire, I don't know how to thank your Majesty FATHER UBU: Think nothing of it, my dear friend. Take your money home with you, Michael; and you others, share the rest—each take a piece until they're all gone. ALL: Long live Michael Federovitch! Long live Father Ubu! FATHER UBU: And you, my friends, come and eat! I open the gates of the palace to you—may you do honor to my table! PEOPLE: Let's go in, let's go in! Long live Father Ubu! He's the noblest monarch of them all! They go into the palace. The noise of the orgy is audible throughout the night The curtain falls. ACT HI

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The palace. Father Ubu, Mother Ubu. FATHER UBU: By my green candle, here I am king of this country, I've already got a fine case of indigestion, and they're going to bring me my big helmet. MOTHER UBU: What's it made out of, Father Ubu? Even if we are sitting on the throne, we have to watch the pennies. FATHER UBU: Madame my wife, it's made out of sheepskin with a clasp and with laces made out of dogskin. MOTHER UBU: That's very extraordinary, but it's even more extraordinary that we're here on the throne. FATHER UBU: How right you are, Mother Ubu. MOTHER UBU: We owe quite a debt to the Duke of Lithuania. FATHER UBU: Who's that? MOTHER UBU: Why, Captain Bordure. FATHER UBU: If you please, Mother Ubu, don't speak to me about that buffroon. Now that I don't need him any more, he can go whistle for his dukedom. MOTHER UBU: You're making a big mistake, Father Ubu; he's going to turn against you. FATHER UBU: Well, now, the poor little fellow has my deepest sympathy, but I'm not going to worry about him any more than about Bougrelas. MOTHER UBU: Ha! You think you've seen the last of Bougrelas, do you? FATHER UBU: By my financial sword, of course I have! What do you think that fourteen-year-old midget is going to do to me? MOTHER UBU: Father Ubu, pay attention to what I'm going to say to you. Believe me, you ought to be nice to Bougrelas to get him on your side.


Do you think Fm made of money? Well, Fm not! You've already made me waste twenty-two million. MOTHER UBU: Have it your own way, Father Ubu; hell roast you alive. FATHER UBU: Fine! You'll be in the pot with me. MOTHER UBU: For the last time, listen to me: Fm sure that young Bougrelas will triumph, because he has right on his side. FATHER UBU: Oh, crap! Doesn't the wrong always get you more than the right? Ah, you do me an injustice, Mother Ubu, Fll chop you into little pieces. Mother Ubu runs away, pursued by Father Ubu.

The Great Hall of the palace. Father Ubu, Mother Ubu, Officers and Soldiers; Giron, Pile, Cotice, Nobles in chains, Financiers, Magistrates, Clerks. FATHER UBU: Bring forward the Nobles' money box and the Nobles' hook and the Nobles' knife and the Nobles' book! And then bring forward the Nobles. Nobles are brutally pushed forward. MOTHER UBU: For goodness' sakes, control yourself, Father Ubu. FATHER UBU: I have the honor to announce to you that in order to enrich the kingdom I shall annihilate all the Nobles and grab their property. NOBLES: How awful! To the rescue, people and soldiers! FATHER UBU: Bring forward the first Noble and hand me the Nobles' hook. Those who are condemned to death, I will drop down the trap door. They will fall into the Pig-Pinching Cellars and the Money Vault, where they will be disembrained. (To the Noble.) Who are you, buffroon? THE NOBLE: Count of Vitebsk. FATHER UBU: What's your income? THE NOBLE: Three million rixthalers. FATHER UBU: Condemned! (He seizes him with the hook and drops him down the trap door.) MOTHER UBU: What vile savagery! FATHER UBU: Second Noble, who are you? The Noble doesnt reply. Answer, buffroon! THE NOBLE: Grand Duke of Posen. FATHER UBU: Excellent! Excellent! Fll not trouble you any longer. Down the trap. Third Noble, who are you? You're an ugly one. THE NOBLE: Duke of Courland, and of the cities of Riga, Reval, and the Mitau. FATHER UBU: Very good! Very good! Anything else?

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THE NOBLE: That's all. FATHER UBU: Well, down the trapdoor, then. Fourth Noble, who are you? THE NOBLE: The Prince of Podolia. FATHER UBU: What's your income?
THE NOBLE: Fm bankrupt.

UBU: For that nasty word, into the trapdoor with you. Fifth Noble, who are you? THE NOBLE: Margrave of Thorn, Palatin of Polack. FATHER UBU: That doesn't sound like very much. Nothing else?

THE NOBLE: It was enough for me.

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Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. Down the trapdoor. What's the matter with you, Mother Ubu? MOTHER UBU: You're too ferocious, Father Ubu. FATHER UBU: Please! Fm working! And now Fm going to have MY list of MY property read to me. Clerk, read MY list of MY property. THE CLERK: County of Sandomir. FATHER UBU: Start with the big ones. THE NOBLE: Princedom of Podolia, Grand Duchy of Posen, Duchy of Courland, County of Sandomir, County of Vitebsk, Palatinate of Polack, Margraviate of Thorn. FATHER UBU: Well, go on.

THE NOBLE: That's all.

What do you mean, that's all! Oh, very well, then, bring the Nobles forward. Since Fm not finished enriching myself yet, I'm going to execute all the Nobles and seize all their estates at once. Let's go; stick the Nobles in the trapdoor. The Nobles are pushed into the trapdoor. Hurry it up, let's go, I want to make some laws now. SEVERAL: This ought to be a good one. FATHER UBU: First Fm going to reform the laws, and then we'll proceed to matters of finance. MAGISTRATES: We're opposed to any change. FATHER UBU: Shitr! To begin with, Magistrates will not be paid any more. MAGISTRATES: What are we supposed to live on? We're poor. FATHER UBU: You shall have the fines which you will impose and the prop­ erty of those you condemn to death. A SECOND: Infamy!

A MAGISTRATE: Horrors! A THIRD: Scandal!

A FOURTH: Indignity!

ALL: We refuse to act as judges under such conditions. FATHER UBU: Down the trapdoor with the Magistrates! They struggle in vain. MOTHER UBU: What are you doing, Father Ubu? Who will dispense justice now? FATHER UBU: Why, me! You'll see how smoothly it'll go. MOTHER UBU: I can just imagine. FATHER UBU: That's enough out of you, buffroonness. And now, gentlemen, we will proceed to matters of finance. FINANCIERS: No changes are needed. FATHER UBU: I intend to change everything. First of all, I'll keep half the taxes for myself. FINANCIERS: That's too much. FATHER UBU: Gentlemen, we will establish a tax of 10 percent on property, another on commerce and industry, a third on marriages and a fourth on deaths—fifteen francs each.
FIRST FINANCIER: But that's idiotic, Father Ubu.
SECOND FINANCIER: It's absurd. THIRD FINANCIER: It's impossible.

You're trying to confuse me! Down the trapdoor with the Fi­ nanciers! The Financiers are pushed in. MOTHER UBU: But, Father Ubu, what kind of king are you? You're murdering everybody! FATHER UBU: Oh, shitr! MOTHER UBU: No more justice, no more finances! FATHER UBU: Have no fear, my sweet child; I myself will go from village to village, collecting the taxes.

A peasant house in the outskirts of Warsaw. Several peasants are assembled. A PEASANT (entering): Have you heard the news? The king and the dukes are all dead, and young Bougrelas has fled to the mountains with his mother. What's more, Father Ubu has seized the throne. ANOTHER: That's nothing. I've just come from Cracow where I saw the bodies of more than three hundred nobles and five hundred magistrates, and I hear that the taxes are going to be doubled and that Father Ubu is coming to collect them himself. ALL: Great heavens! What will become of us? Father Ubu is a horrible beast, and they say his family is abominable.

A PEASANT: Listen! Isn't somebody knocking at the door? A VOICE (outside): Hornsbuggers! Open up, by my shitr, by Saint John, Saint Peter, and Saint Nicholas! Open up, by my financial sword, by my finan­ cial horns, I'm coming to collect the taxes! The door is smashed in, and Father Ubu enters, followed by hordes of tax collectors.

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Which one of you is the oldest? A peasant steps forward. What's your name? THE PEASANT: Stanislas Leczinski. FATHER UBU: Fine, hornsbuggers! Listen to me, since if you don't, these gentlemen here will cut your ears off. Well, are you listening? STANISLAS: But your Excellency hasn't said anything yet. FATHER UBU: What do you mean? I've been speaking for an hour. Do you think I've come here to preach in the desert? STANISLAS: Far be it from my thoughts. FATHER UBU: I've come to tell you, to order you, and to intimate to you that you are to produce forthwith and exhibit promptly your finances, unless you wish to be slaughtered. Let's go, gentlemen, my financial swine, vehiculize hither the phynancial vehicle. The vehicle is brought in. STANISLAS: Sire, we are down on the register for a hundred and fifty-two rixthalers which we paid six weeks ago come Saint Matthew's Day. FATHER UBU: That's very possible, but I've changed the government and run an advertisement in the paper that says you have to pay all present taxes twice and all those which I will levy later on three times. With this system, I'll make my fortune quickly; then I'll kill everyone and run away. PEASANTS: Mr. Ubu, please have pity on us; we are poor, simple citizens. FATHER UBU: Nuts! Pay up. PEASANTS: We can't, we've already paid. FATHER UBU: Pay up! Or I'll stick you in my pocket with torturing and beheading of the neck and head! Hornsbuggers, I'm the king, aren't I? ALL: Ah! So that's the way it is! To arms! Long live Bougrelas, by the grace of God King of Poland and Lithuania! FATHER UBU: Forward, gentlemen of Finance, do your duty. A struggle ensues; the house is destroyed, and old Stanislas flees across the plain, alone. Father Ubu stays to collect the money.


A dungeon in the Fortress of Thorn. Captain Bordure in chains, Father Ubu. FATHER UBU: So, Citizen, that's the way it is: you wanted me to pay you what I owed you; then you rebelled because I refused; you conspired and here you are retired. Horns of finance, Fve done so well you must admire it yourself. CAPTAIN BORDURE: Take care, Father Ubu. During the five days that you've been king, you've committed enough murders to damn all the saints in Paradise. The blood of the king and of the nobles cries for vengeance, and their cries will be heard. FATHER UBU: Ah, my fine friend, that's quite a tongue you've got there. I have no doubt that if you escaped, it would cause all sorts of complications, but I don't think that the dungeons of Thorn have ever let even one of the honest fellows go who have been entrusted to them. Therefore I bid you a very good night and I invite you to sleep soundly, although I must say the rats dance a very pretty saraband down here. He leaves. The jailers come and bolt all the doors.

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The Palace at Moscow. The Emperor Alexis and his court, Captain Bordure. ALEXIS: Infamous adventurer, aren't you the one who helped kill our cousin Wenceslas? CAPTAIN BORDURE: Sire, forgive me, I was carried away despite myself by Father Ubu. ALEXIS: Oh, what a big liar! Well, what can I do for you? CAPTAIN BORDURE: Father Ubu imprisoned me on charges of conspiracy; I succeeded in escaping and I have ridden five days and five nights across the steppes to come and beg your gracious forgiveness. ALEXIS: What have you got for me as proof of your loyalty? CAPTAIN BORDURE: My honor as a knight, and a detailed map of the town of Thorn. (Kneels and presents his sword to Alexis.) ALEXIS: I accept your sword, but by Saint George, burn the map. I don't want to owe my victory to an act of treachery. CAPTAIN BORDURE: One of the sons of Wenceslas, young Bougrelas, is still alive. I would do anything to restore him. ALEXIS: What was your rank in the Polish Army? CAPTAIN BORDURE: I commanded the fifth regiment of the dragoons of Vilna and a company of mercenaries in the service of Father Ubu.


Fine, I appoint you second in command of the tenth regiment of Cossacks, and woe to you if you betray me. If you fight well, you'll be rewarded. CAPTAIN BORDURE: I don't lack courage, Sire. ALEXIS: Fine, remove yourself from my sight. He leaves.

Ubus Council Chamber. Father Ubu, Mother Ubu, Phynancial Advisers. FATHER UBU: Gentlemen, the meeting has begun, and see that you keep your ears open and your mouths shut. First of all, we'll turn to the subject of finance; then well speak about a little scheme I've thought up to bring good weather and prevent rain. AN ADVISER: Very good, Mr. Ubu. MOTHER UBU: What a stupid fool! FATHER UBU: Take care, madam of my shitr, I'm not going to stand for your idiocies much longer. I'd like you to know, gentlemen, that the finances are proceeding satisfactorily. The streets are mobbed every morning by a crowd of the local low-life, and my men do wonders with them. In every direction you can see only burning houses, and people bent under the weight of our finances. THE ADVISER: And are the new taxes going well, Mr. Ubu? MOTHER UBU: Not at all. The tax on marriages has brought in only eleven cents so far, although Father Ubu chases people everywhere to convince them to marry. FATHER UBU: By my financial sword, hornsbuggers, Madame financieress, I've got ears to speak with and you've a mouth to listen to me with. Shouts of laughter. You're mixing me up and it's your fault that I'm making a fool of myself! But, horn of U b u ! . . . A messenger enters. Well, what do you have to say for yourself? Get out of here, you little monkey, before I pocket you with beheading and twisting of the legs. MOTHER UBU: There he goes, but he's left a letter. FATHER UBU: Read it. I don't feel like it, or come to think of it perhaps I can't read. Hurry up, buffrooness, it must be from Bordure. MOTHER UBU: Right. He says that the tsar has received him very well, that he's going to invade your lands to restore Bougrelas, and that you're going to be killed.


UBU: Oh! Oh! Fm scared. Fm scared. I bet Fm going to die. Oh, poor little man that I am! What will become of me, great God? This wicked man is going to kill me. Saint Anthony and all the saints, protect me, and Fll give you some phynance and burn some candles for you. Lord, what will become of me? (He cries and sobs.) MOTHER UBU: There's only one safe course to follow, Father Ubu. FATHER UBU: What's that, my love?

ALL: Great heavens! What a noble idea! FATHER UBU: Yes, and I'll be the one to get hurt, as usual. FIRST ADVISER: Hurry, hurry, let's organize the army. SECOND: And requisition the provisions. THIRD: And set up the artillery and the fortresses. FOURTH: And get up the money for the troops. FATHER UBU: That's enough of that, now, you, or I'll kill you on the spot. I'm not going to spend any money. That's a good one, isn't it! I used to be paid to wage war, and now it's being waged at my expense. Wait—by my green candle, let's wage war, since you're so excited about it, but let's not spend a penny. ALL: Hooray for war!


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The camp outside Warsaw. SOLDIERS and PALOTINS: Long live Poland! Long live Father Ubu! FATHER UBU: Ah, Mother Ubu, give me my breastplate and my little stick. Fll soon be so heavy that I won't be able to move even if I'm being chased. MOTHER UBU: Pooh, what a coward! FATHER UBU: Ah! Here's the sword of shitr running away first thing and there's the financial hook which won't stay put!!! (Drops both.) I'll never be ready, and the Russians are coming to kill me. A SOLDIER: Lord Ubu, here's your ear-pick, which you've dropped. FATHER UBU: I'll kill you with my shitr hook and my gizzard-saw. MOTHER UBU: How handsome he is with his helmet and his breastplate! He looks just like an armed pumpkin. FATHER UBU: Now Fll get my horse. Gentlemen, bring forth the phynancial horse. MOTHER UBU: Father Ubu, your horse can't carry you—it's had nothing to eat for five days and it's about to die. FATHER UBU: That's a good one! I have to pay twelve cents a day for this sway-

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backed nag and it can't even carry me. You're making fun of me, horn of Ubu, or else perhaps you're stealing from me? Mother Ubu blushes and lowers her eyes. Now bring me another beast, because I'm not going to go on foot, hornsbuggers! An enormous horse is brought out. I'm going to get on. Oops, better sit down before I fall off. The horse starts to leave. Stop this beast. Great God, I'm going to fall off and be killed!!! MOTHER UBU: He's an absolute idiot. There he is up again; no, he's down again. FATHER UBU: Horn of Physics, I'm half dead. But never mind, I'm going to the war and I'll kill everyone. Woe to him who doesn't keep up with me! I'll put him in my pocket with twisting of the nose and teeth and extraction of the tongue. MOTHER UBU: Good luck, Mr. Ubu! FATHER UBU: I forgot to tell you that I'm making you the regent. But I'm keeping the financial book, so you'd better not try and rob me. I'll leave you the Palotin Giron to help you. Farewell, Mother Ubu. MOTHER UBU: Farewell, Father Ubu. Kill the tsar thoroughly. FATHER UBU: Of course. Twisting of the nose and teeth, extraction of the tongue and insertion of the ear-pick. The army marches away to the sound of fanfares. MOTHER UBU (alone): Now that that big fat booby has gone, let's look to our own affairs, kill Bougrelas, and grab the treasure. ACT IV

The Royal Crypt in the Cathedral at Warsaw. MOTHER UBU: Where on earth is that treasure? None of these slabs sounds hollow. I've counted thirteen slabs beyond the tomb of Ladislas the Great along the length of the wall, and I've found nothing. Someone seems to have deceived me. What's this? The stone sounds hollow here. To work, Mother Ubu. Courage, we'll have it pried up in a minute. It's stuck fast. The end of this financial hook will do the trick. There! There's the gold in the middle of the royal bones. Into the sack with it. Oh! What's that noise? Can there still be someone alive in these ancient vaults? No, it's nothing; let's hurry up. Let's take everything. This money will look better in the light of day than in the middle of these graves. Back with the stone. What's that! There's that noise again! There's something not quite right

about this place. I'll get the rest of this gold some other time—I'll come back tomorrow. A VOICE (coming from the tomb of John Sigismund): Never, Mother Ubu! Mother Ubu runs away terrified, through the secret door, carrying the stolen gold.

The Main Square in Warsaw. Bougrelas and his men, People and Soldiers. BOUGRELAS: Forward, my friends! Long live Wenceslas and Poland! That old blackguard Father Ubu is gone; only that old witch Mother Ubu and her Palotin are left. I'm going to march at your head and restore my father's house to the throne. ALL: Long live Bougrelas! BOUGRELAS: And we'll abolish all taxes imposed by that horrible Father Ubu. ALL: Hooray! Forward! To the palace, and death to the Ubus! BOUGRELAS: Look! There's Mother Ubu coming out on the porch with her guards! MOTHER UBU: What can I do for you, gentlemen? Ah! It's Bougrelas. The crowd throws stones.
FIRST GUARD: They've broken all the windows.

Saint George, I'm done for. THIRD GUARD: Hornsass, I'm dying. BOUGRELAS: Throw some more stones, my friends. PALOTIN GIRON: Ho! So that's the way it is! (He draws his sword and leaps into the crowd, performing horrible slaughter.) BOUGRELAS: Have at you! Defend yourself, you cowardly pisspot! They fight.

GIRON: I die!

BOUGRELAS: Victory, my friends! Now for Mother Ubu! Trumpets are heard. Ah! The Nobles are arriving. Run and catch the old hag. ALL: She'll do until we can strangle the old bandit himself! Mother Ubu runs away pursued by all the Poles. Rifle shots and a hail of stones.

The Polish Army marching in the Ukraine. FATHER UBU: Hornsass, godslegs, cowsheads! We're about to perish, because

we're dying of thirst and we're tired. Sir Soldier, be so good as to carry our financial helmet, and you, Sir Lancer, take charge of the shitr-pick and the physic-stick to unencumber our person, because, let me repeat, we are tired. The soldiers obey. PILE: Ho, my Lord! It's surprising that there are no Russians to be seen. FATHER UBU: It's regrettable that the state of our finances does not permit us to have a vehicle commensurate with our grandeur; for, for fear of de­ molishing our steed, we have gone all the way on foot, leading our horse by the bridle. When we get back to Poland, we shall devise, by means of our physical science and with the aid of the wisdom of our advisers, a way of transporting our entire army by wind. COTICE: Here comes Nicholas Rensky, in a great hurry. FATHER UBU: What's the matter with him? RENSKY: All is lost. Sir, the Poles have revolted, Giron has been killed, and Mother Ubu has fled to the mountains. FATHER UBU: Bird of night, beast of misery, owl's underwear! Where did you hear this nonsense? What won't you be saying next! Who's responsible for this? Bougrelas, I'll bet. Where'd you just come from? RENSKY: From Warsaw, noble Lord. FATHER UBU: Child of my shitr, if I believed you I would retreat with the whole army. But, Sir Child, you've got feathers in your head instead of brains and you've been dreaming nonsense. Run off to the outposts, my child; the Russians can't be far, and we'll soon be flourishing our arms, shitr, phynancial and physical. GENERAL LASCY: Father Ubu, can't you see the Russians down there on the plain? FATHER UBU: It's true, the Russians! A fine mess this is. If only there were still a way to run out, but there isn't; we're up here on a hill and we'll be exposed to attack on all sides. THE ARMY: The Russians! The enemy! FATHER UBU: Let's go, gentlemen, into our battle positions. We will remain on top of the hill and under no circumstances commit the idiocy of descending. I'll keep myself in the middle like a living fortress, and all you others will gravitate around me. I advise you to load your guns with as many bullets as they will hold, because eight bullets can kill eight Russians and that will be eight Russians the less. We will station the infantry at the foot of the hill to receive the Russians and kill them a little, the cavalry in back of them so that they can throw themselves into the confusion, and the artillery around this windmill here so that they can fire into the whole mess. As for us, we will take up our position inside the windmill and fire through the window with the phynancial pistol, and

bar the door with the physical stick, and if anyone still tries to get in, let him beware of the shitr-hook!!! OFFICERS: Your orders, Lord Ubu, shall be executed. FATHER UBU: Fine, we'll win, then. What time is it? GENERAL LASCY: It's eleven o'clock in the morning. FATHER UBU: In that case, let's have lunch, because the Russians won't attack before midday. Tell the soldiers, my lord General, to take a crap and strike up the Financial Song. Lascy withdraws. SOLDIERS and PALOTINS: Long live Father Ubu, our great Financier! Ting, ting, ting; ting, ting, ting; ting, ting, ta-ting! FATHER UBU: Oh, how noble—I adore gallantry! A Russian cannonball breaks one of the arms of the windmill Aaaaah! I'm frightened. Lord God, I'm dead! No, no, I'm not.



The same, a Captain and the Russian Army. A CAPTAIN (entering): Lord Ubu, the Russians are attacking. FATHER UBU: All right, all right, what do you want me to do about it? I didn't tell them to attack. Nevertheless, gentlemen of Finance, let us prepare ourselves for battle. GENERAL LASCY: Another cannonball! FATHER UBU: Ah! That's enough of that! It's raining lead and steel around here, and it might put a dent in our precious person. Down we go. They all run away. The battle has just begun. They disappear into the clouds of smoke at the foot of the hill. A RUSSIAN (thrusting): For God and the tsar! RENSKY: Ah! I'm dead. FATHER UBU: Forward! As for you, sir, I'll get you because you've hurt me, do you hear? You drunken sot, with your popless little popgun. THE RUSSIAN: Ah! I'll show you! (He fires.) FATHER UBU: Ah! Oh! I'm wounded, I'm shot full of holes, I'm perforated, I'm done for, I'm buried. And now I've got you! (He tears him to pieces). Just try that again. GENERAL LASCY: Forward, charge, across the trench! Victory is ours! FATHER UBU: Do you really think so? So far my brow has felt more lumps than laurels. RUSSIAN KNIGHTS: Hooray! Make way for the tsar! Enter the tsar, accompanied by Captain Bordure, in disguise.

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A POLE: Great God! Every man for himself, there's the tsar! ANOTHER: Oh, my God, he's crossed the trench. ANOTHER: Bing! Bang! Four more chopped up by that big ox of a lieutenant. CAPTAIN BORDURE: So! The rest of you won't surrender, eh? All right, your time has come, John Sobiesky! (He chops him up.) Now for the others! (He massacres Poles.) FATHER UBU: Forward, my friends! Capture that rat! Make mincemeat of the Muscovites! Victory is ours! Long live the Red Eagle! ALL: Charge! Hooray! Godslegs! Capture the big ox. CAPTAIN BORDURE: By Saint George, they've got me. FATHER UBU: Ah! it's you, Bordure! How are you, my friend? I, and all the company, are very happy to welcome you again. I'm going to broil you over a slow fire. Gentlemen of the Finances, light the fire. Oh! Ah! Oh! I'm dead. I must have been hit with a cannonball at least. Oh! My God, forgive my sins. Yes, it's definitely a cannonball. CAPTAIN BORDURE: It was a pistol with a blank cartridge. FATHER UBU: Oh, you're making fun of me! All right, into the pocket you go! (He flings himself upon him and tears him to pieces.) GENERAL LASCY: Father Ubu, we're advancing on all fronts. FATHER UBU: I can see that. But I can't go on any more, because everyone's been stepping on my toes. I absolutely have to sit down. Oh, where's my bottle? GENERAL LASCY: Go get the tsar's bottle, Father Ubu! FATHER UBU: Ah! Just what I had in mind. Let's go. Sword of Shitr, do your duty, and you, financial hook, don't lag behind! As for you, physical stick, see that you work just as hard and share with the little bit of wood the honor of massacring, scooping out, and imposing upon the Muscovite emperor. Forward, my Phynancial Horse! (He throws himself on the tsar.) A RUSSIAN OFFICER: Look out, Your Majesty! FATHER UBU: Take that! Oh! Ow! Ah! Goodness me. Ah! Oh, sir, excuse me, leave me alone. I didn't do it on purpose! (He runs away, pursued by the tsar.) Holy Mother, that madman is coming after me! Great God, what shall I do? Ah, I've got that trench ahead of me again. I've got him behind me and the trench in front of me! Courage! I'm going to close my eyes! (He jumps the trench. The tsar falls in.)
THE TSAR: God, I've fallen in!

Hooray! The tsar has fallen in! I'm afraid to turn around. Ah! He fell in. That's fine; they've jumped on him. Let's go, you Poles; swing away; he's a tough one, that swine! As for me, I can't look. But our prediction has been completely fulfilled: the physical stick has performed wonders, and without doubt I

would have been about to have killed him completely, had not an inex­ plicable fear come to combat and annul in us the fruits of our courage. But we suddenly had to turn tail, and we owe our salvation only to our skill in the saddle as well as to the sturdy hocks of our Phynancial Horse, whose rapidity is equaled only by its solidity and whose levitation makes its reputation, as well as the depth of the trench which located itself so appropriately under the enemy of us, the presently-before-you Master of Phynances. That was very nice, but nobody was listening. Oops, there they go again! The Russian dragoons charge and rescue the tsar. LASCY: It looks like it's turning into a rout. FATHER UBU: Now's the time to make tracks. Now then, gentlemen of Po­ land, forward! Or rather, backward! POLES: Every man for himself! FATHER UBU: Come on! Let's go! What a big crowd, what a stampede, what a mob! How am I ever going to get out of this mess? (He is jostled.) You there, watch your step, or you will sample the boiling rage of the Master of Phynances. Ha! There he goes. Now let's get out of here fast, while Lascy's looking the other way. He runs off; the tsar and the Russian Army go by, chasing Poles.

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A cave in Lithuania. It is snowing. Father Ubu, Pile, Cotice. FATHER UBU: Oh, what a bitch of a day! It's cold enough to make the rocks crack open, and the person of the Master of Phynances finds itself se­ verely damaged. PILE: Ho! Mr. Ubu, have you recovered from your fright and from your flight? FATHER UBU: Well, I'm not frightened any more, but, believe me, I'm still running. COTICE (aside): What a turd! FATHER UBU: Well, Sire Cotice, how's your ear feeling? COTICE: As well as can be expected, sir, considering how bad it is. I can't get the bullet out, and consequently the lead is making me tilt. FATHER UBU: Well, serves you right! You're always looking for a fight. As for me, I've always demonstrated the greatest valor, and without in any way exposing myself I massacred four enemies with my own hand, not count­ ing, of course, those who were already dead and whom we dispatched. COTICE: Do you know what happened to little Rensky, Pile?
PILE: A bullet in his head.


UBU: As the poppy and the dandelion are scythed in the flower of their age by the pitiless scythe of the pitiless scyther who scythes pitilessly their pitiful parts—just so, little Rensky has played the poppy's part: he fought well, but there were just too many Russians around.

PILE and COTICE: Hey! Sir Ubu!

AN ECHO: Grrrrr!

PILE: What's that? On guard! FATHER UBU: Oh, no! Not the Russians again! Fve had enough of them. And, anyway, it's very simple: if they catch me Fll just put them all in my pocket.

The same. Enter a bear. COTICE: Ho! Master of Phynances! FATHER UBU: Oh! What a sweet little doggie! Isn't he cute? PILE: Watch out! What a huge bear! Hand me my gun! FATHER UBU: A bear! What a horrible beast! Oh, poor me, Fm going to be eaten alive. May God protect me! He's coming this way. No, he's got Cotice. I can breathe again! The bear jumps on Cotice. Pile attacks him with his sword. Ubu takes refuge on a high rock. COTICE: Save me, Pile! Save me! Help, Sir Ubu! FATHER UBU: Fat chance! Get out of it yourself, my friend; right now I'm going to recite my Pater Noster. Everyone will be eaten in his turn.
PILE: Fve got him, I'm holding him.

Hold him tight, my friend, he's starting to let me go. FATHER UBU: Sanctificetur nomen tuum. COTICE: Cowardly lout! PILE: Oh! It's biting me! O Lord, save us, I'm dead. FATHER UBU: Fiat voluntas tua!

COTICE: Fve wounded it!

PILE: Hooray! It's bleeding now. While the Palotins shout, the bear bellows with pain and Ubu continues to mumble. COTICE: Hang on, while I find my exploding brass knuckles. FATHER UBU: Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie. PILE: Haven't you got it yet? I can't hold on any longer. FATHER UBU: Sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. COTICE: Ah! I've got it. A resounding explosion; the bear falls dead.

PILE and COTICE: Victory! FATHER UBU: Sed libera nos a malo. Amen. Is he really dead? Can I come down now? PILE (with disgust): Just as you like. FATHER UBU (coming down): You may be assured that if you are still alive and if you tread once more the Lithuanian snow, you owe it to the lofty virtue of the Master of Phynances, who has struggled, broken his back, and shouted himself hoarse reciting paternosters for your safety, and who has wielded the spiritual sword of prayer with just as much courage as you have wielded with dexterity the temporal one of the here-attendant Palotin Cotice's exploding brass knuckles. We have even pushed our devo­ tion further, for we did not hesitate to climb to the top of a very high rock, so that our prayers had less far to travel to reach heaven.
PILE: Disgusting pig!

FATHER UBU: Oh, you beast! Thanks to me, you've got something to eat. What a belly he has, gentlemen! The Greeks would have been more comfortable in there than in their wooden horse, and we very barely escaped, my dear friends, being able to satisfy ourselves of his interior capacity with our own eyes. I'm dying of hunger. What can we eat? COTICE: The bear! FATHER UBU: My poor friends, are you going to eat it completely raw? We don't have anything to make a fire with. PILE: What about our flintstones? FATHER UBU: Ah, that's true. And it seems to me that not far from here there is a little wood where dry branches may be found. Sire Cotice, go and fetch some. Cotice runs off across the snow. PILE: And now, Sir Ubu, you can go and carve up the bear. FATHER UBU: Oh, no. It may not be completely dead yet. Since it has already half-eaten you, and chewed upon all your members, you're obviously the man to take care of that. I'll go and light the fire while we're waiting for him to bring the wood. Pile starts to carve up the bear. Oh! Watch out! It just moved. PILE: But Sir Ubu, it's stone cold already. FATHER UBU: That's a pity. It would have been much better to have had him hot. We're running the risk of giving the Master of Phynances an attack of indigestion. PILE (aside): Disgusting fellow! (Aloud.) Give me a hand, Mr. Ubu; I can't do everything myself.

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No, I'm sorry I can't help you. I'm really excessively fatigued. COTICE (re-entering): What a lot of snow, my friends; anyone would think this was Castile or the North Pole. Night is beginning to fall. In an hour it'll be dark. Let's make haste while we can still see. FATHER UBU: Did you hear that, Pile? Get a move on. In fact, get a move on, both of you! Skewer the beast, cook the beast—I'm hungry! PILE: Well, that does it! You'll work or you'll get nothing, do you hear me, you big hog? FATHER UBU: Oh! It's all the same to me; I'd just as soon eat it raw; you're the ones whose stomachs it won't agree with. Anyway, I'm sleepy. COTICE: What can we expect from him, Pile? Let's cook dinner ourselves. We just won't give him any, that's all. Or at most we'll throw him a few bones. PILE: Good enough. Ah, the fire's catching. FATHER UBU: Oh, that's very nice. It's getting warm now. But I see Russians everywhere. My God, what a retreat! Ah! (He falls asleep.) COTICE: I wonder if Rensky was telling the truth about Mother Ubu being dethroned. It wouldn't surprise me at all. PILE: Let's finish cooking supper. COTICE: No, we've got more important problems. I think it would be a good idea to inquire into the truth of the news. PILE: You're right. Should we desert Father Ubu or stay with him? COTICE: Let's sleep on it; we'll decide tomorrow. PILE: No—let's sneak off under cover of darkness. COTICE: Let's go, then. They go.


(talking in his sleep): Ah, Sir Russian Dragoon, watch out, don't shoot in this direction; there's someone here. Oh, there's Bordure; he looks mean, like a bear. And there's Bougrelas coming at me! The bear, the bear! He's right below me; he looks fierce. My God! No, I'm sorry I can't help you! Go away, Bougrelas! Don't you hear me, you clown? There's Rensky now, and the tsar. Oh, they're going to beat me up. And Mother Ubu. Where did you get all that gold? You've stolen my gold, you miserable witch; you've been ransacking my tomb in Warsaw Cathedral, under the moon. I've been dead a long time; Bougrelas has killed me and I've been buried in Warsaw next to Ladislas the Great, and also at Cracow next to John Sigismund, and also at Thorn in the dungeon with Bordure. There it is again. Get out of here, you nasty bear! You look like Bordure. Do you hear, you devilish beast? No, he can't hear me, the Salopins have

cut his ears off. Disembrain them, devitalize them, cut off their ears, confiscate their money and drink yourself to death, that's the life of a Salopin, that's happiness for the Master of Phynances. (He falls silent and sleeps.) ACTV

It is night. Father Ubu is asleep. Enter Mother Ubu, without seeing him. The stage is in total darkness. MOTHER UBU: Shelter at last. Fm alone here, which is fine, but what an awful journey: crossing all Poland in four days! And even before that, every­ thing happened to me at once! As soon as that fat fool left, I went to the crypt to grab what I could. And right after that, I was almost stoned to death by that Bougrelas and his madmen. I lost the Palotin Giron, my knight, who was so stricken by my beauty that he swooned whenever he saw me, and even, Fve been told, when he didn't see me, which is the height of passion. He would have let himself be cut in two for my sake, the poor boy. The proof is that he was cut in four, by Bougrelas. Snip, snap, snop! I thought Fd die. Right after that, I took to flight, pursued by the maddened mob. I flee the palace, reach the Vistula, and find all the bridges guarded. I swim across the river, hoping to escape my persecu­ tors. Nobles come from every direction and chase me. I die a thousand deaths, surrounded by a ring of Poles, screaming for my blood. Finally I wriggle out of their clutches, and after four days of running across the snow of my former kingdom, I reach my refuge here. I haven't had a thing to eat or drink for four days. Bougrelas was right behind me. . . . And here I am, safe at last. Oh, Fm nearly dead of cold and exhaustion. But Fd really like to know what's become of my big buffroon—I mean my honored spouse. Have I fleeced him! Have I taken his rixthalers! Have I pulled the wool over his eyes! And his starving phynancial horse: he's not going to see any oats very soon, either, the poor devil. Oh, what a joke! But alas! My treasure is lost! It's in Warsaw, and let anybody who wants it go and get it. FATHER UBU (starting to wake up): Capture Mother Ubu! Cut off her ears! MOTHER UBU: Oh, my God! Where am I? Fm losing my mind. Good Lord, no! God be praised I think I can see Mr. Ubu Sleeping near me. Let's show a little sweetness. Well, my fat fellow, did you have a good sleep?

one! That was a tough bear! A fight of hunger against toughness, but hunger has completely eaten and devoured the tough­ ness, as you will see when it gets light in here. Do you hear, my noble Palotins? MOTHER UBU: What's he babbling about? He seems even stupider than when he left. What's the matter with him? FATHER UBU: Cotice, Pile, answer me, by my bag of shitr! Where are you? Oh, I'm afraid. Somebody did speak. Who spoke? Not the bear, I sup­ pose. Shitr! Where are my matches? Ah! I lost them in the battle. MOTHER UBU (aside): Let's take advantage of the situation and the darkness and pretend to be a ghost. We'll make him promise to forgive us our little pilfering. FATHER UBU: By Saint Anthony, somebody is speaking! Godslegs! I'll be damned! MOTHER UBU (deepening her voice): Yes, Mr. Ubu, somebody is indeed speak­ ing, and the trumpet of the archangel which will call the dead from dust and ashes on Judgment Day would not speak otherwise! Listen to my stern voice. It is that of Saint Gabriel who cannot help but give good advice. FATHER UBU: To be sure! MOTHER UBU: Don't interrupt me or I'll fall silent, and that will settle your hash! FATHER UBU: Oh, buggers! I'll be quiet, I won't say another word. Please go on, Madame Apparition! MOTHER UBU: We were saying, Mr. Ubu, that you are a big fat fellow. FATHER UBU: Very fat, that's true. MOTHER UBU: Shut up, Goddammit! FATHER UBU: Oh my! Angels aren't supposed to curse! MOTHER UBU (aside): Shitr! (Continuing.) You are married, Mr. Ubu? FATHER UBU: Absolutely. To the Queen of Witches. MOTHER UBU: What you mean to say is that she is a charming woman. FATHER UBU: A perfect horror. She has claws all over her; you don't know where to grab her. MOTHER UBU: You should grab her with sweetness, Sir Ubu, and if you grab her thus you will see that Venus herself couldn't be as nice. FATHER UBU: Who did you say has lice? MOTHER UBU: You're not listening, Mr. Ubu. Try and keep your ears open now. (Aside.) We'd better get a move on; it's getting light in here. Mr. Ubu, your wife is adorable and delicious; she doesn't have a single fault. FATHER UBU: Ah, you're wrong there: there isn't a single fault that she doesn't have. MOTHER UBU: That's enough now. Your wife is not unfaithful to you!

FATHER UBU: A very bad


I'd like to see someone who could stand making her unfaithful. She's an absolute harpy! MOTHER UBU: She doesn't drink! FATHER UBU: Only since Fve taken the key to the cellar away from her. Before that, she was drunk by seven in the morning and perfumed herself with brandy. Now that she perfumes herself with heliotrope, she doesn't smell so bad any more. Not that I care about that. But now Fm the only one that can get drunk! MOTHER UBU: Stupid idiot! Your wife doesn't steal your gold. FATHER UBU: No, that's peculiar. MOTHER UBU: She doesn't pinch a cent! FATHER UBU: As witness our noble and unfortunate Phynancial Horse, who, not having been fed for three months, has had to undergo the entire campaign being dragged by the bridle across the Ukraine. He died on the job, poor beast! MOTHER UBU: That's all a bunch of lies—you've got a model wife, and you're a monster. FATHER UBU: That's all a bunch of truth. My wife's a slut, and you're a sausage. MOTHER UBU: Take care, Father Ubu! FATHER UBU: Oh, that's right, I forgot whom I was talking to. I take it all back. MOTHER UBU: You killed Wenceslas. FATHER UBU: That wasn't my fault, actually. Mother Ubu wanted it. MOTHER UBU: You had Boleslas and Ladislas killed. FATHER UBU: Too bad for them. They wanted to do me in. MOTHER UBU: You didn't keep your promise to Bordure, and moreover, you killed him. FATHER UBU: I'd rather I ruled Lithuania than he. For the moment, neither of us is doing it. Certainly you can see that I'm not. MOTHER UBU: There's only one way you can make up for all your sins. FATHER UBU: What's that? Fm all ready to become a holy man; I'd like to be a bishop and have my name on the calendar. MOTHER UBU: You must forgive Mother Ubu for having sidetracked some of the funds. FATHER UBU: What do you think of this: I'll pardon her when she's given everything back, when she's been soundly thrashed, and when she's revived my phynancial horse. MOTHER UBU: He's got that horse on the brain. Ah, Fm lost, day is breaking! FATHER UBU: Well, I'm happy to know at last for sure that my dear wife steals from me. Now I have it on the highest authority. Omnis a Deo scientia, which is to say: omnis, all; a Deo, knowledge; scientia, comes from God.

That explains this marvel. But Madame Apparition is so silent now! What can I offer her to revive her? What she said was very entertaining. But, look, it's daybreak! Ah! Good Lord, by my Phynancial Horse, it's Mother Ubu! MOTHER UBU (brazenly): That's not true, and I'm going to excommunicate you. FATHER UBU: Ah, you old slut! MOTHER UBU: Such impiety! FATHER UBU: That's too much! I can see very well that it's you, you half-witted hag! What the devil are you doing here? MOTHER UBU: Giron is dead and the Poles chased me. FATHER UBU: And the Russians chased me. So two great souls meet again. MOTHER UBU: Say rather than a great soul has met an ass! FATHER UBU: Fine, and now it's going to meet this little monster. (He throws the bear at her.) MOTHER UBU (falling down crushed beneath the weight of the bear): Oh, great God! How horrible! I'm dying! I'm suffocating! It's chewing on me! It's swallowing me! I'm being digested! FATHER UBU: He's dead, you gargoyle! Oh, wait, perhaps he's not. Lord, he's not dead, save us. (Climbing back onto his rock.) Pater noster qui e s . . . MOTHER UBU (disentangling herself): Where did he go? FATHER UBU: Oh, Lord, there she is again. Stupid creature, there's no way of getting rid of her. Is that bear dead? MOTHER UBU: Of course, you stupid ass, he's stone cold. How did he get here? FATHER UBU (bewildered): I don't know. Oh, yes, I do know. He wanted to eat Pile and Cotice, and I killed him with one swipe of a Pater Noster. MOTHER UBU: Pile, Cotice, Pater Noster? What's that all about? He's out of his mind, my finance! FATHER UBU: It happened exactly the way I said. And you're an idiot, you stinkpot! MOTHER UBU: Describe your campaign to me, Father Ubu. FATHER UBU: Holy Mother, no! It would take too long. All I know is that despite my incontestable valor, everybody beat me up. MOTHER UBU: What, even the Poles? FATHER UBU: They were shouting: Long live Wenceslas and Bougrelas! I thought they were going to chop me up. Oh, those madmen! And then they killed Rensky! MOTHER UBU: I don't care about that! Did you know that Bougrelas killed Palotin Giron? FATHER UBU: I don't care about that! And then they killed poor Lascy!


I don't care about that! FATHER UBU: Oh, well, in that case, come over here, you old slut! Get down on your knees before your master. (He grabs her and throws her on her knees.) You re about to suffer the extreme penalty.

UBU: Oh! Oh! Oh! Are you all through now? I'm just about to begin: twisting of the nose, tearing out of the hair, penetration of the little bit of wood into the ears; extraction of the brain by the heels, laceration of the posterior, partial or perhaps even total suppression of the spinal marrow (assuming that would make her character less spiny), not forgetting the puncturing of the swimming bladder and finally the grand re-enacted decollation of John the Baptist, the whole taken from the very Holy Scriptures, from the Old as well as the New Testament, as edited, cor­ rected, and perfected by the here-attendant Master of Phynances! How does that suit you, you sausage? (He begins to tear her to pieces.)


MOTHER UBU: Mercy, Mr. Ubu!

A loud noise at the entrance to the cave.

♦ ♦

The same, and Bougrelas, who rushes into the cave with his soldiers. BOUGRELAS: Forward, my friends. Long live Poland! FATHER UBU: Oh! Oh! Wait a moment, Mr. Pole. Wait until IVe finished with madam my other half! BOUGRELAS (hitting him): Take that, coward, tramp, braggart, laggard, Mus­ sulman! FATHER UBU (countering): Take that! Polack, drunkard, bastard, hussar, tar­ tar, pisspot, inkblot, sneak, freak, anarchist! MOTHER UBU (hitting out also): Take that, prig, pig, rake, fake, snake, mis­ take, mercenary! The soldiers throw themselves on the Ubus, who defend themselves as best they can. FATHER UBU: Gods! What a battle! MOTHER UBU: Watch out for our feet, Gentlemen of Poland. FATHER UBU: By my green candle, when will this endlessness be ended? Another one! Ah, if only I had my Phynancial Horse here! BOUGRELAS: Hit them, keep hitting them! VOICES FROM WITHOUT: Long live Father Ubu, our Great Financier! FATHER UBU: Ah! There they are. Hooray! There are the Father Ubuists. Forward, come on, you're desperately needed, Gentlemen of Finance. Enter the Palotins, who throw themselves into the fight.

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All out, you Poles! PILE: Ho! We meet again, my Financial sir. Forward, push as hard as you can, get to the exit; once outside, well run away. FATHER UBU: Oh! He's my best man. Look the way he hits them! BOUGRELAS: Good God! I'm wounded! STANISLAS LECZINSKI: It's nothing, Sire. BOUGRELAS: No, I'm just a little stunned. JOHN SOBIESKI: Fight, keep fighting—they're getting to the door, the knaves. COTICE: We're getting there; follow me, everybody. By couseyquence of the whiche, the sky becomes visible. PILE: Courage, Sire Ubu! FATHER UBU: Oh! I just crapped in my pants. Forward, hornsbuggers! Killem, bleedem, skinnem, massacrem, by Ubu's horn! Ah! It's quieting down. COTICE: There are only two of them guarding the exit! FATHER UBU (knocking them down with the bear): And one, and two! Oof! Here I am outside! Let's run now! Follow, you others, and don't stop for anything!


The scene represents the Province of Livonia covered with snow. The Ubus and their followers are in flight FATHER UBU: Ah! I think they've stopped trying to catch us. MOTHER UBU: Yes, Bougrelas has gone to get himself crowned. FATHER UBU: I don't envy him that crown, either. MOTHER UBU: You're quite right, Father Ubu. They disappear into the distance.

The bridge of a close-hauled schooner on the Baltic. Father Ubu and his entire gang are on the bridge. THE CAPTAIN: What a lovely breeze! FATHER UBU: We are indeed-sailing with a rapidity which borders on the miraculous. We must be making at least a million knots an hour, and these knots have been tied so well that once tied they cannot be untied. It's true that we have the wind behind us. PILE: What a pathetic imbecile! A squall arises, the ship rolls, the sea foams. FATHER UBU: Oh! Ah! My God, we're going to capsize. The ship is leaning over too far, it'll fall!


Everyone to leeward, furl the foresail! FATHER UBU: Oh, no, don't put everybody on the same side! That's impru­ dent. What if the wind changed direction—everybody would sink to the bottom of the sea and the fish would eat us. THE CAPTAIN: Don't rush, line up and close ranks! FATHER UBU: Yes, yes, rush! I'm in a hurry! Rush, do you hear! It's your fault that we aren't getting there, brute of a captain. We should have been there already. I'm going to take charge of this myself. Get ready to tack about. Drop anchor, tack with the wind, tack against the wind. Run up the sails, sun down the sails, tiller up, tiller down, tiller to the side. You see, everything's going fine. Come broadside to the waves now and every­ thing will be perfect. All are convulsed with laugher; the wind rises. THE CAPTAIN: Haul over the jibsail, reef over the topsail! FATHER UBU: That's not bad, it's even good! Swab out the steward and jump in the crow's-nest. Several chose with laughter. A wave is shipped. Oh, what a deluge! All this is the result of the maneuvers which we just ordered. MOTHER UBU and PILE: What a wonderful thing navigation is! A second wave is shipped. PILE (drenched): But watch out for Satan, his pomps and pumps. FATHER UBU: Sir boy, get us something to drink. They all sit down to drink. MOTHER UBU: What a pleasure it will be to see our sweet France again, our old friends and our castle of Mondragon! FATHER UBU: We'll be there soon. At the moment we've passed below the castle of Elsinore. PILE: I feel cheerful at the thought of seeing my dear Spain again. COTICE: Yes, and we'll amaze our countrymen with the stories of our won­ derful adventures. FATHER UBU: Oh, certainly! And I'm going to get myself appointed Minister of Finances in Paris. MOTHER UBU: Oh, that's right! Oops, what a bump that was! COTICE: That's nothing, we're just doubling the point of Elsinore. PILE: And now our noble ship plows at full speed through the somber waves of the North Sea. FATHER UBU: A fierce and inhospitable sea, which bathes the shores of the land called Germany, so named because the inhabitants of this land are all cousins-german.


That's what I call true learning. They say that this country is very beautiful. FATHER UBU: Ah! Gentlemen! Beautiful as it may be, it cannot compare with Poland. For if there were no Poland, there would be no Poles!


♦ ♦


Theater Questions
Alfred Jarry

What conditions are indispensable to the theater? I do not think we need give any more thought to the question of whether the three unities are necessary or whether the unity of action alone will suffice, and if everything revolves around a single character, then the unity of action has had its due. Nor do I think that we can argue either from Aristophanes or Shakespeare if it is the public's susceptibilities that we are supposed to respect, since many editions of Aristophanes have footnotes on every page stating: "The whole of this passage is full of obscene allusions," and, as for Shakespeare, one only has to reread certain of Ophelia's remarks, or the famous scene (nearly always cut) in which a Queen is taking French lessons. The alternative would appear to be to model ourselves on Messieurs Augier, Dumas fils, Labiche, etc., whom we have had the misfortune to read, and with profound tedium: it is more than likely that the members of the younger generation, though they may have read these gentlemen, have not the slightest recollection of having done so. I do not think there is the slightest reason to give a work dramatic form unless one has invented a character whom one finds it more convenient to let loose on a stage than to analyze in a book. And anyway, why should the public, which is illiterate by definition, attempt quotations and comparisons? It criticized Ubu Roi for being a vulgar imitation of Shakespeare and Rabelais, because "its sets are economically replaced by a placard" and a certain word is repeated. People ought not to be unaware of the fact that it is now more or less certain that never, at least never
Reprinted from Ubu Roi, Selected Works ofAlfred Jarry, ed. Roger Shattuck and Simon Watson Taylor; trans. Barbara Wright (New York: Grove, 1965), 82-85, © 1961, by permission of New Directions.

since Shakespeare's day, have his plays been acted in any other way than with sets and on a relatively perfected stage. Furthermore, people saw Ubu as a work written in "old French" because we amused ourselves by printing it in old-style type, and they thought "phynance" was sixteenth-century spelling. I find so much more accurate the remark of one of the Poles in the crowd scenes, who said that in his opinion "it's just like Musset, because the set changes so frequently." It would have been easy to alter Ubu to suit the taste of the Paris public by making the following minor changes: the opening word would have been Blast (or Blasttr), the unspeakable brush would have turned into a pretty girl going to bed, the army uniforms would have been First-Empire style, Ubu would have knighted the Czar, and various spouses would have been cuckolded—but in that case it would have been filthier. I intended that when the curtain went up, the scene should confront the public like the exaggerating mirror in the stories of Mme Leprince de Beau­ mont, in which the depraved saw themselves with dragons' bodies, or bulls' horns, or whatever corresponded to their particular vice. It is not surprising that the public should have been aghast at the sight of its ignoble other self, which it had never before been shown completely. This other self, as M. Catulle Mendes has excellently said, is composed "of eternal human im­ becility, eternal lust, eternal gluttony, the vileness of instinct magnified into tyranny; of the sense of decency, the virtues, the patriotism and the ideals peculiar to those who have just eaten their fill." Really, these are hardly the constituents for an amusing play, and the masks demonstrate that the com­ edy must at the most be the macabre comedy of an English clown, or of a Dance of Death. Before Gemier agreed to play the part, Lugne-Poe had learned Ubu's lines and wanted to rehearse the play as a tragedy. And what no one seems to have understood—it was made clear enough, though, and constantly recalled by Ma Ubu's continually repeated: "What an idiotic man! . . . What a sorry imbecile!"—is that Ubu's speeches were not meant to be full of witticisms, as various little ubuists claimed, but of stupid remarks, uttered with all the authority of the Ape. And in any case the public, which protests with bogus scorn that it contains "not a scrap of wit from beginning to end," is still less capable of understanding anything profound. We know, from our four years' observation of the public at the Theatre de l'CEuvre, that if you are absolutely determined to give the public an inkling of something, you must explain i t . . . beforehand. The public does not understand Peer Gynt> which is one of the most lucid plays imaginable, any more than it understands Baudelaire's prose or Mallarme's precise syntax. [People] know nothing of Rimbaud, they only heard of Verlaine's existence after he was dead, and they are terrified when they hear Les Flaireurs or Pelleas et Melisande. They pretend to think writers and artists a lot of crackpots, and some of them would like to purge all works of art of everything spontaneous and quintessential, of every sign of superiority, and to bowdlerize them so that they could have been written by the

public in collaboration. That is their point of view, and that of certain plagia­ rists, conscious and unconscious. Have we no right to consider the public from our point of view?—the public that claims that we are madmen suffer­ ing from a surfeit of what it regards as hallucinatory sensations produced in us by our exacerbated senses. From our point of view it is they who are the madmen, but of the opposite sort—what scientists would call idiots. They are suffering from a dearth of sensations, for their senses have remained so rudimentary that they can perceive nothing but immediate impressions. Does progress for them consist in drawing nearer to the brute beast or in gradually developing their embryonic cerebral convolutions? Since Art and the public's Understanding are so incompatible, we may well have been mistaken in making a direct attack on the public in Ubu Roi; [audiences] resented it because they understood it only too well, whatever they may say. Ibsen's onslaught on crooked society was almost unnoticed. It is because the public is [such] a mass—inert, obtuse, and passive—that it needs to be shaken up from time to time so that we can tell from [its mem­ bers'] bearlike grunts where they are—and also where they stand. They are pretty harmless, in spite of their numbers, because they are fighting against intelligence. Ubu did not debrain all the nobles. They are like Cyrano de Bergerac's Icicle-Animal, which does battle with the Fire-Beast—in any case they would melt before they won, but even if they did win they would be only too honored to hang the corpse of the sun-beast up against their mantel­ pieces and to allow its rays to illuminate their adipose tissue. It is a being so different from them that its relation to them is like an exterior soul to their bodies. Light is active and shade is passive, and light is not detached from shade but, given sufficient time, penetrates it. Reviews which used to publish Lou's novels are now printing a dozen pages of Verhaeren and several of Ibsen's plays. Time is necessary because people who are older than we—and whom we respect for that reason—have lived among certain works which have the charm of habitual objects for them, and they were born with the souls that match these works, guaranteed to last until eighteen-ninety... odd. We shall not try to push them out of our way—we are no longer in the seventeenth century; we shall wait until their souls, which made sense in relation to themselves and to the false values which surrounded them throughout their lives, have come to a full stop (even though we have not waited). We too shall become solemn, fat, and Ubu-like and shall publish extremely classical books which will probably lead to our becoming mayors of small towns where, when we become academicians, the blockheads constituting the local intelligentsia will present us with Sevres vases, while they present their mustaches on velvet cushions to our children. And another lot of young people will appear and consider us completely out of date, and they will write ballads to express their loathing of us, and that is just the way things should always be.



Intimate Theater/ Chamber Drama

ugust [Johan] Strindberg, playwright, novelist, painter, and dramatic theorist, was born on January 22, 1849, in Stock­ holm, Sweden. Before turning to playwriting in the 1880s, Strindberg worked as a teacher, librarian, journalist, and actor. Strind­ berg was not the misogynist he is often declared to be, but his relation­ ships with women were complicated by the idiosyncrasies of his per­ sonality. And since he was surely one of the most subjective of writers, his three marriages provided background (and foreground!) materials for much of his fiction as well as drama. A prolific author, Strindberg wrote more than sixty plays in four decades, and his extensive theoret­ ical writings on drama show him to have been acutely aware of his role as an innovator. His plays are traditionally divided into two major stages—his Naturalist pe­ riod of the late 1880s and early 1890s, and his predominantly Expressionist period (which also includes some Swedish history plays) from 1898 on—though his focus on the psychology of his characters remains consistent. Of the Natural­ ist plays, The Father (1887) and Miss Julie (1888) are the most frequently pro­ duced. A reaction against the standard French intrigue drama with its elaborate plot and typed characters, these works combine a scrupulous attention to the Aristotelian unities with the exploration of heredity, milieu, and immediate cir­ cumstances as the bases for the drawing of complex, modern characters. From 1894 to 1896, Strindberg underwent a series of psychotic episodes, commonly called his "inferno crisis," which led him to delve into alchemy and the occult. From this point on, his plays display a preoccupation with distorted inner states of mind. The fragmentation of personality so characteristic of Strindberg's Expressionism first appears in To Damascus (Part 1, 1898), a play with biblical overtones but at the same time a projection of the problems of the dramatist's second marriage. The full-blown Expressionism that followed is


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chiefly represented by A Dream Play (1901)—which did so much to free the stage from the time- and space-bound assumptions of Naturalism—and is also seen in the earlier Dance of Death (1900). Paralleling and enlarging on many of the discoveries made around the same time in the fields of psychology and psycho­ analysis, these latter plays depend not on the classical unities but instead on the individual, subjective mind for their overall shape, with the erratic structure of dreams playing a prominent part in their creation. The Ghost Sonata, the third in a series of four "chamber plays" he wrote in 1907 (the other three being Storm Weather, The Burned House, and The Pelican, to which The Black Glove was added in 1909), invokes a similar characterological subjectivity for the purpose of gradually revealing the real human horror lurking behind the facade of affluence and respectability. In the chamber plays, which emphasize mood over plot, Strindberg attempted to find the theatrical equivalent to chamber music at the same time as he worked variations on the theme of the disparity between appearance and reality. He wrote all of them for the 161 -seat Intimate Theater in Stockholm (even as chamber music is written to be performed in a room rather than a concert hall), which he founded and ran with August Falck from 1907 to 1910. Strindberg died of stomach cancer on May 14, 1912, in Stockholm. Although they enjoyed only limited success in Sweden during his own lifetime, both Strindberg's Naturalistic and his Expressionistic plays quickly gained appreciation abroad, especially in Germany. His work has influenced an extraordinarily wide range of movements in modern as well as avant-garde drama, including Naturalism, Expressionism, Surrealism, and the Theater of the Absurd.

Strindberg as Dramatist
^ L i he Ghost Sonata seethes with indignation as Strindberg's scorn ■ and contempt for the world find expression in some of the most %J grotesque and theatrically stunning scenes in modern drama. To say what he felt, Strindberg had to invent a new dramatic language that Ijttr has been called, by turns, Surrealistic, Expressionistic, or even Symbol­ ist, a language in which metaphors assume life. To say "time hangs heavy" is one thing; to picture, as Dali has done, a watch hanging heavily is another. To say that the sweet young thing you once knew now looks like an old mummy is one thing; to have this woman imagine herself a mummy and comport herself like one, as Strindberg has her do, is another. The artistic originality of The Ghost Sonata and the visionary intensity of its best scenes have made this by far the best known of the Chamber Plays. But critics seem reluctant to declare that the play possesses any great coherence. The stumbling block to most interpretations is the last scene, which can easily appear redundant. The plot peters out after the "ghost supper" of the second scene, and the third scene comes as an anticlimax. After the unmasker Hummel has been unmasked, what more is there to hold our attention? The answer lies in what Strindberg was trying to say. "No predetermined form is binding on the author because the subject matter determines the form" (SS, 50:12): that was the principle behind the Chamber Plays. He wanted the theatergoer to respond to this new kind of theater music in the same way that a listener responds to chamber music in the recital hall. The ordinary listener cannot do what the music student does when he pores over the score and sees how the parts are related to each other and how the themes are intertwined. But the listener will be able to follow the music all the same, just as the sensitive theatergoer will be able to catch the drift of Strindberg's play without under­ standing what is going on at every moment. In fact, absolute clarity would dispel meaning because a major concern of the play is our inability to know exactly what is going on in life. As in life, so in science. The modern physicist has found that the more precisely he determines the position of a subatomic particle, the less he knows about its momentum, and the more he knows about its momen­ tum, the less he knows about its position. This vexing situation, which led Heisenberg in 1923 to formulate his indeterminacy principle, has its counterpart in the macrocosm. The more narrowly we focus our attention on a particular human crisis, the less we know about the general tendency of our lives; and the more clearly we delineate the general tendency, the less able we are to isolate the specific cause of an event. Nothing is easier to prove or disprove than why a person acted as he did. Yet just as the physicist, though ignorant of the behavior of a specific particle, can predict statistically what the aggregate of particles will do, so Strindberg believed that human activity in its entirety was governed by some law. h^J rj^^
Excerpted from Evert Sprinchorn, Strindberg as Dramatist (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1982), 259-70.


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Long before Heisenberg discovered the indeterminacy principle, Strindberg made use of something like it in this drama. Hummel's explanation to the Student of the relationship of the people of the house to one another is hopelessly complicated. In an ordinary play, this explanation, which explains nothing and confuses everybody, would be exposition of the worst sort. Here it establishes the confusing entanglements that constitute the subject. Strindberg's aim was to create a network of allusions, of interrelated images, that would be the theatrical counterpart of the infinitely complicated cosmic web woven by inner and outer forces. In the naturalistic view of man, causes and effects can be isolated; in the Buddhist view, the strands that go into the making of our lives are so numerous and so entangled with strands from other lives in the making that all one can perceive, at best, is a general pattern. Just how the little curlicues that are continuously being woven into the fabric of our lives come to form this particular pattern can be observed only occasionally. It is this sense of complexity, this growing awareness that things are somehow related without our knowing exactly how, that Strindberg wanted to convey. The problem was one of organizing the myriad allusions and references into a scheme that would guide the half-conscious thoughts of the viewer. In dramatic terms, it was a question of finding a through-line. Eliot and Joyce faced the same problem, in The Waste Land and Ulysses, respectively, where they had to sacrifice narrative development for inner revelation in order to express a view of life that had less to do with time and space and progress than with stillness and spirit and regeneration. While picturing the fragmentation of life in modern times, Eliot brought order into his poem by making the various sections of it represent the search for the Holy Grail. He found his through-line in Jessie L Weston's Frazerinspired examination of medieval legend. Strindberg found his in the mysticreligious philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. The view in this play is not from a point near the end of life, as in The Burned House, but from a point on the other side of the grave. In this, his most extrava­ gant work, Strindberg takes us on a journey into death, lets us leave the body and enter the world of spirits. The steamship bells at the beginning signal the start of the journey, which will end at the Isle of the Dead. Like the people in the play, we hardly know that we have left the natural world because the life of the body is continued into the other world. "The first state of man after death," says Swe­ denborg, resembles his state in the world, for he is then likewise in externals, having a like face, like speech, and a like disposition, thus a like moral and civil life; and in consequence he is made aware that he is not still in the world only by giving attention to what he encounters (Heaven and Hell, n. 493). What we encounter is a spectral milkmaid, a dead consul who appears in his winding sheet to count his mourners, and a young student who tells a strange story about saving a child from a collapsing building only to have the child disappear from his arms. By this time, it should dawn on us that the child disappeared because she was saved and remained in the natural world. Before us is the facade of an elegant apartment house. This set represents exteriors, the first state of man after death, the state that corresponds to the

world of social accommodation and legal inhibition. The second scene takes us into the house, into the Round Room, where the Mummy appears. This repre­ sents the state of interiors, where the spirits become, to quote Swedenborg, "visibly just what they had been in themselves while in the world, what they then did and said secretly being now made manifest" (Heaven and Hell, n. 507). Here Swedenborg provided the inspiration for the graphic and theatrical disrobing scene in which Hummel strips the Colonel of his decorations and exposes him as a social sham, only to be unmasked himself by the Mummy as a criminal and a stealer of souls. The Round Room is what Strindberg elsewhere calls "the undressing room into which the deceased are led immediately after death. There they remove the vesture they were compelled to put on in society and with friends and family; and the angels soon see them for what they are" (SS, 46:4950). The hymn to the sun, intoned by the Student, provides a fitting conclusion to the scene both because of what it says about kindness and guilelessness and because of its source. Strindberg freely adapted it from some stanzas of the Icelandic Solarljod, a visionary poem, Catholic in inspiration, containing a descrip­ tion of the moment of death—"I saw the sun"—and of hell and heaven by a man who from the other side of the grave is able to communicate with his living son. The third and last scene, the Hyacinth Room, represents in the Swedenborgian plan the third state of man after death, a place of instruction and prepa­ ration for those who may merit a place in heaven. The essentially good spirit, like the Hyacinth Girl, must be vastated and purged of evils and falsities acquired on earth. The Student functions here as a vastating spirit, confronting her with the ugly truths of life and removing evils and falsities from her in order that she may receive the influx of goods and truths from heaven. As he speaks to her, she pines and withers away. The three sets of the play also correspond approximately to what the theosophists, following the cabalists, call the three dwellings of the soul: Earth for the physical man, or the animal Soul; Kama-Loka (Hades, the Limbo) for the disembodied man, or his Shell; Devachan for the higher Triad. The shell is the astral form of the soul; it is the body that is left behind when the highest aspect of the soul, the mind, departs for Devachan or nirvana, that condition of the soul in which passion, hatred, and delusion are no more. The Buddhist and Christian hints dropped at the beginning of the play con­ tinue to ripple through it and to intermingle, especially in the latter half. The room in which the unmasking of the Colonel and the old man takes place is both Kama-Loka and hell. In the last scene, the Student speaks of Christ's sufferings on earth, while a small statue of Buddha expresses purity of will and the patience to endure. The shallot in its lap symbolizes the relation of matter to spirit (Swedenborg's correspondences) and man's striving to raise earth to heaven. In the final moments, what is seen and what is heard fuse together into a sublime poetic image of radiant theatricality: the harp bursting into sound, the Student's solemn hymn to the sun, the white refulgent light burning away the reality that is only an illusion, and the emergence in the distance of the Isle of the Dead (via a back projection of Bocklin's painting). The light that floods the room and causes

it to disappear is the light of death, of nirvana, and of divine wisdom and love. In the Solarljod, the dying man sees the sun and knows the truth about life as he passes over the threshold. In Swedenborg, the sun is the symbol of God's love, and when the angels draw the film from the eyes of a dying person, he sees a bright white light that represents eternal life. In Mahayana Buddhism, the Buddha is the pure light that banishes the darkness of ghosts, of the animal world, of hell; it is the light of the great mind and power that lights the way to the land of happiness; it is the light of truth, purity, and mercy. On the cover of the manuscript of the play, Strindberg drew a picture of Buddha's shallot. He gave the play the subtitle "Kama-Loka"; he thought of calling it 'The Ghost Supper"; but he finally settled on The Ghost Sonata, which suggests both the extraterrestrial setting of the play and its musical structure. The Sonata title is certainly the most fitting, for unless one treats the play as a kind of musical composition, it is impossible to appreciate its artistic wholeness and the way in which all the pieces fit together. Although it is often faulted for lacking coherence, especially in the last scene, the play is, in fact, a miracle of artistic organization, a work of Wagnerian intricacy and contrivance composed with Mozartean ease in which everything seems casual and improvised and yet nothing in it is adventitious. In an ideal production, the perfect Strindbergite would quickly forget about character analysis and conventional plot development and would respond to symbols and elusive harmonies and thematic development. He would quickly understand that the plot is not designed to reveal what Hummel once in his dark past did to the Milkmaid. He would sense immediately that Hummel and the Milkmaid are thematic opposites, the bloodsucker versus the nourishernurturer, and nod at the recognition of Hummel and the Cook as thematic companions. When Hummel is described as a man who tears down houses, sneaks in through windows, and ravages human lives, the Strindbergite would remember that the Student saves the life of a baby caught in a collapsing house and that the Milkmaid offers aid to the Student. He would hear character an­ swering character, but he would sense theme answering theme. He would know that it is both musically and morally right that after Hummel exposes the Colonel as a valet who used to flirt with the maids in order to scrounge in the kitchen, Hummel himself should be exposed as being exactly what he accused the Colo­ nel of being. And he would experience aesthetic delight in seeing the evil Cook in the last scene suddenly emerge from the kitchen in which Hummel and the Colonel had their beginnings. But instead of perfect Strindbergites, we have critics who shake their heads grumpily at the Cook and reproach Strindberg for putting his petty domestic problems into a play. Being distinct from one another in setting, tempo, and mood, the three scenes must be regarded as corresponding to the three movements of a sonata (Strindberg himself alluded to Beethoven's piano Sonata in D minor, opus 31, no. 2), even though the themes set forth at the beginning are developed through the whole work. The first and longest scene, unsurpassed in modern drama for sheer dramaturgical virtuosity, is a brisk allegro, its mood sustained by the youthful buoyancy of the Student and by the grasping eagerness of the Old Man


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as they lay their plans for entering the house of elegance. In sharp contrast is the second scene or movement, the largo. To its slow tempo and its long silences the ghost supper is eaten, the masks removed, the interiors revealed. The final scene is a quiet andante, which stresses the principal theme of the whole sonata and brings it to a close with a brilliant coda that restates all the themes: the world is a sham composed of lies, deceits, and illusions; to live is to be guilty; and death represents a settling of accounts. W h e n the Student de­ scribes his father's disastrous dinner party at which all the guests were told off and their true natures were revealed, we are reminded not only of the ghost supper of the second scene but also of what is happening at this moment as the Student speaks to the girl and destroys her. The Student's strength is now being sucked from him and only the death of the Hyacinth Girl saves him. Freed at last from the Three Poisons that Buddha speaks of—the poison of desiring individual existence, the poison of ignorance, and the poison of sensual longing—the Stu­ dent faces nirvana, the state of perfect calm, the extinction of aversion, confu­ sion, and passion, as the Isle of the Dead looms in the distance.

Works Cited
Strindberg, August. Samlade skrifter. Ed. John Landquist. 55 vols. Stockholm, Sweden, 1912-1920. Cited as SS. Swedenborg, Emanuel. Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell. Trans. John C. Ager. New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 1949. Cited as Heaven and Hell.

Select Bibliography on Strindberg
Cardullo, Bert. "Ingmar Bergman's Concept for His 1973 Production of The Ghost Sonata: A Dramaturg's Response." Essays in Arts and Sciences 14(1985): 33-48. Jarvi, Raymond. "Strindberg's The Ghost Sonata and Sonata Form." Mosaic 5.4 (1972): 6 9 84. Johnson, Walter. August Strindberg. Boston: Twayne, 1976. Meyer, Michael. August Strindberg: A Life. New York: Random House, 1985. Reinert, Otto, ed. Strindberg: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971. Steene, Birgitta. The Greatest Fire: A Study ofAugust Strindberg. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973; rev. as August Strindberg: An Introduction to His Major Works. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1982. Stockenstrom, Goran, ed. Strindberg's Dramaturgy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988. . " The Journey from the Isle of Life to the Isle of Death': The Idea of Reconciliation in The Ghost Sonata." Scandinavian Studies 50 (1978): 133-49. Tornqvist, Egil. Strindbergian Drama: Themes and Structure. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1982. See also Bergman; Lambert; McFarlane; Nicoll; and Swerling, in the General Bibliography.

T h e Ghost Sonata
August Strindberg


THE OLD MAN, Director Hummel THE STUDENT, Arkenholz THE MILKMAID, an apparition

daughter ofthe Dead Man and the Superintendent's wife

the Colonel's wife LADY, the Colonel's daughter, but actually the Old


daughter engaged to the Lady in Black JOHANSSON, Hummel's servant BENGTSSON, The Colonel's footman THE FIANCEE, a white-haired old woman, formerly engaged to Hummel
BARON SKANSKORG, THE COOK BEGGARS A MAID Reprinted from Strindberg: Five Plays, trans. Harry G. Carlson (Berkeley: University of Califor­ nia Press, 1983), 535-54.


(Outside a fashionable apartment building. Only a corner and the first two floors are visible. The ground floor ends in the Round Room; the floor above ends in a balcony with a flagpole. When the curtains are drawn up in the Round Room, a white marble statue of a young woman can be seen, surrounded by palms and lit brightly by the sun. In the window to the left are potted hyacinths in blue, white, and pink. Hanging on the railing of the balcony are a blue silk quilt and two white pillows. The windows to the left are draped with white sheets [in Sweden the indication that someone has died]. It is a clear Sunday morning. Standing in front of the house downstage is a green bench. Downstage right is a public fountain, downstage left a freestanding column covered with posters and announcements. In the house faqade upstage left is the entrance. The steps leading up to the door are of white marble, the railings of mahogany with brass fittings. Flanking the steps on the sidewalk are laurels in tubs. The corner of the house with the Round Room faces a side street which runs upstage. To the left of the entrance door a mirror is mounted outside a window [enabling the occupant of that apartment to observe, without being seen, what is happening in the street]. As the curtain rises, church bells can be heard in the distance. All the doors visible in the house are open. A woman dressed in black stands motionless on the steps. The SUPERINTENDENT'S WIFE in turn sweeps the vestibule, polishes the brass on the front door, and waters the laurels. The OLD MAN sits reading a newspaper in a wheelchair near the poster column. He has white hair and a beard and wears glasses. The MILKMAID enters from around the corner carrying bottles in a wire basket. She is wearing a summer dress, with brown shoes, black stockings, and a white cap. She takes off her cap and hangs it on the fountain, wipes the sweat from her brow, takes a drink from a dipper in the fountain, washes her hands, and arranges her hair, using the water as a mirror. A steamboat's bell can be heard, and from time to time the bass notes of an organ in a nearby church penetrate the silence. The silence continues for a few moments after the MILKMAID has finished her toilet. Then the STUDENT enters left, sleepless and unshaven, and crosses directly to the fountain. Pause) STUDENT: Can I borrow the dipper? (The MILKMAID hugs the dipper to her.) Aren't you through using it? (She stares at him in terror.) OLD MAN (to himself): Who is he talking to?—I don't see anyone!—Is he crazy? (continues to stare at them in amazement) STUDENT (to the MILKMAID): Why are you staring? Do I look so frightening?—

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Well, I didn't sleep last night and I guess you think IVe been out ca­ rousing . . . (the MILKMAID as before) Think IVe been drinking, huh?—Do I smell of whiskey? (the MILKMAID as before) I didn't shave, I know t h a t . . . Give me a drink of water, girl, IVe earned it! (pause) All right, I suppose I have to tell you. All night IVe been bandaging wounds and tending injured people. I was there, you see, when the house collapsed last night... Now you know. (The MILKMAID rinses the dipper and gives him a drink.) Thanks! (The MILKMAID stands motionless. The STUDENT continues slowly.) Would you do me a big favor? (pause) The thing is, my eyes are inflamed, as you can see. Since my hands have been touching the injured and the dead, I don't dare bring them near my eyes... Would you take my clean handkerchief, moisten it in fresh water, and bathe my poor eyes?—Would you?—Would you be a good Samaritan? (The MILKMAID hesitates but does as he asks.) Thank you, friend! (He takes out his wallet. She makes a gesture of refusal.) Forgive me, that was thoughtless, but I'm not really awake . . . OLD MAN (to the STUDENT): Excuse me, but I heard you say that you were at the accident last n i g h t . . . I was just reading about it in the paper . . . STUDENT: Is it already in the paper? OLD MAN: Yes, the whole story. And your picture too. But they regret they couldn't learn the name of the very able student... STUDENT (looking at the paper): Really? Yes, that's me! Well! OLD MAN: Whom were you talking to just now? STUDENT: Didn't you see? (pause) OLD MAN: Would you think me rude if I . .. asked your name? STUDENT: What for? I don't want any publicity.—First comes praise, then criticism.—Slandering people has become a fine art nowadays.—Be­ sides, I didn't ask for any reward .. . OLD MAN: You're wealthy, eh? STUDENT: Not at all. .. on the contrary. I'm penniless. OLD MAN: You know... there's something familiar about your voice. I've only met one other person who pronounces things the way you do. Are you possibly related to a wholesale merchant by the name of Arkenholz? STUDENT: He was my father. OLD MAN: Strange are the ways of fate . . . I saw you when you were little, under very painful circumstances. .. STUDENT: Yes, they say I came into the world in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings . . . OLD MAN: That's right. STUDENT: Can I ask what your name is? OLD MAN: My name is Hummel.

STUDENT: Are you . . . ? Yes, I r e m e m b e r . . .

OLD MAN: You've heard my n a m e mentioned often in your family?

OLD MAN: And probably mentioned with a certain ill will? (The STUDENT remains silent.) Yes, I can imagine!—I suppose you heard that I was the one who ruined your father?—People w h o ruin themselves through stu­ pid speculation always blame the o n e person they couldn't fool for their ruin, (pause) T h e truth is that your father swindled m e out of seventeen thousand crowns—my whole life savings at t h e time. STUDENT: It's amazing how a story can be told in two such different ways. OLD MAN: You don't think I'm lying, do you? STUDENT: W h a t else can I think? M y father never lied! OLD MAN: That's very true. A father never lies . . . b u t I too a m a father, and consequently... STUDENT: W h a t are you trying to say? OLD MAN: I saved your father from disaster, a n d h e repaid m e with all the terrible hatred of a m a n who feels obliged to be grateful. H e taught his family to speak ill of m e . STUDENT: Maybe you m a d e h i m ungrateful by poisoning your charity with unnecessary humiliations. OLD MAN: All charity is humiliating, young m a n . STUDENT: W h a t do you want of me? OLD MAN: I'm not asking for money. If you would perform a few services for me, I'd be well repaid. As you can see, I'm a cripple. Some people say it's my own fault; others blame my parents. Personally, I believe life itself is to blame, waiting in ambush for us, a n d if you avoid o n e trap, you walk straight into another. However—I can't r u n u p a n d down stairs or ring doorbells. And so, I'm asking you: help m e !
STUDENT: W h a t can I do?

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OLD MAN: First of all, push my chair so that I can read those posters. I want to see what's playing t o n i g h t . . . STUDENT (pushing the wheelchair): D o n ' t you have a m a n to help you? OLD MAN: Yes, but he's away on an errand . . . be back soon . . . Are you a medical student? STUDENT: N o , I'm studying languages. But I really don't know what I want to

be... OLD MAN: Aha.—How are you at mathematics? STUDENT: Fairly good. OLD MAN: Fine.—Would you like a job? STUDENT: Sure, why not?

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OLD MAN: Good! (reading the posters) They're giving a matinee of The Valkyrie ... That means the Colonel and his daughter will be there. And since he always sits on the aisle in the sixth row, I'll put you next to them. Would you go into that telephone booth and reserve a ticket for seat number eighty-two in the sixth row? STUDENT: You want me to go to the opera in the middle of the day? OLD MAN: Yes. You do as I tell you, and you'll be well rewarded. I want you to be happy, rich, and respected. Your debut yesterday as a courageous rescuer will make you famous overnight. Your name will be really worth something. STUDENT [crossing to the booth): What an amusing adventure . . . OLD MAN: Are you a gambler? STUDENT: Yes, unfortunately .. . OLD MAN: We'll make that "fortunately"!—Make the call! (He reads his newspaper. The LADY IN BLACK has come out on the sidewalk to speak to the SUPERINTENDENT'S WIFE; the OLD MAN listens to them, but the audience hears nothing. The STUDENT returns.) Is it all arranged?
STUDENT: It's all arranged.

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OLD MAN: Have you ever seen this house before? STUDENT: I certainly have! . . . I walked by here yesterday when the sun was blazing on its windows—and could picture all the beauty and luxury there must be inside. I said to my friend: "Imagine owning an apartment there, four flights up, a beautiful young wife, two lovely little children, and an independent income of 20,000 crowns a year..." OLD MAN: Did you say that? Did you say that? Well! I too love that house . . . STUDENT: You speculate in houses? OLD MAN: Mmm, yes. But not in the way you think . . . STUDENT: Do you know the people who live here? OLD MAN: All of them. At my age you know everyone, their fathers and forefathers before them, and we're all kin, in some way or another.—I just turned eighty—but no one knows me, not really.—I take an interest in people's destinies... (The curtains in the Round Room are drawn up. The COLONEL can be seen inside, dressed in civilian clothes. After looking at the thermometer, he crosses away from the window to stand in front of the statue.) Look, there's the Colonel you'll sit next to this afternoon . . . STUDENT: Is that—the Colonel? I don't understand any of this. It's like a fairy tale . . . OLD MAN: My whole life is like a book of fairy tales, young man. But although the tales are different, a single thread joins them together, and the same theme, the leitmotif, returns again and again, like clockwork. STUDENT: Is that statue of someone?

OLD MAN: It's his wife, of course . . .
STUDENT: Was she that wonderful?

OLD MAN: U h , yes. Yes!
STUDENT: Tell m e , really!

OLD MAN: It's not for us to judge other people, my boy!—If I were to tell you that she left h i m , that h e beat her, that she returned a n d remarried h i m and now sits in there like a m u m m y , worshipping her own statue, you'd think I was crazy. STUDENT: What? I don't understand! OLD MAN: I can well believe it.—Then we have the hyacinth window. That's his daughter's room . . . She's out riding, b u t she'll be h o m e soon . . . STUDENT: Who's the dark lady talking to the caretaker? OLD MAN: Well, you see, that's a little complicated. It has to do with the dead m a n , u p there, where you see the white sheets hanging . . .
STUDENT: W h o was h e ?

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OLD MAN: H e was a h u m a n being, like the rest of us. But the most conspic-c uous thing about h i m was his v a n i t y . . . If you were a Sunday child, you'd 4 soon see h i m c o m e out t h e front door to look at the consulate flag flying ♦ at half-mast in his honor.—He was a consul, you see, a n d adored coroco nets, lions, p l u m e d hats, and colored ribbons. STUDENT: You mentioned a Sunday child—I'm told I was born on a S u n d a y . . . OLD MAN: No! Were you . . . ? I might have known i t . . . I saw it in the color of your e y e s . . . b u t then you can see what others can't see. Have you ever noticed that? STUDENT: I don't know what others see, b u t sometimes . . . Well, things like that you don't talk about. OLD MAN: I was almost certain of it! But you can talk about them with me . . . because I—understand such t h i n g s . . .

Yesterday, for example . . . I was drawn to that secluded street where the house later collapsed . . . I walked down it and stopped in front of a building I'd never seen before . . . Then I noticed a crack in the wall, and heard the floorboards breaking. I ran forward and snatched up a child who was walking under the wall . . . The next moment the house collapsed . . . I was rescued, but in my arms, where I thought I held the child, there was nothing . . .

OLD MAN: Amazing . . . And I thought that. . . Tell me something: why were you gesturing just now by the fountain? And why were you talking to yourself?

Didn't you see the milkmaid I was talking to? Yes, certainly. The girl who handed me the dipper.

OLD MAN (terrified): Milkmaid?


OLD MAN: Is that right? So, that's what it was . . . Well, even if I can't see, there are other things I can do . . . (A white-haired woman sits down at the window with the mirror.) Look at that old woman in the window! Do you see her?—Good! She was once my fiancee, sixty years ago . . . I was twenty then.—Don't be alarmed, she doesn't recognize me. We see each other every day, but I feel nothing, despite that we swore to be true to each other then—forever! STUDENT: How indiscreet your generation was! Young people don't talk like that nowadays. OLD MAN: Forgive us, young man. We didn't know any better!—But can you see that that old woman was once young and beautiful? STUDENT: It doesn't show. Though I like the way she looks around, I can't see her eyes. (The SUPERINTENDENT'S WIFE comes out of the house and hangs
a funeral wreath on the front door.)

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OLD MAN: That's the Superintendent's Wife.—The Lady in Black over there is her daughter by the dead man upstairs. That's why her husband got the job as superintendent. . . but the Lady in Black has a lover, an aristocrat with grand expectations. He's in the process of getting a divorce, and his wife is giving him a mansion to get rid of him. This aristocratic lover is son-in-law to the dead man whose bedclothes you see being aired up there on the balcony... As I said, it's all very complicated. STUDENT: It's damned complicated! OLD MAN: Yes, but that's the way it is, internally and externally. Though it looks simple. STUDENT: Yes, but then who was the dead man? OLD MAN: You just asked me and I told you. If you could see around the corner, by the service entrance, you'd notice a crowd of poor people, whom he used to help .. . when he felt like i t . . . STUDENT: So he was a kind man, then? OLD MAN: Yes . . . sometimes. STUDENT: Not always? OLD MAN: No! . . . That's the way people are. Oh, young man, push my wheelchair a little, into the sun! I'm so terribly cold. When you never get to move around, the blood congeals.—I'm going to die soon, I know that. But before I do, I have a few things to take care of.—Take my hand and feel how cold I am. STUDENT: Yes, incredibly! (He tries in vain to free his hand.) OLD MAN: Don't leave me. I'm tired, I'm lonely, but I haven't always been like this, you know. I have an infinitely long life behind me—infinitely.— I've made people unhappy, but they've made me unhappy. The one cancels out the other. Before I die, I want to see you happy . . . Our destinies are intertwined through your father—and in other ways too . . .


But let go of my hand! You're draining my strength, you're freezing me. What do you want of me? OLD MAN: Patience, and you'll see and understand . . . Here comes the young lady... STUDENT: The Colonel's daughter? OLD MAN: Yes! "His daughter"! Look at her!—Have you ever seen such a masterpiece? STUDENT: She's like the marble statue in there . . . OLD MAN: Well, that is her mother! STUDENT: You're right.—Never have I seen such a woman of woman born.— Happy the man who leads her to the altar and his home. OLD MAN: You can see it!—Not everyone recognizes her beauty . . . Well, so it is written. (The YOUNG LADY enters left, wearing an English riding habit She crosses slowly', without looking at anyone, to the front door, where she stops and says a few words to the SUPERINTENDENT'S WIFE. She then enters the house. The STUDENT covers his eyes with his hand.) Are you crying? STUDENT: In the face of what's hopeless there can be only despair! OLD MAN: But I can open doors and hearts if I but find a hand to do my w i l l . . . Serve me and you shall prevail! STUDENT: Is this some kind of pact? Do I have to sell my soul? OLD MAN: Sell nothing!—You see, all my life I have taken. Now I have a desperate longing to be able to give! give! But no one will accept... I am rich, very rich, but I have no heirs, except for a good-for-nothing who plagues the life out of me . . . Be like a son to me. Be my heir while I'm still alive. Enjoy life while I'm here to see it, even if just from a distance. STUDENT: What am I to do? OLD MAN: First, go and listen to The Valkyrie. STUDENT: As good as done. What else? OLD MAN: Tonight you shall sit in there, in the Round Room. STUDENT: How do I get there? OLD MAN: By way of The Valkyrie! STUDENT: Why have you chosen me as your medium? Did you know me before? OLD MAN: Yes, of course! I've had my eyes on you for a long time . . . But look, up on the balcony. The maid is raising the flag to half-mast for the Consul . . . and she's turning the bedclothes . . . Do you see that blue quilt?—Once two people slept under it, but now only one . . . (The YOUNG LADY, her clothes changed, appears at the window to water the hyacinths.) Ah, there's my little girl. Look at her, look!—She's talking to the flowers. Isn't she like a blue hyacinth herself? . . . She's giving them drink, just ordinary water, and they transform the water into color and fragrance . . .

Here comes the Colonel with a newspaper!—He's showing her the story about the house collapsing . . . He's pointing out your picture! She's interested . . . she's reading about your bravery . . . I think it's getting cloudy. What if it should rain? I'll be in fine fix if Johansson doesn't come back soon . . . (It grows cloudy and dark. The old woman at the mirror closes her window.) My fiancee is closing her window . . . seventy-nine years old. . . . That mirror is the only mirror she uses, because she can't see herself in it, just the outside world in two different directions. But the world can see her, and that she didn't think o f . . . A beautiful little old lady though . . . (The DEAD MAN, in his winding-sheet, comes out the front door.)
STUDENT: Oh my God!



OLD MAN: What's the matter? Don't you see? There, in the doorway, the dead man!

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OLD MAN: I see nothing, but I expected this! Go on .. . STUDENT: He's going out into the street... (pause) Now he's turning his head to look at the flag. OLD MAN: What did I tell you? Now he'll count the funeral wreaths and read the names on the cards . . . God help those who are missing! STUDENT: Now he's turning the corner . . . OLD MAN: He's gone to count the poor people at the service entrance . . . They'll add a nice touch to his obituary: "Accompanied to his grave by the blessings of ordinary citizens." Well, he won't have my blessing!—Just between us, he was a great scoundrel. .. STUDENT: But charitable . . . OLD MAN: A charitable scoundrel, who always dreamed of a beautiful funeral . . . When he felt that the end was near, he fleeced the govern­ ment of fifty thousand crowns! . . . Now his daughter is having an affair with another woman's husband and wondering if she's in his will... The scoundrel can hear every word we say, and he deserves it!—Ah, here's Johansson! (JOHANSSON enters from left.) Report! (JOHANSSON speaks hut the audience cannot hear.) Not at home, eh? You're an ass!—Any tele­ grams?—Nothing at all! . . . Go on, go on! . . . Six o'clock this evening? That's fine!—An extra edition?—And his name in full! Arkenholz, stu­ dent, born . . . parents . . . splendid . . . I think it's starting to rain . . . What did he have to say? . . . Is that right?—He doesn't want to?—Well, he'll just have to!—Here comes the aristocratic lover!—Push me around the cor­ ner, Johansson, I want to hear what the poor people are saying... Arken­ holz, you wait for me here . . . do you understand?—Hurry up, hurry up! (JOHANSSON pushes the chair around the corner. The STUDENT remains behind, watching the YOUNG LADY, who is loosening the soil around the flowers, BARON SKANSKORG enters, wearing mourning, and speaks to the LADY IN BLACK, who has been walking up and down the sidewalk.)


Well, what can we do about it?—We'll simply have to


But I can't wait! Really? Better leave town then! LADY IN BLACK: I don't want to. BARON SKANSKORG: Come over here, otherwise they'll hear what we're say­ ing. (They cross to the poster column and continue their conversation, unheard by the audience. JOHANSSON enters right and crosses to the

JOHANSSON: My master asks you not to forget the other matter, sir. STUDENT (carefully): Listen—first tell me: who is your master? JOHANSSON: Oh, he's a lot of things, and he's been everything. STUDENT: Is he sane? JOHANSSON: Yes, and what is that, eh?—He says all his life he's been looking for a Sunday child, but maybe it's not true . . . STUDENT: What does he want? Money? JOHANSSON: He wants power . . . All day long he rides around in his chariot, like the great god Thor . . . He looks at houses, tears them down, widens streets, builds over public squares. But he also breaks into houses, crawls through windows, destroys people's lives, kills his enemies, and forgives nothing.—Can you imagine that that little cripple was once a Don Juan? Although he always lost his women. STUDENT: That doesn't make sense. JOHANSSON: Well, you see, he was so cunning that he got the women to leave once he tired of them . . . However, now he's like a horse thief, only with people. He steals them, in all kinds of ways . . . He literally stole me out of the hands of justice . . . I had committed a . . . blunder that only he knew about. Instead of turning me in, he made me his slave, which is what I do, just for my food, which is nothing to brag a b o u t . . . STUDENT: What does he want to do in this house? JOHANSSON: Well, I wouldn't want to say. It's so complicated. STUDENT: I think I'd better get out of here . . . (The YOUNG LADY drops her bracelet through the window.) JOHANSSON: Look, the young lady's dropped her bracelet through the win­ dow . . . (The STUDENT crosses slowly to the bracelet, picks it up, and hands it to the YOUNG LADY, who thanks him stiffly. The STUDENT crosses back to JOHANSSON.) So, you were thinking about leaving, eh? . . . It's not as easy as you think, once the old man's dropped his net over your head . . . And he's afraid of nothing between heaven and earth . .. well, except for one thing, or rather one person . . . STUDENT: Wait, I think I know who!

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How could you know that? STUDENT: Fm guessing!—Is i t . . . a little milkmaid that he's afraid of? JOHANSSON: He always turns away when he sees a milk wagon... and then he talks in his sleep. You see, he was once in Hamburg . . . STUDENT: Can anyone believe this man? JOHANSSON: You can believe him—capable of anything! STUDENT: What is he doing around the corner? JOHANSSON: Listening to the poor people . . . Planting ideas here and there, pulling out bricks, one at a time, until the house collapses . . . meta­ phorically speaking . . . You see, Fm an educated man; I was once a bookseller . . . Are you going to leave now? STUDENT: I don't want to seem ungrateful... The man saved my father once, and now he's only asking a small favor in return . .. JOHANSSON: What's that? STUDENT: Fm going to see The Valkyrie ... JOHANNSON: That's beyond me . . . He's always coming up with a new idea . . . Look, now he's talking to the police. He's always close with the police. He uses them, involves them in his schemes, binds them hand and foot with false hopes and promises. All the while he pumps them for informa­ tion.—You'll see—before the day is over he'll be received in the Round Room. STUDENT: What does he want there? What is there between him and the Colonel? JOHANSSON: Well, I have my suspicions, but I'm not sure. You'll just have to see for yourself when you get there . . . STUDENT: I'll never get in there . .. JOHANSSON: That depends on you.—Go to The Valkyrie ... STUDENT: Is that the way? JOHANSSON: If he said it was.—Look, look at him, in his war chariot, drawn in triumph by beggars who get nothing for their pains but the vague prom­ ise of a handout at his funeral! (The OLD MAN enters standing in his wheelchair, drawn by one of the BEGGARS, and followed by others.) OLD MAN: Hail the noble youth, who at the risk of his own life, rescued so many in yesterday's accident! Hail, Arkenholz! (The BEGGARS bare their heads but do not cheer. At the window the YOUNG LADY waves her handkerchief The COLONEL stares out his window. The OLD WOMAN rises at her window. The MAID on the balcony raises the flag to the top.) Clap your hands, my fellow citizens! It's Sunday, it's true, but the ass in the well and the stalk in the field give us absolution. Even though I'm not a Sunday child, I have both the spirit of prophecy and the gift of healing, for once I brought a drowned person back to life . . . Yes, it was in Hamburg on a

Sunday afternoon just like this o n e . . . (The MILKMAID enters, seen only by the STUDENT and the OLD MAN. She reaches out with her arms, like someone drowning, and stares at the OLD MAN, who sits down and shrinks back in terror.) Johansson! Push me out of here! Quickly—Arkenholz, don't forget The Valkyrie! STUDENT: What is all this? JOHANSSON: We'll have to wait and see! Well just have to wait and see!

(The Round Room. Upstage is a white porcelain tile stove, studded with mirrors and flanked by a pendulum clock and a candelabra. To the right the entrance hall, through which can be seen a green room with mahogany furniture. To the left a wallpaper-covered door leading to a closet Further left the statue, shadowed by potted palms; it can be concealed by draperies. Upstage left is the door to the Hyacinth Room, where the YOUNG LADY sits reading. The COLONEL is visible, his back to the audience, writing in the green room. BENGTSSON, the footman, dressed in livery, enters from the hall with JOHANSSON, who is dressed as a waiter.) BENGTSSON: Johansson, you'll do the serving, and I'll take their clothes. You've done this sort of thing before, haven't you? JOHANSSON: As you know, I push that war chariot around during the day, but in the evenings I work as a waiter at receptions. Besides, it's always been my dream to come into this house . . . They're peculiar people, aren't they? BENGTSSON: Well, yes, a little unusual, you might say. JOHANSSON: Is it going to be a musical evening, or what? BENGTSSON: Just the usual ghost supper, as we call it. They drink tea and never say a word, or else the Colonel does all the talking. And they nibble on cookies, all at the same time, so that it sounds like rats nibbling in an attic. JOHANSSON: Why is it called a ghost supper? BENGTSSON: They look like ghosts . . . And this has been going on for twenty years, always the same people, saying the same things, or else too ashamed to say anything. JOHANSSON: Isn't there a lady of the house too? BENGTSSON: Oh yes, but she's queer in the head. She sits in a closet, because her eyes can't stand the light. . . She's right in there . . . (points to the wallpaper-covered door) JOHANSSON: In there? BENGTSSON: Well, I told you they were a little unusual.. . JOHANSSON: How does she look?


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Like a mummy . . . Do you want to see her? (opens the door) See, there she is! JOHANSSON: Oh, Jesus .. . MUMMY (like a baby): Why did you open the door? Haven't I told you to keep it s h u t ? . . . BENGTSSON (using baby talk): Ta, ta, ta, ta! Sweetums must be good, then you'll get something nice!—Pretty polly! MUMMY (like a parrot): Pretty polly! Is Jacob there? Awwk! BENGTSSON: She thinks she's a parrot, and who knows?, maybe she is. . . (to the MUMMY) Polly, whistle a little for us. (She whistles.) JOHANSSON: I've seen lots in my life, but this beats everything! BENGTSSON: You see, when a house gets old, it gets moldy. And when people sit around tormenting each other for so long, they get crazy. Now the madam here—quiet Polly!—this mummy has been sitting here for forty years—same husband, same furniture, same relatives, same friends . . . (closes the wallpaper-covered door) Even I don't know everything that's gone on in this house . . . Do you see this statue? . . . that's the madam when she was young! JOHANSSON: Oh, my God!—Is that the Mummy? BENGTSSON: Yes!—It's enough to make you cry!—And somehow or other— the power of imagination, maybe—she's taken on some of the qualities of a real parrot.—For instance, she can't stand cripples or sick people . . . That's why she can't stand the sight of her own daughter... JOHANSSON: Is the young lady sick? BENGTSSON: Didn't you know that? JOHANSSON: No! .. . And the Colonel, who is he? BENGTSSON: You'll have to wait and see! JOHANSSON: (looking at the statue): It's terrible to think t h a t . . . How old is the madam now? BENGTSSON: No one knows... but they say that when she was thirty-five, she looked nineteen, and convinced the Colonel that she was . . . In this house . . . Do you know what that black Japanese screen is for, there, next to the chaise longue?—It's called the death screen, and when someone is dying, it's put up around them, just like in a hospital... JOHANSSON: What a horrible place! . . . And the student wants to come here because he thinks it's a paradise . . . BENGTSSON: What student? Oh, him! The one who's coming here this evening . . . The Colonel and the young lady met him at the opera and were taken by him . . . H m m ! . . . Now it's my turn to ask questions: Who is your master? the businessman in the wheelchair? JOHANSSON: Yes.—Is he coming here too?

BENGTSSON: He's not invited. JOHANSSON: If necessary, he'll come uninvited . . . {The OLD MAN appears in the hallway, dressed in a frock coat. He steals forward on his crutches to eavesdrop.) BENGTSSON: I hear he's an old crook! JOHANSSON: Full blown! BENGTSSON: He looks like the devil himself! JOHANSSON: And he must be a magician too!—for he can go through locked doors... OLD MAN {crosses and grabs JOHANSSON by the ear): Rascal!—You watch your step! {to BENGTSSON) Announce me to the Colonel! BENGTSSON: Yes, but we're expecting guests... OLD MAN: I know that! But my visit is as good as expected, if not exactly looked forward to . . . BENGTSSON: Is that so? And what was the name? Director Hummel! OLD MAN: Precisely! (BENGTSSON crosses to the hallway and enters the green room, closing the door behind him. The OLD MAN turns to JOHANSSON.) Disappear! (JOHANSSON hesitates.) Disappear! (JOHANSSON disappears into the hallway. The OLD MAN inspects the room, stopping in front of the statue in great astonishment.) Amalia! . . . It's she! . . . She! {He wanders about the room fingering things; he straightens his wig in front of the mirror', and returns to the statue.) MUMMY {from within the closet): Pretty polly! OLD MAN {wincing): What was that? Is there a parrot in the room? I don't see one! MUMMY: Is Jacob there? OLD MAN: The place is haunted!
MUMMY: Jaaaacob!

OLD MAN: I'm scared . . . So, these are the secrets they've been hiding in this house! {He looks at a painting, his back turned to the closet.) There he is! . . . He! {The MUMMY comes out of the closet, goes up to him from behind, and yanks on his wig.) MUMMY: Squir-rel! Is it Squir-rel? OLD MAN {badly frightened): Oh my God!—Who are you? MUMMY {in a normal voice): Is it you, Jacob? OLD MAN: As a matter of fact, my name is Jacob . . . MUMMY {moved): And my name is Amalia. OLD MAN: Oh, no, no, no . . . Lord Je . . . MUMMY: Yes, this is how I look!—And {pointing to the statue) that's how I used to look! Life teaches us so much.—I stay in the closet mostly, to

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avoid both seeing people and being seen . . . But what do you want here, Jacob? OLD MAN: My child! Our child .. . MUMMY: She's in there. OLD MAN: Where? MUMMY: There, in the hyacinth room. OLD MAN (looking at the YOUNG LADY): Yes, there she is. (pause) What does her father say? The Colonel? Your husband? MUMMY: Once, when I was angry at him, I told him everything . . . OLD MAN: And? MUMMY: He didn't believe me. He just said: "That's what all wives say when they want to murder their husbands."—Even so, it was a terrible crime. Everything in his life is a forgery, his family tree too. Sometimes when I look at the List of the Nobility, I think to myself: "Why, that woman has a false birth certificate, like a common servant girl. People get sent to prison for that." OLD MAN: Many people do that. I seem to remember you falsified your age . . . MUMMY: My mother made me . . . it wasn't my fault!... But in our crime you were most responsible . . . OLD MAN: No, your husband provoked the crime when he stole my fiancee away from me!—I was born unable to forgive until I've punished! I saw it as a compelling duty .. . and still do! MUMMY: What are you looking for in this house? What do you want? How did you get in?—Is it my daughter? If you touch her, you'll die! OLD MAN: I want what's best for her. MUMMY: But you must spare her father! OLD MAN: No! MUMMY: Then you shall die. In this room. Behind that screen . . . OLD MAN: That may be . . . but once I sink my teeth into something, I can't let go... MUMMY: You want to marry her off to that student. Why? He has nothing and is nothing. OLD MAN: He'll become rich, through me! MUMMY: Were you invited here this evening? OLD MAN: No, but I intend to get an invitation to the ghost supper. MUMMY: Do you know who's coming? OLD MAN: Not exactly. MUMMY: The Baron . . . who lives upstairs and whose father-in-law was buried this afternoon . . .

OLD MAN: The one who's getting divorced so he can marry the superinten­ dent's daughter . . . the one who was once your—lover! MUMMY: Another guest will be your former fiancee, whom my husband seduced... OLD MAN: What an elegant gathering . .. MUMMY: God, if only we could die! If only we could die! OLD MAN: Then why do you associate with each other? MUMMY: Crimes and secrets and guilt bind us together!—We've broken up and gone our separate ways an endless number of times, but we're always drawn back together again . . . OLD MAN: I think the Colonel's coming . .. MUMMY: Then I'll go in to Adele . . . (pause) Jacob, mind what you do! Spare him . .. (pause; she leaves.) COLONEL (entering; cool, reserved): Won't you sit down? (The OLD MAN sits down slowly; pause; the COLONEL stares at him.) Are you the one who wrote this letter? Yes. COLONEL: Your name is Hummel? OLD MAN: Yes. (pause) COLONEL: Since I know you bought up all my unpaid promissory notes, it follows that I am at your mercy. What is it you want? OLD MAN: Payment of one kind or another. COLONEL: What kind did you have in mind? OLD MAN: A very simple one—but let's not talk about money.—Just tolerate me in your house as a guest. COLONEL: If that's all it takes to satisfy you . . . OLD MAN: Thank you. COLONEL: Anything else? OLD MAN: Fire Bengtsson! COLONEL: Why should I do that? My trusted servant, who's been with me for a generation—who wears the national medal for loyal and faithful ser­ vice? Why should I do that? OLD MAN: All his beautiful virtues exist only in your imagination.—He's not the man he appears to be.
OLD MAN: COLONEL: But who is?

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OLD MAN (winces): True! But Bengtsson must go! COLONEL: Are you trying to run my house? OLD MAN: Yes! Since I own everything here: furniture, curtains, dinner ser­ vice, linen . . . and other things! COLONEL: What other things?


OLD MAN: Everything! I own everything! It's all mine! COLONEL: Very well, it's all yours. But my family's coat of arms, and my good name—they remain mine! OLD MAN: No, not even those! (pause) You're not a nobleman. COLONEL: How dare you? OLD MAN (taking out a paper): If you read this extract from the Book of Noble Families, you'll see that the name you bear died out a hundred years ago. COLONEL (reading): I've certainly heard such rumors, but the name I bear was my father's . . . (reading) It's true, you're right. . . I'm not a noble­ man!—Not even that remains!—Then I'll take off my signet ring.—It too belongs to you . . . Here, take it! OLD MAN (pocketing the ring): Now we'll continue!—You're not a colonel either.
COLONEL: I'm not?


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OLD MAN: No! You were a former temporary colonel in the American Volunteers, but when the army was reorganized after the Spanish-American War, all such ranks were abolished . . . COLONEL: Is that true? OLD MAN (reaching into his pocket): Do you want to read about it? COLONEL: No, it's not necessary! . .. Who are you, that you have the right to sit there and strip me naked like this? OLD MAN: We'll see! But speaking about stripping . . . do you know who you really are? COLONEL: Have you no sense of shame? OLD MAN: Take off your wig and look at yourself in the mirror! Take out your false teeth too, and shave off your mustache! We'll have Bengtsson un­ lace your corset, and we'll see if a certain servant, Mr. XYZ, won't recog­ nize himself: a man who was once a great sponger in a certain kitchen . . . (The COLONEL reaches for the bell on the table but is stopped by the OLD MAN.) Don't touch that bell! If you call Bengtsson in here, I'll have him arrested . . . Your guests are arriving.—You keep calm and we'll continue to play our old roles awhile longer! Who are you? I recognize that expression in your eyes and that tone in your voice . . . OLD MAN: No more questions! Just keep quiet and do as you're told! STUDENT (enters and bows to the COLONEL): Good evening, sir! COLONEL: Welcome to my home, young man! Everyone is talking about your heroism at that terrible accident, and it's an honor for me to greet you . . . STUDENT: Colonel, my humble origin . . . Your brilliant name and noble background . ..


Let me introduce you: Director Hummel, Mr. Arkenholz . . . Would you go in and join the ladies? I have to finish my conversation with the director . . . (The STUDENT is shown into the Hyacinth Room, where he remains visible, engaged in shy conversation with the YOUNG LADY.) A superb young man, musical, sings, writes poetry . . . If he were a nobleman and our equal socially, I would have nothing against... yes . . . OLD MAN: Against what?
COLONEL: My daughter . . .

OLD MAN: Your daughter?—By the way, why does she always sit in there? COLONEL: Whenever she's at home, she feels compelled to sit in the Hya­ cinth Room. It's a peculiar habit she has. . . Ah, here comes Miss Beate von Holsteinkrona . . . a charming old lady . .. Very active in the church and with a modest income from a trust... OLD MAN (to himself): My old fiancee! (The FIANCEE enters; she is whitehaired and looks crazy.) COLONEL: Director Hummel, Miss Holsteinkrona . . . (She curtsies and sits. The BARON enters, dressed in mourning and looking as if he is hiding something; he sits.) Baron Skanskorg .. . OLD MAN (to himself, without rising): If it isn't the jewel thief . . . (to the COLONEL) Call in the Mummy, and the party will be complete . . . COLONEL (at the door to the Hyacinth Room): Polly! MUMMY (entering): Squir-rel! COLONEL: Should the young people be in here too? OLD MAN: No! Not the young people! They'll be spared . . . (They all sit in silence in a circle.) COLONEL: Can we have the tea served? OLD MAN: What for? No one here likes tea, so there's no use pretending we do. (pause) COLONEL: Shall we talk then? OLD MAN (slowly, with long pauses): About what: the weather, which we all know? Ask about each other's health, which we also know? I prefer silence. Then you can hear thoughts and see into the past. In silence you can't hide anything . . . as you can in words. The other day I read that the reason different languages developed was that primitive tribes tried to keep secrets from each other. And so languages are codes, and whoever finds the key will understand them all. But there are certain secrets that can be exposed without a key, especially when it comes to proving pater­ nity. But proving something in a courtroom is something else. That takes two false witnesses, providing their stories agree. But on the kinds of expeditions I'm thinking of, witnesses aren't taken along. Nature itself plants in human beings an instinct for hiding that which should be hidden. Nevertheless, we stumble into things without intending to, and

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sometimes the opportunity presents itself to reveal the deepest of secrets, to tear the mask off the imposter, to expose the villain . . . {pause; all watch each other without speaking.) How quiet it's become! {long silence) Here, for instance, in this honorable house, in this lovely home, where beauty, culture, and wealth are united . . . {long silence) All of us know who we a r e . . . don't we? . . . I don't have to tell you . . . And you know me, although you pretend ignorance . . . In there is my daughter, mine! You know that too . . . She had lost the desire to live, without knowing w h y . . . because she was withering away in this atmosphere of crime, deceit, and falseness of every kind . . . That's why I looked for a friend for her in whose company she could sense the light and warmth of a noble deed . . . {long silence) And so my mission in this house was to pull up the weeds, expose the crimes, settle all accounts, so that those young people might start anew in a home that I had given them! {long silence) Now I'm going to give you a chance to leave, under safe-conduct, each of you, in your own time. Whoever stays, I'll have arrested! {long silence) Listen to the clock ticking, like a death watch beetle in the wall! Do you hear what it says? "Time's-up! Time's-up! " In a few moments it'll strike and your time will be up. Then you may go, but not before. But it sounds a threat before it strikes.—Listen! There's the warning: "The clock-canstrike." 1 too can strike .. . {He strikes the table with his crutch.) Do you hear? {silence; the MUMMY crosses to the clock and stops it.) MUMMY {clearly and seriously): But I can stop time in its course.—I can wipe out the past, undo what has been undone. Not with bribes, not with threats—but through suffering and repentance {crosses to the OLD MAN) We are only wretched human beings, we know that. We have trespassed and we have sinned, like all the rest. We are not what we seem, for deep down we are better than ourselves, since we detest our faults. But that you, Jacob Hummel, with your false name, can sit here and judge us, proves that you are worse than we miserable creatures! You too are not what you seem!—You're a thief who steals souls. You stole mine once with false promises. You murdered the Consul who was buried today; you strangled him with debts. You stole the Student by binding him to a debt you pretended was left by his father, who never owed you a penny. {During her speech, the OLD MAN has tried to rise and speak but has fallen back in his chair, crumpling up more and more as she continues.) But there's a dark spot in your life. I've long suspected what it is, but I'm not sure . . . I think Bengtsson knows, {rings the bell on the table) OLD MAN: No, not Bengtsson! Not him! MUMMY: Ah, then he does know! {She rings again. The little MILKMAID appears in the hallway door, unseen by everyone except the OLD MAN, who becomes terrified. The MILKMAID disappears as BENGTSSON enters.) MUMMY: Bengtsson, do you know this man?


I know him, and he knows me. Life has its ups and downs, as we all know. I was once in his service; another time he was in mine. For two whole years he was a sponger who used to flirt with the cook in my kitchen.—Because he had to get away by three o'clock, dinner was ready by two. And so we had to eat the warmed-over leavings of that ox!— And he also drank the soup stock, which the cook then filled up with water. He was like a vampire, sucking the marrow out of the house and turning us all into skeletons.—And he almost got us put in prison when we called the cook a thief. Later, I met him in Hamburg under another name. This time he was a usurer, a bloodsucker. And he was accused of having lured a girl out onto the ice to drown her, because she had witnessed a crime he was afraid would be discovered . . . {The MUMMY passes her hand across the OLD MAN'S face.) MUMMY: This is you! Now give me the notes and the will! (JOHANSSON appears in the hallway door and watches the proceedings with great interest, knowing that he will shortly be freed from his slavery. The OLD MAN takes out a bundle of papers and throws them on the table. The MUMMY strokes him on the back.) Polly! Is Jacob there? OLD MAN {like a parrot): Ja-cob is there!—Kakadora! Dora! MUMMY: Can the clock strike? OLD MAN {clucking): The clock can strike! {imitating a cuckoo clock) Cuck-oo, cuck-oo, cuck-oo!... MUMMY {opens the closet door): Now the clock has struck!—Get up and go into that closet, where I've spent twenty years grieving for our mistake.— There's a rope hanging in there. Let it stand for the one you used to stran­ gle the Consul upstairs, and with which you intended to strangle your benefactor . . . Go! {The OLD MAN goes into the closet. The MUMMY closes the door.) Bengtsson! Put out the screen! The death screen! (BENGTSSON puts the screen out in front of the door.) It is finished!—May God have mercy on his soul! ALL: Amen! {long silence; in the Hyacinth Room the YOUNG LADY can be seen accompanying the STUDENT on the harp as he recites.) STUDENT: {after a prelude): I saw the sun, and thought I saw what was hidden. You cannot heal with evil deeds done in anger. Man reaps as he sows; blessed is the doer of good. Comfort him you have grieved with your goodness, and you will have healed. No fear has he who has done no ill; goodness is innocence.


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(The Hyacinth Room. The style of the decor is somewhat bizarre, with oriental motifs. Hyacinths ofevery color everywhere. On top of the porcelain tiled stove is a large statue of a seated Buddha. In his lap is a bulb, out of which the stalk ofa shallot has shot up, bearing its globe-shaped cluster of white, starlike flowers. Upstage right the door to the Round Room, where the COLONEL and the MUMMY sit silently, doing nothing. A portion of the death screen is also visible. To the left the door to the pantry and the kitchen. The STUDENT and the YOUNG LADY, Adele, are near a table, she with the harp, he standing.) YOUNG LADY: Sing for my flowers! STUDENT: Is the hyacinth the flower of your soul? YOUNG LADY: The one and only. Do you love the hyacinth? STUDENT: I love it above all others—its virginal figure rising so slim and straight from the bulb, floating on the water and sending its pure white roots down into the colorless fluid. I love its colors: the snow-white of innocence, the honey-gold of sweetness and pleasure, the rosy pink of youth, the scarlet of maturity, but above all the blue, the blue of deep eyes, of dew, of faithfulness... I love its colors more than gold and pearls, have loved them since I was a child, have worshipped them because they possess all the virtues I lack . . . And yet.. .

My love is not returned, for these lovely blossoms hate me . . .

YOUNG LADY: How do you mean?

Their fragrance—strong and pure as the early winds of spring that have passed over melting snow—it confuses my senses, deafens me, crowds me out of the room, dazzles me, shoots me with poisoned arrows that wound my heart and set my head on fire. Don't you know the legend of this flower? YOUNG LADY: Tell me. STUDENT: But first its meaning. The bulb, whether floating on water or buried in soil, is our earth. The stalk shoots up, straight as the axis of the world, and above, with its six-pointed star flowers, is the globe of heaven.

YOUNG LADY: Above the earth—the stars! How wonderful! Where did you

learn to see things this way? Let me think!—In your eyes!—And so this flower is a replica of the universe . . . That's why the Buddha sits brooding over the bulb of the earth in his lap, watching it grow outwards and upwards, transforming itself into a heaven.—This wretched earth aspires to become heaven! That's what the Buddha is waiting for! YOUNG LADY: Now I see—aren't snowflakes also six-pointed, like hyacinth lilies?

STUDENT: You're right!—Then snowflakes are falling stars . . . YOUNG LADY: And the snowdrop is a snow star . . . rising from the snow. STUDENT: And the largest and most beautiful of all the stars in the firma­ ment, the red and gold Sirius, is the narcissus, with its red and gold chalice and six white rays . . . YOUNG LADY: Have you ever seen the shallot in bloom? STUDENT: I certainly have!—It too bears its flowers in a ball, a sphere like the globe of heaven, strewn with white stars . . . YOUNG LADY: Yes! God, how magnificent! Whose idea was this? STUDENT: Yours!

Ours!—Together we have given birth to something. We are

YOUNG LADY: Not y e t . . . STUDENT:

What else remains?

YOUNG LADY: The waiting, the trials, the patience!

Fine! Try me! (pause) Tell me, why do your parents sit so silently in there, without saying a word? YOUNG LADY: Because they have nothing to say to each other, because nei­ ther believes what the other says. As my father puts it: "What's the point of talking, when we can't fool each other?" STUDENT: What a terrible thing to believe . . YOUNG LADY: Here comes the C o o k . . . Oh, look at her, she's so big and fat... STUDENT: What does she want? YOUNG LADY: She wants to ask me about dinner. I run the house, you see, while my mother is i l l . . . STUDENT: Why should we bother about the kitchen? YOUNG LADY: We have to e a t . . . You look at her, I can't bear to . . . STUDENT: Who is this monstrous woman? YOUNG LADY: She belongs to the Hummel family of vampires. She's devour­ ing u s . . . STUDENT: Why don't you get rid of her? YOUNG LADY: She won't go! We have no control over her. She is punishment for our sins . . . Can't you see that we're wasting away, withering? . . . STUDENT: You mean you don't get enough to eat? YOUNG LADY: Oh yes, we get lots to eat, but nothing nourishing. She boils the meat until there's nothing left but gristle and water, while she drinks the stock herself. And when there's a roast, she first cooks out all the goodness and drinks the gravy and broth. Everything she touches shrivels up and dries out. It's as if she can drain you with her eyes. She drinks the coffee

and we get the grounds. She drinks from the wine and fills the bottles with water . . . STUDENT: Drive her out of the house!
YOUNG LADY: We can't!


STUDENT: Why not? YOUNG LADY: We don't know! She won't go! No one has any control over her!—She's taken all our strength! STUDENT: May I send her away? YOUNG LADY: No! Things must be as they are!—Now she's here. She'll ask what we'll have for dinner. I'll answer this and that. She'll object and get her own way. STUDENT: Then let her decide the meals.
YOUNG LADY: She won't do that!


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This is a strange house. It's bewitched! Yes.—Oh, she turned away when she saw you. COOK (in the door): No, that wasn't why. (She sneers, her teeth showing.) STUDENT: Get out, woman! COOK: When I'm good and ready, (pause) Now I'm ready, (disappears) YOUNG LADY: Don't lose your temper!—You must be patient. She's one of the trials we have to endure in this house. Another is the maid—we have to clean up after her. STUDENT: I feel myself sinking down! Cor in aetherel Music!


Music! Patience!—This room is called the room of trials.—It's beauti­ ful to look at, but it's full of imperfections. . . STUDENT: I can't believe that! But we'll have to overlook them. It is beautiful, but it feels cold. Why don't you have a fire?

YOUNG LADY: Because it smokes.

Can't you have the chimney cleaned? YOUNG LADY: It doesn't help! . . . Do you see that writing table? STUDENT: It's very beautiful. YOUNG LADY: But it wobbles! Every day I put a piece of cork under that leg, but the maid takes it away when she sweeps, and I have to cut a new one. Every morning the penholder is covered with ink, and so is the inkstand. As sure as the sun rises, I'm always cleaning up after that woman, (pause) What chore do you hate most? STUDENT: Separating dirty laundry. Ugh! YOUNG LADY: That's what I have to do. Ugh! STUDENT: What else?


Be awakened from a sound sleep to lock a window . . . which the maid left rattling. STUDENT: What else? YOUNG LADY: Climb a ladder tofixthe damper on the stove after the maid pulled the cord loose. STUDENT: What else? YOUNG LADY: Sweep after her, dust after her, light the stove after her—she'll only put the wood in! Open the damper, wipe the glasses dry, reset the table, uncork the wine bottles, open the windows to air the rooms, re­ make my bed, rinse the water pitcher when it gets green with algae, buy matches and soap, which we're always out of, wipe the lamp chimneys, and trim the wicks to keep the lamps from smoking. And to be sure they won't go out when we have company, I have to fill them myself... STUDENT: Music! YOUNG LADY: Wait!—First, the drudgery, the drudgery of keeping the filth of life at a distance. STUDENT: But you're well off. You've got two servants. YOUNG LADY: It wouldn't help if we had three. It's so difficult just to live, and sometimes I get so tired . . . Imagine if there were a nursery too!
STUDENT: The greatest joy of all. . .


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the most expensive . . . Is life worth this much trouble? STUDENT: That depends on what you want in return . . . I would do anything to win your hand. YOUNG LADY: Don't talk like that!—You can never have me. STUDENT: Why not?
YOUNG LADY: You mustn't ask. (pause)
STUDENT: But you dropped your bracelet out of the window . . . YOUNG LADY: Because my hand has grown so thin . . . (pause; the COOK appears carrying a bottle of Japanese soy sauce.) It's she, who's devouring me, devouring us all. STUDENT: What's she got in her hand? YOUNG LADY: The Japanese bottle with the lettering like scorpions! It's soy sauce to turn water into broth. She uses it instead of gravy when she cooks cabbage and makes mock turtle soup. STUDENT: Get out!


COOK: You suck the juices out of us, and we out of you. We take the blood and give you back water—with coloring. This is colored water!—I'm going now, but I'm staying in this house, as long as I want! (exits) STUDENT: Why did Bengtsson get a medal?
YOUNG LADY: For his great merits.

Has he no faults? YOUNG LADY: Oh yes, terrible ones, but you don't get medals for them. (They smile.) STUDENT: You have many secrets in this house . . . YOUNG LADY: Like everyone else . . . Let us keep ours! (pause) STUDENT: Don't you like frankness?

YOUNG LADY: Yes, within reason.

Sometimes I get a raging desire to say exactly what I think. But I know that if people were really frank and honest, the world would col­ lapse. (pause) I was at a funeral the other day . . . in the church.—It was very solemn and beautiful. Yes, my false benefactor!—At the head of the coffin stood an old friend of the dead man, carrying the funeral mace. I was especially impressed by the minister because of his dignified manner and moving words.—Yes, I cried, we all cried.—Afterwards we went to a restaurant... There I learned that the man with the mace had been in love with the dead man's son . . . (The YOUNG LADY stares at him questioningly.) And that the dead man had borrowed money from his son's . . . admirer . . . (pause) The next day the minister was arrested for embezzling church funds!—Pretty story, isn't it?

YOUNG LADY: For Director Hummel?

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YOUNG LADY: Oh! (pause)

Do you know what I'm thinking now about you? YOUNG LADY: Don't tell me, or I'll die! STUDENT: I must, or I'll die! . . . YOUNG LADY: It's only in asylums that people say everything they think . . . STUDENT: Yes, exactly!—My father ended up in a madhouse . . . YOUNG LADY: Was he ill? STUDENT: No, he was well, but he was crazy. The madness broke out one day, when things became too much for him . . . Like the rest of us, he had a circle of acquaintances, whom, for the sake of convenience, he called friends. Naturally, they were a miserable bunch, as most people are. But he needed them because he couldn't bear to be alone. Well, he didn't ordinarily tell people what he thought of them, any more than anyone else does. He certainly knew how false they were, what treachery they were capable of! . . . However, he was a prudent man, and well brought up, and so he was always polite. But one day he gave a big party.—It was in the evening, and he was tired, tired after the day's work, and tired from the strain of wanting to keep his mouth shut and having to talk nonsense with his guests . . . (The YOUNG LADY shrinks back in horror.) Anyway, at the dinner table, he rapped for silence, raised his glass, and began to talk . . . Then something loosed the trigger, and in a long speech he

stripped everybody naked, one after another, exposing all their falseness! Exhausted, he sat down in the middle of the table and told them all to go to hell!

I was there, and I'll never forget what happened next!... My father and mother fought, and the guests rushed for the door .. . My father was taken to a madhouse, where he died, (pause) When we keep silent for too long, stagnant water starts to form, and everything rots! And that's the way it is in this house too! There's something rotting here! And I thought this was a paradise the first time I saw you enter here . . . On that Sunday morning I stood outside and looked in. I saw a colonel who wasn't a colonel. I had a noble benefactor who was a bandit and had to hang himself. I saw a mummy who was not a mummy, and a maiden—which reminds me: where is virginity to be found? Where is beauty? Only in Nature or in my mind when it's dressed up in Sunday best. Where are honor and faith? In fairy tales and children's games. Where is anything that fulfills its promise? . . . In my imagination!—Do you see? Your flowers have poisoned me, and now I've given the poison back to you.—I begged you to be my wife and share our home. We made poetry, sang, and played, and then in came the C o o k . . . Sursum cordal Try once more to strike fire and splendor from the golden harp . . . try, I beg you, I command you on my knees! . . . Very well, then I'll do it myself! (takes the harp and plucks the strings, but there is no sound) It's deaf and dumb! Why is it that the most beautiful flowers are so poisonous, the most poisonous? Damnation hangs over the whole of creation . . . Why wouldn't you be my bride? Because you're sick at the very source of life . . . I can feel that vampire in the kitchen beginning to drain me. I think she's a lamia who sucks the blood of children. It's always in the kitchen that a child's seed leaves are nipped, its growth stunted, if it hasn't already happened in the bedroom . . . There are poisons that blind you, and poisons that open your eyes.—I must have been born with the second kind in my veins, for I can't see beauty in ugliness or call evil good, I can't! Jesus Christ descended into hell. That was his pilgrimage on this earth: to this madhouse, this dungeon, this morgue of a world. And the madmen killed him when he tried to set them free, but they let the bandit go. It's always the bandit who gets the sympathy!—Alas! Alas for us all! Savior of the World, save us, we are perishing! (The YOUNG LADY, apparently dying, lies crumpled in her chair. She rings and BENGTSSON enters.) Bring the screen! Quickly—I'm dying! (BENGTSSON exits and returns with the screen, which he unfolds and sets up around the YOUNG He's coming to set you free! Welcome, you pale and gentle deliverer!—Sleep, my beautiful one, lost and innocent, blameless in your

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suffering. Sleep without dreaming. And when you awaken again . . . may you be greeted by a sun that does not burn, in a home without dust, by friends who cause no pain, by a love without flaw . . . You wise and gentle Buddha, sitting there waiting for a heaven to rise up out of the earth, grant us patience in the time of testing, and purity of will, so that your hope may not be in vain! (The strings of the harp make a murmuring sound. The room is filled with white light) I saw the sun, and thought I saw what was hidden. You cannot heal with evil deeds done in anger. Man reaps as he sows; blessed is the doer of good. Comfort him you have grieved with your goodness, and you will have healed. No fear has he who has done no ill; goodness is innocence. (A whimpering can be heard from behind the screen.) You poor little child, child of this world of illusion, guilt, suffering, and death; this world of endless change, disappointment, and pain. The Lord of Heaven be mer­ ciful to you on your journey . . . (The room disappears. Bocklins painting, uThe Island of the Dead," appears in the background, and from the island comes music, soft, calm, and gently melancholy.)

Zones of the Spirit
August Strindberg

Through Faith to Knowledge.—The pupil asked: "How shall I know that I believe rightly?" "I will tell you. Doubt the regular denials of your everyday intelligence. Go out of yourself if you can, and place yourself at the believer's standpoint. Act as though you believed, and then test the belief, and see whether it agrees with your experiences. If it does, then you have gained in wisdom, and no one can shake your belief. When I for the first time obtained Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia, and looked through the ten thousand pages, it appeared to me all nonsense. And yet I could not help wondering, since the man was so extraordinarily learned in all the natural sciences, as well as in mathematics, philosophy, and political economy. Amid the apparent foolishness of the book were some details which remained riveted in my memory. "Some time later, in my ordinary life, there happened something inexpli­ cable. Subsequently light was thrown upon this by an experience which Swedenborg refers to as his so-called heaven and his so-called angels. Then I began to search and to compare, to make experiments and to find explana­ tions. I come to the conclusion that Swedenborg has had experiences which resemble those of earthly life, but are not the same. This he brings out in his theory of correspondences and agreements. The theosophists have expressed it thus: parallel with the earth-life we live another life on the astral plane, but unconsciously to ourselves." The Enchanted Room.—The pupil became curious and asked: "What opened your eyes as regards Swedenborg?"
Excerpt reprinted from August Strindberg, Zones of the Spirit, trans. Claud Field (New York: Putnam, 1913), 28-43.

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"It is difficult to say, but I will try to do so. In my lonely dwelling there was a room which I considered the most beautiful in the world. It had not been so beautiful at first, but great and important events had taken place there. A child had been born in it, and in it a man had died. Finally I fitted it up as a temple of memory, and never showed it to anyone. "One day, however, the demon of pride and ostentation took possession of me, and I took a guest into it. He happened to be a 'black man/ a hopeless despairer, who only believed in physical force and in wickedness and called himself 'a load of earth/ As I admitted him I said, 'Now you will see the most beautiful room in the country. I turned on the electric light, which generally poured down from the ceiling such a blaze that not a dark corner was left in the room. The man stood in the middle of the room, looked round, grum­ bled to himself, and said 'I can't see that/ "As he spoke, the room darkened, the walls contracted, the floor shrank in size. My splendid temple was metamorphosed before my eyes. It seemed to me like a room in a hospital, with coarse wallpaper; the beautiful flowered curtains looked dirty; the white surface of the little writing-table showed spots; the gilding was blackened; the brass fittings of the tiled oven were tarnished. The whole room was altered, and I was ashamed. It has been enchanted." Concerning Correspondences.—"Now comes Swedenborg, but his ex­ planation is somewhat difficult. I must make a prefatory remark, in order that you may not think I regard myself as an angel. By 'angel' Swedenborg means a deceased mortal, who by death has been released from the prison of the body, and by suffering in faith has recovered the highest faculties of his soul. It is necessary to bear this definition of Swedenborg's in mind, and to re­ member that it does not apply to my guest or myself. "Swedenborg further remarks regarding these dematerialised beings: 'AH which appears and exists around them seems to be produced and created by them. The fact that their surroundings are, as it were, produced and created by them is evident, because when they are no longer there, the surroundings are altered. A change in the surroundings is also apparent, when other beings come in their place. Elysian plains change into their trees and fruits; gardens change into their roses and plants, and fields into their herbs and grasses. The reason for the appearance and alteration of such objects is that they are produced by the wishes of these angel beings and the currents of thought set in motion thereby/ "Is not this a subtle observation of Swedenborg's, and have not the facts he alleges something corresponding to them in our lower sphere? Does it not resemble my adventure in the 'enchanted room?' Perhaps you have had a similar experience?" The Green Island.—The pupil answered: "I have certainly had strange experiences, but did not understand them because I thought with the flesh. As I just heard you say that our experiences can receive a symbolical inter-

pretation, I remembered an incident which resembled that which you have just related and compared with an observation of Swedenborg's. After a youth spent under intolerable pressure and too much work, a friend gave me a sum of money that I might spend the summer on the sea in literary recreation. When I saw the 'Green Island' with its carpets of flowers, beds of reeds, banks of willows, oak coppices, and hazel woods, I thought that I beheld Paradise. Together with three other young poets I passed the summer in a state of happiness which I have never experienced since. We were fairly religious, although we did not literally believe in the gods of the state, and we lived, as a rule, innocently enough, with simple pleasures such as bathing, sailing, and fishing. "But there was an evil man among us. He was overbearing, and regarded mankind as his enemies, denied all goodness, spied after others7 faults, re­ joiced in others' misfortunes. Every time he left us to go to the town, the island seemed to me more beautiful; it seemed like Sunday. I was always the object of his gibes, but did not understand his malice. My friends wondered that I was not angry with him, as I was generally so passionate. I do not myself understand it, but I was as though protected, and noticed nothing, whatever the cause may have been. Perhaps you ask whether the island really was so wonderful. I answer: I found it so, but perhaps the beauty was in my way of looking at it." Swedenborg's Hell.—The pupil continued: "The next summer I came again, but this time with other companions, and I was another man. The bitterness of life, the spirit of the time, new teachings, evil companionship made me doubt the beneficence of Providence and finally deny its exis­ tence. We led a dreadful life together. We slandered each other, suspected each other even of theft. All wished to dominate, nobody would follow another to the best bathing-place, but each went to his own. We could not sail, for everyone wished to steer. We quarrelled from morning till night. We drank also, and half of us were treating ourselves for incurable diseases. My 'Green Island,' the first paradise of my youth, became ugly and repulsive to me. I could see no more beauty in nature, although at that time I worshipped nature. But wait a minute, and see how it agreed with what Swedenborg says! The beautiful weed-fringed bay began to exhale such miasmas that I got malarial fever. The gnats plagued us the whole night and stung through the thickest veil. If I wandered in the wood and wished to pluck a flower, I saw an adder rear its head. One day, when I took some moss from a rock, I saw immediately a black snake zigzagging away. It was inexplicable. The peace­ able inhabitants must have been infected by our wickedness, for they be­ came malicious, ugly, quarrelsome, and enacted domestic tragedies. It was hell! When I became ill, my companions scoffed at me, and were angry, because I had to have a room to myself. They borrowed money from me which was not my own, and behaved brutally. When I wanted a doctor, they would not fetch him."

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The teacher broke in: "That is how Swedenborg describes hell." Preliminary Knowledge Necessary.—The pupil asked: "Is there a hell?" "You ask that, when you have been in it?" "I mean, another one." "What do you mean by another one? Has your experience not sufficed to convince you that there is one?" "But what does Swedenborg think?" "I don't know. It is possible that he means not a place, but a condition of mind. But as his descriptions of another side agree with our experiences on this side in this point, that whenever a man breaks the connection with the higher sphere, which is Love and Wisdom, a hell ensues—it does not matter whether it is here or there. He uses parables and allegories, as Christ did in order to be understood. "Emerson in his Representative Men regards Swedenborg's genius as the greatest among modern thinkers, but he warns us against stereotyping his forms of thought. True as transitional forms, they are false if one tries to fix them fast. He calls these descriptions a transitory embodiment of the truth, not the truth itself." "But I do not yet understand Swedenborg." "No, because you have not the necessary preliminary knowledge. Just like the peasant who came to a chemical lecture and only heard about letters and numbers. He considered it the most stupid stuff he had ever heard: 'They could only spell, but could not put the letters together/ He lacked the necessary preliminary knowledge. Still, when you read Swedenborg, read Emerson along with him." Perverse Science.—The teacher continued: "Swedenborg never found a contradiction between science and religion, because he beheld the harmony in all, correspondences in the higher sphere to the lower, and the unity underlying opposites. Like Pythagoras, he saw the Law-giver in His laws, the Creator in His work, God in nature, history, and the life of men. Modern degenerate science sees nothing, although it has obtained the telescope and microscope. "Newton, Leibnitz, Kepler, Swedenborg, Linnaeus—the greatest scien­ tists were religious, God-fearing men. Newton wrote also an exposition of the Apocalypse. Kepler was a mystic in the truest sense of the word. It was his mysticism which led to his discovery of the laws regulating the courses of the planets. Humble and pure-hearted, those men could see God, while our decadents only see an ape infested by vermin. "The fact that our science has fallen into disharmony with God shows that it is perverse, and derives its light from the Lord of Dung." Truth in Error.—The teacher continued: "Let us return for a moment to your green island. There you discovered that the world is a reflection of your interior state, and of the interior state of others. It is therefore probable that each carries his own heaven and hell within him. Thus we come to the

conclusion that religion is something subjective, and therefore outside the reach of discussion. "The believer is therefore right when he receives spiritual edification from the consecrated bread and wine. And the unbeliever is also not wrong when he maintains that for him it is only bread and wine. But if he asserts that it is the same with the believer, he is wrong. One ought not to punish him for it; one must only lament his want of intelligence. By calling religion subjective, I have not thereby diminished its power. The subjective is the highest for personality, which is an end in itself, inasmuch as the education of man to superman is the meaning of existence. "But when many individuals combine in one belief, there results an objective force of tremendous intensity, which can move mountains and overthrow the walls of Jericho." Accumulators.—"When a race of wild men begins to worship a meteoric stone and this stone is subsequently venerated by a nation for centuries, it accumulates psychic force, i.e., becomes a sacred object which can bestow strength on those who possess the receptive apparatus of faith. It can accord­ ingly work miracles which are quite incomprehensible to unbelievers. "Such a sacred object is called an amulet, and is not really more remark­ able than an electric pocket-lamp. But the lamp gives light only on two conditions—that it is charged with electricity and that one presses the knob. Amulets also only operate under certain conditions. "The same holds true of sacred places, sacred pictures and objects, and also of sacred rites, which are called sacraments. "But it may be dangerous for an unbeliever to approach too near to an accumulator. The faith-batteries of others can produce an effect on them, and they may be killed thereby, if they possess not the earth-circuit to carry off the coarser earthly elements. "The electric car proceeds securely and evenly as long as it is in contact with the overhead wire and also connected with the earth. If the former contact is interrupted, the car stands still. If the earth-circuit is blocked, an electric storm is the result, as was the case with St. Paul on the way to Damascus." Eternal Punishment.—The pupil asked: "What is your belief regarding eternal punishments?" "Let me answer evasively, so to speak: since wickedness is its own punish­ ment and a wicked man cannot be happy and the will is free, an evil man may be perpetually tormented with his own wickedness, and his punishment accordingly have no end. "But we will hope that the wicked man will not adhere to his evil will for ever. A wicked man often experiences a change of nature when he sees something good. Therefore, it is our duty to show him what is good. The consciousness of fatality and being damned comes to everyone, even to the incredulous. That proves that there is an inborn sense of justice, a need to

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punish oneself, and that quite independent of dogmas. Moreover, it is a gross falsehood that the doctrine of hell was invented by Christianity. Greeks and Romans knew Hades and Tartarus with their refined tortures; the Jews had their Sheol and Gehenna; the cheerful Japanese rival Dante with their Inferno. It is therefore thoughtless nonsense to make Christian theology solely responsible for the doctrine of hell. It would be just as fair to trace it to the cheerful view of life of the Greeks and Romans, who first came upon the idea." "Desolation."—The teacher continued: "When this feeling of fatality strikes an unbeliever, it often appears as the so-called persecution mania. He believes himself, for example, persecuted by men who wish to poison him. Since his intelligence is so low that he cannot rise to the idea of God, his evil conscience makes him conjure up evil men as his persecutors. Thus he does not understand that it is God who is pursuing him, and therefore he dies or goes mad. "But he who has strength enough to bow himself, or intelligence enough to guess at a method in this madness, cries to God for help and grace, and escapes the madhouse. After a season of self-chastisement, life begins to grow lighter; peace returns; he succeeds in his undertakings; his 'Green Island' again blooms with spring. This feeling of woebegoneness often occurs about the fortieth or fiftieth year. It is the balancing of books at the solstice. The whole past is summed up, and the debit side shows a plus which makes one despair. Scenes of earlier life pass by like a panorama, seen in a new light; long-forgotten incidents reappear even in their smallest details. The opening of the sealed Book of Life, spoken of in the Revelation, is a veritable reality. It is the day of judgment. The children of the Lord of Dung who have lost their intelligence understand nothing, but buy bromide at the chemist's and take sick-leave because of 'neurasthenia/ That is a Greek word, which serves them as an amulet. "Swedenborg calls this natural process the desolation of the wicked. The pietists call it the awakening before conversion." A World of Delusion.—"Swedenborg writes: T h e angels are troubled concerning the darkness on earth. They say that they can see hardly any light anywhere, that men live and strengthen themselves in lying and deceit and so heap up falsity upon falsity. In order to ratify these, they manage to extract, by way of inference, such true propositions from false premises, as from the darknesses which conceal the true sources, and, because the real state of the case is unknown, cannot be refuted/ "This agrees with what every thinking man observes: that lying and deceit are universal. The whole of life—politics, society, marriage, the fam­ ily—is counterfeit. Views which universally prevail are based upon false history; scientific theories are founded on error; the truth of today is dis­ covered to be a lie tomorrow; the hero turns out to be a coward, the martyr a hypocrite. Te Deums are sung over a silver wedding, and the wedded pair,

still secretly leading immoral lives, thank God that they have lived together happily for five-and-twenty years. The whole populace assembles once in a year to celebrate the memory of the 'Destroyer of the Country/ He who says the most foolish thing possible receives a prize in money and a gold medal. At the annual asses' festival, the worst is crowned the asses' king. "A mad world, my masters! If Hamlet plays the madman, he sees how mad the world is. But the spectator believes himself to be the only reason­ able person; therefore, he gives Hamlet his sympathy."



assily Kandinsky, painter, playwright, and theorist, was born on December 4, 1866, in Moscow. After studying law at Moscow University, he lectured on jurisprudence there un­ til 1896, when he declined a professorship at the University of Dorpat to study painting in Munich. There he was able to gain traditional train­ ing as a painter while associating with many young experimental artists working in Munich at the turn of the century. In 1908, Kandinsky began to create Expressionist landscapes, and, from this point on, he moved steadily in his painting toward more abstract visual forms. Along with Franz Marc, he founded Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in 1911, a group that embraced a wide range of art devoted to the exploration of the artist's inner life. In 1912, Kandinsky and Marc edited Der Blaue Reiter Almanach, which in­ cluded the first publication of Kandinsky's Dergelbe Klang (The Yellow Sound, a.k.a. The Yellow Chord), with "On Stage Composition" as its introduction. Written in 1909, this play occupies a significant place in the history of theater as one of the first abstract dramas (itself barely anticipated by the ideas in the Russian com­ poser Scriabin's Prometheus [ 1909-10]) and also one of the earliest of modern light-and-sound "events." Its musical score, by the Russian composer Thomas von Hartmann, was unfortunately lost during the Russian Revolution. At about the same time as he was writing The Yellow Sound together with The Green Sound (1909), Black and White (1909), and Violet (1911), Kandinsky pub­ lished his main theoretical tract on modern art, Ober das Geistige in der Kunst (Concerning the Spiritual in Art, 1911), in which he advocated the creation of increasingly nonobjective art, free from the confines of physical representa­ tion. As a member of the Bauhaus beginning in 1922, Kandinsky continued to


influence the development of this movement—whose primary goals, like his, were to reunite the arts, break down the barriers between artists and crafts­ men, and make artistic products available to the common people as well as make them an integral part of daily life—until it was shut down by the Nazis in 1933. He died on December 13, 1944, in Paris.



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The Yellow Sound as a Total Work of Art

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M nspired by the Wagnerian notion of Gesamtkunstwerk, Kandinsky | aimed at creating a synthetic genre—the total work of art. Argu^ ™ ing, however, that the Wagnerian concept is based exclusively on the principles of representational art, in which all connections between IJJF and within different arts are artificial and external, Kandinsky offered his own model of the Gesamtkunstwerk. He named his new model a stage composition, a form centered on the principle of internal spiritual connections between sound, movement, and color. Kandinsky first presented his concept of purely theatrical, synthetic form and its relationship to the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk in his theoretical manifesto "On Stage Composition" (1912). Kandinsky's own stage compositions The Yellow Sound, Daphnis and Chloe, Black and White, Violet, and The Green Sound were written in the early 1900s, simultaneously with his first attempts to break away from naturalism in art and create abstract painting. By renouncing the material object and the human figure in abstract painting, Kandinsky established a new relationship between form and color. Similarly, by renouncing individualized character and psychological motivation in stage composition, Kandinsky introduced a purely theatrical, ecstatically spectacular form that would have an exclusively spiritual, even regenerative relation with its audience. Unlike Wagner, Kandinsky contended that the three elements of his Gesamtkunstwerk—sound, movement, and color—should not have external or narrative connections with each other. Kandinsky rejected the governing triad of realistic drama—psychology, causality, and morality or providentiality—and created his own formula in which the causal-motivational relationships among characters and events were replaced by the internal or subjective causality contained in sound, movement, and color. In Kandinsky's triad, the function of psychology was taken over by different colors and their psychological effect on the audience. And even though Kandinsky argued for the independence of all three elements in his triad, color actually dictated the action. Color, in its relation to music and dance and vice versa, replaced not only psychology in the triad, but also causeand-effect relationships, for changes in color programmed the movements of the other elements in Kandinsky's composition. While completely repudiating representational, realistic art in The Yellow Sound, Kandinsky embraced some models of avant-garde drama and prefigured others. Influenced by the principles of Gesamtkunstwerk and the Symbolist theory of "correspondences"—the idea that there exists an inner, spiritual reciprocity among the arts, whose different forms can potentially affect the same senses—Kandinsky also explored some of the themes of Expressionistic drama, such as the eternal contradiction between Dionysian frenzy (yellow) and Apollonian "classicism" (blue) and the never-ending battle between the spiritual and the physical. In emphasizing the importance of collage and the juxtaposition of different arts within a total work of art, he also anticipated the Dadaist theories
By Julia Listengarten. Published here for the first time.

of automatic writing, chance collages, and random stage compositions. Finally, however, The Yellow Sound in its pure form cannot be identified with any particu­ lar avant-garde movement: instead, it is sui generis, presenting its own form and perhaps its own movement.

Select Bibliography on Kandinsky
Berghaus, Gunter. "A Theatre of Image, Sound, and Motion." Maske und Kothurn 32.1 - 2 (1986): 7-28. Grohmann, Will. Woss/7y Kandinsky: Life and Work. Trans. Norbert Guterman. New York: Abrams, 1958. Kobialka, Michael. "Theatre of Celebration/Disruption: Time and Space/Timespace in Kandinsky's Theatre Experiments." Theatre Annual 44 (1989-90): 71 -96. Sheppard, R. W. "Kandinsky's Abstract Drama Der Gelbe Klang: An Interpretation." Forum for Modern Language Studies 14(1975): 165-76. Swoope, Charles. "Kandinsky and Kokoschka: Two Episodes in the Genesis of Total The­ atre." Yale/Theatre 3.1 (Fall 1970): 11-18.

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T h e Yellow Sound A Stage Composition
Wassily Kandinsky


TENOR (behind the stage)

(behind the stage) [Thomas von Hartmann was responsible for the music]

Some indeterminate chords from the orchestra. Curtain. Over the stage, dark-blue twilight, which at first has a pale tinge and later becomes a more intense dark blue. After a time, a small light becomes visible in the center, increasing in brightness as the color becomes deeper. After a time, music from the orchestra. Pause. Behind the stage, a CHORUS is heard, which must be so arranged that the source of the singing is unrecognizable. The bass voices predominate. The singing is even, without expression, with pauses indicated by dots.
Reprinted from Arnold Schoenberg, Wassily Kandinsky: Letters, Pictures, and Documents, ed. Jelena Hahl-Koch; trans. John C. Crawford (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), 489-507.

At first, DEEP VOICES.

Stone-hard dreams.... And speaking rocks... . Clods of earth pregnant with puzzling questions.... The heaven t u r n s . . . . The stones.... m e l t . . . . Growing up more invisible . . . rampart....

Tears and laughter.... Praying and cursing... . Joy of reconciliation and blackest slaughter.

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Murky light on the . . . sunniest... day (Quickly and suddenly cut off). Brilliant shadows in darkest night!! The light disappears. It grows suddenly dark. Long pause. Then orchestral introduction.


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{Right and left as seen by the spectator.) The stage must be as deep as possible. A long way back, a broad green hill. Behind the hill a smooth, matt, blue, fairly dark-toned curtain. The music begins straightaway, at first in the higher registers, then descending immediately to the lower. At the same time, the background becomes dark blue (in time with the music) and assumes broad black edges (like a picture). Behind the stage can be heard a chorus, without words, which produces an entirely wooden and mechanical sound, without feeling. After the CHOIR has finished singing, a general pause: no movement, no sound. Then darkness. Later, the same scene is illuminated. Five bright yellow GIANTS (as big as possible) appear from right to left (as if hovering directly above the ground). They remain standing next to one another right at the back, some with raised, others with lowered shoulders, and with strange, yellow faces which are indistinct. Very slowly, they turn their heads toward one another and make simple arm movements. The music becomes more definite. Immediately afterward, the GIANTS' very low singing, without words, becomes audible (pp), and the GIANTS approach the ramp very slowly. Quickly, red, indistinct creatures, somewhat reminiscent of birds, fly from left to right, with big heads, bearing a distant resemblance to human ones. This flight is reflected in the music. The GIANTS continue to sing more and more softly. As they do so, they become more indistinct. The hill behind grows slowly and becomes brighter and brighter, finally white. The sky becomes completely black. Behind the stage, the same wooden chorus becomes audible. The GIANTS are no longer to be heard.

The apron stage turns blue and becomes ever more opaque. The orchestra competes with the chorus and drowns it A dense blue mist makes the whole stage invisible.

The blue mist recedes gradually before the light, which is a perfect, brilliant white. At the back of the stage, a bright green hill, completely round and as large as possible. The background violet, fairly bright The music is shrill and tempestuous, with oft-repeated A and B and B and A-flat. These individual notes are finally swallowed up by the raging storm. Suddenly, there is complete stillness. A pause. Again is heard the plangent complaint, albeit precise and sharp, of A and B. This lasts for some time. Then, a further pause. At this point the background suddenly turns a dirty brown. The hill becomes dirty green. And right in the middle of the hill forms an indefinite black patch, which appears now distinct, now blurred. At each change in definition, the brilliant white light becomes progressively grayer. On the left side of the hill a big yellow flower suddenly becomes visible. It bears a distant resemblance to a large, bent cucumber, and its color becomes more and more intense. Its stem is long and thin. Only one narrow, prickly leaf grows sideways out of the middle of the stem. Long pause. Later, in complete silence, the flower begins to sway very slowly from right to left; still later the leaf, but not together. Still later, both begin to sway in an uneven tempo. Then again separately, whereupon a very thin B accompanies the movement of the flower, a very deep A that of the leaf. Then both sway together again, and both notes sound together. The flower trembles violently and then remains motionless. In the music, the two notes continue to sound. At the same time, many PEOPLE come on from the left in long, garish, shapeless garments (one entirely blue, a second red, a third green, etc.; only yellow is missing). The PEOPLE hold in their hands very large white flowers that resemble the flower on the hill. The PEOPLE keep as close together as possible, pass directly in front of the hill, and remain on the right-hand side of the stage, almost huddled together. They speak with various different voices and recite: The flowers cover all, cover all, cover all. Close your eyes! Close your eyes! We look. We look. Cover conception with innocence. Open your eyes! Open your eyes! Gone. Gone.*
* Vorbei in the German; in the earlier Russian version mimo, which means "passed" only in the spatial sense, hence "passed by" or "missed."

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At first, they all recite together, as if in ecstasy (very distinctly). Then, they repeat the same thing individually: one after the other—alto, bass and soprano voices. At "We look, we look" B sounds; at "Gone, gone" A. Occasional voices become hoarse. Some cry out as if possessed. Here and there a voice becomes nasal, sometimes slowly, sometimes with lightning rapidity. In the first instance, the stage is suddenly rendered indistinct by a dull red light. In the second, a lurid blue light alternates with total darkness. In the third, everything suddenly turns a sickly gray (all colors disappear!). Only the yellow flower continues to glow more strongly! Gradually, the orchestra strikes up and drowns the voices. The music becomes restless, jumping from Sto pp. The light brightens somewhat, and one can recognize indistinctly the colors of the people. Very slowly, tiny figures cross the hill from right to left, indistinct and having a gray color ofindeterminate value. They look before them. The moment the first figure appears, the yellow flower writhes as if in pain. Later it suddenly disappears. With equal suddenness, all the white flowers turn yellow. The PEOPLE walk slowly, as if in a dream, toward the apron stage, and separate more and more from one another. The music dies down, and again one hears the same recitative. * Suddenly, the PEOPLE stop dead as if spellbound and turn around. All at once they notice the little figures, which are still crossing the hill in an endless line. The PEOPLE turn away and take several swift paces toward the apron stage, stop once more, turn around again, and remain motionless, as if rooted to the spot, t At last they throw away the flowers as if they were filled with blood, and wrenching themselves free from their rigidity, run together toward the front of the stage. They look around frequently. X It turns suddenly dark.

At the back of the stage: two large rust brown rocks, one sharp, the other rounded and larger than the first. Backdrop: black. Between the rocks stand the GIANTS (as in Scene 1) and whisper noiselessly to one another. Sometimes they whisper in pairs; sometimes all their heads come together. Their bodies remain motionless. In quick succession, brightly colored rays fall from all sides (blue, red, violet, and green alternate several times). Then all these rays meet in the center, becoming intermingled. Everything remains motionless. The GIANTS are almost invisible. Suddenly, all colors vanish. For a moment, there is blackness. Then a dull yellow light floods the stage, which gradually becomes more intense, until the whole stage is bright lemon yellow. As the light is intensified, the music grows deeper and darker (this motion reminds one of a snail retreating into its shell). During these two movements, nothing but light
* Half the sentence spoken in unison; the end of the sentence very indistinctly by one voice. Alternating frequently. t This movement must be executed as if at drill. + These movements should not be in time to the music.

is to be seen on the stage: no objects. The brightest level of light is reached, the music entirely dissolved. The GIANTS become distinguishable again, are immovable, and look before them. The rocks appear no more. Only the GIANTS are on the stage: they now stand further apart and have grown bigger. Backdrop and background remain black. Long pause. Suddenly, one hears from behind the stage a shrill tenor voice, filled with fear, shouting entirely indistinguishable words very quickly (one hears frequently [the letter] a: e.g., "Kalasimunafakolaf). Pause. For a moment it becomes dark.

To the left of the stage a small crooked building (like a very simple chapel), with neither door nor window. On one side of the building (springing from the roof) a narrow, crooked turret with a small, cracked bell. Hanging from the bell a rope. A SMALL CHILD is pulling slowly and rhythmically at the lower end of the rope, wearing a white blouse and sitting on the ground (turned toward the spectator). To the right, on the same level, stands a very fat MAN, dressed entirely in black. His face completely white, very indistinct. The chapel is a dirty red. The tower bright blue. The bell made of brass. Background gray, even, smooth. The black MAN stands with legs apart, his hands on his hips. The MAN (very loud, imperiously; with a beautiful voice): Silence!! The CHILD drops the rope. It becomes dark.

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The stage is gradually saturated with a cold red light, which slowly grows stronger and equally slowly turns yellow. At this point, the GIANTS behind become visible (as in Scene 3). The same rocks are also there. The GIANTS are whispering again (as in Scene 3). At the moment their heads come together again, one hears from behind the stage the same cry, only very quick and short. It becomes dark for a moment; then the same action is repeated again. * As it grows light (white light, without shadows) the GIANTS are still whispering but are also making feeble gestures with their hands (these gestures must be different, but feeble). Occasionally, one of them stretches out his arms (this gesture must, likewise, be the merest suggestion) and puts his head a little to one side, looking at the spectator. Twice, all the GIANTS let their arms drop suddenly, grow somewhat taller, and stand motionless, looking at the spectator. Then their bodies are racked by a kind of spasm (as in the case of the yellow flower), and they start whispering again, occasionally stretching out an arm as if in feeble protest. The music gradually becomes shriller. The GIANTS remain motionless. From the left appear many PEOPLE, clad in tights of different colors. Their hair is covered with the corresponding color. Likewise
* Naturally, the music must also be repeated each time.

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their faces. (The PEOPLE resemble marionettes.) First there appear gray, then black, then white, and finally different-colored PEOPLE. The movements of each group are different; one proceeds quickly forward, another slowly, as if with difficulty; a third makes occasional merry leaps; a fourth keeps turning around; a fifth comes on with solemn, theatrical steps, arms crossed; a sixth walks on tiptoe, palm upraised, etc. All take up different positions on the stage; some sit in small, close-knit groups, others by themselves. The whole arrangement should be neither "beautiful" nor particularly definite. It should not, however, represent complete confusion. The PEOPLE look in different directions, some with heads raised, others with lowered heads, some with heads sunk on their chests. As if overcome by exhaustion, they rarely shift their position. The light remains white. The music undergoes frequent changes of tempo; occasionally, it too subsides in exhaustion. At precisely these moments, one of the white figures on the left (fairly far back) makes indefinite but very much quicker movements, sometimes with his arms, sometimes with his legs. From time to time he continues one movement for a longer space of time and remains for several moments in the corresponding position. It is like a kind of dance, only with frequent changes of tempo, sometimes corresponding with the music, sometimes not. (This simple action must be rehearsed with extreme care, so that what follows produces an expressive and startling effect.) The other PEOPLE gradually start to stare at the white figure. Many crane their necks. In the end, they are all looking at him. This dance ends, however, quite suddenly; the white figure sits down, stretches out one arm as if in ceremonious preparation and, slowly bending this arm at the elbow, brings it toward his head. The general tension is especially expressive. The white figure, however, rests his elbow on his knee and puts his head in his hand. For a moment, it becomes dark. Then one perceives again the same groupings and attitudes. Many of the groups are illuminated from above with stronger or weaker lights of different colors: one seated group is illuminated with a powerful red, a large seated group with pale blue, etc. The bright yellow light is (apart from the GIANTS, who now become particularly distinct) concentrated exclusively upon the seated white figure. Suddenly, all the colors disappear (the GIANTS remain yellow), and white twilight floods the stage. In the orchestra, individual colors begin to stand out. Correspondingly, individual figures stand up in different places: quickly, in haste, solemnly, slowly; and as they do so, they look up. Some remain standing. Some sit down again. Then all are once more overcome by exhaustion, and everything remains motionless. The GIANTS whisper. But they, too, remain now motionless and erect as from behind the stage the wooden chorus, which lasts only for a short time, becomes audible. Then one hears again in the orchestra individual colors. Red light travels across the rocks, and they begin to tremble. The GIANTS tremble in alternation with the passage of light. At different ends of the stage, movement is noticeable.

The orchestra repeats several times B and A: on their owny together, sometimes very shrill, sometimes scarcely audible. Various PEOPLE leave their places and go, some quickly, some slowly, over to other groups. The ones who stood by themselves form smaller groups of two or three people, or spread themselves among the larger groups. The big groups split up. Many PEOPLE run in haste from the stage, looking behind them. In the process, all the BLACK, GRAY, AND WHITE PEOPLE disappear; in the end, there remain only the DIFFERENT-COLORED PEOPLE on stage. Gradually, everything takes on an arhythmical movement. In the orchestra—confusion. The same shrill cry as in Scene 3 is heard. The GIANTS tremble. Various lights cross the stage and overlap. Whole groups run from the stage. A general dance strikes up, starting at various points and gradually subsiding, carrying ALL THE PEOPLE with it. Running, jumping, running to and fro, falling down. Some, standing still, make rapid movements with their arms alone, others only with their legs, heads, or behinds. Some combine all these movements. Sometimes, there are group movements. Sometimes, whole groups make one and the same movement. At that moment, at which the greatest confusion in the orchestra, in the movement, and in the lighting occurs, it suddenly becomes dark and silent. Only the yellow GIANTS remain visible at the back of the stage, being only slowly swallowed up by the darkness. The GIANTS seem to go out like a lamp; i.e., the light glimmers several times before total darkness ensues.

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O n Stage Composition
Wassily Kandinsky

Every art has its own language, i.e., those means which it alone possesses. Thus every art is something self-contained. Every art is an individual life. It is a realm of its own. For this reason, the means belonging to the different arts are externally quite different. Sound, color, words!... In the last essentials, these means are wholly alike: the final goal ex­ tinguishes the external dissimilarities and reveals the inner identity. This final goal (knowledge) is attained by the human soul through finer vibrations of the same. These finer vibrations, however, which are identi­ cal in their final goal, have in themselves different inner motions and are thereby distinguished from one another. This indefinable and yet definite activity of the soul (vibration) is the aim of the individual artistic means. A certain complex of vibrations—the goal of a work of art. The progressive refinement of the soul by means of the accumulation of different complexes—the aim of art. Art is for this reason indispensable and purposeful. The correct means that the artist discovers is a material form of that vibration of his soul to which he is forced to give expression. If this means is correct, it causes a virtually identical vibration in the receiving soul. This is inevitable. But this second vibration is complex. First, it can be powerful or weak, depending upon the degree of development of him who
Reprinted from Arnold Schoenberg, Wassily Kandinsky: Letters, Pictures, and Documents, ed. Jelena Hahl-Koch; trans. John C. Crawford (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), 111-17.

receives it, and also upon temporal influences (degree of absorption of the soul). Second, this vibration of the receiving soul will cause other strings within the soul to vibrate in sympathy. This is a way of exciting the "fantasy" of the receiving subject, which "continues to exert its creative activity" upon the work of art* [am Werke "writer schaffi"]. Strings of the soul that are made to vibrate frequently will, on almost every occasion other strings are touched, also vibrate in sympathy. And sometimes so strongly that they drown the origi­ nal sound: there are people who are made to cry when they hear "cheerful" music, and vice versa. For this reason, the individual effects of a work of art be­ come more or less strongly colored in the case of different receiving subjects. Yet in this case the original sound is not destroyed, but continues to live and works, even if imperceptibly, upon the soul.t Therefore, there is no man who cannot receive art. Every work of art and every one of the individual means belonging to that work produces in every man without exception a vibration that is at bottom identical to that of the artist. The internal, ultimately discoverable identity of the individual means of different arts has been the basis upon which the attempt has been made to support and to strengthen a particular sound of one art by the identical sound belonging to another art, thereby attaining a particularly powerful effect. This is one means of producing [such] an effect. Duplicating the resources of one art (e.g., music), however, by the identi­ cal resources of another art (e.g., painting) is only one instance, one pos­ sibility. If this possibility is used as an internal means also (e.g., in the case of Scriabin),+ we find within the realm of contrast, of complex composition, first the antithesis of this duplication and later a series of possibilities that lie between collaboration and opposition. This material is inexhaustible. The nineteenth century distinguished itself as a time far removed from inner creation. Concentration upon material phenomena and upon the material aspect of phenomena logically brought about the decline of creative power upon the internal plane, which apparently led to the ultimate degree of abasement. Out of this one-sidedness other biases naturally had to develop. Thus, too, on the stage: 1. There necessarily occurred here also (as in other spheres) the painstaking elaboration of individual, already existing (previously created) constituent
* Among others, theater designers in particular count today upon this "collaboration," which has of course always been employed by artists. Hence derived also the demand for a certain distance, which should separate the work of art from the ultimate degree of expressiveness. This not-sayingthe-ultimate was called for by, e.g., Lessing and Delacroix, among others. This distance leaves space free for the operation of fantasy. t Thus, in time, every work is correctly "understood." + See the article by L. Sabaneyev in this book [i.e., in the almanac Derblaue Reiter].

parts, which had for the sake of convenience been firmly and definitively separated one from another. Here, one sees reflected the specializa­ tion that always comes about immediately when no new forms are being created. 2. The positive character of the spirit of the times could lead only to a form of combination that was equally positive. Indeed, people thought: two is greater than one, and sought to strengthen every effect by means of repe­ tition. As regards the inner effect, however, the reverse may be true, and often one is greater than two. Mathematically, 1 + 1 =2. Spiritually, 1—1 can = 2. Re (1). Through the primary consequence of materialism, i.e., through specialization, and bound up with it, the further external development of the individual [constituent] parts, there arose and became petrified three classes of stage works, which were separated from one another by high walls: A) Drama B) Opera C) Ballet (A) Nineteenth-century drama is in general the more or less refined and profound narration of happenings of a more or less personal character. It is usually the description of external life, where the spiritual life of man is involved only insofar as it has to do with his eternal life.* The cosmic element is completely lacking. External happenings and the eternal unity of the action compose the form of drama today. (B) Opera is drama to which music is added as a principal element, whereby the refinement and profundity of the dramatic aspect suffer greatly. The two constituent [elements] are bound up with one another in a com­ pletely eternal way. I.e., either the music illustrates (or strengthens) the dramatic action, or else the dramatic action is called upon to help explain the music. Wagner noticed this weakness and sought to alleviate it by various means. His principal object was to join the individual parts with one another in an organic way, thereby creating a monumental work of art. t Wagner sought to strengthen his resources by the repetition of one and the same external movement in two substantive forms, and to raise the effect
* We find few exceptions. And even these few (e.g., Maeterlinck, Ibsen's Ghosts, Andreyev's Life of Man, etc.) remain dominated by external action. t This thought of Wagner's took over half a century to cross the Alps, on the other side of which it was expressed in the form of an official paragraph. The musical "manifesto" of the Futurists reads: "Proclamer comme une necessite absolue que le musicien soit l'auteur du poeme dramatique ou tragique qu'il doit mettre en musique" [To proclaim as an absolute necessity that the musician should be the author of the dramatic poem or tragedy that he would set to music] (May 1911, Milan).

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produced to a monumental level. His mistake in this case was to think that he disposed of a means of universal application. This device is in reality only one of the series of often more powerful possibilities in [the realm of] monumental art. Yet apart from the fact that a parallel repetition constitutes only one means, and that this repetition is only external, Wagner gave to it a new form that necessarily led to others. E.g., movement had before Wagner a purely external and superficial sense in opera (perhaps only debased). It was a naive appurtenance of opera: pressing one's hands to one's breast (love), lifting one's arms (prayer), stretching out one's arms (powerful emotion), etc. These childish forms (which even today one can still see every evening) were externally related to the text of the opera, which in turn was illustrated by the music. Wagner here created a direct (artistic) link between movement and the progress of the music: movement was subordinated to tempo. The link is, however, of only an external nature. The inner sound of movement does not come into play. In the same artistic but likewise external way, Wagner on the other hand subordinated the music to the text, i.e., movement in a broad sense. The hissing of red-hot iron in water, the sound of the smith's hammer, etc., were represented musically. This changing subordination has been, however, yet another enrichment of means, which of necessity led to further combinations. Thus, Wagner on the one hand enriched with the effect of one means, and on the other hand diminished the inner sense—the purely artistic inner meaning of the auxiliary means. These forms are merely the mechanical reproduction (not inner collab­ oration) of the purposive progress of the action. Also of a similar nature is the other kind of combination of music with movement (in the broad sense of the word), i.e., the musical "characterization" of the individual roles. This obstinate recurrence of a [particular] musical phrase at the appearance of a hero finally loses its power and gives rise to an effect upon the ear like that which an old, well-known label on a bottle produces upon the eye. One's feelings finally revolt against this kind of consistent, programmatic use of one and the same form.* Finally, Wagner uses words as a means of narration, of expressing his thoughts. He fails, however, to create an appropriate setting for such aims, since as a rule the words are drowned by the orchestra. It is not sufficient to allow the words to be heard in numerous recitatives. But the device of interrupting the continuous singing has already dealt a powerful blow to the "unity." And yet the external action remains untouched even by this.
* This programmatic element runs right through Wagner's work and is probably to be ex­ plained in terms not only of the character of the artist but also of the search for a precise form for this new type of creation, upon which the spirit of the nineteenth century impressed its stamp of the "positive."

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Apart from the fact that Wagner here remains entirely in the old tradi­ tions of the external, in spite of his efforts to create a text (movement), he still neglects the third element, which is used today in isolated cases in a still more primitive form*—color, and connected with it, pictorial form (decoration). External action7 the external connection between its individual parts and the two means employed (drama and music), is the form of opera today. (C) Ballet is a form of drama with all the characteristics already de­ scribed and also the same content. Only here the seriousness of drama loses even more than in the case of opera. In opera, in addition to love, other themes occur: religious, political, and social conditions provide the ground upon which enthusiasm, despair, honor, hatred, and other similar feelings grow. Ballet contents itself with love in the form of a childish fairy tale. Apart from music, individual and group movement both help to contribute. Everything remains in a naive form of external relationships. It even happens that individual dances are in practice included or left out at will. The "whole" is so problematic that such goings-on go completely unnoticed. External action, the external connection between its individual parts and the three means employed (drama, music, and dance), is the form of ballet today. Re (2). Through the secondary consequence of materialism, i.e., on ac­ count of positive addition (1 + 1 = 2 , 2 + 1 =3), the only form that was employed involved the use of combination (alternatively, reinforcement), which demanded a parallel progression of means. E.g., powerful emotions are at once emphasized by an ff in music. This mathematical principle also constructs affective forms upon a purely external basis. All the above-mentioned forms, which I call substantive forms [Substanzformen] (drama—words; opera—sound; ballet—movement), and like­ wise the combinations of the individual means, which I call affective means [Wirkungsmittel], are composed into an external unity. Because all these forms arose out of the principle of external necessity. Out of this springs as a logical result the limitation, the one-sidedness ( = impoverishment) of forms and means. They gradually become orthodox, and every minute change appears revolutionary. Viewing the question from the standpoint of the internal, the whole matter becomes fundamentally different. 1. Suddenly, the external appearance of each element vanishes. And its inner value takes on its full sound. 2. It becomes clear that, if one is using the inner sound, the external ac­ tion can be not only incidental but also, because it obscures our view, dangerous.
* See the article by Sabaneyev.

3. The worth of the external unity appears in its correct light, i.e., as un­ necessarily limiting, weakening the inner effect. 4. There arises of its own accord one's feeling for the necessity of the inner unity, which is supported and even constituted by the external lack of unity. 5. The possibility is revealed for each of the elements to retain its own external life, which externally contradicts the external life of another element. Further, if we go beyond these abstract discoveries to practical creation, we see that it is possible re (1) to take only the inner sound of an element as one's means; re (2) to eliminate the external procedure ( = the action); re (3) by means of which the external connection between the parts collapses of its own accord; likewise, re (4) the external unity, and re (5) the inner unity place in our hands an innumerable series of means, which could not previously have existed. Here, the only source thus becomes that of internal necessity. The following short stage composition is an attempt to draw upon this source. There are here three elements that are used as external means, but for their inner value: 1. musical sound and its movement 2. bodily spiritual sound and its movement, expressed by people and objects 3. color-tones and their movement (a special resource of the stage). Thus, ultimately, drama consists here of the complex of inner experi­ ences (spiritual vibrations) of the spectator. re 1. From opera has been taken the principal element—music—as the source of inner sounds, which need in no way be subordinated to the exter­ nal progress of the action. re 2. From ballet has been taken dance, which is used as movement that produces an abstract effect with an inner sound. re 3. Color-tones take on an independent significance and are treated as a means of equal importance. All three elements play an equally significant role, remain externally selfsufficient, and are treated in a similar way, i.e., subordinated to the inner purpose. Thus, e.g., music can be completely suppressed, or pushed into the back­ ground, if the effect, e.g., of the movement, is sufficiently expressive, and could be weakened by combination with the powerful effect of the music.

The growth of musical movement can correspond to a decrease in the movement of the dance, whereby both movements (the positive and the negative) take on a greater inner value, etc., etc. A series of combinations, which lie between the two poles: collaboration and opposition. Conceived graphically, the three elements can take entirely individual, in external terms, completely independent, paths. Words as such, or linked together in sentences, have been used to create a particular "mood," which prepares the ground of the soul and makes it receptive. The sound of the human voice has also been used purely, i.e., without being obscured by words, by the sense of the words. The reader is asked not to ascribe to the principle the weaknesses of the following short composition, Yellow Sound, but to attribute them to the author.

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Italian Futurism
mberto Boccioni, playwright, painter, and theorist, was born October 19, 1882, in Reggio Calabria, Italy. Following Marii netti's publication of the first Futurist manifesto in 1909, Boc­ cioni became one of the authors of the "Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting" (1910), the first manifesto to adapt the principles of Futurism to painting. In his book Futurist Painting and Sculpture (1914), Boccioni proposed a Futurist aesthetic for the visual arts. He was one of several painters featured in the first Futurist exhibition of paintings in Milan in 1911. His sintesi Genius and Culture (1915), a satiric indictment of artis­ tic criticism, exemplifies the Futurists' variety aesthetic in its use of a quick set-up for a single, brief joke. He died on August 17, 1916, from injuries sustained in battle as an artillery soldier during World War I.


.-^^ ^ L rancesco Cangiullo (born in Naples, 1888; died in Livorno, ls^» ■ 1977), poet, playwright, theorist, and visual artist, wrote several n g v » ^ k Futurist sintesi, including Detonation (1915), The Paunch of the ^ Vase (1920), Lights (1919, 1922), and Piedigrotta (1914), a parole in liberta 0 ^ ^ (words-in-freedom) drama, which was one of the first Futurist plays to expand upon the aesthetic Marinetti proposed in his "Variety Theater Mani­ festo" (1913). With Marinetti, he wrote "The Theater of Surprise" (1921), a manifesto in which the two men reasserted the principles of Futurism and proclaimed its historical importance as an influence on much of the grotesque, tragicomic theater produced in Italy since the founding of Futurism. Cangiullo toured Italy with Rudolfo DeAngelis and Marinetti as part of the Theater of Surprise Company (1921) and as part of DeAngelis's New Futurist Theatre (1924), two of the most visible Futurist theatrical companies in the later years of the movement.

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^ L ilippo Tommaso Marinetti, playwright, poet, novelist, journalist, ■ and theorist, was born on December 22, 1876, in Alexandria, Jkm Egypt. After moving to Italy in 1894 and earning a law degree in 1899, he embarked on a literary career. Initially he was a strong propo0 ^ ^ nent of Symbolism in Italy, and in 1905 he founded Poesia, Italy's first Symbolist journal. During his Symbolist period, Marinetti wrote two full-length plays, Le Roi Bombance (King Glutton, 1905) and Poupees electriques (Electric Dolls, 1909), both of which premiered at the Theatre de I'Oeuvre in Paris on April I, 1909. Le Roi Bombance was influenced by Jarry's King Ubu (1896) and uses a gastronomical metaphor to explore the relationship between the ruling elite and their starving, rebellious subjects; Poupees electriques introduces robotic charac­ ters who are the synthesis of deadening forces in bourgeois existence. Yet Marinetti had already changed the focus of his artistic work by this time. In 1909 he published the first Futurist manifesto, which initiated the Italian Futurist movement that he would lead for the next thirty-five years. The central preoccupations of the Futurists were speed and technology; they were particularly drawn to the intoxicating power of machines. Having little tolerance for the theatrical conventions of the past and taking his inspiration from the innovations of the machine age, Marinetti proposed that theater (as well as many other arts) should break free of conventional plots, psychological characterization, logical structure, and the constraints of reality. He and his Futurist followers accordingly introduced sintesi—"synthetic" drama, or brief, compressed plays that frequently incorporated simultaneous action occurring in different places or times, and which rarely took more than five minutes to perform. The Futurists put on these plays, along with readings of their poetry, performances of their music, film screenings, rounds of speech-making, and displays of their paintings, in several Italian cities as part of an evening's entertain­ ment, or serata, which can be seen as a predecessor of the Happenings of the 1960s. The Futurists attempted to disorient and shock audiences, if not to provoke them to violence, with each of the serate, which consisted of a mixture of politics and art. Above all, the Futurist theater was to be brief, improvised, and dynamic, not lengthy, calculated, and static; objects and events were con­ sidered more important than the psychological presentation of character or the analytical demonstration of a theme. In his 1913 manifesto "The Variety The­ ater," Marinetti traced the Futurist aesthetic to the variety stage of nightclubs, circuses, and the music hall, which he extolled for its speed, spectacle, and structure. Marinetti died on December 2, 1944, in Bellagio, but the originality of his work and the enormous influence it had on the subsequent development of theater (not to speak of music, painting, sculpture, dance, and cinema) were not recognized for many years, owing to his Fascist sympathies during and well after

World War I. Despite Marinettfs devotion to the anarchic, revolutionary prin­ ciples of Futurism, he was able to justify his participation in Mussolini's re­ pressive, totalitarian regime—perhaps because some of the Futurist rhetoric concerning nationalism, heroism, youth, and athleticism had been thoroughly absorbed by the Fascists.

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The Italian Futurist Theatre
r^—» _ mages of war and aggression had abounded in the works of the Is^J J Futurists from 1909 onwards. They had declared war to be "la n^» ^ k sola igiene del mondo" (the sole hygiene of the world), and they _ joined battle with enthusiasm, both aesthetic and physical. They had D^* found a partial focus for their adulation of war in the war in Libya (1911-12), but now it became one of the major considerations of the group. Examples of sintesi written to appeal to Italian patriotism are F. T. Marinettfs L'arresto and Umberto Boccioni's Kultur, both performed during the tours of I9l5and 1916. In L'arresto (The Arrest) a number of critics and observers are gathered in a comfortable room, and express their disapproval of the war. Suddenly, from the trenches a young soldier cries: "O venite un po' voi signori pessimisti, a far quel che facciamo noi!" (Come on, you pessimists, and do what we Ve doing!). One of the critics, described as spiteful and gouty, is forced to pick up a rifle and fight, with a gun instead of his tongue. The soldiers, from being participants in the war, become spectators, and watch the critic fighting the Austrians until he is killed by a bullet. The police arrive, and one of them says: "E gia cadavere!" (He's already dead!), to which a soldier replies: "Arrestate almeno il suo fetore passatista" (At least arrest his traditionalist stink). Kultur represents the struggle between Latin genius and unbearable Germanic pedantry, which destroys all creativity by mak­ ing it the subject of arid study. Syntheses such as these were applauded, especially in 1916, and helped to create an atmosphere more favourable to the experimentation of the Futurists. It is worth saying that many of the sintesi remain schematic, like the ones described above, and that their value for the most part lies in their experimental nature. It is, however, worth analysing the approach of the Futurists to the theatre in these works, as they are the first practical realisation of their man­ ifestos. Extended plot and action give way to brief and essential moments; logic and realism are abandoned in favour of a mingling of reality and imagination, the banal and the incredible, or even the supernatural; simultaneity of time and space is seen as the only means of presenting the complexity of life to the audience; characters are no longer such, but rather become allusions or syntheses, and the cast comes to include animals, flowers, noises, objects, and so on; the element of surprise is dominant; at all times, the theatre and society of the past are attacked. Time in the theatre is no longer chronological, but is, to use Marinetti's terms, "created" or "invented," and is used for dramatic rather than naturalistic effects. Dissonanza (Dissonance), by Bruno Corra and Emilio Settimelli, has a fourteenth-century setting in which a lady and a page exchange impassioned hendecasyllables. They are interrupted by a man asking for a match, and then continue as before. Similarly, space is no longer unitary, but can be used by the dramatist to show different situations at the same time, with no regard for
Excerpted from Julie Dashwood, "The Italian Futurist Theatre," in Drama and Society, ed. James Redwood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 129-46.

verisimilitude. In MarinettPs Simukaneita the life of a modest bourgeois family installed around a table reading, preparing accounts, and sewing is juxtaposed with that of a prostitute preparing I ier toilette. A dim greenish light surrounds the family, while a very bright electric light is focussed on the cocotte. The two groups seem unaware of each other until the end, when the family falls asleep and the cocotte moves towards them. She throws all their work onto the floor and then continues to polish her nails. She is, Marinetti wrote, not a symbol but a synthesis, of luxury, disorder, adventure, and waste, all things both desired and regretted by the family. He said that time and space were fused here, and a new dynamism and simultaneity were created. Evident here is Marinettfs wish to contain reality in a moment rather than an act, using light and gesture rather than words to convey his meaning. The cocotte is not a naturalistic or psychological whole, and in this is typical of many of the protagonists of the Futurist theatre. "II signore grasso e panciuto" (the fat, paunchy man) in MarinettPs Un chiaro di luna (Moonlight) is described by the author as an alogical synthesis of many emotions: fear of the future, of the cold and solitude of the night, of his vision of life in twenty years' time, and so on. Even, at times, only part of the actor is seen by the audience. In MarinettPs Le basi (The Feet) the curtain is raised so that only the legs and feet of the actors are visible. The actors are instructed to give the maximum expression to the scenes by using the movements of these limbs. The same approach is used in Le mani (Hands) by Marinetti and Corra. In this case, only gestures of the hands are used to convey emotion and situation. Among the protagonists in his Caccia all'usignolo (Hunting the Nightingale)y Corrado Govoni lists the sound of bells, the voices of drunkards, the rustling of wind, the interplay of light, moonlight, the voice of the nightingale, the movement of lizards, voices from the town, breathing, sighing, the sound of the clock, a cap, a hoopoe, and a god. Animals, inanimate objects, sounds, light, and movement come, therefore, to be as important as human actors, and even, at times, to replace them. MarinettPs play Vengono (They're Coming) is subtitled "Dramma d'oggetti" (drama of objects). Servants continually move eight chairs and an armchair around the stage as the majordomo receives different orders from his masters. Marinetti intended to give the impression that the chairs gradually acquired a life of their own through these movements. Finally, they are placed diagonally across the stage, and an invisible spotlight is used to project their shadows onto the floor. As the spot­ light is moved, so the shadows move, making it appear as though the chairs themselves are going out of the French window. Marinetti wanted the three most important "characters" in his Teatrino dell'amore (Little Theatre of Love) to be the little theatre itself (in this case, a puppet-theatre), the buffet, and the side­ board. Fortunato Depero's Colori (Colours) is entirely abstract, consisting only of sound and light. Accompanying the reduction of human actors to a secondary role, or their total disappearance, is the reduction of words to very brief exchanges, or to nonsense. The characters in Mario Carli's Stati d'animo (States of Mind) have lines written in parole in liberta (words in freedom) or which are meaningless, and use gesture and tone of voice to convey their different emotions. Three sintesi by

Francesco Cangiullo are an attack on the whole theatrical tradition, as well as on the use of words in the theatre. In Non c'e un cane (There Isn't a Soul About), called a synthesis of night, the protagonist is the Man Who Isn't There. On a cold, deserted street at night, a dog (cane) crosses the road. Cangiullo's Detonazione (Detonation) is called a synthesis of the whole modern theatre. The setting is the same as in the previous synthesis, but this time, after a minute of silence, there is a revolver-shot—and only a revolver-shot. We are told that his Decisione is a tragedy in fifty-eight acts, and perhaps more, but that it is useless to perform fifty-seven of them. The final, brief act concludes with the words: "Questa e una cosa che deve assolutamente FINIRE!" (This is something which absolutely must finish). Parody is also used to attack not just the traditional theatre but contempo­ rary society as well. Passatismo (Traditionalism), by Corra and Settimelli, consists of three brief, identical, and static scenes, set in I860, 1880, and 1910. An old man and an old woman hold the same conversation in each. At the end of the third scene, both die, identically, of a heart attack. Further assaults on surround­ ing realism are provided by Umberto Boccioni in // corpo che sale (The Body which Rises). Here, the tenants of a block of flats see a body rising up past their windows. They call the portress, who explains calmly that this is the body of the lover of the fifth-floor tenant, sucked up every day by his mistress's eyes. The portress will not allow him to use the stairs, as she is concerned about the good reputation of the building. In Paolo Buzzi's // pesce d'aprile (The April Fool), a dead wife announces the death of her husband to the priest. The unexpected, the weird, and the supernatural are all elements used by the Futurists, as is the grotesque, or the resolving of tragic situations into comedy and the reverse. The conclusion of Giacomo Balla's Per comprendere il pianto (To Understand Grief) is "Bisogna ridere" (You must laugh), lacopo, protagonist of Verso la conquista (Towards the Conquest), by Corra and Settimelli, renounces his debilitating love for Anna in order to fulfil his self-appointed mission as a hero. On leaving her, however, he slips on the skin of a fig, and dies after falling downstairs. Some of the sintesi obviously made great demands on the ability of the audience to understand the new idiom. Of the audience, however, more was expected than mere comprehension and reaction to the Futurist theatre. In Dalla finestra (From the Window), by Corra and Settimelli, the spectators them­ selves are listed among the characters. At the beginning of the play, we are told that: Tutti gli spettatori che sono qui, personaggi-protagonisti, per comprendere il dramma devono porsi per suggestione nei panni di un paralizzato che non pud ne muoversi ne parlare, a cui solo viva e chiara e rimasta I'intelligenza imprigionata nella carne morta e che si trova in letto presso a una finestra, con le persiane aperte dal vento nelle tre notti lunari di cui fan parte gli attimi della azione. (All the spectators here are characters and protagonists, who in order to under­ stand the play, must try to imagine that they are paralysed and cannot move or speak, with only their intelligence, imprisoned in the flesh, left alive and un­ clouded; that they are in bed next to a window, with the blinds opened by the wind in the three moonlit nights which make up the moments of the action.)

The audience is asked, then, not just to react, but to participate directly in the mood of the play. These were the themes and techniques used by the Futurists to convey their ideas to their audiences. The manifesto of the synthetic theatre had claimed that: "II teatro futurista sapra esaltare i suoi spettatori, cio& far loro dimenticare la monotonia della vita quotidiana, scaraventandoli attraverso un labirinto di sensazioni improntate alia piu esasperata originalita e combinate in modi imprevedibiir (The Futurist theatre will be able to excite its audience, that is, make it forget the monotony of everyday life, by hurling it through a labyrinth of sensations expressed with the most exacerbated originality and combined in unpredictable ways). While the success of the dramatists in achieving this ambition was varied, serious attempts were made to create a new theatrical idiom, and to work up the sensibilities of the audience in a new way.

Select Bibliography on Marinetti and Futurism
Gordon, R. S. "The Italian Futurist Theatre: A Reappraisal." Modern Language Review 85.2 (April 1990): 349-61. Modernism/Modernity 1.3 (Sept. 1994). Special issue: "Marinetti and the Italian Futurists." See also Apollonio; Berghaus; Hewitt; House; Kirby; Rawson; Shankland; and Taylor, in the General Bibliography.

G e n i u s and Culture
Umberto Boccioni

In the center, a costly dressing table with a mirror in front of which a very elegant WOMAN, already dressed to leave, finishes putting on rouge. At the right, a CRITIC, an ambiguous being, neither dirty nor clean, neither old nor young, neutral, is sitting at a table overburdened with books and papers, on which shines a large paper knife, neither modern nor antique. He turns his shoulder to the dressing table. At left, the ARTIST, an elegant youth, searches in a large file, sitting on thick cushions on the floor. {leaving the file, and with his head between his hands): It's terri­ ble! {Pause.) I must get out of here! To be renewed! {He gets up, tearing the abstract designs from the file with convulsive hands.) Liberation!! These empty forms, worn out. Everything is fragmentary, weak! Oh! Art! . . . Who, who will help me!? {He looks around; continues to tear up the designs with sorrowful and convulsive motions.) (THE WOMAN is very near him but doesnt hear him. The CRITIC becomes annoyed, but not very, and going near her, takes a book with a yellow jacket.) THE CRITIC {half asking the WOMAN, and half talking to himself): But what's the matter with that clown that he acts and shouts that way? THE WOMAN {without looking): Oh well, he is an artist... he wants to renew himself, and he hasn't a cent! THE CRITIC {bewildered): Strange! An artist! Impossible! For twenty years I have profoundly studied this marvelous phenomenon, but I can't recogTHE ARTIST Reprinted from Futurist Performance, ed. Michael Kirby, trans. Victoria Nes Kirby (New York: Dutton, 1971), 238-41.

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nize it. {Obviously with archeological curiosity.) That one is crazy! Or a protester! He wants to change! But creation is a serene thing. A work of art is done naturally, in silence, and in recollection, as a nightingale sings .. . Spirit, in the sense that Hegel means spirit... THE WOMAN {intrigued): And if you know how it is done, why don't you tell him? Poor thing! He is distressed . . . THE CRITIC {strutting): For centuries, the critic has told the artist how to make a work of art. . . . Since ethics and aesthetics are functions of the spirit.. . THE WOMAN: But you, you've never made any? THE CRITIC {nonplussed): Me? . . . Not me! THE WOMAN {laughing with malice): Well, then, you know how to do it, but you don't do it. You are neutral. How boring you must be in bed! {She continues putting on her rouge.) THE ARTIST {always walking back and forth sorrowfully, wringing his hands): Glory! Ah! Glory! {Tightening his fists.) I am strong! I am young! I can face anything! Oh! Divine electric lights . . . sun . . . To electrify the crowds... Burn them! Dominate them! THE WOMAN {looking at him with sympathy and compassion): Poor thing! Without any money . . . THE ARTIST {struck): Ah! I am wounded! I can't resist any longer! {Toward the WOMAN, who doesnt hear him.) Oh! A woman! {Toward the CRITIC, who has already taken and returned a good many books, and who leafs through them and cuts them.) You! You, sir, who are a man, listen . . . Help me! THE CRITIC: Calm down . . . let's realize the differences. I am not a man, I am a critic. I am a man of culture. The artist is a man, a slave, a baby, therefore, he makes mistakes. I don't see myself as being like him. In him nature is chaos. The critic and history are between nature and the artist. History is history—in other words, subjective fact, that is to say, fact, in other words, history. Anyway it is itself objective. {At these words, the ARTIST, who has listened in a stupor, falls on the cushions as if struck by lightning. The CRITIC, unaware of this, turns, and goes slowly to the table to consult his books.) THE WOMAN {getting up dumbfounded): My God! That poor youth is dying! {She kneels in front of the ARTIST and caresses him kindly.) THE ARTIST {reviving): Oh! Signora! Thank you! Oh! Love . . . maybe love . . . {Revives more and more.) How beautiful you are! Listen . . . Listen to me . . . If you know what a terrible thing the struggle is without love! I want to love, understand? THE WOMAN {pulling away from him): My friend, I understand you . . . but now I haven't time. I must go o u t . . . I am expected by my friend. It is dangerous. . . . He is a man . . . that is to say, he has a secure position . . .


{very embarrassed): What's going on? I don't understand anything... THE WOMAN {irritated): Shut up, idiot! You don't understand anything. . . . Come! Help me to lift him! We must cut this knot that is choking his throat! THE CRITIC {very embarrassed): Just a minute . . . {He carefully lays down the books and puts the others aside on the chair.) Hegel . . . Kant . . . Hartmann . . . Spinoza. THE WOMAN (goes near the youth, crying irritably): R u n ! . . . come here, help me to unfasten it. THE CRITIC {nonplussed): What are you saying? THE WOMAN: Come over here! Are you afraid! Hurry... back here there is an artist who is dying because of an ideal. THE CRITIC {coming closer with extreme prudence): But one never knows! An impulse . . . a passion... without control... without culture . . . in short, I prefer him dead. The artist must be . . . {He stumbles, and falls clumsily on the ARTIST, stabbing his neck with the paper knife.) THE WOMAN {screaming and getting up): Idiot! Assassin! You have killed him. You are red with blood! THE CRITIC {getting up, still more clumsily): I, Signora? How?! I don't understand.... Red? Red? Yours is a case of color blindness. THE WOMAN: Enough! Enough! {Returns to her dressing table.) It is late. I must go! {Leaving.) Poor youth! He was different and likable! (Exits.) THE CRITIC: I can't find my bearings! (Looks attentively and long at the dead ARTIST.) Oh my God! He is dead! (Going over to look at him.) The artist is really dead! Ah . . . he is breathing. I will make a monograph. (He goes slowly to his table. From a case, he takes a beard a meter long and applies it to his chin. He puts on his glasses, takes paper and pencil, then looks among his books without finding anything. He is irritated for the first time and pounds his fists, shouting.) Aesthetics! Aesthetics! Where is Aesthetics? (Finding it, he passionately holds a large volume to his chest.) Ah! Here it is! (Skipping, he goes to crouch like a raven near the dead ARTIST. He looks at the body, and writes, talking in a loud voice.) Toward 1915, a marvelous artist blossomed . . . (He takes a tape measure from his pocket and measures the body.) Like all the great ones, he was 1.68 [meters] tall, and his width . .. (While he talks, the curtain falls.)

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Detonation Synthesis of All Modern Theater
Francesco Cangiullo


Road at night, cold, deserted.

A minute of silence.—A gunshot

Reprinted from Futurist Performance, ed. Michael Kirby, trans. Victoria Nes Kirby (New York: Dutton, 1971), 247.

Filippo Marinetti

A curtain edged in black should be raised to about the height of a mans stomach. The public sees only legs in action. The actors must try to give the greatest expression to the attitudes and movements of their lower extremities.

Two Armchairs (one facing the other)

HIM: All, all for one of your kisses!... HER: N o ! . . . Don't talk to me like that!...

MAN: Let's meditate . . . 3A Desk

I must find . . . To cheat, without letting myself cheat!

Reprinted from Futurist Performance, ed. Michael Kirby, trans. Victoria Nes Kirby (New York: Dutton, 1971), 290-91.

3 A.


Hurry! Vile passeiste! THE SLOW ONE: Ah! What fury! There is no need to run! He who goes slowly is healthy . . .

A Couch



ONE: Which one do you prefer? All three of them. A Couch





ONE: Which one do you prefer? The second one. (The second one must be the woman who shows the most leg of the three.)

5A Table

When you have the degree you will marry your cousin. 6. A Pedal-Operated Sewing Machine


THE GIRL: I will see him on Sunday!


is GIVING THE KICK: Imbecile!

T h e Futurist Synthetic Theater, 1915
Filippo Marinetti, Emilio Settimelli, and Bruno Corra

As we await our much prayed-for great war, we Futurists carry our violent antineutralist action from city square to university and back again, using our art to prepare the Italian sensibility for the great hour of maximum danger. Italy must be fearless, eager, as swift and elastic as a fencer, as indifferent to blows as a boxer, as impassive at the news of a victory that may have cost fifty thousand dead as at the news of a defeat. For Italy to learn to make up its mind with lightning speed, to hurl itself into battle, to sustain every undertaking and every possible calamity, books and reviews are unnecessary. They interest and concern only a minority, are more or less tedious, obstructive, and relaxing. They cannot help chilling enthusiasm, aborting impulses, and poisoning with doubt a people at war. War—Futurism intensified—obliges us to march and not to rot [marciare,
non marcire] in libraries and reading rooms, THEREFORE, WE THINK THAT

In fact, 90 percent of Italians go to the theater, whereas only 10 percent read books and reviews. But what is needed is a FUTURIST THE­ ATER, completely opposed to the passeiste theater that drags its monotonous, depressing processions around the sleepy Italian stages. Not to dwell on this historical theater, a sickening genre already aban­ doned by the passeiste public, we condemn the whole of contemporary theater because it is too prolix, analytic, pedantically psychological, explana­ tory, diluted, finicking, static, as full of prohibitions as a police station, as cut up into cells as a monastery, as moss-grown as an old abandoned house. In
THE THEATER. Reprinted from Futurist Manifestoes, ed. Umbro Apollonio; trans. R. W. Flint (New York: Viking, 1973), 183-96.

other words it is a pacifistic, neutralist theater, the antithesis of the fierce, overwhelming, synthesizing velocity of the war.

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Our Futurist Theater will be
Synthetic. That is, very brief. To compress into a few minutes, into a few words and gestures, innumerable situations, sensibilities, ideas, sensations, facts, and symbols. The writers who wanted to renew the theater (Ibsen, Maeterlinck, Andreyev, Claudel, Shaw) never thought of arriving at a true synthesis, of freeing themselves from a technique that involves prolixity, meticulous analysis, drawn-out preparation. Before the works of these authors, the audience is in the indignant attitude of a circle of bystanders who swallow their anguish and pity as they watch the slow agony of a horse who has collapsed on the pavement. The sigh of applause that finally breaks out frees the audience's stomach from all the indigestible time it has swallowed. Each act is as painful as having to wait patiently in an antechamber for the minister (coup de theatre: kiss, pistol shot, verbal revelation, etc.) to receive you. All this passeiste or semi-Futurist theater, instead of synthesizing fact and idea in the smallest number of words and gestures, savagely destroys the variety of place (source of dynamism and amazement), stuffs many city squares, landscapes, streets into the sausage of a single room. For this reason this theater is entirely static. We are convinced that mechanically, by force of brevity, we can achieve an entirely new theater perfectly in tune with our swift and laconic Futurist sensibility. Our acts can also be moments [atti—attimi] only a few seconds long. With this essential and synthetic brevity the theater can bear and even overcome competition from the cinema. Atechnical The passeiste theater is the literary form that most distorts and diminishes an author's talent. This form, much more than lyric poetry or the novel, is subject to the demands of technique: (1) to omit every notion that doesn't conform to public taste; (2) once a theatrical idea has been found (expressible in a few pages), to stretch it out over two, three, or four acts; (3) to surround an interesting character with many pointless types: coatholders, door-openers, all sorts of bizarre comic turns; (4) to make the length of each act vary between half and three-quarters of an hour; (5) to construct each act taking care to (a) begin with seven or eight absolutely useless pages, (b) introduce a tenth of your idea in the first act, five-tenths in the second, four-tenths in the third, (c) shape your acts for rising excitement, each act being no more than a preparation for the finale, (d) always make the first act a little boring so that the second can be amusing and the third devouring; (6) to set off every essential line with a hundred or more insignificant preparatory lines; (7) never to devote less than a page to explaining an entrance or an exit minutely; (8) to apply systematically to the whole play the rule of a

superficial variety, to the acts, scenes, and lines. For instance, to make one act a day, another an evening, another deep night; to make one act pathetic, another anguished, another sublime; when you have to prolong a dialogue between two actors, make something happen to interrupt it, a falling vase, a passing mandolin player Or else have the actors constantly move around from sitting to standing, from right to left, and meanwhile vary the dialogue to make it seem as if a bomb might explode outside at any moment (e.g., the betrayed husband might catch his wife red-handed), when actually nothing is going to explode until the end of the act; (9) to be enormously careful about the verisimilitude of the plot; (10) to write your play in such a manner that the audience understands in the finest detail the how and why of everything that takes place on the stage, above all that it knows by the last act how the protagonists will end up. With our synthetist movement in the theater, we want to destroy the Technique that from the Greeks until now, instead of simplifying itself, has become more and more dogmatic, stupid, logical, meticulous, pedantic,
strangling. THEREFORE:

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1. It's stupid to write one hundred pages where one would do, only because the audience through habit and infantile instinct wants to see character in a play result from a series of events, wants to fool itself into thinking that the character really exists in order to admire the beauties of Art, meanwhile refusing to acknowledge any art if the author limits himself to sketching out a few of the character's traits. 2. It's stupid not to rebel against the prejudice of theatricality when life itself (which consists of actions vastly more awkward, uniform, and predictable than those which unfold in the world of art) is for the most part antitheatrical and even in this offers innumerable possibilities for the stage.

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3. It's stupid to pander to the primitivism of the crowd, which, in the last analysis, wants to see the bad guy lose and the good guy win. 4. It's stupid to worry about verisimilitude (absurd because talent and worth have little to do with it). 5. It's stupid to want to explain with logical minuteness everything taking place on the stage, when even in life one never grasps an event entirely, in all its causes and consequences, because reality throbs around us, bom­ bards us with squalls of fragments of interconnected events, mortised and tenoned together, confused, mixed up, chaotic. E.g., it's stupid to act out a contest between two persons always in an orderly, clear, and logical way, since in daily life we nearly always encounter mere flashes of argument made momentary by our modern experience, in a tram, a cafe, a railway station, which remain cinematic in our minds like fragmentary dynamic symphonies of gestures, words, lights, and sounds. 6. It's stupid to submit to obligatory crescendi, prepared effects, and postponed climaxes.

7. It's stupid to allow one's talent to be burdened with the weight of a technique that anyone (even imbeciles) can acquire by study, practice, and patience.




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Dynamic, simultaneous. That is, born of improvisation, lightning-like intuition, from suggestive and revealing actuality. We believe that a thing is valuable to the extent that it is improvised (hours, minutes, seconds), not extensively prepared (months, years, centuries). We feel an unconquerable repugnance for desk work, a priori, that fails to respect the ambience of the theater itself. THE GREATER NUMBER OF OUR WORKS HAVE BEEN WRITTEN IN THE THEATER. The theatrical ambience is our inexhaustible reservoir of inspirations: the magnetic circular sensation invading our tired brains during morning rehearsal in an empty gilded theater; an actor's intonation that suggests the possibility of constructing a cluster of paradoxical thoughts on top of it; a movement of scenery that hints at a symphony of lights; an actress's fleshiness that fills our minds with genially full-bodied notions. We overran Italy at the head of a heroic battalion of comedians who imposed on audiences Elettricita and other Futurist syntheses (alive yes­ terday, today surpassed and condemned by us) that were revolutions im­ prisoned in auditoriums. From the Politeama Garibaldi of Palermo to the Dal Verme of Milan. The Italian theaters smoothed the wrinkles in the rag­ ing massage of the crowd and rocked with bursts of volcanic laughter. We fraternized with the actors. Then, on sleepless nights in trains, we argued, goading each other to heights of genius to the rhythm of tunnels and stations. Our Futurist theater jeers at Shakespeare but pays attention to the gossip of actors, is put to sleep by a line from Ibsen but is inspired by red or green re­ flections from the stalls. W E ACHIEVE AN ABSOLUTE DYNAMISM THROUGH THE

in a drama like Piii che I'Amore [by D'Annunzio] the important events (for instance, the murder of the gambling-house keeper) don't take place on the stage but are narrated with a complete lack of dynamism; and in the first act of La Figlia di Jorio [by D'Annunzio] the events take place against a simple background with no jumps in space or time; in the Futurist synthesis, Simultaneity, there are two ambiences that interpenetrate and many different times put into action simultaneously. Autonomous, alogical, unreal. The Futurist theatrical synthesis will not be subject to logic, will pay no attention to photography; it will be autonomous, will resemble nothing but itself, although it will take elements from reality and combine them as its whim dictates. Above all, just as the painter and composer discover, scattered through the outside world, a narrower but more intense life, made up of colors, forms, sounds, and noises, the same is

true for the man gifted with theatrical sensibility, for whom a specialized reality exists that violently assaults his nerves: it consists of what is called THE

the Futurist sensibility, defined in the two manifestos "The Variety Theatre" and "Weights, Measures, and Prices of Artistic Genius," which are (1) our frenzied passion for real, swift, elegant, complicated, cynical, muscular, fugitive, Futurist life; (2) our very modern cerebral definition of art, according to which no logic, no tradition, no aesthetic, no technique, no opportunity can be imposed on the artist's natural talent; he must be preoccupied only with creating synthetic expressions of cerebral energy that have THE

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The Futurist theater will be able to excite its audience, that is, make it forget the monotony of daily life, by sweeping it through a labyrinth of sensations imprinted on the most exacerbated originality and combined in unpredictable ways. Every night the Futurist theater will be a gymnasium to train our race's spirit to the swift, dangerous enthusiasms made necessary by this Futurist year.

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(no matter how unlikely, weird, and


Vengono, F. T. Marinetti's first drama of objects, a new vein of theatrical sensibility discovered by Futurism.)





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These are the first words on the theater. Our first eleven theatrical syntheses (by Marinetti, Settimelli, Bruno Corra, R. Chiti, Balilla Pratella) were victoriously imposed on crowded theaters in Ancona, Bologna, Padua, Naples, Venice, Verona, Florence, and Rome, by Ettore Berti, Zoncada, and Petrolini. In Milan we soon shall have the great metal building, enlivened by all the electromechanical inventions, that alone will permit us to realize our freest conceptions on the stage.




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German E x p r e s s i o n i s m

einhard [Johannes] Sorge, the first German Expressionist play­ wright to be published, was born on January 29, 1892, in Rixdorf, Germany. His single most important play, The Beggar (1912), introduced the chief element of Expressionist drama to the stage—the use of the central character's completely subjective point of view to develop the action and distort the other characters. Although outwardly structured as or divided into a traditional five-act play, The Beggar episodically blended realistic scenes with dreams, thereby dis­ rupting the notion of objective reality onstage. Even though all his plays support the notion of some form of renewal for humankind, The Beggar can be seen as the culmination of Sorge's early obsession with Nietzschean philosophy, which drove him to find redemption in the form of the "superman" in such previous dramas as Odysseus (1910), Prometheus (1911), and Antichrist (1911). After his conversion to mystical Catholicism in 1912, Sorge rejected his previous focus on the individual as artist-prophet and focused instead on human renewal or regeneration through the Catholic/catholic unity of humankind. These later works, which include liturgical drama and mystery plays, have been for the most part limited in their appeal to those who share Sorge's religious beliefs. Sorge was wounded in World War I during the battle at Albaincourt, France, and died on July 20, 1916. The action of The Beggar, subtitled "A Dramatic Mission," takes place in Berlin; it traces the spiritual and psychological development of a young man in his various roles as Poet, Son, and Lover. As Son and youthful Lover, he must overcome the dominance of his parents and return the love of the Young Girl, if he is to achieve manhood. As Poet, the Beggar must strive to realize his "holy" vocation—that is, to transform a decadent society into a nobler one. This he desires to do through the experimental dramas he writes and the theater in


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which he would stage his own plays. The Beggar's new theater, of course, has nothing in common with the conventional one. It is not a place of entertainment, but a place of worship and salvation—more like a church, a school, a political gathering place, or a revivalist meetinghouse than the traditional stage. Its in­ spiration is the Greek theater, and therefore it is a communal affair, not the prerogative of individuals who pay to be amused. Failing to find a patron for his experimental theater, however, the Beggar Poet realizes that his role is that of an outsider who must pursue his visionary mission alone. A "station play" that depicts the transformation theme already found in Strindberg's To Damascus (1898-1904), The Beggar simultaneously belongs to the genre of Ich-drama (drama of the self) because of its many autobiographical elements—also like To Damascus. One autobiographical aspect of the play is its inherent criticism of the dramatic tradition that Sorge had outgrown: through the voice of the critics in The Beggar, the young playwright not only attacks the neo-Romantic drama of Ernst Hardt and Gerhart Hauptmann but also distances himself from the kind of elitist art championed by Stefan George and his circle. The dramatic poet's art, according to Sorge, is meant to be universal, so that it can reach all mankind.


Modernist Consciousness and Mass Culture
Alienation in Reinhard Sorge's Der Bettler he 1912 play Der Bettler, generally considered to be the first | Expressionist drama, is an invaluable resource through which to \ J learn about the contributions Expressionism made to the de­ velopment of dramatic aesthetics and staging techniques. Sorge's semi0 8 ^ nal play influenced the works of a number of writers whose names are readily connected with German Expressionist drama, such as Walter Hasenclever, Paul Kornfeld, and Rolf Lauckner. Certain innovative formal features of the play, furthermore, became staples for subsequent—and not only German—artistic movements. Sorge called, for instance, for a stage-lighting technique by means of which segments of the stage area and of the actors' bodies were to be isolated and emphasized by light, a technique later taken up by Oskar Schlemmer, Kasimir Malevich, and other Constructivists in their works for the stage. It is also worth noting that Sorge further anticipated thematic techniques employed by later Expressionists and— after World War I—by the Surrealists, as he drew upon the central tenet of Impressionism and pointed through his aesthetics to realities beyond those immediately perceived. Der Bettler represented a transition in the development of the drama, which in the second decade of the twentieth century was in the process of redefining itself. What we have in this prototypical Expressionist drama is a work of art whose form and content cross-fertilize one another and are mutually derived from the youthful generation's response to real-life social conditions. The play's essential characteristic is its opposition to conventional drama. In both form and content it subverts the logic of the culture industry, whose central features are rationalization and cost efficiency. Soon after Der Bettler was completed, Sorge's "dramatic mission" attracted the attention of significant figures in the German-language literary community, who went on later to become involved in Max Reinhardt's concerted effort to promote Expressionist drama at his Deutsches Theater in Berlin between 1917 and 1920. Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Felix Hollaender, and Samuel Fischer, for instance, wrote favorably of Der Bettler prior to its publication. Yet despite the considerable reputation it had gained early on, Der Bettler was not to be produced on stage until 1917, when Reinhardt's Berlin literary associa­ tion, Das junge Deutschland, premiered it on December 23. The . . . delay between Reinhardt's acceptance of Der Bettler for production (1913) and the production itself (late 1917) was certainly not due alone to the fact that Sorge's was a new type of drama per se. By 1913 Reinhardt had produced such plays as Wedekind's Fruhlings Erwachen (1906), Hofmannsthal's Der Tor und der Tod (1908), and Strindberg's Todestanz (1912) at his Berlin theaters. Instead, the delay
Excerpted from Stephen Shearier, "Modernist Consciousness and Mass Culture: Alienation in Reinhard Sorge's Der Bettler;' German Studies Review 11.2 (May 1988), 227-40.

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was due most probably to the particular manner in which the modern condition was rendered by Sorge. It seems that in the careful consideration of Reinhardt and the others at the Deutsches Theater, Der Bettler was simply "too new" in . . . its explicitly oppositional character to offer the public before 1917. Then, approximately eleven months before the end of the war and the beginning of the revolution, and four years after Der Bettler was accepted for production, it was felt that conditions within the disintegrating social order were right for staging Sorge's "dramatische Sendung." After December of 1917 Sorge's play would no longer stand out as an anomaly as it would have earlier, since it was to be given a meaningful and coherent context through the other new dramatic works presented in the junges Deutschland series. Drawing upon the German literary tradition in order to supersede it, Sorge subtitled his play "Eine dramatische Sendung," in an unmistakable allusion to Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, Eine theatralische Sendung, which had just been discovered in 1910. Sorge's "Sendung" was similar to Goethe's. Both Meister and the Beggar were intent on inscribing indelibly their mark on theater. There is a salient difference in the aesthetics explicated by Goethe's and Sorge's main figures, however. Meister's plan was to raise the intellectual level of the German National Theater by establishing a program consisting of masterpieces from the international pantheon, from Sophocles to Shakespeare. The Beggar, by contrast, wanted to break with his masters and to have a theater at his disposal so that he could introduce oppositional, that is, his own, works to the public. This difference may be taken to denote a critical disillusionment vis-a-vis the aesthetic tradition, which Sorge, along with other writers of his generation, believed had become bankrupt. [Motivated] by this disillusionment, Sorge openly defied what was considered to be the hegemony of the theater establishment. The most conspicuous testimony of the play's oppositional character is Sorge's subject: the poet who resists and is ultimately crushed through his absolute alienation in the age of the culture industry. The young, ambitious playwright stubbornly refuses to allow his art to be commodified. Desiring nothing more than to have his plays produced in the public sphere—not merely because they are his own works, but because they would serve to fulfill his dramatic mission, which was to break the control of the theater establishmenthe vehemently insists that a theater be placed at his disposal in order that he may be able personally to see his work brought to unadulterated fruition. His insistence on autonomy, however, only exacerbates the alienation to which the poet is subjected by mass culture, and his intransigence in his position with regard to the oppositional character of drama leads ineluctably to his ruin. In this sense, the play functions as a direct affront to the culture industry, which refuses to tolerate the oppositional voice. Establishment theater, buttressed by affirmative art that serves the need for legitimization of the existing power structure, is the focus of Sorge's critical assault. The Beggar, the maverick artist, is the personification of absolute alienation, as he is thoroughly estranged from his environment, from himself, and finally from life itself. The dissolution of the individual in the modern age of mass phenomena, such

as mass political movements, mass media, and mass culture in the form of the culture industry, is conveyed through Sorge's particular nomenclature. Here attention is drawn to the diverse personae that make up the play's central figure. The Beggar of the title, who, as the term implies, stands outside mass culture's main stream, plays at particular times various "roles" signified as "Der Dichter," " D e r Sohn," and "Der Jungling." Unwilling to abide by society's normative values and incapable of achieving a congruence of the various aspects of his "I," the Beggar perishes a veritable madman, forced, as it were, into utter alienation. Madness, which in Der Bettler is tantamount to complete isolation and aliena­ tion of the subject, operates as an essential part of Sorge's critique of the culture industry in late Wilhelminian society. The Beggar's madness, whose roots are explicitly social and implicitly genetic, serves as a metaphor for the crisis of dehumanization that Sorge perceived in Germany immediately preceding World W a r I. Sorge was by no means alone in this respect, since many Expressionist writers—for instance, Hasenclever, Heym, Hoddis, Toller, and Unruh—considered conditions during the second decade of the twentieth century, and especially the war, to be the expression of a crisis situation that was both a manifestation of, and inevitably led to, madness. The young at this time had a predilection [for drawing] analogies between the contemporary situation and the individuals it victimized, that is, themselves, or who they saw themselves to be: intellectuals, artists, individuals possessing genius. The plight of the artist or of the genius wronged by the culture industry therefore became a preoccupation of writers during this period. Sorge certainly shared these sentiments with others of his generation. It may be argued, however, that Sorge departs from other Expressionist writers in that he takes a critical stance vis-a-vis the widely maintained position that freedom is to be sought in the mere negation of the existing social order. That the Beggar utterly fails in his efforts and succumbs to what he opposes may say something of Sorge's awareness of the artist's false consciousness. Sorge's critique is thus a dialectical one, as he comments on mass culture as well as on the consciousness shaped by it, by showing an artist who is victimized by the culture industry, but whose downfall may ultimately be due to his inflated ego, as he responds to oppressive conditions through a process of self-alienation by distancing himself from the profane world.

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Select Bibliography on Sorge
Lewis, Ward B. "The Early Dramas of Reinhard Johannes Sorge: A Poet's Search for the Inner Light." Modern Drama 14(1972): 449-54. See also Hill and Ley; Krispyn; Kuhns; Raabe; Ritchie; Samuel and Thomas; and Sokel, in the General Bibliography.

T h e Beggar A Dramatic Mission
Reinhard Sorge

In far-flung circles youVe plowed your flights Through darkness and chaotic dreams, gigantic, Through torments' regions, caves of space, giganticRestless at dawn and restless in your nights.... When your wild screams hoist you in a gyre Of father's curse, and every mother's pain; Eternal procreation shows it's not in vain: Salvation mounts defiant from the mire.... Then with your wings you'll move that bolted gate Whose jawlike hinges crushed so many brains; You love the longing leading to these pains, You clutch it, reeling downward to your fate.

The Human Beings:

THE NEWSPAPER READERS, THE PROSTITUTES, THE FLIERS Reprinted from An Anthology of German Expressionist Drama: A Prelude to the Absurd, ed. Walter H. Sokel, trans. Walter H. Sokel and Jacqueline Sokel (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1963), 22-89.

Incidental Persons:

Mute Persons:

Projections of the Poet:

ACT I Before a curtain.

and the OLDER FRIEND facing each other. The stage behind the curtain is illuminated. From behind the curtain, greatly muffled voices. THE POET. The joy and memory of the applause still linger in your e y e s . . . THE OLDER FRIEND. Yes, it was a great success. There were seven curtain calls for him. Even after the third act people applauded wildly. THE POET. After such an experience you can hardly be in the mood for my things... THE FRIEND. Don't talk like that! You know, we couldn't make the appoint­ ment for any other time; I must leave town tonight again, and your patron—I'm already beginning to call him that—incidentally, he too was in the theater tonight... THE POET. Did you speak to him? THE FRIEND. I called on him this afternoon. He seems to be really impressed with your writing; at least, he had nothing but praise. I think everything will turn out all right. Of course, you mustn't mention the demands you talked about the other day; today I tried to drop a hint, but he imme­ diately refused. THE POET. You mentioned it, and he said no? THE FRIEND. Of course he refused. I only did it to convince you it was impossible. I've talked to you about it often enough; and you do under­ stand, don't you? THE POET. Certainly, I understand your advice. THE FRIEND. At last! Just imagine! A theater of your own! And at your age! Despair brought you to that, but despair is precisely what should make you humble; in your situation one must be grateful for every penny. THE POET. Certainly, the situation is desperate. THE FRIEND. If he merely paid for the printing of your last plays, you would be helped; you'd have a small income, you could live. You can't expect

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performances soon anyway; your plays are too strange and avant-garde for that. It would be better yet if he were to give you a permanent income, then once and for all you would be free of money worries and could develop undisturbed. THE POET. It would be very kind of him .. . THE FRIEND. I see youVe become reasonable and have profited from my advice. THE POET. When will you stop wanting to give me advice? THE FRIEND. NOW, my dear fellow, that sounds stubborn again. But I hope I'll be able to advise you for the rest of my life, and that you'll benefit from it; after all, I'll always be more than twenty years your senior. THE POET. YOU are right there. THE FRIEND. Well, how are things at home? THE POET. There gloom advances every day. On every nook the sun spews distress. Our father's dreadful illness terrifies us. THE FRIEND. What do the doctors say? THE POET. They talk of my father's sound constitution, and say that no one can know how long it will last. Death could come any moment, but it might also be delayed for very long. Their talk does not mean a thing; but such uncertainty, I suppose, is characteristic of this disease . . . THE FRIEND. As far as I know, yes, that's the case. And your mother?
THE POET. She languishes.

Mainly she anxiously stares at the door and hearkens for my father's steps. When they come dragging, then she forces for the madman a smile upon her lips, So helpless and touching that tears well up in my eyes. She weeps so much and speaks of dying. Poverty fills her cup. THE FRIEND. It's dreadful. No, you can't develop in such surroundings. Brief silence. Come, now; we want to meet him in the foyer. The time has come. Your hands are shaking. Be calm, all will turn out well for you. THE POET, while both exit slowly to the right My hands are shaking . . . ?! You see, it does mean something to me, after all! Now the curtain parts in the middle and the interior of a cafe is seen. The cafe rises toward the back, steps at center-back. At the right, in the foreground and center-stage: Tables of the usual kind, many customers, waiters running back and forth. At the left: A free space, newspapers on the wall, clothes trees in front, in the center a long leather sofa, which is curved at the ends. On the sofa sit the NEWSPAPER READERS, closely huddled together. At the moment, the FIRST READER is reading aloud, seated on a second leather bench, somewhat

smaller and higher than the first; two others are seated beside him: the SECOND and THIRD READERS, who, while listening, keep their papers lowered. Likewise the listeners on the lower sofa, among whom there are some without papers. In the background, tables are laid for supper; very few of them are occupied. The back wall has a few white-curtained windows. In the right-hand background there is a kind of alcove forming an octagonal space, shut off by a curtain. To the right of it, leading toward the alcove, the top of a staircase leading up from the vestibule, which is to be imagined as being to the right of the stage. Electric light. The sources of the upstage illumination are invisible. Full attention is to be focused on the group of READERS, the rest of the public onstage speaking in muffled tones, serving as decoration. Muffled sounds of dishes. THE FIRST READER. . . . and it is very possible that the Italian charge d'affaires in Constantinople has received instructions to immediately . . . FIRST LISTENER. Stop, please! This has been read once before! Are we sup­ posed to croak of boredom?
SECOND LISTENER. We are finished.

Can't we get the latest editions yet? FOURTH LISTENER. Well, gentlemen, let's start all over again. Laughter. FIFTH LISTENER. Backward, gentlemen! Then it sounds like new . . . SIXTH LISTENER. Let's read the ads—they are full of obscenities! FIRST LISTENER, yawns. Oh . . . how boring! . .. They sit hunched over, staring vacantly, yawning, gloomy-faced. THIRD LISTENER. Where are the critics hiding, for God's sake? SECOND LISTENER. If it takes this long, it means a hit. SIXTH LISTENER. Is that so? . . . So Miss Gudrun was a hit— Yawns. or is she "Mrs."—which is it, really? FOURTH LISTENER. Well, we'll see .. . SIXTH LISTENER. At best, we'll hear, am I r i g h t . . . ? FOURTH LISTENER. All right: so, we'll hear, we'll hear .. . ALL in a hubbub, yawning, stretching. Yes, we'll hear. SECOND READER cries out. Here come the papers! Two waiters with papers from the left. VOICES lively, to and fro. Here! Bring them here! Give me one! Give me one! Me! Me! No, the Tribunel Allow me— What on earth . . . ? Hell, give it to me!! Put it here! Put it here! Crap . . . !

The papers have been torn out of the hands of the waiters, are being read greedily; those who have not obtained any read over their neighbors' shoulders.
SEVENTH LISTENER. G o o d Lord . . .


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without a paper. Read aloud! Read to us! Well, boys, what did I tell you . . . ? EIGHTH LISTENER. So, let's start, for God's sake! Whaf s holding you up? SECOND LISTENER. Listen: earthquake in Central America! VOICES. Ha, ha! Well, well! How many killed? SECOND READER. Five thousand. THIRD LISTENER. What a filthy mess! Commotion. SECOND READER. Skirmish near Tripoli. VOICES. How many killed? SECOND READER. About two hundred dead. Three hundred and fifty wounded. Murmur. SECOND READER, skimming the paper. Crash of a French pilot. NINTH LISTENER. Always those French . . . FOURTH LISTENER. How many dead? Laughter. THIRD READER. Mass revolt in Spain .. . FIRST READER. Mine disaster .. . SECOND READER, continuing to skim. Factory fire . . . Hurricane flood . . . FIRST READER. Train accident. .. TENTH LISTENER. Stop! Fm freezing! Brr . . . VOICES. Stop!! FIFTH LISTENER. Fm freezing, too. Really.

No! No! Something constructive! THIRD READER. Constructive. Good . . . A new German warship. VOICES. Ah! Hear, hear! THIRD READER. Two new English warships.. . Commotion. EIGHTH LISTENER. Devil take it! SIXTH LISTENER. That's unconstructive. VOICES. What? How come? SIXTH LISTENER. Three warships mean three years of hunger. VOICES. Rubbish! Bravo! Subversive! Bravo! How, subversive!? . . . Crazy!

Quiet, please! We want to hear more constructive things! SECOND READER. A strong healthy boy was born! VOICES. Bravo! Bravo! Constructive boy! Constructive boy! THIRD READER. New successful experiments with Ehrlich-Hata?!* VOICES. Ah! Bravo! Heavenly! Great applause, clapping of hands. THE THREE CRITICS enter from the left. VOICES. Ah! Aha! Hallo! Loud greetings. Report! Report! SIXTH LISTENER, drowning out the others. Well?! Well!? Was Miss Gudrun well built? Did she have her decent climaxes, hah? Did she go down nicely at the end?! Laughter and noise. The SECOND and THIRD CRITICS take seats next to the others. FIRST CRITIC, more in the foreground than the others, humming grimly, as though answering the question of the SIXTH. "Her heart a dagger pierced!" How bitter, my dear Mr. Poet! Kindly don't bother us with such nonsense— The Modern Woman preening herself; Leave her at home—may I humbly request! SIXTH LISTENER. What are you grumbling about? The FIRST CRITIC sits down on the right end of the sofa, since there is no other seat available. They are gradually calming down. FIRST LISTENER. And now, please, a sensible report! Let's hear it!

You start!

Gentlemen, an unqualified success. But all mediocrity is un­ equivocally successful. Voices of accord. The play is no good at all. SECOND CRITIC. Now, listen—no, really, I must say—that's a completely mis­ guided opinion! . . . On the contrary, it's a very good play. Quite wonder­ ful. But it so happens that the author is not a dissolute genius and a braggart, the way the mob usually likes them, but a serious, conscien­ tious craftsman— FIRST CRITIC. My dear friend, you misunderstand me. I esteem the crafts­ man; but this one is lacking in Heavenly Inspiration, for all he can do is transplant; take from him the time-tested theme and he will starve.
* Ehrlich, the famous German bacteriologist, together with his Japanese assistant, Hata, dis­ covered the chemical compound Salvarsan for the treatment of syphilis in 1910, one year before Sorge's play was written.

But his beautiful language—! FIRST CRITIC. Beautiful crowing you can hear from any rooster. SECOND CRITIC. My God, in such a manner you can poke fun at Goethe too! THIRD CRITIC. Allow me to butt in! On the whole, I happen to find the play quite acceptable. It shows good taste, ifs tactful, it does not offend; in short: it is the work of a gentleman. Ant this is precisely the point—I think—this is its fatal flaw: it lacks a certain capriciousness that seeks to conquer its own particular territory; somewhere there is a weakness in it which he can't disguise for all his blood-and-thunder violence—quite the contrary, by such means he actually reveals his weakness all the sooner; this author has a lack deep down in his depths—a lack which condemns him. FIRST CRITIC. Bravo! And I want to tell you what's the fundamental lack: a heart that gives itself to the point of humility; self-surrender toward the world to the point of foolishness; divine blindness that penetrates pro­ foundly into all secrets—indeed, whafs missing is the visionary—! SECOND CRITIC interrupts laughingly. Well! Well! Well! Don't get maudlin over it! Heart has nothing to do with either his style or his theme. FIRST CRITIC. That's just it! You happen to see the problem upside down! That very lack relegates him forever to the ranks of sterile hacks. Poets are lovers, lovers of the world, and endlessly addicted to their love; but he is stunted in his heart, and out of his narrowness and vanity he invents vain females. THIRD CRITIC, without a pause answering the FIRST. And he lacks the de­ monic element, that great confirmation of the self transcending the self. He's always merely his own shadow, never his better self. In the face of the Spirit he turns to chaff. SECOND CRITIC. Ah, that's just so much— SIXTH LISTENER. Please, don't get tragic! Spare us that! Don't become fanatical! THIRD CRITIC. With such mediocrity as we have today! Who could work himself up to fanaticism! SECOND CRITIC. You are quick to proclaim a tabula rasa! Now, really! Look, among the youngest writers we have now this dramatist of the Arthurian legends!* FIRST CRITIC. Who needs him! King Arthur and Gudrun—our own age searches—gazes far and wide—and its soul is aflame!— Or would you add that poet who, when he had nothing more to say, still boasted of his poverty and who is now miracle-mongering with pan­ tomimes, woman, and pomp and circumstance?! That's enough to drive one to distraction!
SECOND CRITIC. * Reference to the neo-Romantic movement of the time, which formed a stylish and stylizing opposition to the naturalist theater, but was despised by the Expressionists.


Calm yourself! Restrain yourself! My dear friend. SECOND CRITIC to the FIRST. Oh, well, you! You don't feel right unless you're bellyaching. SIXTH LISTENER. Gentlemen, are we still going over to the Victoria Cafe? MANY VOICES. Yes, of course. Let's go. To the Victoria. Right away. Noise and general exodus. THIRD CRITIC, who, while exiting, advances to the front in conversation with FIRST CRITIC. That's right. We are waiting for someone who will rein­ terpret our destiny for us. Such a one I shall then call a dramatist and a mighty one. Our Haupt-Mann,* you see, is great as a craftsman, but deficient as a seer. It's really high time: once again someone must take up the search for all our sakes. Curtain. The OLDER FRIEND, the PATRON, and the POET enter from the right and walk in front of curtain to center-stage. THE PATRON to the OLDER FRIEND, while still walking. May I congratulate you on the fine success of your friend . . . THE FRIEND. Thank you. I am really very happy . . . THE PATRON. You have every reason to be. It was a truly extraordinary success, a literary event.
Turning to the POET.

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But I must extend a second congratulation to you, sir. I have now read all your writings and find in them a very rich and serious talent, a promising future, and interesting potentialities. I should like to contribute towards your further education. THE POET. Many thanks! Unfortunately, I am afraid difficulties might arise between us. THE PATRON. Until now, sir, you have had not the least cause for such a fear. THE FRIEND, to the POET. You're giving yourself useless worries . . . ! THE POET. I shouldn't like to speak about all of this in such a hurry. After­ ward—I believe—better occasion will be found . . . THE PATRON. Certainly. However, I did not want to leave you unclear about my overall impressions. Naturally, concerning details, I have many things to tell you; also, I should like to see some things changed—that's only to be expected. Please, come, a table has been reserved. He exits to the left. THE FRIEND to the POET. What possessed you to make that remark about your apprehensions and difficulties? It was uncalled-for. It seems to have put him out of sorts.
* This is a pun and a gibe at Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946), the leading dramatist of German Naturalism and, subsequently, of neo-Romanticism. The pun consists in the fact that "Hauptmann" means "head man" or "captain" in German.


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THE POET. Yes, it probably was uncalled-for. THE FRIEND. Speak discreetly, one word can spoil a lot. Now come, he's waiting. He exits to left, the POET follows. The curtain separates again. Now the right half of the stage is dark and deserted. From somewhere high at the left, a floodlight falls slantwise across the left half of the stage, illuminating the PROSTITUTES, who are seated, laughing and babbling, on the lower leather bench. They are still out of breath from a quick run and are adjusting their disordered garments. Their voices emphasize the shrill and bare impression made by the floodlight. Three PROSTITUTES enter briskly from the left and sit down by the others. THE FIRST ONE. Quick! They'll be here any minute! Who's still missing? ONE OF THE NEW ARRIVALS. The Redhead and the tall one are still primping downstairs. A SECOND NEWCOMER. Or they're waiting for the fellows because they'd like to smack their lips over the first kisses!

to a NEIGHBOR. How many? THE NEIGHBOR. About a dozen! THE SECOND. Ha, a good catch! THE FOURTH, bending over the FIRST. The Redhead is rich now, she only wears real stuff. THE FIRST. Oh, you little dope! You still believe that fraud? Three PROS­ TITUTES on the right side of the bench, who until now have been whispering, suddenly burst into loud laughter. THE THIRD. Yes, sure the Redhead has an Englishman, all stiff with money. And he has red eyes and the jaws of a horse! THE FOURTH. Ha-ha! I saw him too; I think he's an American. THE FIRST. She is stupid; if she's so well fixed, what's she going with us for? THE THIRD. She can never get enough. They laugh.

smacked him one on his ass?! Hee-hee! Laughter. A PROSTITUTE approaches from the left. THE THIRD to the one entering. You, pale tall one with the craving for death— where is the Redhead hiding herself? Has she already gone to bed with them down there? THE TALL ONE. No, she is only painting herself. The others aren't here yet. THE SECOND yawns. That red bitch'll choke on her paint some day. THE TALL ONE. She's got the best paint, from Paris.


Hey, there she is! approaches from the left. THE SECOND. Where you been hiding, painted gypsy! THE THIRD AND THE FOURTH, screeching. Hi, painted gypsy! THE REDHEAD slaps the SECOND. There, take this . . . That'll show you . . . there! THE OTHERS, laughing, all together. Hey, she's mad . . . THE REDHEAD, scuffling with them. You fresh cockroach—fresh . . . In the heat of battle, a compact drops from the REDHEAD'S handbag, opens, and the powder dusts out. THE SECOND, convulsed with laughter. Her powder! Ho-ho! Parisian powder! Ho-ho! THE THREE ON THE RIGHT, becoming attentive. Hey, look! Her powder . . . ! VOICES. Powder . . . powder . . . ha-ha! Noise and laughter. THE THIRD. Watch out or you'll drop your baby like that! ONE OF THE THREE PROSTITUTES. Sit down in it; maybe that way it'll do you some good! THE REDHEAD, in a rage. You whores! nyeh! Grimacing at them. She quickly picks up the compact and cleans up what has been spilled. THE THIRD. Sh-h-h . . . sh-h-h . .. They're coming now! The three PROSTITUTES burst into laughter again. THE FOURTH. Hush, be quiet! All are listening intently. THE SECOND. Ah, rubbish, it's all quiet—it's not them yet. THE THIRD, to the FOURTH. Say, does my hair look all right? THE FOURTH. Sure. How's mine? THE SECOND, to the FOURTH, while looking into a compact mirror. Lend me your makeup! I'm all dark around my eyes. THE FOURTH hands it to her. Here. THE REDHEAD, to the SECOND. Gee, you're cross-eyed! No paint will help you—ha-ha! You'd be better off with a glass eye! Steps and VOICES on the left. Silence quickly descends. THE SECOND puts out her tongue. You horror!! The
REDHEAD VOICES. Shh . . . shh ...

All quiet. The PROSTITUTES, staring to the left, grin. Their expressions and postures are all alike. The LOVERS (eight or nine) enter from the left. They stop short at the sight of the PROSTITUTES. They make their selections, bargain with each other, pointing their fingers at individual prostitutes. Their talk is rapid and the individual remarks fuse into each other.

There they are. Ha! Choice! Here is selection! SECOND. Come on! Forward! Hoi—this flesh! What the devil! SOME, holding him back. You, control yourself! THIRD. I'll take the redhead! FIRST. I the one next to her . . . FOURTH. You won't take the redhead! THIRD. She gave me looks .. . VOICES. Let me at them! Not yet! Choose first! What? Choose first!? FIFTH. That brunette there for me . . . SIXTH. Fine. And for me the tall one. SEVENTH. Man, no . .. that one's too short. The other— EIGHTH. That one looks dangerous. She's cross-eyed. FOURTH. I get this one here. SECOND, furious. What! Let me go! Do you want me to suffocate!? You—! MANY VOICES. Forward! Let's go! Let's go! They rush toward the girls. Noise, screeching, pushing, embraces, shrill laughter. Wild commotion of the group swaying back and forth in the white beam of the floodlight. VOICES OF THE PROSTITUTES AND LOVERS, back and forth. Take met Not him! I'm strong as a bear! It isn't true! He's a weakling! Me! You know how to kiss, girl! Kiss me, girl! What are you being coy for, why don't you let me grab you? Keep out, you! You bald-headed fright! Get away from me, you horror! So take the two of us! You won't die of it! You are white as a sheet! Ho! How you scratch me with your kisses! Crazy about her breasts?! Slap them and they'll explode! You're driving me crazy . . . Ouch, you're biting me! Yes, up there! Come fast, you bewitching brunette! One couple sits down on the raised leather couch, which is roomy enough for three persons. You want something sweet, huh? Something sweet? Fine! Slap his filthy face! Slug him! Slug him! Let go, buster! Want to get slapped? I'll get sherbet. .. Any kind you want. Vanilla? Let's go home! Into bed. Quick! Get a move on! Hey, you thieving bitch! At the end the group postures as a monument. The VOICES resound rhythmically, like chanting. You feed me flames; I'm burned to ashes, wild one, you! You crush like iron, you'll smother me!

I'll teach you joys that you have never known! Fll show you nights of which youVe never dreamed! You are Hell's bottom and are black with lust! You are like Satan and I want your thrust! Lights out. Darkness. The noise fades. Brief silence. Then the space in front of the alcove is lit. The GIRL and the NURSE have just come up the steps from the vestibule and are now standing in front of the curtain. THE GIRL. Here, please, Nurse! There is no one up here. Here people can't see us. THE NURSE. Why don't you want to sit among people? You shouldn't worry so much. The doctor has told you so often enough. You should spare your­ self as much as possible, and you've just seen how necessary it is. We shouldn't have gone to the theater yet. We had hardly walked ten minutes when you became dizzy! Don't torment yourself unnecessarily! Your fate can't be changed any more, and God will surely forgive you your baby. THE GIRL. No waiter here? I'd like to sit here. A WAITER comes up the steps. THE NURSE. We'd like to have a quiet table. THE WAITER. Certainly! The WAITER draws the curtain back so that the octagonal alcove becomes visible. In it are a table and chairs. Through the windows one sees the night sky. A star sparkles brightly. Clouds drift past. The alcove is lit; the source of the light is invisible. THE GIRL. Yes, we'd like to sit here! As the WAITER wants to pull the curtain shut. Please, let us have the view, don't close the curtains! THE NURSE. Why not? There always is a little draft through the cracks, and you catch cold so easily. You can close them! The WAITER does so. The GIRL and the NURSE sit down at the table opposite each other, in profile to the audience. Now the lights within and in front of the alcove go out, and during the subsequent scene the two figures can be seen only as shadows. The WAITER soon leaves, and after some time brings the order. In the moment of darkening of the alcove, the rest of the proscenium turns bright. Approximately in the center sit the PATRON, the OLDER FRIEND and the POET, eating. A WAITER comes and goes from time to time. THE POET, beginning to speak almost simultaneously with the brightening of the proscenium. On the basis of my writings, you've explained my aims so accurately that I can now speak to you with increased hope for a favor­ able result. Still, an aspiring young author can so easily be misunder­ stood and give the impression of being immature and on the wrong path—you do understand, don't you? Brief pause.


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My friend spoke to you about my situation; you know in what kind of an environment I have to work—and the theaters reject my plays—so much in them is novel that they shy away from risking the experiment of a performance. THE PATRON. I agree with you. You are in an unfortunate position, since your plays tend only to become more and more peculiar and strange, and—if I may speak frankly—they actually have less and less chance of accep­ tance. Of course, one can't be completely sure about that. THE POET. I am glad you anticipate the same things I do, and are therefore in a position to understand my ideas all the better. This impossibility of getting a performance is my greatest handicap. For me performance is a necessity, the one basic condition for creation. It is my duty toward my work. THE OLDER FRIEND. Please, consider what I told you before! Brief pause. THE POET. You'll realize that the mere printed publication of my plays can't mean very much to me; that would always be merely a half measure, never my final purpose—that is performance. So I have just this one request: Help me found my own theater. THE OLDER FRIEND. Be reasonable, please! This is absurd! THE POET. Let me finish my say. I am speaking after careful deliberation. THE PATRON. Yes, sir, let him finish what he has to say. THE OLDER FRIEND. I only want the best for you. That will never be in your best interest. THE POET. I've reflected at length about all this and examined it from all angles, considered every alternative, but I've always come back to this: I must be performed—I see my writings as the foundation and beginning of a rejuvenated drama; you yourself expressed a very similar idea a moment ago. But this new drama can become properly effective only by being performed; the only solution is a stage of my own. THE PATRON. You are speaking of a new drama; considering the state of our modern theater, I think you're justified in some degree. And your plays seem indeed to bear within them so many seeds of future possibilities that one can understand your high opinion of yourself. On the whole, I can assure you I understand your ideas and your decision very well. If in spite of that I propose a different course, I don't do so from lack of understanding but from sound insight. I see your near future in a dif­ ferent light—even though I fully sympathize with your request—I see so many risks and problems in realizing it that a different solution appears necessary to me and, I believe, I have found one. THE POET. Please, tell me! What is it? THE PATRON. I consider this proposal sound and fruitful. I shall grant you a

fixed income, sufficient to cover your expenses in the next few years so that you can live as you desire. Above all—I think—if s time for you to do some traveling. Unless you find new stimulation, in your environment, you're threatened with sterility. Let ten years pass in this fashion and we shall be able to discuss the other questions. You'll have developed greatly, the risk will no longer be so great. What do you say? THE OLDER FRIEND. Your fate is now in your own hands. Brief pause. THE POET. Sir, IVe pondered over this possibility too, for a long time, and have rejected it. I do not need external inspiration for future creation, but I must gain experience of theatrical technique by seeing my finished works performed. I must be able to test in practice the extent of what is possible on the stage. I must test experimentally the limits of drama. My writings are still deficient in this respect. Only by mastering these matters can I mature. The external world is necessary only secondarily, and sterility will never threaten me! My mission dictates this one path; there­ fore, I have to decline your offer. THE PATRON. You talk heedlessly! You overlook the real advantage of my proposal—your mental growth in undisturbed security. That is what you need. Dramatic performances would actually be harmful to you, be­ cause your whole being would be so engrossed in them, there would be no peace left for your work; and your work can flourish only in peace and quiet. THE POET. I will be able to unite work and fulfillment. I have the call, and hence I can accomplish what I must do. THE PATRON. Forgive me, but now you are becoming fantastic, and we want to consider only what's realistic. Brief pause. THE POET, abruptly bursting forth. I see, you'll never want to grant me this?! I know this well, you only think fantastic nonsense What I demand, such as my thoughts about My calling!? . . . How shall I begin my tale?! Shall I relate how this began in me with visions, Even when I was a child, and then matured And grew in might, compelling me and driving me Into much loneliness and tortured griefHow it imposed upon me such laws which sundered ties Between my loved ones and myself, condemning me To cruelties against those nearest me, whose blood I share?! My work! My work! My work alone was master! How best to say i t . . . I want to show you images Of coming things which have in me arisen

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In all splendor, visions that led me on To where I am today, and neither love nor lust Has hitherto been able to displace them Or even for one instant make them dim! You shall see what riches wait for you, What vast good fortune. Truly this will prove a gold mine! And no risk at all! Just listen now: this will become The heart of art: from all the continents, To this source of health, people will stream To be restored and saved, not just a tiny esoteric Group! . . . Masses of workmen will be swept By intimations of a higher life In mighty waves, for there they will see From smokestack and towering scaffold, from The daily danger of clamoring cogs arise Their souls, beauteous, and wholly purged Of swarming accidents, in glorious Sublimity, conquerors of gripping misery, Living steel and spire soaring up In defiant yearning, regally.... Starving girls, Emaciated bodies bent, toiling for their children Out of wedlock born, in this shall find their bread And resolutely raise their little ones aloft, Even though these lie already lifeless in their arms! Cripples, whose twisted limbs betoken the teeming Misery of this crooked age, whose bitter souls Ooze from their poor misshapen forms, Will then with courage and from love of straight-limbed life Repress their bile and toss to Death The fallow refuse that was their lives. But men Shall stiffen their brows in sorrow and joy, And open their hearts to yearn and—renounce! Let woman excel in allegiance to man! Let his aim be—graciously to yield to her! To lofty birth let a highborn but in many ways corrupted age Advance toward me; Indeed, this age shall truly view itself In mirrors of omnipotence and lapse into silence when From the deep reaches of the skies Issues the gracious vision of the anchor which holds us all Inexorably, like rock-bound ore, To the bottom of divinity.

During the POET'S verses the GIRL has risen and draws softly nearer, until she stands to the left by the entrance to the alcove. Subsequently, the NURSE joins her. Standing on tiptoe, she looks curiously over the GIRL'S shoulder. THE PATRON. Please, sir, calm yourself!—What you envision as the future is a figment of your imagination, a dream that will never come true. There­ fore, I feel really justified in declining your request, first of all because in a few years' time you will think of your plans with greater maturity. Then perhaps you will have learned to realize and appreciate more seriously the limits of possibility; your ideas will have adjusted to them, and we both will have it easier. THE POET. Your words have been unmistakable, and we are finished! The NURSE has meanwhile returned to her table, but the GIRL remains rooted to the spot, hearkening, slightly bent forward. The light upstage goes out immediately after the POET'S last word. Left-downstage is dimly illuminated. In the chiaroscuro one can see the FIVE FLIERS seated on the lower bench. Their rigid posture makes each resemble all the others. They also are unified by their sharp and steely expressions. FIRST FLIER, rhythmically. Of course, you speak for joyfulness, But fetters of constraining fear hold fast my senses. SECOND FLIER. I feel like him. My pulse beat overwhelms My laughter with gloom and violence. THIRD FLIER. Grief does not befit this festive hour, Even the worst fate merits more than that. .. FOURTH FLIER. How his eyes gazed upward radiantly at the sun In ardent communion, joyous in holy effort... FIFTH FLIER. How his courage, assured, gave strength to his handshake, His every word betokened success... FIRST FLIER. His courage pushed his hands too far, Overconfidence has shattered many— SECOND FLIER. TOO much like the sun were his eyes, Many have burned to ashes near the sun— THIRD FLIER. Grief does not befit this festive hour, Even the worst fate merits more than that. FOURTH FLIER. Still, let us wait, let us not heed vague apprehensions— FIFTH FLIER. They often deceived us; soon we shall know. SIXTH FLIER enters from the left, steps in front of the others, turns his face toward them, and remains in this posture during the subsequent scene. FIRST FLIER. Woe . . . Your eyes bespeak the airy grave . . . SECOND FLIER. Your brow foreshadows a desolate coffin. SIXTH FLIER. Woe: The storms of heaven shattered the airplane. It splintered on the rock-covered earth . . .

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My apprehension did not deceive me, Rightly did fear hold me in clammy embrace! SECOND FLIER. Rightly did engulfing waves of Bitter sadness drown all my laughter! SIXTH FLIER. Woe: Dead he lies with his brains spilled out, And his hand still clutches rudder and wing.



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His courage lifted him into the stormy skiesRaging elements have no respect for courage in man! FIFTH FLIER. Brightly his eyes greeted the sun— The radiant star scorns the greeting of man! ALL EXCEPT THE THIRD. Let the monotonous dirge resound, the soul's lament, Psalm and organ for the dead. THIRD FLIER. Grief does not befit the festive hour, Worst fate merits a nobler choral. FIRST FLIER. Which god's gospel do your works proclaim? SECOND FLIER. Which is the freedom your trumpets declare? THIRD FLIER. From storms of destruction rises my God, From death-dealing rays He draws living breath. FOURTH FLIER. Your word of courage moves the boulder from the grave And adumbrates the verdict against death. FIFTH FLIER. Your hope unseals hidden accords, Y e s . . . It intones eternal life. SIXTH FLIER. Give us the gift of wisdom, give us the gift of omnipotence! THIRD FLIER. Where has his fervor gone out, where has his courage been broken? All the more fiery was it infused into us! FIRST FLIER. Yes, you're piercing the clouds of my heart with heavenly rays—! SECOND FLIER. YOU transfigure my sorrow with inward shared smiles! THIRD FLIER. Think it through! Descend deep down into yourselves! Did he die? Or did he rise in resurrection? Our eyes now see with sight from his soul— FOURTH FLIER, with gesture. His longing lifts high our hands. FIFTH FLIER. His death has been solder for our union: It has welded and fused us—deepest nerve and broadest dominion . . . Silence. THIRD FLIER, softer, yet more intent, his voice coming as though from afar. Prophetic vision above and beyond the groping of language— ALL, as though groping. Prophetic vision above and beyond the groping of language—

THIRD FLIER. Beyond uncertain solace—faith.

ALL, their heads bowed. Beyond uncertain solace—faith! Darkening of downstage, center-upstage is lit Only the OLDER FRIEND and the POET are left at the table. THE OLDER FRIEND. You have killed your last opportunity. Do you realize what this means? I've warned you so many times. You appeared to agree with me, but it was all pretense. I detest from the bottom of my heart such secretiveness. I can't comprehend what's happened! It will be a long time before I can forgive you for this. What's going to happen? How do you expect to get on? THE POET. I did not like being secretive with you. I'd expressed many objec­ tions to you, but you rejected them all out of hand and you repeated your very definite opinions again and again. So I let it be. You held my wish in your hands and contemplated it like a lifeless thing, like a stone or a piece of wood. But there was organic development here, ever-changing and unfathomable, so much soul and mystery that neither you nor I could know anything absolute about it. Yet this is your way, your bitter habit: you had tagged me with a number and were looking for the for­ mula it would fit. But I myself had not yet found my number and my law. Now, don't be angry with me! THE FRIEND. I am upset by what's happened. This obstinacy and blindness of yours make one wonder. You are too young to afford such negativity. Pause. He looks at his watch. It's time now to catch my train. Good-bye. Look me up soon at home. In any case, let's not be angry. They shake hands. THE POET. I thank you. Farewell! The FRIEND exits to the right, past the alcove and down the steps. The POET looks silently into space. Lights dim. The alcove is lit. The GIRL, still standing rooted as before. The NURSE seated, sipping her cup of chocolate. THE NURSE. D O sit down! Your chocolate is all cold by now. Besides it's high time you were home. The GIRL still standing rooted as before. The NURSE seated, at the right. Excuse me, Nurse! Exits to the right. Lights out on this part of the stage; the lower stage is lit. It is completely deserted. The POET descends slowly downstage while speaking the subsequent monologue. Right after the first few words, the GIRL appears downstage at the right and remains standing there, staring at the POET and listening intently to his words. THE POET. YOU hurled a sky-high rock Upon my road—

With rocks you cluttered, too, my brain, and I can barely think. Yet your hostile force steels all my pulses, 0 Destiny! One day I shall stretch up defiantly toward blue sun . . . , An eagle, 1 shall spread my wings Toward the fires of the sun. Talon and eagle! And your rock becomes a mote. He continues to descend the steps and is about to turn right Just then, THE GIRL advances toward him, blocks his way, and lifts her arm as though to stop him, saying. I must speak to you, wondrous stranger . .. Curtain.

ACT II In front of a curtain. The FATHER in a blue dressing gown. He hammers away with an outsized drumstick at a multicolored toy drum. Even before the curtain opens, the first drumbeats can be heard; while the stage becomes visible, the drumbeats follow each other more and more rapidly, finally merging in a furious roll. THE FATHER, screaming over the din. Yippee! Yippee! Whee! Hallo! Away! Away with you, you scoundrels! Yippee! Look at them run! Away, away with you, scoundrels! Get out! Get out! Beat! Beat, my good drum, beat! He stops himself. Ah—now they're gone. Looking up. Ha-ha, I can see you again, Mars, I can see you again . . .! And you shall have a kiss, drum, because you're so kind, and chased away those old rascals. So here it is . . . Kisses his drum. Shame on them, those old rascals.—Here a fire, over there a coffin lid and smoke; over here a louse, over there a toad; there a heart, there a heart with a knife stuck in it; here a bucket of tears, there a chest filled with murder—surely it's enough to drive one mad. But I have my drum now—nyaah—yes, I have my drum. The good Lord still means well by his old master builder. Up there in the attic it lay all forgotten—the old drum, when I went up to look for my old blueprints. Ha-ha-ha, the good Lord still means well by his master builder, yah, yah. Short drumbeats. One, two, three, and I see Mars again. Sends up a kiss.

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Good day, dear Mars, how do you do, good Mars? I have my drum now! Abruptly changing. What, you mean fellow . . . what! You smoky giant, don't block my view of Mars, you! He starts drumming again. Hallo, yippee, get out, get out, will you! You devil... get out of there! get out! Will you go! go! away! Wildly drumming, he advances to the left as though driving someone out. For a short while the drumming can he heard behind the scene; then silence descends. Now the curtain parts, and opens on a view of a living room. Downstage at the right, a settee. In front of a red curtain in the center of the back wall, a table and three chairs. Left center an armchair. Upstage at the left, a door papered with the same paper as the surrounding wall. Red carpet, red wallpaper, red furniture cushions, red table cover. The MOTHER and the SON (the POET) seated at the table opposite each other (in profile to the audience). THE MOTHER. . . . it's the first time since your return that you deign to grant me a free hour. And youVe been back for over a week. But you stay in your room all day or take walks. You don't concern yourself at all about me, I only see you at meals; for that I'm good enough. If you only knew . . . I cry over you . . . THE SON. Dearest, let's use this free hour for talking of other things... THE MOTHER. NO, no, I must be able to talk about it. You, of course, don't like that! Ah, I'm dead to you—do you tell me anything at all about your inner life? It was bad enough those last few months, but now, since you met that girl, you've become completely closemouthed! You haven't told me a thing about your trip; why did you come back so soon? THE SON. You know that I undertook the trip to gather some stimulation for my art. I came back when I got enough . . . THE MOTHER. And you've come back so soon?! But I think you went on that trip for quite different reasons, I'm quite certain of that. In that connec­ tion you had some bad experience, and that's why you came back so soon. THE SON. Where do you get all that information? THE MOTHER. When you came back, I noticed that something deep inside was troubling you. And it had to be something sad, I noticed that too. After all, I know you! After all, I know what goes on inside you! Oh, I know! Perhaps you went there to sell a play of yours, and it was turned down. THE SON. Ah, don't trouble yourself with these useless thoughts . . . THE MOTHER. Yes, I notice it all right; it's true. I thought so . .. Sighs. At the left, behind the scene, a door is heard to slam.


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startled. Listen! that was his bedroom! What does this mean? What is he up to? Isn't he asleep? he won't be coming in here, will he? Brief silence. THE SON. It's all quiet. THE MOTHER. The attendant is with him, I hope? THE SON. Shall I go look? THE MOTHER. Yes, go, go, but quietly! If he's asleep, don't wake him by any means. Maybe it's better you don't go? THE SON. I'd better go. THE MOTHER. Yes, but very quietly, yes, it's better you go, I suppose. After all, one never knows . . . But very softly, do you hear? The SON nods and exits through curtain. Silence. THE MOTHER, inclining her head sorrowfully, folding her hands, stares straight ahead, and then she prays monotonously and mournfully. Lord, you bring everything to its rightful ending—all my sorrow, too! O Lord, O Lord, take my hands and lead me . . . A wild sobbing causes her head to jerk. A chair is moved behind the scene; the MOTHER quickly wipes away her tears and looks at the curtain. THE SON, returning. Yes, the attendant is with him. THE MOTHER. Is Father sleeping? THE SON. He's lying on the bed in his dressing gown and seems to be asleep. THE MOTHER. Didn't you talk to the attendant? THE SON, resuming his seat. No, I didn't go into the room at all. I only peeped in through the open door, no one heard me. THE MOTHER. Ah, when I think that this can go on another year, or even longer, I can't endure it. THE SON. Did you write to Aunt once more? THE MOTHER. She wrote again herself. I meant to show you her letter. Searching in her dress. Where did I put i t . . . ? Maybe I left it upstairs... THE SON. What does she write? THE MOTHER. She writes with no heart at all... No, I don't have the letter now. THE SON. She writes heartlessly again? THE MOTHER. She ignored everything I said. She falls back on the statement of the doctors and insists on his spending his last days, not in the institu­ tion, but at home. She accuses me of lacking in love because I wanted it the other way. But you know how I love him . . . THE SON. One can't reach her, appeals are of no use. She gives us so much money that we are dependent on her. THE MOTHER. If at least it were his heart's desire! If it could only relieve his last days. Yes, then I would take everything upon myself! But the doctor

told me himself that those afflicted with his illness don't care at a l l . . . ah, it's so difficult, I can't sleep any more from fear... THE SON. She loves her brother, to be sure, but she can't sympathize with our torments here and with your great love. THE MOTHER, bowing her head. Yes, I love him utterly and I'm always with him. THE SON, more softly. Know this, I love you completely and am always near you. The MOTHER looks up sorrowfully. THE MOTHER. I weep for both of you in my pillows at night. One eye weeps for your father, the other for you! A door is slammed, right afterward another one. Steps are heard approaching. THE MOTHER jumps up7 screaming. That's him! he's coming! She flees into a corner of the room. Bolt the door! Tries to run out through the door upstage-left. Oh God, the door is locked! THE SON. Calm yourself! Stay here! Calm yourself! THE MOTHER, fleeing through the room into the farthest corner. For heaven's sake, call the attendant! The red curtain in the background opens up; the FATHER appears in the doorframe. He is again in his blue robe. THE FATHER, in the doorframe. Now I'm away Tralala And can dance Trala! He enters the room from the right, circumventing the table, without being aware of the others, who stand at the side to his right; the SON puts his hand on his MOTHER'S arm to calm her. THE FATHER. So you see, my dearest Boss, I'm no longer at a loss. One! two! three! Ha-ha-ha! Tralala! Pretending I was a stupid mule, I played my patron for a fool, Now I can laugh at him— WhoopsScoff at him— Whoops— And say I have enough of him— Boomps.

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He twirls around. Then he perceives the S O N and M O T H E R . Ah, there you are! G o o d evening! G o o d evening! T H E M O T H E R . G o o d evening, little papa. N o t asleep yet? T H E FATHER. Ha-ha-ho—how d o you like that—Pve only pretended I was asleep! But that fellow fell into m y trap a n d t h o u g h t I was really asleep. So I've gotten rid of h i m in a nice way—ha-ha—Fm rid of h i m . F m d a n c i n g with joy, you shouldn't think F m crazy. I only d a n c e with joy!! Yes, let's all d a n c e , w h e r e is Hedi, let h e r play t h e piano. Hopsa . . . hopsa . . . tralala . . . Well, how d o you like that, I a m even a poet! T h a t p o e m was good, wasn't it? A crazy m a n c o u l d n ' t make such poetry! Yes, poetry, that's always b e e n my forte. You still r e m e m b e r , M o m m y ? O h , dearest bride with myrtle wreath, W i t h a goose you're putting your groom at ease . . . Ha-ha-ha... Brief silence. But sit down, sit down! What are you standing around for? Mommy, come, come here! They all take seats around the table. Well, my boy, you really should b e in b e d already—but you aren't a child any more. T i m e was w h e n you h a d to b e in bed by half past seven o n t h e d o t . . . Punctually at half past seven! M a r c h , to bed—nothing to b e d o n e about it! I still remember—ha-ha—five minutes before, you already cast sidelong glances at the clock, a n d winked all secretly to yourself. . . b u t you couldn't fool me—I saw it anyway. A n d you always begged to take your book along to bed, b u t that was o u t of the question. Yes, you were a rascal! A n d d o you still r e m e m b e r how we did t h e puzzles, son? W e two always solved t h e m — o n e , two, three, just like that, b u t M o m m y could never solve t h e m . . . never .. . Pats her shoulder. Yes, yes, Mommy. It's not as simple as all that. Ha-ha. THE SON. Sometimes you had the answer before I'd been able to finish reading the puzzle. THE MOTHER. Yes, little papa, you really could solve them beautifully. THE FATHER. But now, how is it now! We must discuss what we are to do. I am well again now, and we'll fire the attendant on the first. I think, Mommy, we two will first take a nice trip south: anywhere else it would still be too cold. Yes, I've figured it all out. Well, will you be surprised, little mommy! THE MOTHER. That'll be wonderful. .. THE FATHER. It sure will be wonderful! And afterward with new strength I'll buckle down to work. And at full steam! Ha-ha, if you only knew .. . Work makes our life so sweet Never is a burden— Oh yes, oh yes.

The other day you fetched your old blueprints from the attic. THE FATHER. Yes, that's right. . . and the drum too! Ha-ha, have you already heard the story of my dear old drum . . . ? Well, I'll tell you that an­ other time. Mommy, you don't have to make such an anxious face right away—it's true about the drum . . . Yes—well—what were we talking about... THE MOTHER. Of your old blueprints, little papa, and your work. THE FATHER. Oh yes, the blueprints, I need them for something—ha-ha! Yes, there is lots to be done, ho, if you only knew! We'll get filthy rich some­ day, we'll laugh at everyone. But we mustn't let anyone know. THE SON. You have a special project lined up, haven't you? THE FATHER. No, nothing must be divulged. Well, maybe I'll tell it to you, my boy, now you are "a colleague." How are you doing? Pretty busy, aren't you? How long will it take you to become construction boss? . . . Mommy, do you still remember, when I . . .

The MOTHER nods.

Ha-ha-ha, you still remember that. My boy, as soon as I am well, we'll go drinking together, absolutely, I want to have a real drinking spree again with the boys of the fraternity. Ad exercitium salamandri. . . * one, two, three . . . yes, yes, I can still do i t . . . one doesn't forget that. The MOTHER has gotten up quietly and is about to exit through curtain. THE FATHER. Where are you going, Mommy? Oh, no, you stay here! Tonight you can stay up a little longer, for my sake, can't you? Can't you, my dear little wifey? THE MOTHER sits down again. Certainly, little papa. THE FATHER. YOU can sleep late tomorrow—tomorrow is Sunday. Sunday we never got out of bed before nine! My God, how long it's been now since we slept together, you and I! But just let the attendant go—it will soon be the first. Let him go, Mommy, and we'll have our wedding ceremony a second time. My dear, beautiful wifey! Silence. The MOTHER regards the FATHER with increasing anxiety. THE FATHER slowly. Tell me— Silence. THE MOTHER, timidly. W h a t . . . ? THE FATHER. Tell me, what was it I wanted to discuss with you . . . what was it—what was it— Silence. ... Well, just you wait, Mommy, when I start earning again! Then I won't come home with a miserly six thousand marks, but with no less than six hundred thousand. Yes, then you'll be surprised, but you have to wait a
* A drinking ritual of the student fraternities.

little. It's so dreadful that I couldn't do anything at all these years. I go crazy even now when I think of it. Here, here—
Rolls up right sleeve. I bit my own flesh with rage, b u t it was no use, I could not make myself work. I could bite and bite as m u c h as I pleased . . . THE SON. But now you're planning new work again, Father. THE FATHER. Yes, now everything is fine again. So my biting was good for something anyway. Ha-ha, enough blood flowed out—one time a whole bowl was full. Ha-ha, but now we can laugh and be happy! M o m m y , you know, we could afford a bottle of wine to celebrate the day. And—you know what—I'll bring Hedi along too, she must join in our t o a s t . . . He rises quickly, rubbing his hands, and hops around with joy. Hopsa, we'll have a grand time . . . The MOTHER whispers with the SON by the curtain in the back, while the FATHER, humming, entirely self-absorbed, paces up and down the room. The MOTHER leaves the room. The SON comes downstage, seats himself on the settee, and looks at the FATHER. Silence. THE SON. You wanted to talk to m e about your project, Father . . . ♦ co THE FATHER, stopping. About my project; of course! . . . Well, it can't be told that easily . . . THE SON. How long have you been working on it, actually? THE FATHER. H m m , the first thought or the dream of it c a m e to m e already four months ago. And then I finished the plan, b u t at that time I hadn't c o m e back h o m e yet.—The blueprint itself I started only yesterday. THE SON. You have to show m e everything. W h a t were you saying before about a dream . . . ? THE FATHER. Well—as I said—it's not so easy to explain. T h e r e is something great, miraculous, b e h i n d this work, you know—an utterly mysterious power—yes, I know it sounds crazy, but it isn't. Just listen to me.—How can I begin . . . THE SON. You had a dream? THE FATHER. Yes, that's it! Yes! Just imagine! O n e night I saw the planet Mars in my dream, I saw it in the sky just as usual, but suddenly it grew brighter and brighter and bigger and bigger, it grew and grew, finally it became as large as this room here, and it was so near I could have touched it—so minutely visible, imagine, I could see the canals quite clearly. T h e Mars canals, you know?

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Yes. ran

THE FATHER. I saw t h e m distinctly shimmering and flowing—they straight through across the whole planet, straight as a yardstick. THE SON. Had you seen t h e m at any time before through a telescope?

THE FATHER. Yes, but m u c h , m u c h smaller, not bigger than a five-mark piece, but then I saw t h e m as large as this wall.

THE SON. How miraculous. THE FATHER. Yes, truly miraculous! For the next night I dreamed the same, only this time I could see them building on one of the Mars canals! THE SON. Ah . . . THE FATHER, growing in stature as he revels in his vision. I saw the scaffolds and ditches—I saw everything!—and very curiously shaped—and it all hummed and whirred so in front of me that I became quite dizzy! I also saw people, very much like ourselves, except that they all had long trail­ ing garments on and pointed hats, exactly the way I had once read it in a novel. THE SON. Had you read it all? THE FATHER. How could I have? . . . I had read about the people there, but nothing of all the other things; in that case there would have been nothing miraculous about it at all. Ha-ha-ha! N o w , . . . where was I? . . . THE SON. With the people and the machines. THE FATHER. Right. As I said—of course I hadn't read anything whatever about the machines and the whole construction. Otherwise there would have been nothing to this! THE SON. How was it then on the third night? THE FATHER. On the third night? Well, then I saw a little more of the con­ struction site, and everything even more distinct! Then I also saw gigantic objects on the water—ships probably—I didn't understand at all how those monsters could float! I didn't comprehend anything, not the ma­ chines, not a single construction, nothing at all, I stood like a dumb ox be­ fore all those things! Gradually, however, I began to sense this and that— ah—I racked my brain trying to understand those things. They could drive one out of his mind, but I was probing into them! What times those were, my boy! I raced like a madman through the days, hardly able to wait for the night to come. I believe I must have been in a permanent state of fever from waiting. I burned. At night, when my glance fell on Mars, all red in the sky, I spoke to him. Then, in the night, I was up there. Yes, I was up there, every night for weeks, I didn't dream—it was real, what I saw... THE SON. I believe you, Father. And how did it go on?
Sounds behind the curtain. The MOTHER and the SISTER come. The SISTER

carries a tray with a bottle of wine and four glasses. The MOTHER carries a tray. They put these on the table. The SISTER'S long blond hair streams down loose; she has a robe over her shoulders. The FATHER, having thrown a rapid glance at them entering, paces back and forth, confused and completely absorbed in his visions. THE MOTHER, anxiously. Here we are, little papa . . . The FATHER fails to hear her. THE SISTER. I'd already gone to bed, little papa. That's why it took me so long. ..

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THE SON, getting up. Come, Father, now we'll drink a toast. Leads the FATHER to the table. THE FATHER, as above. W e l l . . . w e l l . . . w e l l . . . Now he stands by the table; at that moment his glance lights on the tray, he wakes from his trance, and speaks in a lively tone: Ah! Macaroons! Hurrah, Mommy! Is this a surprise! Macaroons! My favorites! THE MOTHER, radiantly. They are still quite fresh, little papa. Actually, you were not supposed to get them till tomorrow. THE FATHER. Well, in that case I have to taste one right now— Eats a macaroon. Mmm, delicious! Eats another one. Really superb, Mommy, the way you make them. Continues eating. Oh, does this taste good! THE SON. Let's all sit down! Right, all around the table! We are short one chair . . . THE SON pushes a chair to the table, at an angle. Here, take this chair, Father. THE FATHER, taking it. Yes, I take the chair. Sick man that I am!—But now a toast! . .. Mommy, where do you have the corkscrew? THE MOTHER hands him the corkscrew. Here. THE FATHER. W e l l . . . tralala . . . this will taste out of this world! He tries to pull the cork. Hopla .. . Well, this is a difficult business.. . Tries again. THE SON. Let me try, Father! All sit around the table. THE FATHER. All right, you try. This is damned complicated—damned complicated. The SON drives the screw further and pulls out the cork. THE FATHER. Ah, this boy is getting clever . . . just look at him! THE MOTHER. Yes, he used to be our all-thumbs. THE FATHER. Sure enough! . . . And now let's pour. Pours and fills the glass till it overflows and spills. Hopla . . . this is too good. Well, let the rug too take part in the feast. THE SISTER. Let me pour, little papa. She takes the bottle from him and fills the other glasses. THE FATHER. How do you like our children, Mommy—efficient, aren't they? THE MOTHER. Yes, very, little papa!

♦ $


Wouldn't you like to make a speech, my boy?—Well? You used to love doing it. No birthday passed without one of your speeches. THE SON. Yes, I still remember. I always made long speeches, but tonight, I think, we'll just toast quietly. THE FATHER. NO, no, that's impossible, you have to speak! Really, you have to make a speech! The SON rises, raps on his glass. THE FATHER. Ah . .. psst... psst.. . quiet! Listen to the speaker! THE SON. Fraternity brothers! THE FATHER. Splendid. This will be a real fraternity carousal. THE SON. Tonight we welcome into our midst our dear old brother restored to his old gay and happy disposition. For a long time he stayed away from our drinking bouts, and his absence kept away good cheer. Now we can delight together with him in his health, and wish him the best for his future and his great enterprise. THE FATHER, wiping offhis tears. Listen to him! Go on, go on, my boy! THE SON. Fraternity brothers! I call on you in honor of our dear senior brother to whom we owe so much, who has always been and always will be an inspiration for us and an example of loyalty, earnestness, and sense of duty, in honor of our dear senior brother, I call on you for a rousing toast in our best tradition: Ad exercitium salamandris: Estisne parati?* THE FATHER, with radiant face and booming voice. Sumus! THE SON. One, two, three— The FATHER rubs his glass on the table and gestures to the MOTHER and SISTER to follow his example. They copy him halfheartedly. One, two—bibite! They drink. Three . . . Salamander ex-est. THE FATHER, embracing him, with tears in his eyes. That was a wonderful thing you did, my boy! A wonderful thing—and now another toast. All of us together, let's clink glasses. To the future! They all raise their glasses; as the FATHER is about to clink his glass with
the SON'S, he says:

fe go * > *" ^ a>

To Mars! THE SON. Yes, to Mars! THE FATHER, to the MOTHER and SISTER. That's our secret. The MOTHER and SISTER have joined timidly, smiling reluctantly, to humor his gaiety. THE FATHER turns to the SON. But I want to go on with my story—!
* The Son in this scene engages in a ritual of the German student fraternities—the so-called Salamanderreiben, or stirring the Salamander, which constitutes one of the highlights of the frater­ nities' drinking feast. The ceremonial is described here; the formal language of the fraternities' rituals is Latin.

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to the MOTHER and SISTER. Wouldn't you like to go to bed? Father and I might stay up a while yet. .. THE FATHER. Yes, indeed, you must go to bed—good night, Mommy. See how well-behaved I am, I'm not going with you. But just wait a while . . . a week from now . . . oh, that will be nice . .. THE MOTHER. Yes! Good night, little papa. THE FATHER goes rapidly to her and kisses her. Good night, good night, my wifey! Kisses her more ardently. Good night! THE SON touches his arm gently. You meant to be well-behaved, didn't you, Father? THE FATHER, letting the MOTHER go. Tonight, yes, but in a week . .. The SISTER extends her hand, wishing him good night. Good night, Hedi. Throws the MOTHER a kiss as she exits. Good night, good night!

The MOTHER and SISTER leave the room.


looking after them. She is really getting more and more beauti­ fill, our dear little Mommy! He starts pacing up and down. Just wait, just wait, my dear wifey! This week shall also pass. One, two, three, one, two, three .. . bibite. .. oh, yes. He sits down in a comer at the foot of the sofa. THE SON. So tell me more of your plans, Father! THE FATHER. Yes, I'll surely do that, my boy. What I've begun, I must also finish. That's the way it should be, shouldn't it? THE SON, in front of him. You'd been talking about the machines and how you gradually were beginning to understand their construction, and how in general... THE FATHER, transformed; under the impact of his vision. Yes, the machines! God, what advances compared to ours! Look here .. . He bends down and draws shapes on the floor with his finger. His mind is obviously throbbing with these visions and frequently interrupts the flow of his speech. The SON stands in front of him. . . . The great drilling machine, for instance, it hung suspended on springs like this and like this—the frame looked like this, here, like this, the two beams here diagonally, the center beams here, you see, cross­ wise, see—like this . . . There the upper beam divided, suspended wires connected it with the lower part, four of them disappeared here under­ neath the center structure. Later on I could see that center structure in cross-section; the ignition was installed there, a complicated construc­ tion, didn't become clear to me for a long time. Now there, below the

ignition, were enormous hooks, and underneath these was the driller. They had some kind of induction—Fm telling you, it took me ages to find my way! But finally I found out everything, everything!—And then there was a dredge, my God, you could have cried for joy . . . we have absolutely nothing even remotely comparable!—This drill, now, had .. . well, it's hard to describe, I have to show you the blueprints; then you'll see it clearly. Teeth clenched; he jumps up. Yes, my boy, wasn't it an enormous good fortune to be privileged to see all that!? And how I let it sink in! All of Mars burned itself, as it were, into my brain. And my brain was like a gigantic spider, embracing Mars, and inserting his proboscis into it, a sharp pointed sting, and sucking out all its secrets... all. Sits down again. Pause. THE SON. And now you wish to . . . THE FATHER, ecstatic.... and now, and now—I wish to Shower happiness upon this earth! You hear! Fm holding Treasures—Miracles of Mars! Riches of the stars! World happiness! I hold omnipotence in my hand! I can stamp This whole great earth into dust! When I stamp the ground, It bursts asunder. The solid rocks rip apart In dead center! In dead center! Ah—they are bursting even now! Mountains turn and wander far afield. Whither I command. The chasms fill With rocks or flames or flowers. Because I wish it so! Or with fields! And green! I make the craters! I beat out depths, Most dreadful depths—here! with this fist! I call the oceans from the poles And all the seas! the seas to me, To make them full. .. Fertile! Fruitful! Fruitful! We sinks back. The SON puts the FATHER to bed on the sofa. He rests his hand on the FATHER'S forehead. The FATHER tries to raise himself again; twitches with the effort. Silence. THE FATHER. The p l a n ! . . . the p l a n ! . . . the plan! THE SON. Now be quiet, Father, and don't talk about it any more. THE FATHER. The plan . . . you have to see the plan! Wards off the SON'S hand. Let me go—it's all right. Half raised up.

It's all right.—You must see the plan. He reaches into the pocket of his robe and pulls out the folded and voluminous blueprint He quickly unfolds it, putting it on the floor. The blueprint measures approximately three-fourths of the length of the sofa in both dimensions. THE FATHER. Here it is! my work! my work! This is it! Yes, great! proud! glorious! blissful! marvelous! Mars filled all my brain when I created it! Mars rolled and glowed red-hot, and whirled thoughts round, And raised my arms electrically, And guided them! They carved these lines, The cosmos carved and all the stars came to my aid! Omnipotence created this through me! So proud . . . so THE SON, pacifying. Father. THE FATHER. Let me glorify! You shall not stop me! Glorify! Away and on! Look here and marvel: this line here Undercuts the Himalayas! What this signifies is but this: Away with Himalaya! I push it Out of my way! Here this yellow bedbug— Sahara is its name—will soon be in full flight from me, God only knows where to! And Himalaya, this tiny bug, Shall likewise run from me! I shall drown both in oceans deep, with these Two arms, sore with cosmic strength and radiance! They burn! you hear! they're sore! .. . Here these lines, All these black lines, will soon gleam silver-white With broad canals! They will bring lasting happiness to earth Through power that is mine alone! And will be fruitful! fruitful! Many white sails are sailing to and fro, They are the white doves of my love. Forward, forward, On and on! . . . And harbors! ports and havens! they will stretch Many miles, black and strong and sooty With bellies swollen of all these blessings! Blessings! Yes, blessings! Bread and marrow floating through air, And derricks will link them. Oh, blessings! Broadly flung Brother bridges will join shore to shore! Fraternal, yes! A clanking and clattering in the air, And seeds are blown dustlike through the sky In giant clouds. In swelling clouds. Fragrant Clouds! All miracles! All miracles! He leans back. Ah! I am weary from all that splendor! What splendor! Creating makes one weary! I want to build myself a house by the side of the road, and lie

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peacefully and view my happiness. From my windows. Lying there, look­ ing, I want nothing else . . . And I want to die! I am cold. Please cover me . . . I am so cold! My cover . . .
The SON takes a red cover from the foot of the sofa and spreads it over his
FATHER. T H E FATHER. T h i s is good . . .

Hear m e . . . I want to die . . . Fve longed for this All my d a y s . . . My work is done! Creating has been beautiful! Create further, My son! You will do it! T h a n k you! You! Now give m e your hand! Love m e well and help m e die. R e m e m b e r . . . Give m e poison! Give poison to your poor father! r i l thank you for it! You see, F m shedding tears! Yes, you'll give m e poison and help m e leave this life, W h i c h tortures m e so m u c h . . . I want my bed . . . The SON helps the FATHER raise himself up.
T H E FATHER. . . . W e l l . . . well

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You have no inkling how I am tormented! Believe your father! It torments, torments, and no one knows the true extent! One is alone . . . and black with anguish is the world And one is mute. And turns insane! You too will suffer it, one day! Give me the poison! Poison me! Redeem your father! The others too will be relieved when I am gone; Then you will need no more attendants! . . . Well, to bed!
The SON leads the FATHER away.

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For a short while the stage is empty. Lights are out The SON re-enters through the door at upstage-left, having released the holt outside. He pulls the curtain aside, and in the window frame the sickle of the waxing moon appears. A star sparkles above it THE YOUTH, seating himself at the foot of the settee. His posture: leaning back, supporting himself on his stiffened arms. Night—profound—night so blue—how marvelous. Redemption. Silver moon. Now drops the stony oppression of the day; Cooled, I can lie down in nearness to you, Conversing in heavenly dialogue, silvery miracle—you! The left half of the back wall and the adjoining half of the left side wall recede and the view opens onto the deep-blue night sky; stars. Mars glows in striking redness. Silhouetted against the sky, on the threshold of the room, these three figures become visible: two WOMEN, deeply veiled, kneeling. Behind them,

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erect, likewise veiled, the FIGURE OF A MAN. All have long, flowing, loose dark garments. The YOUTH raises himself, gazing. THE FIGURE OF THE MAN speaks. In the day's Anguished toil and need, Under death's Brightly tinted lead, Borne on wan Poverty's r e e d Have you not your task forgotten? That ironclad command, Anchored with chains above you in the skies? This To ever-new signs Choosing you, In every pulse beat Using you, No martyr's woe Refusing you, In blackest pit not Losing you, With fires of stars Fusing you— Have you forgotten it? Brief silence.

Onto your narrow path Your loving mother's star Threw many a burnt-out rock Freighted with pain and woe, Many a sterile stone, Many a dry dead bone. Has such disturbing confusion, Such humdrum intrusion Never embittered Your glance when you gazed on Maternal radiance In the deep blue of night?! Brief silence. THE FIGURE OF THE MAN speaks. With reddish glow Insane-creative, Your father's meteor With restless wandering, Encircling M a r s Did you understand

In flaming eruptions Of tormented craters Him who begot you? Brief silence.

When despair was very near you The great omnipotent Will Brought the girl's love to your path. When sorrow bestrides you, Enmity chides you, All power fights you, Your song even spites you— Ever constant will her love receive you, Her hands caressing will relieve you. Your frozen features she will thaw And spread out, blooming, into smiles— Under the gentle nearness of her gaze, In the ever-constant warmth of her embrace. Oh, you, let the breath of her kiss, Let her chaste embrace Be a sacred symbol of mystic might: Let the force of her attachment Symbolize mystic motherhood.

I hear your every word. You are the stars and the voices Among which I always live. Your signs Have been carved into me deeply, those signs Will speak to me always. When you speak, All becomes eternity and healing consolation .. .

Thundering constellations Set us above you As your physical stars; Behold us, you that are body and person! Other stars, Many, will still rise for you, Kindly stars, Many, will still set for you in blood-red glow; Hark to our voices, body and person! Hearken, hark To us, your physical eternityFeel us deeply, Us, Mothers of Your future immortalities!

As they disappear, the walls close again. The voice of the MAN can still be heard growing fainter in the distance: Your father implored you. Hearken. Do well. Lights go up gradually.
THE YOUTH rises.

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My father asked his death from me. I sympathize With his request. Yet this one question still arises: Did he create a fruitful work? He must not die If he can still create. Has perhaps his brain, In its deluded state, given birth to Deeply thought-out wonders?— An expert must decide on this. The sound of a door is heard from downstairs. The YOUTH, startled, listens, then goes quickly to the door at upstage-left and opens it. Quick steps are heard mounting the staircase. The door stays open. The GIRL enters. She shuts the door behind her. Stepping close to him, she lays her hands on his shoulders. The YOUTH kisses her on the forehead and both eyes. THE GIRL, after a pause. I'm very late, beloved. We were so busy in the office. We didn't get through till nine. THE YOUTH. Is this job more exacting than the ones you had before? THE GIRL. Yes, it is, but that doesn't matter. I am so happy I got it and that I can now live in the same town with you. And one has to get adjusted, you know. Four days isn't a long time. THE YOUTH, leading her to the settee. Yes, we were lucky that my friend could get you the job so fast. THE GIRL. How fast it's all happened. She is about to sit down. Ah, you know, let us sit down the way we did last night. Shall we? It was so wonderful. THE YOUTH. This way— He moves the chair in front of the right-hand post of the door frame in the back, seats himself in the chair, while the GIRL settles on the floor, nestling her head on his knees. She does not withdraw her hand. Behind both are the night sky, moon, and stars. THE GIRL, after a brief silence. Tonight you begin to tell, beloved, because I'll have so much to tell you later. THE YOUTH. Is it something bad, my love? THE GIRL. Please, you start. THE YOUTH. I don't have much to tell. I did some writing this morning and took a walk at noon . . . My love, you have no idea how you've changed me! Remember, that evening in Berlin, when my last way out was blocked, and I no longer knew where I should turn, and yet was driven

on by aspiration, driven on? No, I did not know then how I could go on to live my life! Then you came forward and confined the surge of my longing, and my inner drive no longer pushed me onward, but upward, my love! I was driven into gyres still unknown to me, and Fm still being driven in them, higher and higher. I wonder how it will continue . . . Silence. THE YOUTH, bending down and kissing the GIRL. And now, you tell me of yourself! Have you finally had some news about your baby? THE GIRL. Yes, this morning I received a letter. The baby is fine. She smiles painfully. And is getting rounder every day, they write. THE YOUTH, kissing the tears away from the GIRL'S lashes. He's probably well taken care of in the Home. THE GIRL. Yes, very well.
Brief silence. And now read this letter. §J O Q

Hands him a letter. unfolding it. Who sent it? THE GIRL. From my uncle, the master builder. THE YOUTH, skimming through the lines: What does he suggest? . . . what? . . . You are to give your child away? THE GIRL nods painfully. He wants me to offer it up for adoption. Silence. THE YOUTH. I still don't understand it—you know—it's so dreadfully un­ natural, so alien to me .. . THE GIRL. I too couldn't understand it atfirst!And I never wanted to give my child away. Never! But then reason began to speak up, and I had to agree with my uncle: What am I, with my tiny salary, able to offer to the child, and how he would be benefited by being brought up in a decent family. THE YOUTH. But suppose he comes to people who can't offer the child anything but their decency, who are not rich but with their prejudiced views and miseducation will spoil the child's youth .. . THE GIRL. At least he will have a respectable name! That's necessary for his future! . . . And my uncle would inform himself very carefully before about the family. THE YOUTH. What are we talking about! We are talking as if a human destiny could be predetermined and constructed with a little common sense. And yet we know nothing of the possibilities which might perhaps lead the child to his happiness if he remains with you, and perhaps to his misery if you give him away. What do we know!

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THE GIRL. Yes, everything is so difficult...

What will you decide, darling . . . ? I have already decided. One thing alone determined my decision.

Softer. Lowering her voice. If I give the child away, nothing will tie m e any more . . . and I can love you exclusively . . . and I can serve you with my undivided self.. . Profound silence. THE YOUTH. My girl . . . mine . . . it is so strange . . . so m u c h . . . it is so good . . . incomprehensibly good. He stirs on his seat, rises, bends over backward, staring up toward the sky. O miracle! This miracle! It rushes toward m e . . . it b e n d s . . . M e into the Heavens . . . into the beyond . . . bends m e . . . rushes— 0 girl! O love! You are so good—so good And wholly . . . He bends down and passionately kisses the crown of her head, then sits down again on the chair, leaning forward on her, pondering. Yet there is something warning me— 1 a m afraid. I fear your matricide. o O ^ ♦ °j!

Raising his head and trunk high, erect. . . . And that the screams of strangled motherhood Will fill you and encircle your heart, Lay waste your being and shriek above the wasteland! Desist! Desist! Love your child and m e ! And do not kill! THE GIRL. I bear you too m u c h love!

Dearest, your sacrifice intoxicates my inmost depths! Your goodness dazzles m e and gives a taste of Heaven! For years I have been longing for such love! It is u n n a m e a b l e ! It is unthinkable! It remains desire only and good! D o n ' t do it! Don't! T h o u g h I do want you to so m u c h ! D o n ' t do it! C o n c e r n advises well! . . . THE GIRL. . . . Fear is past and gone . . . THE YOUTH. It is too m u c h . Too quick. We have to w a i t . . . Silence. Until your uncle informs you of something definite, m u c h time may pass, and we can meanwhile think it over many times. Try to understand m e the right way, my darling girl! The GIRL tenses her body and gazes steadily up at the YOUTH. The moon has almost set; only the tip of the sickle peeks up in silvery gleam; more stars have appeared.
THE GIRL speaks.

I cannot understand you, I cannot well reflect, I only can implore you, And give to you— All my heart

Desires to be near you And wants merely to give you. To give to you itself. THE YOUTH, uttering the first verses bent down over the GIRL, the last ones erect, while gazing to the sky. The depths of Heaven Shall surround us, The beauty of stars Shall be within us— What do I care about understanding, What do I care about comprehending— Omnipotent power Will lead me to my goal. THE GIRL. All my heart Shall always be with you; I want your songs Kept in my heart— You can only give me, you can only bless me— What can I give you, how fructify you—? Faithful I shall be to you, Faithfully depart with you into the heavenly beyond. Curtain. ACT III Scene: Left, a garden. A partial view of a terrace jutting out from the middle of the wall for a quarter of the stage. The terrace consists of stone and has stone balustrades. On the far left, an ivy-grown segment of wall connects it with the ground, otherwise it is freestanding, elevated. In front of the terrace and past it leads a path into the garden; another path from right-front joins it A young birch tree opposite the terrace; in front of it a backless bench. Upstage: a lawn divided by the path curving to the left. A hedge shuts the garden off. Blue spring sky. Morning. The MOTHER, seated on the bench under the birch tree, her hands in her lap, her eyes closed. Silence. After a while the SON approaches from the left. THE SON. Good morning, Mother. THE MOTHER. IS Father back again? THE SON. No, not yet. THE MOTHER. I sat down in the sun here, it's so nice—spring has come. The sun feels so warm on me. And on my hands. THE SON. The sun will do you good. You look tired. I guess you haven't slept since then? THE MOTHER. Why do you remind me of that again . . . I want to rest quietly here and think of nothing, and you are bringing it up again.


♦ *o

THE SON. You are very right. Let's not talk about it any more. THE MOTHER. No, not any more . .. You were about to tell me how he stood in front of the fire and threw the old blueprints in, singing and dancing all the while? It's true, isn't it? THE SON. Let's not talk about it any more. THE MOTHER. No, tell me; it did happen . . . And he ran around, horrible, with his head burning, and screaming so dreadfully? Did it really hap­ pen? Or is it all unreal? THE SON. Mommy, rather enjoy the birch tree and spring all around you! THE MOTHER. Yes, here is our lovely birch—I'm so afraid. THE SON. Tell me: Of what are you afraid? THE MOTHER, anxiously frowning. Tell me: All this has never happened, I have only dreamed it. I know for sure I dreamed about something. But many things did happen. THE SON. Whatever happened, dearest, is past now, and what you dreamed of is also past. Don't think of either any more. THE MOTHER. Do you see how I'm withering away . . . THE SON. Dear Mother! Spring will make you young. THE MOTHER. Yes, you're a darling! Well, soon it will be cool around me; soon I'll be allowed to lie in the earth. I ask God every day to take me away to Him. Then all will be well. THE SON, kissing her forehead. Soon all will be well; you'll see, Mother! THE MOTHER. Yes, you're a darling! But my fear won't leave me, and neither will my dream. And real life exists and stays. Oh, it's consuming me, but never mind! THE SON. YOU know that Susanne will come to dinner today? THE MOTHER. What a darling you are—you've still kept your kind heart! Yes, now I have to go in and see to the meal. Hedi isn't back yet, is she? THE SON, helping her rise. I don't think so. THE MOTHER. Ah. My knees are shaking again. Well! Thank you, thank you so much. Exits right. THE SON, leaning on the birch tree; after a silence. My friend has sent me now the poison. Ripe is The moment too. The time is overripe! My mother's infirm age accelerates its course downward toward the grave; And they have deemed my father's work—mad. He ponders, plucking a birch twig, absorbed in thought. Quickly the deed arose in me. It almost Blotted out the torment of its genesis. My beloved, too, laid her smile lovingly upon the wound,

Yet under golden bridges, it bleeds on and on: this wound . . . And if I delve far down, the root of this deed also Shoots forth from out this bloody stream. Do not deceive yourself! Your torment was its soil! Father, Mother, Sister offered themselves up To it as pillars. Am I then a soul towering Strangely up above a single will—? For me this is A symbol of spring which has become a need, And rising sun and first sight of blue. The GIRL and the SISTER enter from upstage-left. Hearing their steps, the SON turns around. THE SON. Good morning, you two! THE TWO. Good morning! THE SISTER. We met at the garden gate.
THE GIRL. How wonderful this birch tree looks! THE SON. Spring is everywhere. The SISTER throws a meaningful glance at the BROTHER. Silence. THE SISTER to the BROTHER. Could you still sleep last night after that? THE BROTHER. No, nor you either? THE SISTER. No, no. All nights recently have been disturbed. THE BROTHER. You look so pale. You too, Susanne. THE SISTER. It comes without one's realizing it. Is Father back again? THE BROTHER. Not yet, I think. THE SISTER. Has Mother asked for me? THE BROTHER. Yes, she is in the kitchen now. THE SISTER. I'll go to her. THE GIRL.


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Just look at the birch tree in the breeze! Like blond hair. How beautiful it looks. While the SISTER exits to the right, she gazes up at the birch tree. THE YOUTH kisses the GIRL on her forehead and takes her hands in his. Good morning, my love, did you sleep badly? THE GIRL. N O , I had a good sleep, sound and deep . . . THE YOUTH. But you look pale and youVe grown thin. THE GIRL. I feel well, my love. THE YOUTH kisses her hair, sits down on the bench and draws the GIRL down next to him. I well know how you suffer. Silence.
THE GIRL. Let it be spring!

Let spring enter into you! What can I do for it? It just comes over one; you understand .. . ?


kissing her forehead. This is different.


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Silence. THE GIRL. I wonder... I have nursed renunciation in me and now I love i t . . . I love myself in it. .. my better self. .. I wonder. THE SISTER rushes in from the right and seizes the BROTHER'S arm. Father is home! And he wants to come here. THE BROTHER rises. He wants to come into the garden? THE SISTER. Yes, he is coming with the attendant. THE YOUTH. Then you two go! I wish to be alone with Father. THE SISTER. Here he is already. Leaves upstage with the GIRL, and they exit left. The FATHER enters from the right, the ATTENDANT behind him. The FATHER carries a large folio full of drawings under his arm; the ATTENDANT carries the drafting instruments—compass box, rulers, etc. The FATHER wears a green spring suit; the suit is too big and hangs on him. The top buttons of his vest are open. His cravat has slipped over the very low coat collar. THE SON. Good morning, Father. THE FATHER. You here! But you must go away—I want to work here. In such weather one has to work in the garden . . . Yes, what weather . . . ! He leans the folio against the birch tree. To the ATTENDANT. Just put these things on the bench there. The ATTENDANT obeys. THE SON to the ATTENDANT. Please, ask Madam to give you the cellar keys, and fetch us a bottle of wine and two glasses. The ATTENDANT nods, exits right. THE FATHER. Wine? So early in the morning? You're a fine fellow! THE SON. Well, we want to drink a toast to your work. THE FATHER. All right, we might as well drink a toast first. He has meanwhile opened the folio and lifted out a drawing (on thin cardboard). Now he is about to nail it to the birch tree with a hammer and nail which the ATTENDANT had previously brought. THE SON. What are you trying to do? THE FATHER. None of your business, my boy. Hammers the nail in. I'm going to nail my blueprints up here, one next to the other—darn, I missed it—I'm going to nail my blueprints up here, one next to the other—and I want them—I want them all next to each other in a row. Because—ah, this is the first out of the way— Takes another drawing from the folio. Now the second above it. .. Climbs onto the bench and nails the second drawing above the first. You remember—we don't have such a large table . . . at home. And this is

important—it is important for the view of the whole; one can see better. Ah. Now well get the bottom one .. . Takes a third sheet and nails it beneath the first, bending while doing so. How do you like my idea—this damn nail; don't we have some pliers here . . . ? THE SON hands them to him. There. THE FATHER. Thank you . . . Now we can really drink a toast... Fve earned it, now, really. Didn't shut an eye these past few nights. . . here, one more nail—well, Fve made progress. Fine—now one more in the c e n t e r convenient, isn't it? . .. Fine. The birch tree is now covered with three large pieces of cardboard; the strangest crosswork of lines is fantastically drawn on these, curves and loops, the weirdest ornaments, but having a most powerful, rhythmic quality. The drawings are all in India ink. THE FATHER, looking at the birch. It looks fine, splendid, doesn't it? The ATTENDANT enters from the right with wine and glasses. THE SON. Here is the wine. Thank you. You may go, I'll stay with Father. ATTENDANT exits to the right. THE FATHER, laying out his instruments on the bench. All right, let's drink the toast now! And then to work! There isn't so much left to do—perhaps I'll even get finished today. Ah, that would be something! The SON is filling the two glasses that stand on the bench. Yes, we'll have our toast right now! Just let me unpack first. Oh! I've run out of red India ink. Hmm—the maid must get me some immediately. THE SON. It's Sunday, the stores are closed. THE FATHER. That's right, it's Sunday—uh, how maddening. What am I to do now! I need red India ink desperately. Pointing to the blueprint. There . .. down here, all this will be filled in with red India ink. THE SON. Can't you finish another area? THE FATHER. Well, that would be possible. Pointing again. Here, for example—here I'd only need black and green. But that's soon done, and without the red I can't finish today . . . THE SON. So you'll finish tomorrow. THE FATHER. Ah, tomorrow! tomorrow! Who knows what will be tomorrow. I might be dead by then. Ha-ha . . . yes, really. What am I to do . . . It's maddening. Softly whistling in frustration, his head bent, his hands in his pockets, he walks past the bench, turns to the right, and proceeds a short distance upstage. In doing so, he catches sight of a fledgling bird on the ground, which must have dropped out of a nest. THE FATHER. Ah, look, what is this down here?

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Bends down. A little birdie, sure enough! Now, look at that! Picks it up. Such a thing! How did it get down here! It probably fell out of a nest. Why are you chirping so pathetically? Are you hungry? . . . Ha-ha-ha, so am I! Very brief pause. The FATHER is staring incessantly at the bird, then squeezing its body. Does this hurt?! does this hurt?! Ha-ha-ha . . . what do you think . .. During this, the FATHER turns his back to the SON. The SON fills both glasses, quickly pulls a paper out of his breast pocket, and pours the poison into one of the glasses. Then he searches for something to stir the liquid with, rapidly breaks a green twig off the birch and uses it to stir with. The FATHER turns around now, the SON drops the twig. THE FATHER, holding the fledgling. Ha, I've got an idea! Magnificent, really! Do you know how Til get my red India ink? Do you know? Well, see if anybody else can match this! Watch! Very rapidly he takes one of the compasses and drives one of the points deep into the flesh of the bird. There . .. The SON automatically seizes the FATHER'S arm and tries to stop him. THE FATHER. There, there, that's the way to do it. And now the drawing pen. Takes a drawing pen and dips it into the bird. There . . . go ahead and chirp now! THE SON makes a motion to take the little bird. Leave it alone, Father! THE FATHER. What?! What?! What do you want?! Watch out, watch out, I'm warning you! What, I'm not to have my red India ink? Watch out! Don't be presumptuous, my boy! I won't have that, once and for all!! THE SON, pacifying. Don't get excited . . . THE FATHER, nearly screaming. I need this red India ink, do you understand I must have it! I have got to have it! Who cares about a bird? Who? I must have my red ink. I'd stab a human being, I'm telling you. I must have it! THE SON. YOU are quite right, Father. I didn't think far enough. What does such a fledgling bird amount to? And you need your red ink .. . THE FATHER. NOW you are sensible. That's good . . . Well, I've taught you a lesson . .. sure . . . Working. You see how easily it's going, ha-ha . .. it's going magnificently! THE SON. Shouldn't we have our toast first? THE FATHER. Toast, y e s . . . we really must have it. We must drink to my clever idea. The SON has quickly taken his glass; the FATHER raises the poisoned drink. Suddenly the MOTHER enters from the right. When the FATHER sees her, he puts down his glass without having drunk.

Look who is here? Our Mommy! Advances toward her and leads her on. Come along, little mommy, you too shall have a toast with us. Oh, I must show you somethingHe picks up the dead bird and shows it to the MOTHER. Here, look, that's the way to get red India ink when youVe run out of it and the stores are closed. How do you like t h a t . . . ? Ha-ha!... Well, don't get so scared about this. Is a dead bird such a horrible thing? No, don't be scared, I won't harm you. Throws the bird away. Well . . . satisfied now? What? . . . And now let's have our toast. Fetch another glass, my boy, for our Mommy. The SON quickly exits to right. During the subsequent scene, the SISTER and the GIRL appear upstage from left, picking flowers. THE FATHER. My God, you're still looking at me so frightened. Really, I won't do anything to hurt you. And you look so pale—ah, really sick with worry. And deep shadows under your e y e s . . .


< 8

The MOTHER tries to smile.


No, not this kind of smile; it is worse than tears. I know, I know: It's all my fault, your pallor and the circles under your eyes, and your wrinkles here
and here . . .
The M O T H E R shakes her head.

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Yes! D o n ' t shake your head! It's been caused by the nights you have cried for m e . I know it! I know you, after all!
T H E MOTHER smiles quite painfully, tears welling up in her eyes.

Don't cry! Don't cry!—All will turn out well now. I am healthy, you see, and I can work again! The future lies before us blue and beautiful like this day, doesn't it, Mommy? No, don't grieve any more! Don't make yourself sick! . . . Mommy, you must stay well for me, what would I be without you . . . ! Who has cared for me all this time so beautifully and fondly—? It was you. You've always been loving. When I was nasty, you forgave me right away. You have made a happy home for me and borne my children. Tears glittering in his eyes. THE MOTHER. My only one, what would my life be without you? You have always been my staff; I am so fragile and feeble and I need support. You have always been that. You made me a mother, you made me happy . . . I can't exist without you . . . THE FATHER, nodding slowly. The future will be bright! I swear to you. My illness only cemented our love! You see, that was the good it worked. He raises a glass and, gazing at the MOTHER with a very solemn expression, drinks half. Now the MOTHER takes the other glass, nods smiling, and also drinks, GIRL and SISTER continue to pick flowers upstage as before. THE FATHER. Oh, that's good . . . THE MOTHER. You like the wine?


* </> ♦ ^ oj


Why shouldn't I like it? How well it warms! Ah! Spring is here . . . ! He puts his arm around the MOTHER. Ah, my dear sweet little wife! Can you guess what I am thinking now? He begins whisperingly, then ever more loudly and intensely. Intonation like a child's. Once again I want to see you In your bridal gown, All wrapped in silk, And stand before you, waiting. Once more the night lamp Shall glow in crimson hues of fairyland, And all your splendor bring Happy tears to my e y e s Then, shy and trembling, You will let fall the silk, And humbly I shall lift your veil, Absorbed in thoughts of joy to come .. . Then you will hold your hands To hide your nakedness, My power you will swell To mighty size! Then . . . all around u s . . . Many stars will blink . . . Soon it will be, this blissCome! Let us drink! He takes the glass from which the MOTHER has drunk before and empties it. The MOTHER takes the other glass, but it drops from her trembling hands and crashes to the ground. THE FATHER. Well, Mommy, what do you think you're doing . . . The SON enters from right carrying a third wineglass. THE SON in front of his parents, his face turned upstage. You both have drunk? THE FATHER. Yes, we'd already drunk one toast before. Now you must drink your own toast by yourself, my boy, that can't be helped . .. THE SON. Here are broken pieces—? THE FATHER. Mother dropped her glass. Maybe this might mean good luck, after all. Right, Mommy? THE SON. SO you didn't drink . . . THE MOTHER. Oh yes, yes! I did drink all right, but when I tried the second time I dropped the glass. THE SON, unwittingly eased. Ah— THE FATHER. But don't stand around there now with your empty glass. Drink! Takes the bottle.

Come, let me pour it for you! Pours into the SON'S glass. And now say a toast to our health, my boy! The SON drinks, posture


Well, well, don't you throw your glass down too! Your hands are shaking pretty badly. Well, that's what you get from running so fast. I am tired, my limbs feel so heavy. I'll go rest a little before

The SON places the empty glass upon the bench.

dinner. Looks at her watch. I still have some time. The FATHER has meanwhile turned to his work again, and readies the instruments. THE SON. Your limbs are heavy . . . ? THE MOTHER. Like lead. R e m e m b e r . . . Softly. T h e night— THE FATHER. Yes, M o m m y , go, go and rest! But have dinner ready on time.
THE MOTHER. Yes, for half past o n e . o

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She exits to the left. Soon afterward she appears on the terrace, a collapsible armchair under her arm. She sets it up. THE SON makes a half-turn, takes a few steps forward and up to his mother. Are you feeling very i l l . . . ? THE MOTHER. I'm only tired. Merely tired . . . First, I must have a good long rest again and sleep, you know . . . She leans back in the chair, closing her eyes. Just for a little while! Silence. T H E SON watches the FATHER working busily; then he looks down at the pieces of broken glass and gently touches them with the tip of his foot. Wipes his forehead with his right hand. How is this to be understood—? THE FATHER has wiped his forehead twice with his hand, now puts the instruments aside. That's that. Now all that's left is a n insignificant little corner, and then it'll be finished. Steps in front of the bench, stands arms akimbo, gazing at the blueprints. Here it's hanging now—my great p r o j e c t . . . yes, here it is, my work. His eyes are gradually getting misty. He works himself up gradually into an ever-intensifying state of rapture. Yet, it is finished . . . at l a s t . . . Just look at it, my b o y . . . look at it! Ah, now there is a moment's peace in m e . . . But it won't last long . . . I know myself... Soon I'll have to go on . . . begin with another s t a r . . . I know it. T h e r e is n o peace in this life . . . work! always work . . . when one star is done, it's the next one's turn . . . U h - h u h . . . just look at it, my boy, it's

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finished. And you are to give it life, do you hear? I'm entrusting it to you . . . With haste I want to help you too . . . You shall have it easy... like t h i s . . . yes, like this!... My hands over my brain . . . and I reach into my brain .. . you see . . . deep . . . and now, here . .. He takes his hands from his own head and lays them on his SON'S. Fm pouring it into you . . . I'm leaving it to you . . . pressing it into you . . . pressing it—does it hurt? He presses more violently. Does it hurt? . . . It must hurt, ha-ha-ha . . . Ah. Drops his hands breathlessly. Now Fve become your father for a second time and you my son. Isn't it so? Haven't I pressed my work into your brain?! Ha-ha-ha, that's the way it is. Now you are to complete it. .. and carry it further! . . . carry further this work! Do you hear? What do you have your mother for, if not for that? That's the way it i s . . . that's the way it i s . . . Why did I marry... I did not marry . . . ha! My work had sucked forth new blood . . . My work wished you to continue it. . . ha-ha, it's the same with marriage! Shame on you, if you don't create . . . Produce! produce! I am your father and keep my eye on you . . . Don't think you can do what you please! . . . I command you . . . you shall develop my work still further . . . I'm laying this on you as your duty . . . I am your father and may command you . .. You must obey me . . . And here you have my kisses too . .. Kissing his head impetuously. I love you . . . You are my son . . . and have to do what I wish . . . I love you . . . and you m u s t . . . Kisses! Kisses! ah .. . He falls back, the SON holds him, he sinks onto the bench, drops his head to the side and leans it upon the birch, on one of the blueprints. He is dead. The SISTER and the GIRL approach together down center-stage. Each carries a bunch of loose violets. THE SISTER hands her flowers to the BROTHER. Take this for Father! . . . Is he asleep? THE GIRL hands her flowers. Take this for Mother. Both exit together to the right. The SON puts one bunch beside the FATHER on the bench where the two wineglasses rest and the FATHER'S instruments are scattered about. He keeps the second bouquet in his hand. Suddenly he drops to his knees and presses his head impetuously into his FATHER'S lap. Silence. He rises and exits left. Stage empty for a short time. Then the SON appears on the terrace where the MOTHER is resting; he walks on tiptoe, peering at her to see if she is asleep. THE MOTHER. YOU can come nearer, I'm not asleep. THE SON steps up to her. But weren't you about to fall asleep?


Yes, Fm very tired .. . Oh, look, these beautiful violets! . . . are they from the garden? THE SON. Yes. Susanne sends them to you. And Hedi picked some for Father. THE MOTHER, accepting the flowers and burying her face in them. Ah, this makes me happy! He was so sweet to me just before, it was like a shaft of joy into my heart. And he spoke so confidently about his health that I myself began to believe at last that he would get well again someday. Oh, perhaps he really will! The SON kneels down by the MOTHER'S side and takes her hand. Ah, y e s . . . take my hand, that is good. Yes. .. firmly . . . like t h i s . . . THE SON. Are you feeling very ill? THE MOTHER. Just tired—and so strange—so unlike myself—so very strange I feel—my hands and my body and all—so unlike myself; I hope I won't get sick— THE SON. Does your head ache? THE MOTHER. No. All this results from these last few years—all these upsets, you know—and this constant anxiety—and then also this worry about you—and last night—oh, for a long time already I have been wishing myself in the grave. THE SON, his hand on her brow. Dear Mother, you mustn't feel this way, you know—if one wishes for death all the time, death will come at last. .. THE MOTHER, smiling. If Father gets well, I don't want to die—I want to be where he is—that's what I would like— Silence.

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He spoke so fondly. It entered deep into my soul. He spoke so sweetly of our second wedding feast. It was to come soon now, for he was well. I should then step in front of him in my bridal silk again, Just as it had been long ago, he would kneel down before me . . . Oh... Perhaps it will be so. Perhaps I shall be his bride once more, After so many tribulations he shall be mine once more. That would be heaven. Even more beautiful than it was. I know life now and its share of grief, And he knows illness and imprisonment. This then will be like resurrection from our anguished woes— Not merely youthful pleasure, but marvelous through knowledge. We shall be happier in a better way than we had been. All will be joy sublime . .. Oh then .. . how gladly would my breasts then nurse his child again! Her head falls back.

T H E SON, kneeling and without looking up to her. Loved one, sacred is the sleep slept at your breasts. M a n y things I hear stream past. T h a t is your way, mothers. He looks up. Silence. O Mother, how beautiful has b e e n your death . .. Silence. Mother, your death belonged to you. The stage darkens. The SON'S voice is heard sonorously from the darkness. You lived beyond, lonely, o n t h e height, And knew of nothing . .. T h e abyss gaped a n d darkness shrouded us, You failed to see m e . .. But every longing which arose in m e a n d grew, You knew i t . .. And every tear that rose in m e a n d flowed, You saw it Invisibly one bond did bind us: It held a n d throbbed . . . A touching song without a word: T w a s sung and sung . . . Oft from your somber rock your grieving blood Dripped down o n m e , W i t h gesture and with smile I often spilled Maternal blood . . . Yet from darkest woe it still conveyed To m e its furtive gleam of love. Now it ascends, becomes a star, Radiant and sublime. Curtain.
TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: Only the first three acts of this play, which constitute about four-fifths of the total length, are given here. The last two acts have been omitted because their inclusion would have made this selection excessively long, and also because the substance of the play is contained in the first three acts. No real development takes place in the remainder, which consists mostly of the Poet's monologues. He takes a job with a newspaper, then quickly decides to give it up, rejects his friend's request to change a passage in his play, and accepts the Girl's offer to give her first child away after she tells him she is carrying his child. There is no real end, but a hymnic invocation of the vistas of existence beckoning to them.



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^ T g van Goll, poet, playwright, novelist, translator, and theoreti^f cian, was born on March 29, 1891, in St. Die, Alsace. After ^J completing his doctorate at the University of Strasbourg, and in order to avoid being drafted for World War I, he moved to SwitzerW F * land, where he befriended members of the emerging Dada movement. From 1919 to 1939, he and his wife, Claire, also a poet, lived in Paris. In 1924, Goll founded Surrealisme, one of the first Surrealist publications. His plays are distinguished by their rejection of realism and extensive use of cinematic devices and have been categorized as Expressionist and Surrealist as well as Dadaist. They include The Immortals (1918), the preface to which follows; his cinematic tribute to Chaplin, Die Chaplinade (1920); and Methusalem, oder Der ewige Burger (Methuselah, or The Eternal Bourgeois, 1922), the latter produced in collaboration with the painter Georg Grosz. Goll died on February 27, 1950, in Paris, of leukemia.

T w o Superdramas
Yvan Goll

A difficult struggle has commenced for the new drama, the superdrama. The first drama was that of the Greeks, in which gods contested with men. A great thing it was that the gods then deemed men worthy of such a contest, some­ thing that has not since occurred. Drama meant enormous magnification of reality, a most profound, most enigmatic Pythian immersion in measureless passion, in corroding grief, and all of that colored in surreal tints. Later followed the drama of man for man's sake. Inner conflict, psychol­ ogy, problems, reason. A single reality and a single realm are to be reckoned with and, consequently, all measures are limited. All is concerned with a particular man, not the man. The life of the community is sorely neglected: no modern mass scene attains the power of the ancient chorus. The vast extent of the gap can be seen in the ill-begotten plays of the past century, which aimed at nothing more than being interesting, forensically pleading, or simply descriptive, imitative of life, noncreative. Now the new dramatist feels that the final struggle is imminent: man's struggle with all that is thinglike and beastlike around him and within him. He has penetrated into the realm of shadows, which cling to everything and lurk behind all reality. Only after their conquest will liberation be possible. The poet must learn again that there exist worlds quite different from the world of the five senses—worlds comprising the Superworld. He must meet this new situation head-on. This will by no means be a relapse into mysti­ cism or romanticism, or into the clowning of vaudeville, although all these have one thing in common—the extrasensory.
Preface to The Immortals, 1918. Trans. Walter H. Sokel. Reprinted from An Anthology of German Expressionist Drama: A Prelude to the Absurd, ed. Walter H. Sokel (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1963), 9-11.

The first task will have to be the destruction of all external form—reason­ able attitudes, conventionality, morality, all the formalities of life. Man and things will be shown as naked as possible, and always through a magnifying glass for better effect. We have forgotten entirely that the stage is nothing but a magnifying glass. Great drama had always known this. The Greeks strode in buskins, Shakespeare discoursed with the spirits of dead giants. We have forgotten entirely that the primary symbol of the theater is the mask. The mask is rigid, unique, and impressive. It is unchangeable, inescapable; it is Fate. Every man wears his mask, wears what the ancients called his guilt. Children are afraid of it and cry. Man, complacent and sober, should learn to cry again; the stage serves that purpose. And do not the greatest works of art, a Negro god or an Egyptian king, often appear to us as masks? In the mask lies a law, and this is the law of drama. Nonreality becomes fact. For a moment, proof is given that the most banal can be mysterious and "divine," and that herein lies Sublime Truth. Truth is not contained in reason. It is found by the poet, not the philosopher. Life, not the intellectual abstract, is truth. Furthermore, we discover that every event, the most heartshaking as well as the most trivial, is of eminent significance to the total life of this world. The stage must not limit itself to "real" life; it becomes "superreal" when it knows about things behind things. Pure realism was the worst error of all literature. It is not the object of art to make life comfortable for the fat bourgeois so that he may nod his head: "Yes, yes, that's the way it is! And now let's go for a bite!" Art, insofar as it seeks to educate, to improve men, or to be in any way effective, must slay workaday man; it must frighten him as the mask frightens the child, as Euripides frightened the Athenians who staggered from the theater. Art exists to change man back into the child he was. The simplest means to accomplish this is by the use of the grotesque—a grotesque that does not cause laughter. The dullness and stupidity of men are so enormous that only enormities can counteract them. Let the new drama be enormous. Therefore the new drama must have recourse to all technological props which are contemporary equivalents of the ancient mask. Such props are, for instance, the phonograph, which masks the voice, the denatured masks and other accoutrements which proclaim the character in a crudely typifying manner: oversized ears, white eyes, stilts. These physiological exaggerations, which we, shapers of the new drama, do not consider exaggerations, have their equivalents in the inner hyperboles of the plot: Let the situation stand on its head; that a sentence be more effective, let it be produced as when one stares steadily at a chess board until the black squares appear white and the white squares black: when we approach the truth, concepts overlap. We want theater. We seek the most fantastic truth. We search for the Superdrama.



cd Dada

ristan Tzara (1896-1963), poet, playwright, editor, and theorist, was born in Romania and moved to Zurich, Switzerland, at the beginning of World War I. Tzara was one of the founders and the chief theorist of Dada, which originated in 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich and spread to several major European cities, including Berlin and Cologne. From 1917 to 1920, Tzara wrote seven manifestos ex­ pressing the central tenets of Dada in his typically angry, mischievous, and nonsensical writing style. In the 1918 Dada Manifesto, his bestknown theoretical text, Tzara affirms the famous declaration that brought Dada to the notice of Andre Breton and his friends in Paris: "Art is a private affair, the artist produces it for himself; an intelligible work is the product of a journalist." Logic, meanwhile, is "a complication" and "always wrong," drawing words and notions "toward illusory ends and centers." Dada has been called "anti-art," as it seeks to destroy the staid conventions of traditional art with its spontaneity and freedom from all logical constraints. Unlike the Futurists, from whom the Dadaists appropriated several aesthetic principles for the creation of drama, such as the use of simultaneous action and of an antagonistic relationship to the audience, the Dadaists were pacifists; Dada began as a reaction to what its members perceived as the madness of World War I. In the face of such insane destruction, the logic of mainstream art forms was futile. In 1920, Tzara moved to Paris, where his First Celestial Adventure of Mr. Antipyrine was produced at the Theatre de TOeuvre, with sets designed by Francis Picabia. In 1923, the production of Tzara's Gas Heart at the Theatre Michel provoked fights between its supporters and detractors; but by 1924 the introduction of Surrealism by Andre Breton, who had broken with Dada two years earlier, signaled the death of Dada as an influential avant-garde movement.


Anarchy and Resistance in Tristan Tzara's Gas Heart I.
To state here that Tristan Tzara's Gas Heart (Le coeur a gaz) is itself a form of anarchy against art,1 and specifically the theater, would be simply restatement. Tzara, a Romanian poet, found his artistic home in Zurich's Cabaret Voltaire. Along with two co-Dadaists, Tzara unquestionably suggested the perfect form of inaugural entertainment for the cabaret's opening debut in early 1916. Richard Huelsenbeck, Marcel Janco, and Tzara all read poems from their collections; there was a catch though, the effect of which aptly illuminates the spirit of Dada. All three poets read simultaneously, each poet's words, inflections, and rhythms competing with the others to create purely artistic babble.2 In this "experi­ ment," anarchy and art fused to annihilate "the language by which the war was justified."3 A clue to understanding Tzara's Dada stage, and surely Dada's final demise, comes from an Expressionist/Dada performance of a play by Oskar Kokoschka titled Sphinx und Strohmann (Sphinx and Strawman). On its opening night, actors performed the play to the mistimed special effects of thunder and lightning controlled offstage by none other than Tzara himself. His control of these effects was met with skepticism by fellow performers, as well as viewers and critics, yet Tzara maintained that these dissonant backgrounds were "intended by the direc­ tor."4 Kokoschka, however, was also baffled by Tzara's handling of the controls and claimed to have had nothing of the sort in mind. This is a fabulous example of the natural contentions between staging an art form (theater) which so "neces­ sarily relies on constructive cooperation,"5 and Dada, which constantly solicited a derailing of expectations—even those assumed relationships behind the cur­ tain. With anarchy pervading the communication and understanding between playwright and performance, it is no wonder that Dada's link to the theater came so quickly to an end.

In Tzara's Gas Heart, there are a number of corroborating elements which may be identified as anarchic. There is little stage direction to The Gas Heart Occasionally, the character called Mouth must exit and re-enter; at one point, Eye has to fall to the stage and walk on all fours, but little more. The play begins with a few modest instructions: Neck must "[stand] downstage" with Nose opposite [facing] the audience; the other characters can enter and "exit as they please" unless otherwise indicated in the text; the Gas Heart, a character with no lines to speak at all, walks the stage with aimless surrender.
Excerpted from Robert A. Varisco, "Anarchy and Resistance in Tristan Tzara's The Gas Heart," Modern Drama 40. I (Spring 1997): 139-48.

Interestingly, these stage directions continue after the brief introductory notes as a sort of authorial commentary. Tzara writes that the play is the "greatest three-act hoax of the century: it will satisfy only industrialized im­ beciles who believe in the existence of men of genius. Actors are requested to give this play the attention due a masterpiece such as Macbeth or Chanteder, but to treat the author—who is not a genius—with no respect and to note the levity of the script which brings no technical innovation to the theater."6 It does not take more than a second to realize that these are not stage directions at all, but false exegeses (much in the spirit of Chaucer's part-earnest, part-jest "Retraction"). With this commentary, Tzara countermands the play before the first line has even been uttered. The text ceases to be art, as he insists the text is fraudulent, a "hoax" whose joke is leveled at the vitality of the theater itself—the audience and benefactors. In so doing, Tzara attacks and shakes the ideological platform of the theater. If not for the benefit of its audiences and supporters, what is the purpose of creating and acting out plays? Why bother with theater hall and audience at all, and not simply text and readers? Tzara knew the risk he took with such sanctimony. A play that had nothing new to offer, one which explicitly declared its "levity" as a product of an author "who is not a ■§ genius," stood to receive little attention from audiences and critics who were Q already wearied by the preposterous claims and babble of Dada manifestos and t other fatuous, fustian productions. i> Tzara's Dadaism is anarchy. The theater is not a hallowed ground, and rather GQ than being rebuilt, it needed to be destroyed. Alienating audience, meaning, and authority in this way was the first step in the overturning of traditional theater. It was precisely this traditional theater, in fact, whose clearly delineated identities permitted the action to proceed in an orderly fashion, which was Dada's bullseye. A traditional character is usually introduced whose individuality gradually takes shape, springing first and most strongly from the character's given name. Over time, the names of characters from especially memorable texts (often made popular by the biases and consensus that avant-garde playwrights resisted) lodge in the minds of generations afterward—Jesus, Othello, Jane Eyre, Roquentin. In The Gas Heart, however, identity is rejected as an ordering and controlling tool. Tzara uses general, undisguised body parts as names for the play's charac­ ters: Eye, Mouth, Nose, Ear, Neck, and Eyebrow; Tzara thus deconstitutes customary dramaturgical organization and reconstitutes a spontaneous, revolu­ tion/riot-type (mob formation) anonymity. They are part of a whole naturally; each body part cannot separate itself from the others, just as the nose for instance, cannot be removed from an actual body. Onstage, the parts are unpre­ dictable in action and speech, yet they all blend together—few semiotic traits distinguish them. They jockey for position above their squirming audience, anes­ thetizing the hall with ravings and gibbering. Finally, they attack their prey with shouted monosyllables and a command of subordination in the end. As body parts, the characters analogize the authorial point that all stage members con­ tribute to the dramatic performance, codependent on one another. Tzara's stage "body" stews together in a way similar to the revolutionary

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"body" as described by Menenius in Shakespeare's Tragedy of Coriolanus. In Coriolanus ( I , i. 96-155) the revolutionary crowds that take up arms against the despot are described in an analogy as "mutinous members" against a benevolent "belly" the organ that "feeds" all in the kingdom. In Tzara's play, the revolution­ ary mob7 as "body" and stage performers as "body," stir and diffuse similarly. Both "bodies," contingent in their varied grievances, move against their respec­ tive oppressive powers. In the case of the anarchist swarm, the oppressive power is the tyranny of masters. The oppressive power in the case of Tzara's stage is stale tradition and an audience that had long become too comfortable with theater as entertainment. Tzara mocks the audience as the complementary brain which finalizes the play's anatomy; the brain rests dormant in the faint and numb collective awareness of the spectators, another bodily device, but one which the other parts loathe. Language and anonymity are the weapons leveled at the spectator-enemy. When Tzara removed personalities and names, real characters, from the stage, he undermined the expectations of every viewer; a veritable bomb was thrown into the seats from the theater wings. In the play itself, there are a few identifiable semiotic strategies that undermine the traditional dramatic text. The beginning lines, for instance, are two separate collocations of words that illustrate a class structure of haves ("statues jewels roasts") and have-nots ("cigar pimple nose"). The first assemblage is made of items which the cultured (and assuredly, the uncultured) would recognize as things associated with the affluent bour­ geois, those who parade expensive jewelry while discussing high art over dinner. An accompanying line to this first assemblage, "and the wind open to mathemati­ cal allusions," (133) is a reference to the sort of strategically dropped cocktail chat that reinforces class convictions and apprehensions in western pedagogy— the cultured are those educated who are chosen to lead and who prefer to let it be known. The second assemblage is just as revelatory. Here, the emblems of "cigar pimple nose" are common, even dull, just as its attending statement, "he was in love with a stenographer," points to the dullest of professions. However, an analysis of class distinction with regard to the opening lines of the drama makes little sense without the lines which follow the assemblages: eyes replaced by motionless navels mister mygod is an excellent journalist inflexible yet acquatic [sic] a good morning was drifting in the air what a sad season. Though at first glance it appears as if the lines are merely capricious, Tzara is fighting the rationality of a world caught up in its own indifference and vanity, "fragmentation and decomposition."8 It is "a sad season" indeed when "eyes" are as sightless as "navels," people are satisfied with their gods and an "inflex­ ible," dank morning, spread over the region like a wet towel, is a "good morning." This disillusionment translates into further ludicrousness when the other body parts listening in on Eye's monologue comment upon the "lagging" quality

of such considerations. It would seem as if the pandemonium of words is blithely overlooked by all present; the musical anarchy of Eye's compression of words seems lost on the listeners (133-34). Yet hidden in the habitual conversation between these parts to the whole is a real politics of interference. Eyebrow notes that "Justice" becomes a "regular functioning" monument likened to a "nervous tic or a religion" (136). In essence, the concepts of fairness and equity in a world gone mad with domination and battle-lust are taken for granted or totally overlooked and lose their power. The point is well made by the character that "says" a lot without the use of words; an Eyebrow's position on the face "speaks" volumes in context—a furrowed, wor­ ried brow has enormous power. A correctly positioned Eyebrow can even se­ duce or alarm or both. Eyebrow acidly grieves over capital J, "Justice," a monolith encased in stone that passersby hardly notice. But it is Eye who acutely reminds Eyebrow et al. that the passerby, in the "regularity of his life," will experience "a little death, too" (136). No doubt a double meaning here, but at least one meaning is that Eye warns an unconcerned and listless audience to question its role as spectators of a greater, abominably absurd drama, whose gunpowder special-FX hang all about them. "Have you felt the horrors of the war? [... ] Don't you speak the same language [as I do]? [... ] What. . . prevents my words from penetrating the wax of your brain?" (140); "regularity . . . continuity" stuns the mind, but this most irregular play demands of its watchers t o w a k e up and speak out. W e t h e spectators must practice giving "abortive birth t o o u r obscurities" (regularity!) m o r e than just " o n c e a day," says Eyebrow. Eye supports this call t o purge regulatory "obscurities" (regularity!) by again reminding spectators t h a t " t i m e is lacking n o longer." T h e w a r has " c o m ­ pressed" t i m e , a little of it goes a long way, and though " t h e eye is weak," it is n o t yet closed ( 1 3 7 ) . Something must be done: counteraction! Love is both the key to unlocking one problem and the revelation of another for the characters. Ear declares, "It's spring it's spring," the traditional season of love, and a quarrel between Nose and Neck begins. "I tell you it's two yards," says Nose, while Neck counters, "I tell you it's three yards," and on they argue for several turns. Eye cuts off the pair and informs the audience as to what "it" is in their race. "Love," like "Justice," is a crisis whose regular evocation, "accumu­ lated by centuries," reduces its sovereignty and quality to "a nervous tic of shifting sand dunes." Love is a "hair-do [ . . . ] on the flail," something which appears "outwardly new" but whose erratic, fickle treatment changes its face with the hour. In the end, it is little more than an "error" (141 -42). Neck and Nose once more pick up the quarrel, with love being "seventeen yards [... ] eighteen yards [... ] nineteen yards," and so on. Soon the race ends at twenty-nine yards, mired down by the greater and greater distance from where it began running from "Love." The second act ends and soon the final act begins. In the third act, love is revived long enough to show how explicitly vacu­ ous it is through the Mouth. After declaring its love for a modest list of inane items ("cats, birds, animals and vegetables [... ] bedding, vases and meadows"), none of which are capable of equaling and returning such love, Mouth concludes that these things are only "dreams" which "dampen the evening," dreams which


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are more oppressive than inspiring] because of their pedestrian tangibility. More frustrated than ever, Mouth exits the stage area once more (143). The other characters then mock Mouth's sentimentality by alluding that love is an "illusion" and a "prize horse" that "has lost its energy," a revving chatter to prepare the way for the coming denouement. It is Eye that speaks again and unveils the true power in which love erroneously wraps itself—lust. With Eye's brief monologue, love is mutated: for Clytemnestra, Eye's "blood trembles [... ] cells awaiting" her, "the violence of [his] breath" imparts his anticipation of the "sweet childish possibilities"—what "further sensational revelations" does she need? If love is the docile, grown up form of expressive communication between sexual creatures, then Eye demands a return to the "childish possibilities" of lust (144). This is an anarchy against both adulthood's unfair tempering of youthful exploration and curiosity and bourgeois Romanticism, an uptight paper tiger of robotic, social persecution attempting to disguise natural, promiscuous, animal lust. Tzara as playwright strikes soundly, with steady punches, at false, cramped propriety. Throughout the play and right up to the end, The Gas Heart elevates the realm of pointless verbiage. The body parts who are our characters take turns at resistance in highly stylized and antisymbolic philosophizing which always leads back to the prevalent feeling of "lag" that they all share. The exception to this rule is the case of Mouth. Throughout the text, it is Mouth who constantly exits, each time following a particularly senseless speech by another. During an early exchange with Eye, both Mouth and Eye take turns repeating a question: "The conversation is lagging, isn't it? [... ] Yes, isn't it? [... ] Obviously, isn't it?" (13334). This very blunt, barren repartee fixes the limits of lingual/linguistic opera­ tion for Mouth. Anything outside of vacant chitchat, Mouth considers too alien and complex. Language, perhaps, is extremely important to Mouth; Mouth is "too sensi­ tive" to language's use, dislikes the diffuse anarchy of others, and thus constantly "shuts off" and exits. The disorder of catcalls and clamor does not affect this character. Intense, hard-boiled babble, the undoing of language, does. Each time Mouth speaks, the audience's attention is drawn to the striking difference be­ tween its thoughts and those of the others. "It gets warm in the summer" (135), "let's not forget the camera" (138), "I've made a great deal of money" (139), and "I'll be on my ship by next Monday" (139) are all examples of simple, complete thoughts and sentences Mouth uses to counteract and combat the convoluted, surrounding inanity. In reality, a mouth (Mouth) is the mechanism of language; communication is the mouth's function: "Thought is made in the mouth," as Tzara ruminates.9 From the mouth, language distinguishes the authentic self and separates the speaker in the minds of those around us, people we know and meet. In the play, Mouth resists the others in hopes of grounding, controlling, and restraining language. The others can feel the difference between themselves and Mouth; "Everybody knows you," they take turns jeering at Mouth (143). The question then arises, Is Mouth the anarchist of the play in opposition to the babbling concord of Eye, Ear, Nose, Neck, and Eyebrow? Or is Mouth the Simon

Legree bad guy skeptically calling into question the neological experiments of the accompanying black pennies? Again, it doesn't matter, as Mouth concedes, "I don't mean to say anything," sporadically slipping into its own brief, unintelligible drivel before finally alienating itself, "alone" and "blank" with its simple thoughts: "I love birds [ . . . ] I love cats [ . . . ] I love hay." The lawlessness of empty and jumbled chatter reigns in the end. "[A] lovely marriage" of repudiatory, cynical absurdity marks and terminates the previous disorder in the final commands of the remaining rebel characters: "Go lie down" (146).

1. Martin Esslin states this a little differently: "the destruction of art," 364 in The Theatre of the Absurd, 3rd ed. (London, 1980). 2. Esslin, 365-66. 3. Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History ofthe Twentieth Century (Cambridge, 1984), 195. 4. Hugo Ball, quoted in Esslin, Theatre of the Absurd, 365. 5. Esslin, 366. 6. Tristan Tzara, The Gas Heart, in Modem French Theatre: An Anthology of Plays, trans, and ed. Michael Benedikt and George E. Wellwarth (New York, 1964), 133. Subsequent page references appear parenthetically in the text. 7. O r perhaps, disgruntled masses, or even Leo Tolstoy's "freely flying swarm," quoted in Michael Ossar, Anarchism in the Dramas of Ernst Toller (Albany, N.Y.: 1980), 24. 8. Gordon Frederick Browning, Tristan Tzara: The Genesis of the Dada Poem, or from Dada to Aa, 56 (Stuttgart, 1979), I I . 9. Richard Huelsenbeck, Memoirs of a Dada Drummer, ed. H. Kleinschmidt (New York, 1969), 35.

Select Bibliography on Tzara
See Benedikt and Wellwarth, Modern French Theatre; Berghaus, "Dada Theatre"; Bigsby; Erickson; Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd; Gordon, Dada Performance; Hedges; Matthews, Theatre in Dada and Surrealism; Melzer; and Pronko, Avant-Garde, in the General Bibliography.

T h e Gas Heart
Tristan Tzara


ACT I Neck stands downstage, Nose opposite, confronting the audience. All the other characters enter and leave as they please. The gas heart walks slowly around, circulating widely; it is the only and greatest three-act hoax of the century; it will satisfy only industrialized imbeciles who believe in the existence of men of genius. Actors are requested to give this play the attention due a masterpiece such as Macbeth or Chantecler, but to treat the author—who is not a genius— with no respect and to note the levity of the script, which brings no technical innovation to the theater. EYE: Statues jewels roasts statues jewels roasts statues jewels roasts statues jewels roasts
Reprinted from Modern French Theatre: The Ayant-Garde, Dada, and Surrealism; An Anthology of Flays, ed. Michael Benedikt and George E. Wellwarth; trans. Michael Benedikt (New York: Dutton, 1964), 131-46.

statues jewels roasts and the wind open to mathematical allusions cigar pimple nose cigar pimple nose cigar pimple nose cigar pimple nose cigar pimple nose cigar pimple nose he was in love with a stenographer eyes replaced by motionless navels mister mygod is an excellent journalist inflexible yet aquatic a good-morning was drifting in the air what a sad season MOUTH: The conversation is lagging isn't it? EYE: Yes, isn't it. MOUTH: Very lagging, isn't it?
EYE: Yes, isn't it?
M O U T H : Naturally, isn't it?

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EYE: Obviously, isn't it?
MOUTH: Lagging, isn't it?


EYE: Yes, isn't it?
MOUTH: Obviously, isn't it?

EYE: Yes, isn't it? MOUTH: Very lagging, isn't it? EYE: Yes, isn't it?
M O U T H : Naturally, isn't it?

EYE: Obviously, isn't it?
MOUTH: Lagging, isn't it?

EYE: Yes, isn't it?
MOUTH: Obviously, isn't it?

EYE: Yes, isn't it? NOSE: You over there, m a n with starred scars, where are you running? EAR: I'm running toward happiness I'm burning in the eyes of passing days I swallow jewels I sing in courtyards love has not court nor hunting horn to fish u p hard-boiled-egg hearts with

Mouth exits. NOSE: You over there, man with a scream like a fat pearl, what are you eating?

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EAR: Over two years have passed, alas, since I set out on this hunt. But do you see how one can get used to fatigue and how death would be tempted to live, the magnificent emperor's death proves it, the importance of every­ thing diminishes—every day—a little . .. NOSE: You over there, man with wounds of chained wool mollusks, man with various pains and pockets full, pieman of all maps and places, where do you come from? EYE: The bark of apotheosized trees shadows wormy verse but the rain makes organized poetry's clock tick. The banks filled with medicated cotton­ wool. String man supported by blisters like you and like all others. To the porcelain flower play us chastity on your violin, O cherry tree, death is so quick and cooks over the bituminous coal of the trombone capital. NOSE: Hey you over there, sir . .. EAR: Hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey NECK: Tangerine and white from Spain I'm killing myself Madeleine Madeleine. EAR: The eye tells the mouth: open your mouth for the candy of the eye. NECK: Tangerine and white from Spain I'm killing myself Madeleine Madeleine. EYE: Upon the ear the vaccine of serious pearl flattened to mimosa. EAR: Don't you think it's getting rather warm? MOUTH: (who has just come in again): It gets warm in the summer. EYE: The beauty of your face is a precision chronometer. NECK: Tangerine and white from Spain I'm killing myself Madeleine Madeleine. EAR: The watch hand indicates the left ear the right eye the forehead the eyebrow the forehead the eyebrow the left eye the left ear the lips the chin the neck. EYE: Clytemnestra, the diplomat's wife, was looking out the window. The cellists go by in a carriage of Chinese tea, biting the air and openhearted caresses. You are beautiful, Clytemnestra, the crystal of your skin awakens our sexual curiosity. You are as tender and as calm as two yards of white silk. Clytemnestra, my teeth chatter. I'm cold, I'm afraid. I'm green I'm flower I'm gasometer I'm afraid. You are married. My teeth chatter. When will you have the pleasure of looking at the lower jaw of the revolver closing in my chalk lung. Hopeless, and without any family. NECK: Tangerine and white from Spain I'm killing myself Madeleine Madeleine. MOUTH: Too sensitive to approval by your good taste I have decided to shut off the faucet. The hot and cold water of my charm will no longer be able to divert the sweet results of your sweat, true love or new love. (Exits.) EAR (entering): His neck is narrow but his foot is quite large. He can easily

drum with his fingers or toes on his oval belly which has already served as a ball several times during rugby. He is not a being because he consists of pieces. Simple men manifest their existences by houses, important men by monuments. NOSE: How true how true how true how true how true . . . EYEBROW: "Where," "how much," "why" are monuments. Like, for example, Justice. What beautifully regular functioning, practically a nervous tic or a religion. NOSE (decrescendo): How true how true how true how true how true . . . EYEBROW: In the lake dipped twice in the sky—the bearded sky—a pretty morning was found. The object fleeting between the nostrils. Acidulous taste of weak electric current, this taste which at the entrances to salt mines switches to zinc, to rubber, to cloth—weightless and grimy. One evening—while out walking in the evening—someone found, deep down, a tiny little evening. And it's name was good evening. NOSE: How true how true how true how true how true . . . EYE: Look out! cried the hero, the two paths of smoke from those enemy houses were knotting a necktie—and it rose overhead to the navel of the light. NOSE: How true how true how true how true how true . . . EAR: Carelessly the robber changed himself into a valise, the physicist might therefore state that the valise stole the robber. The waltz went on con­ tinuously—it is continuously which was not going on—it was waltzing— and the lovers were tearing off pieces of it as it passed—on old walls posters are worthless. NOSE: How true how true how true how true how true .. . EYE: They kept catching colds with great regularity. For the regularity of his life a little death, too. Its name was continuity. NOSE: How true how true how true how true how true . . . EYE: Never had a fisherman made more assassinating shadows under the bridges of the city. But suddenly midnight sounded beneath the stamp of a blink and tears mingled in telegrams undecoded and obscure. EYEBROW: He flattened out like a bit of tin foil and several drops several memories several leaves testified to the cruelty of an impassioned and actual fauna. Wind the curtain of nothingness shakes—his stomach is full of foreign money. Nothingness drinks nothingness: the air has ar­ rived with its blue eyes, and that is why he goes on taking aspirin all the time. Once a day we give abortive birth to our obscurities. EYE: We have the time, alas, time is lacking no longer. Time wears a mus­ tache now like everyone, even women and clean-shaven Americans. Time is compressed—the eye is weak—but it isn't yet in the miser's wrinkled purse.

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MOUTH: Isn't it? EYE: The conversation is lagging, isn't it? MOUTH: Yes, isn't it? EYE: Very lagging, isn't it? MOUTH: Yes, isn't it? EYE: Naturally, isn't it? MOUTH: Obviously, isn't it? EYE: Lagging, isn't it? MOUTH: Yes, isn't it? EYE: Very lagging, isn't it? MOUTH: Yes, isn't it? EYE: Naturally, isn't it? MOUTH: Lagging, isn't it? EYE: Obviously, mygod.

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ACT II We're going to the races today. Let's not forget the camera. EYE: Well, hello. EAR: The mechanical battalion of the wrists of shriveled handshakes. Mouth exits. NOSE (shouts): Clytemnestra is winning! EAR: What do you mean you didn't know that Clytemnestra was a racehorse? EYE: Amorous jostlings lead everywhere. But the season is propitious. Take care, dear friends, the season is satisfactory. It chews up words. It distends silences in accordions. Snakes line up everywhere in their polished eye­ glasses. And what do you do with the bells of eyes, asked the entrepreneur. EAR: "Seekers and curious people," answered Ear. She finishes the nerves of others in the white porcelain shell. She inflates. NOSE: Fan having a seizure of wood, light body with enormous laugh. EYEBROW: The driving-belts of the mills of dreams brush against the woolen lower jaws of our carnivorous plants. EAR: Yes, I know, the dreams with hair. EYE: Dreams of angels. EAR: Dreams of cloth, paper watches. EYE: The enormous and solemn dreams of inaugurations. EAR: Of angels in helicopters.


NOSE: Yes, I know. EYE: The angels of conversation. NECK: Yes, I know. EAR: Angels in cushions. NOSE: Yes, I know. EYE: Angels in ice.
NOSE: Yes, I know.

EAR: Angels in local neighborhoods. NOSE: Yes, I know. EAR: The ice is broken, said our fathers to our mothers, in the first springtime of their life, which was both honorable and gracious. EYE: This is how the hour understands the hour, the admiral his fleet of words. Winter child the palm of my hand. Mouth enters. MOUTH: I've made a great deal of money.
NOSE: Thank you, not bad.


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I swim in the fountain I have necklaces of goldfish.


NECK: Thank you, not bad.

MOUTH: I'm wearing the latest French coiffure. NOSE: Thank you, not bad. EYE: I've already seen it in Paris.
NECK: Thank you, not bad.

I don't understand anything about the rumblings of the next war. And I'm getting thinner every day. A young man followed me in the street on his bicycle. I'll be on my ship next Monday.

NECK: Thank you, not bad.

NOSE: Thank you, not bad.

NECK: Thank you, not bad.

NOSE: Thank you, not bad.

EYE: Clytemnestra, the wind is blowing. The wind is blowing. On the quays of decorated bells. Turn your back cut off the wind. Your eyes are stones because they only see the wind and rain. Clytemnestra. Have you felt the horrors of the war? Do you know how to slide on the sweetness of my speech? Don't you breathe the same air as I do? Don't you speak the same language? With what limitless metal are your fingers of misery in­ laid? What music filtered by what mysterious curtain prevents my words from penetrating the wax of your brain? Certainly, stone grinds you and bones strike against your muscles, but language chopped into chance slices will never release in you the stream which employs white methods.

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Mouth exits. EAR: Doubtless you know the calendars of birds? EYE: What? EAR: Three hundred and sixty-five birds—every day a bird flies away—every hour a feather falls—every two hours somebody writes a poem—some­ body cuts it apart with scissors. NOSE: IVe already seen it in Paris. EYE: What a philosophy. What a poet. I don't like poetry. EAR: Then you must love cold drinks? Or a countryside that rolls like a dancer's permanent waves? Or ancient cities? Or the black arts? EYE: I know all about that. NOSE: A little more life on the stage. EYEBROW: Gray drum for the flower of your lung. EAR: My lung is made out of lung and is not a mere cardboard front, if you really want to know. EYE: But, Miss.
EAR: Please, Sir. EYE: Bony sacraments in military prisons painting doesn't m u c h interest m e . I like a quiet countryside with considerable galloping. NOSE: Your piece is quite charming b u t you really don't c o m e away enriched. EYEBROW: There's nothing to be enriched by in it everything is easy to follow and even c o m e away with. An outlet of thought from which a whip will emerge. T h e whip will be a forget-me-not. T h e forget-me-not a living inkwell. T h e inkwell will dress a doll. EAR: Your daughter is quite charming. EYE: You're very considerate. EAR: D o you care for sports? EYE: Yes, this m e t h o d of communication is very practical. EAR: You know of course that I own a garage. EYE: T h a n k you very m u c h . EAR: It's spring it's spring . . .
NOSE: I tell you it's two yards.

NECK: I tell you it's three yards. NOSE: I tell you it's four yards. NECK: I tell you it's five yards.
NOSE: I tell you it's six yards.

NECK: I tell you it's seven yards. NOSE: I tell you it's eight yards. NECK: I tell you it's nine yards.


I tell you it's ten yards. NECK: I tell you it's eleven yards. NOSE: I tell you it's twelve yards. NECK: I tell you it's thirteen yards. NOSE: I tell you it's fourteen yards. NECK: I tell you it's fifteen yards. NOSE: I tell you it's sixteen yards. EAR: Thank you thank you very good. EYE: Love—sport or indictment summary of the directories of love—love accumulated by centuries of weights and numbers with its breasts of copper and crystal god is a nervous tic of shifting sand dunes nervous and agile leafs through countrysides and the pockets of onlookers the hair-do of death thrown on the flail outwardly new friendship with error delicately juxtaposed. NOSE: I tell you love's seventeen yards. NECK: I tell you it's eighteen yards. NOSE: I tell you it's nineteen yards. NECK: I tell you it's twenty yards. NOSE: I tell you it's twenty-one yards. NECK: I tell you it's twenty-two yards. NOSE: I tell you it's twenty-three yards. NECK: I tell you it's twenty-four yards. NOSE: I tell you it's twenty-five yards. NECK: I tell you it's twenty-six yards. NOSE: I tell you it's twenty-seven yards. NECK: I tell you it's twenty-eight yards. NOSE: I tell you it's twenty-nine yards. EAR: You have a very pretty head you ought to have it sculpted you ought to give the grandest of parties to know nature better and to love nature and sink forks into your sculpture the grasses of the ventilators flatter the lovely days. EYEBROW: Fire! Fire I think Clytemnestra's ablaze.

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ACT III NECK: The sky is clouded my finger is opened sewing-machine these staring examinations the river is opened the brain clouded sewing-machine these staring examinations. MOUTH: We will make fine material for the crystal dress with it. NOSE: You mean to say: "Despair gives you its explanations regarding its rates of exchange." MOUTH: I don't mean to say anything. A long time ago I put everything I had to say into a hatbox. NECK: Everybody knows you, installation of conjugal bliss. NOSE: Everybody knows you, tapestry of forgotten ideas, crystallization. NECK: Everybody knows you, formula for a song, running board of algebra, insomnia number, triple-skinned machine. MOUTH: Everybody does not know me. I am alone here in my wardrobe and the mirror is blank when I look at myself. Also I love the birds at the ends of lit cigarettes. Cats, all animals and all vegetables. I love cats, birds, animals, and vegetables which are the projection of Clytemnestra in the courtyard, bedding, vases, and meadows. I love hay. I love the young man who makes such tender declarations to me and whose spine is ripped asunder in the sun. Dance of the gentleman fallen from a funnel in the ceiling onto the table. MOUTH: Dreams dampen the evening of stretched hide. (Exits.) EYE: Imagine that my dear friend I no longer love him. EAR: Which one do you mean? EYE: I mean the one Fve loved too long. EAR: Me too, Fve lost an illusion. The prize horse in my stable has lost his energy. EYE: Well then, my dear, his life must be renewed. EAR: You're just bitter. (Exits.) Enter Mouth. EYE: Clytemnestra you are beautiful. I love you with the intensity of a diver . . . his seaweeds. My blood trembles. Your eyes are blue. Why can't you hear, Clytemnestra, the quiet laughter of my cells awaiting you, the violence of my breath and the sweet childish possibilities fate has in store for us? Are you perhaps awaiting further sensational revelations regarding my temperament? Exit Mouth. Eye falls to the stage.

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NOSE: Huge. NECK: Fixed. NOSE: Cruel.
NECK: Broad.

NOSE: Small. NECK: Short. NOSE: Shrill.
NECK: Feeble.

NOSE: Magnificent.
NECK: Long.

NOSE: Narrow. NECK: Strong. NOSE: Sensitive. NECK: Fat. NOSE: High. NECK: Slim. NOSE: Trembling.
NECK: Fine.

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NOSE: Clear.
NECK: Courageous.

NOSE: Thin. NECK: Obscure. NOSE: Timid. NECK: Pretty. NOSE: White.
NECK: Flexible.

NOSE: Deep. NECK: Nasty. NOSE: Ugly. NECK: Heavy. NOSE: Low.
NECK: Black.

NOSE: Superficial.
NECK: Scentless.

NOSE: Harmonious.
NECK: Smooth.

NOSE: Rigid. NECK: Tangerine and white from Spain I'm killing myself Madeleine Madeleine.

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EAR (entering with Mouth, who crawls on all fours, and shouting): Clytemnestra, racehorse: 3,000 francs Going once! Going twice!! Going thrice!!! « * Gone! Eye goes up to Mouth, on all fours. EAR: This will end with a lovely marriage. EYE: This will end with a lovely marriage. EYEBROW: This will end with a lovely marriage. MOUTH: This will end with a lovely marriage. NECK: This will end with a lovely marriage. NOSE: This will end with a lovely marriage. EAR: Go lie down. EYE: Go lie down. EYEBROW: Go lie down. MOUTH: Go lie down.
NECK: Go lie down.

NOSE: Go lie down.

D a d a Manifesto, 1918
Tristan Tzara

The magic of a word—Dada—which has brought journalists to the gates of a world unforeseen, is of no importance to us. To put out a manifesto you must want: ABC to fulminate against 1, 2, 3, to fly into a rage and sharpen your wings to conquer and disseminate little abcs and big abcs, to sign, shout, swear, to organize prose into a form of absolute and irrefutable evidence, to prove your non plus ultra and maintain that novelty resembles life just as the latest appearance of some whore proves the essence of God. His existence was previously proved by the accordion, the landscape, the wheedling word. To impose your ABC is a natural thing— hence deplorable. Everybody does it in the form of crystalbluffmadonna, monetary system, pharmaceutical product, or a bare leg advertising the ardent sterile spring. The love of novelty is the cross of sympathy, demon­ strates a naive je m'enfoutisme; it is a transitory, positive sign without a cause. But this need itself is obsolete. In documenting art on the basis of the supreme simplicity: novelty, we are human and true for the sake of amuse­ ment, impulsive, vibrant to crucify boredom. At the crossroads of the lights, alert, attentively awaiting the years, in the forest. I write a manifesto and I want nothing, yet I say certain things, and in principle I am against man­ ifestos, as I am also against principles (half-pints to measure the moral value of every phrase too too convenient; approximation was invented by the Im­ pressionists). I write this manifesto to show that people can perform contrary
Reprinted from The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology, ed. Robert Motherwell; trans. Ralph Manheim (New York: George Wittenbom, 1951; reissued 1967), 76-82.

actions together while taking one fresh gulp of air; I am against action; for continuous contradiction, for affirmation too, I am neither for nor against and I do not explain because I hate common sense. Dada—there you have a word that leads ideas to the hunt: every bour­ geois is a little dramatist, he invents all sorts of speeches instead of putting the characters suitable to the quality of his intelligence, chrysalises, on chairs, seeks causes or aims (according to the psychoanalytic method he practices) to cement his plot, a story that speaks and defines itself. Every spectator is a plotter if he tries to explain a word: (to know!) Safe in the cottony refuge of serpentine complications, he manipulates his instincts. Hence the mishaps of conjugal life. To explain: the amusement of redbellies in the mills of empty skulls.

Dada Means Nothing
^ Jj •" t ^ 02 If you find it futile and don't want to waste your time on a word that means nothing . . . The first thought that comes to these people is bacteriological in character: to find its etymological, or at least its historical or psychological origin. We see by the papers that the Km Negroes call the tail of a holy cow Dada. The cube and the mother in a certain district of Italy are called: Dada. A hobbyhorse, a nurse both in Russian and Rumanian: Dada. Some learned journalists regard it as an art for babies, other holy jesusescallingthelittlechildren of our day, as a relapse into a dry and noisy, noisy and monotonous primitivism. Sensibility is not constructed on the basis of a word; all constructions converge on perfection which is boring, the stagnant idea of a gilded swamp, a relative human product. A work of art should not be beauty in itself, for beauty is dead; it should be neither gay nor sad, neither light nor dark to rejoice or torture the individual by serving him the cakes of sacred aureoles or the sweets of a vaulted race through the atmospheres. A work of art is never beautiful by decree, objectively and for all. Hence, criticism is useless, it exists only subjectively, for each man separately, with­ out the slightest character of universality. Does anyone think he has found a psychic base common to all mankind? The attempt of Jesus and the Bible covers with their broad benevolent wings: shit, animals, days. How can one expect to put order into the chaos that constitutes that infinite and shapeless variation: man? The principle: "Love thy neighbor" is a hypocrisy. "Know thyself" is Utopian but more acceptable, for it embraces wickedness. No pity. After the carnage we still retain the hope of a purified mankind. I speak only of myself, since I do not wish to convince, I have no right to drag others into my river, I oblige no one to follow me, and everybody practices his art in his own way, if he knows the joy that rises like arrows to the astral layers, or that other joy that goes down into the mines of corpse-flowers and fertile spasms. Stalactites: seek them everywhere, in mangers magnified by pain, eyes white as the hares of the angels.

And so Dada 1 was born of a need for independence, of a distrust toward unity. Those who are with us preserve their freedom. We recognize no theory. We have enough Cubist and Futurist academies: laboratories of formal ideas. Is the aim of art to make money and cajole the nice nice bourgeois? Rhymes ring with the assonance of the currencies, and the inflex­ ion slips along the line of the belly in profile. All groups of artists have arrived at this trust company after riding their steeds on various comets. While the door remains open to the possibility of wallowing in cushions and good things to eat. Here we cast anchor in rich ground. Here we have a right to do some proclaiming, for we have known cold shudders and awakenings. Ghosts drunk on energy, we dig the trident into unsuspecting flesh. We are a down­ pour of maledictions as tropically abundant as vertiginous vegetation, resin and rain are our sweat, we bleed and burn with thirst, our blood is vigor. Cubism was born out of the simple way of looking at an object: Cezanne painted a cup twenty centimeters below his eyes, the Cubists look at it from above, others complicate appearance by making a perpendicular section and arranging it conscientiously on the side. (I do not forget the creative artists and the profound laws of matter which they established once and for all.) The Futurist sees the same cup in movement, a succession of objects one beside the other, and maliciously adds a few force lines. This does not prevent the canvas from being a good or bad painting suitable for the invest­ ment of intellectual capital. The new painter creates a world, the elements of which are also its im­ plements, a sober, definite work without argument. The new artist protests: he no longer paints (symbolic and illusionist reproduction) but creates— directly in stone, wood, iron, tin, boulders—locomotive organisms capable of being turned in all directions by the limpid wind of monetary sensation. All pictorial or plastic work is useless: let it then be a monstrosity that frightens servile minds, and not sweetening to decorate the refectories of animals in human costume, illustrating the sad fable of mankind. Painting is the art of making two lines geometrically established as paral­ lel meet on a canvas before our eyes in a reality which transposes other conditions and possibilities into a world. This world is not specified or de­ fined in the work, it belongs in its innumerable variations to the specta­ tor. For its creator it is without cause and without theory. Order=disorder; ego=non-ego; affirmation-negation: the supreme radiations of an absolute art. Absolute in the purity of a cosmic, ordered chaos, eternal in the globule of a second without duration, without breath without control. I love an ancient work for its novelty. It is only contrast that connects us with the past. The writers who teach morality and discuss or improve psychological foun­ dations have, aside from a hidden desire to make money, an absurd view of
1. In 1916 in the Cabaret Voltaire, in Zurich.

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life, which they have classified, cut into sections, channeled: they insist on waving the baton as the categories dance. Their readers snicker and go on: What for? There is a literature that does not reach the voracious masses. It is the work of creators, issued from a real necessity in the author, produced for himself. It expresses the knowledge of a supreme egoism, in which laws wither away. Every page must explode, either from profound heavy seriousness, the whirlwind, poetic frenzy, the new, the eternal, the crushing joke, enthusiasm for principles or from the way in which it is printed. On the one hand a tottering world in flight, betrothed to the glockenspiel of hell, on the other hand: new men. Rough, bouncing, riding on hiccups. Behind them a crippled world and literary quacks with a mania for improvement. I say unto you: there is no beginning and we do not tremble, we are not sentimental. We are a furious wind, tearing the dirty linen of clouds and prayers, preparing the great spectacle of disaster, fire, decomposition. We will put an end to mourning and replace tears by sirens screeching from one continent to another. Pavilions of intense joy and widowers with the sadness of poison. Dada is the signboard of abstraction; advertising and business are also elements of poetry. I destroy the drawers of the brain and of social organization: spread demoralization wherever I go and cast my hand from heaven to hell, my eyes from hell to heaven, restore the fecund wheel of a universal circus to objec­ tive forces and the imagination of every individual. Philosophy is the question: From which side shall we look at life, God, the idea or other phenomena? Everything one looks at is false. I do not consider the relative result more important than the choice between cake and cherries after dinner. The system of quickly looking at the other side of a thing in order to impose your opinion indirectly is called dialectics, in other words, haggling over the spirit of fried potatoes while dancing method around it. If I cry out: Ideal, ideal, ideal, Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge, Boomboom, boomboom, boomboom, I have given a pretty faithful version of progress, law, morality and all other fine qualities that various highly intellectual men have discussed in so many books, only to conclude that after all everyone dances to his own personal boomboom, and that the writer is entitled to his boomboom: the satisfaction of pathological curiosity; a private bell for inexplicable needs; a bath; pecuniary difficulties; a stomach with repercussions in life; the author­ ity of the mystic wand formulated as the bouquet of a phantom orchestra made up of silent fiddle bows greased with philters made of chicken manure. With the blue eyeglasses of an angel they have excavated the inner life for a

dime's worth of unanimous gratitude. If all of them are right and if all pills are Pink Pills, let us try for once not to be right. Some people think they can explain rationally, by thought, what they think. But that is extremely relative. Psychoanalysis is a dangerous disease; it puts to sleep the antiobjective im­ pulses of man and systematizes the bourgeoisie. There is no ultimate Truth. Dialectic is an amusing mechanism which guides us / in a banal kind of way / to the opinions we had in the first place. Does anyone think that, by a minute refinement of logic, he has demonstrated the truth and established the correctness of these opinions? Logic imprisoned by the senses is an organic disease. To this element philosophers always like to add: the power of observation. But actually this magnificent quality of the mind is the proof of its impotence. We observe, we regard from one or more points of view, we choose them among the millions that exist. Experience is also a product of chance and individual faculties. Science disgusts me as soon as it becomes a speculative system, loses its character of utility—that is so useless but is at least individual. I detest greasy objectivity, and harmony, the science that finds everything in order. Carry on, my children, humanity . . . Science says we are the servants of nature: everything is in order, make love and bash your brains in. Carry on, my children, humanity, kind bourgeois and journalist virgins... I am against systems, the most acceptable system is on principle to have none. To complete oneself, to perfect oneself in one's own littleness, to fill the vessel with one's individuality, to have the courage to fight for and against thought, the mystery of bread, the sudden burst of an infernal pro­ peller into economic lillies:

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Dadaist Spontaneity
I call je m'enfoutisme the kind of life in which everyone retains his own conditions, though respecting other individualisms, except when the need arises to defend oneself, in which the two-step becomes national anthem, curiosity shop, a radio [broadcasting] Bach fugues, electric signs and posters for whorehouses, an organ broadcasting carnations for God, all this together physically replacing photography and the universal catechism.

Inability to distinguish between degrees of clarity: to lick the penumbra and float in the big mouth filled with honey and excrement. Measured by the scale of eternity, all activity is vain—(if we allow thought to engage in an adventure the result of which would be infinitely grotesque and add signifi­ cantly to our knowledge of human impotence). But supposing life to be a poor farce, without aim or initial parturition, and because we think it our duty to extricate ourselves as fresh and clean as washed chrysanthemums, we have proclaimed as the sole basis for agreement: art. It is not as important as

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we, mercenaries of the spirit, have been proclaiming for centuries. Art af­ flicts no one, and those who manage to take an interest in it will harvest caresses and a fine opportunity to populate the country with their conversa­ tion. Art is a private affair, the artist produces it for himself; an intelligible work is the product of a journalist, and because at this moment it strikes my fancy to combine this monstrosity with oil paints: a paper tube simulating the metal that is automatically pressed and poured hatred cowardice villainy. The artist, the poet rejoice at the venom of the masses condensed into a section chief of this industry, he is happy to be insulted: it is a proof of his immutability. When a writer or artist is praised by the newspapers, it is proof of the intelligibility of his work: wretched lining of a coat for public use; tatters covering brutality, piss contributing to the warmth of an animal [har­ boring] vile instincts. Flabby, insipid flesh reproducing with the help of typographical microbes. We have thrown out the crybaby in us. Any infiltration of this kind is candied diarrhea. To encourage this act is to digest it. What we need is works that are strong straight precise and forever beyond understanding. Logic is a complication. Logic is always wrong. It draws the threads of notions, words, in their formal exterior, toward illusory ends and centers. Its chains kill, it is an enormous centipede stifling independence. Married to logic, art would live in incest, swallowing, engulfing its own tail, still part of its own body, fornicating within itself, and passion would become a nightmare tarred with protestantism, a monument, a heap of ponderous gray entrails. But the suppleness, enthusiasm, even the joy of injustice, this little truth which we practice innocently and which makes us beautiful: we are subtle and our fingers are malleable and slippery as the branches of that sinuous, almost liquid plant; it defines our soul, say the cynics. That too is a point of view; but all flowers are not sacred, fortunately, and the divine thing in us is our call to antihuman action. I am speaking of a paper flower for the buttonholes of the gentlemen who frequent the ball of masked life, the [cuisine] of grace, white cousins lithe or fat. They traffic with whatever we have selected. The contra­ diction and unity of poles in a single toss can be the truth. If one absolutely insists on uttering this platitude, the appendix of a libidinous, malodorous morality. Morality creates atrophy like every plague produced by intelli­ gence. The control of morality and logic has afflicted us with impassivity in the presence of policemen—who are the cause of slavery, putrid rats infect­ ing the bowels of the bourgeoisie which have infected the only luminous clean corridors of glass that remained open to artists. Let each man proclaim: There is a great negative work of destruction to be accomplished. We must sweep and clean. Affirm the cleanliness of the individual after the state of madness, aggressive complete madness of a world abandoned to the hands of bandits, who rend one another and destroy the centuries. Without aim or design, without organization: indomitable mad­ ness, decomposition. Those who are strong in words or force will survive, for

they are quick in defense, the agility of limbs and sentiments flames on their faceted flanks. Morality has determined charity and pity, two balls of fat that have grown like elephants, like planets, and are called good. There is nothing good about them. Goodness is lucid, clear and decided, pitiless toward compro­ mise and politics. Morality is an injection of chocolate into the veins of all men. This task is not ordered by a supernatural force but by the trust of idea brokers and grasping academicians. Sentimentality: at the sight of a group of men quarreling and bored, they invented the calendar and the medicament wisdom. With a sticking of labels the battle of the philosophers was set off (mercantilism, scales, meticulous and petty measures), and for the second time it was understood that pity is a sentiment like diarrhea in relation to the disgust that destroys health, a foul attempt by carrion corpses to compromise the sun. I proclaim the opposition of all cosmic faculties to this gonorrhea of a putrid sun issued from the factories of philosophical thought, I proclaim bitter struggle with all the weapons of 2

Dadaist Disgust
Every product of disgust capable of becoming a negation of the family is Dada; a protest with the fists of its whole being engaged in destructive action: Dada; knowledge of all the means rejected up until now by the shamefaced sex of comfortable compromise and good manners: Dada; abolition oflogic, which is the dance of those impotent to create: Dada; of every social hierarchy and equation set up for the sake of values by our values: Dada; every object, all objects, sentiments, obscurities, apparitions, and the precise clash of parallel lines are weapons for the fight: Dada; abolition of memory: Dada; abolition of archaeology: Dada: abolition of prophets: Dada; abolition of the future: Dada; absolute and unquestionable faith in every god that is the immediate product of spontaneity: Dada; elegant and unprejudiced leap from a har­ mony to the other sphere; trajectory of a word tossed like a screeching phonograph record; to respect all individuals in their folly of the moment: whether it be serious, fearful, timid, ardent, vigorous, determined, enthusias­ tic; to divest one's church of every useless cumbersome accessory; to spit out disagreeable or amorous ideas like a luminous waterfall, or coddle them— with the extreme satisfaction that it doesn't matter in the least—with the same intensity in the thicket of one's soul—pure of insects for blood well­ born, and gilded with bodies of archangels. Freedom: Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE


• ^ 02


The Theater of Pure Form

tanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, playwright, painter, photographer, theorist, novelist, and philosopher, was born on February 24, 1885, in Warsaw, Poland. The son of a famous painter and writer of the same name, Witkiewicz coined the name Witkacy to carve out his own artistic identity. Between 1918 and 1939, he wrote more than thirty plays, all based to some extent on his theory of "pure form," in which he proposed the replacement of the causal logic of psychological realism with a theater dominated by form, movement, music, and scenic elements, in which "meaning would be defined only by its purely scenic internal construction." The purpose of such theater, argued Witkacy, would be to re-create mankind's primordial feeling of wonder at human existence, his metaphysical sense of the mystery of life. His plays thus stood in direct opposition to what he saw as the dehumanizing influence of technology, science, and mechanization—a theme he explored in The Crazy Locomotive (1923) and Janulka, Daughter ofFizdejko (1923).


Although Witkacy aimed to achieve a theater of pure form with such plays as The Cuttlefish (1922) and The Water Hen (1922), in his work he appropriated traditional dramatic forms, then parodied, distorted, and disrupted them by means of fantastically grotesque characters, bizarrely nonlinear action, and rapid reversals, from mock-philosophical dialogue, for example, to melodramatic ac­ tion. In dramaturgical method, he rejects the old science, the Euclidean ge­ ometry and Newtonian mechanics, in favor of the complementarity, uncertainty, and indeterminacy of modern physics. Entropy is a central principle within the Witkacian dramatic universe: old systems and psyches disintegrate as accelerat­ ing disorder moves the universe toward inertia and extinction. The distinctive qualities of Witkacy's work, accordingly, are an acute sense of the absurd, a deeply felt philosophy of the tragic isolation of human beings in an alien, acciden­ tal universe, and a powerful visual imagination that in its obsession with colors

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and shapes evokes dream states and drug-induced hallucinations—all of this constantly undercut by a subversive self-mockery that produces jarring disso­ nances and unresolved discrepancies in tone. Immediately following the Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland, Witkacy committed suicide on September 18, 1939, in Jezvory, Poland. Though not appreciated during his lifetime, Witkacy became an important figure in Polish experimental theater, as well as retrospectively in the dramatic avant-garde, following Tadeusz Kantor's 1956 production of The Cuttlefish, which heralded the end of the dominance of socialist realism in Poland. Kantor's theater company, Cricot II, explored and expanded on Witkacy's texts in its seminal productions of his work. Witkacy's affinities with Expressionism and Surrealism, as well as with the dramatists of the Theater of the Absurd, particularly lonesco and Beckett, confirm his significance as a writer and theorist of the avant-garde.





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The Cuttlefish (1922)
^ P W V ritten in 1922 and published the following year in magazine ^ l ^ f c r form, The Cuttlefish, or The Hyrcanian Worldview, "A Play in w ▼ One Act," was first performed in Cracow at the avantgarde artists' Theater Cricot in 1933, when its prophetic forecast of the O^F rise of totalitarianism had already come true in Germany, Italy, and Russia. In this interpretation, created largely by painters and musicians, the dictator Hyrcan IV was made up and costumed to look like Hitler in order to stress the timeliness of the work. The Cricot's Cuttlefish proved to be the last professional production of any of Witkacy's works during the playwright's life, which was cut short by rise of Hitler and totalitarianism in 1939. A generation later, however, the same play, presented at a revised version of the same theater, marked the beginning of Witkacy's triumphal return to the Polish stage. The Cuttlefish was the first of Witkacy's plays to be performed after World War II. In 1956, at the start of the liberation of the arts from Stalinist controls, the painter Tadeusz Kantor chose the work to open his Cricot II, an experimental theater designed to reestablish the avant-garde in Cracow. This staging of The Cuttlefish helped bring Witkacy to the attention of new generations of playgoers and critics—now receptive to the playwright's style and vision after dreary years of enforced socialist realism—and became an impor­ tant step in the rediscovery of the forgotten playwright, who would soon exert a major influence in the formation of the new Polish theater. As a drama about a twentieth-century painter face to face with dictatorship and the tyranny of the body politic, The Cuttlefish has remained perennially fresh and contemporary, equally applicable to conditions under Hitler, Stalin, or any oppressive regime of whatever ideology, country, or historical period. Because its system of allusions is not topical and realistic, but subjective and universal, The Cuttlefish successfully depicts the plight of any artist in the modern world who is buffeted between the conflicting demands of his art and the state, in neither of which he can wholeheartedly believe, because he has lost faith in himself. Written by a nonrealistic painter about a nonrealistic painter, The Cuttlefish is pre-eminently a drama of modern art, conceived in a painterly style. Witkacy composes his play out of shapes and colors, with maximum attention to the pictorial values of his material. The dilemma of the contemporary creator is formulated in the language of images as well as of concepts; form and substance in The Cuttlefish become fused. Witkacy's portrait of the artist as a casualty of the twentieth century resembles a modern canvas, Cubist or Surrealist, in its shifting perspectives, dream vistas, and hard, impenetrable surfaces. The cast includes a mere ten characters—five major, two minor, and three purely incidental—and there is only one simple setting. The entire drama takes place in the studio where the painter-hero practices his craft and carries on his
Excerpted from Daniel Gerould, "The Cuttlefish (1922)," In Witkacy: Stanishw Ignacy Witkiewicz as an Imaginative Writer (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981), 185-98. Reprinted by permission of the University of Washington Press.

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argument about existence: it is a mysterious, black-walled room, ornamented with emerald-green designs, which may be viewed as the interior of the artist's mind. Containing no spectacular stage effects and devoid of violent social up­ heavals, The Cuttlefish is a dramatic exploration of the cerebral in the process of becoming sensuously tangible. The conceptual finds precise visual equiva­ lents. No play better illustrates Witkacy's ability to theatricalize the activity of thought—not through the use of personified abstractions and generic types, as in the German Expressionist drama, but rather by means of highly personal and idiosyncratic individual portraits drawn from the playwright's imagination. The animation of these dramatic portraits in an artist's studio is done with masterly skill. In The Cuttlefish Witkacy shows new ease and authority in forging anachronistic simultaneity out of three juxtaposed historical epochs—past, present, and future—a difficult dramaturgical feat which he had first attempted, somewhat more schematically, in The New Deliverance. Now the playwright has subtly erased all rigid demarcations between disparate areas of experience, thereby creating a fluid bend or Witkacian "mishmash," in which the dead come back to life and the inanimate becomes animate. In the enchanted chamber that serves as the setting for The Cuttlefish, a Renaissance pope, a modern artist, and a prospective dictator (of an as yet nonexistent fascist state) join a shapely statue to debate Einstein's theory and argue the possible relativity of all values in art, politics, and religion. By bringing together such a wildly improbable group in an inexplicable encounter beyond time and space, the playwright is free to develop a preposterous yet exciting exchange of ideas among richly comic disputants in what could be called a Witkacian discussion play. The essential drama in The Cuttlefish unfolds as a dialectical battle, then, between the champions of three different worldviews. Like Richard III in The New Deliverance, Pope Julius II is a visitor from the past, representing the extinct race of mighty aristocrats. Warrior, consolidator of papal power, and patron of such artists as Raphael and Michelangelo, Giuliano della Rovere (1443-1513) is an exemplar of Renaissance greatness. In his combination of strength, cunning, and exquisite taste, the pope is the very opposite of the gray mediocrity now reigning in society. Quite dissimilar is the visitor from the future, Hyrcan IV, who hopes through sheer aggression to become the new strongman. Entirely syn­ thetic and self-fabricated, he is the creator and ruler of the imaginary kingdom of Hyrcania, which takes its name from an ancient legendary domain in Asia Minor, famous for its fierce tigers. Without a name or heritage of his own, the would-be dictator must invent both a country and a worldview to justify his existence. A modern barbarian and vulgar "slob," Hyrcan totally lacks the cultivated manners and refined intelligence of his Renaissance predecessor. Caught between these two heroes, ancient and modern, is the rootless man of the present, the painter Paul Rockoffer, whose only claim to greatness is that he is an artist. But, as his name indicates, Paul has gone "off his rocker" and become profoundly disturbed because of the crisis in contemporary values that has made art no longer viable as a way of life. The central figure in The Cuttlefish, the half-mad artist must at all costs find a new Weltanschauung, since for him life is possible only as the direct expression of a philosophy. It is his fiancee, Ella, who

is the play's cuttlefish, although at first glance it may be difficult to see what she has in common with a ten-armed sea mollusk of the squid family. Like his con­ temporaries the Dadaists and Surrealists, Witkacy enjoyed giving his plays enig­ matic titles, but those the Polish playwright chooses are never arbitrary or without hidden significance. In Witkacy's lexicon a cuttlefish is any soft and insidious predator that, once having attached itself with sucking tentacles, will not let go; as used by the playwright, then, the term can be applied to capitalism, a demonic woman, or an ordinary overpossessive housewife like Ella. As the drama opens, Paul Rockoffer is first seen from the perspective of eternity, against the black walls of his studio containing a single blood-red win­ dow, which becomes mysteriously lighted at irregular intervals. Isolated in the dark void of the soul, the despairing artist can voice his anguish only to a nonexistent deity or to a nonhuman companion, the beautiful statue Alice d'Or, his former love and now a monument of fossilized desire. At the mercy of a world without religious faith or philosophic belief, Rockoffer has been forced to recognize the futility of his art in a mass society that sanctions only the most banal art and ignores or suppresses genuine creativity. In fact, his own works have recently been burned by the government, and his ideas on art are scorned and reviled. At the age of forty-six, Rockoffer has reached a total impasse in his work; he must either commit suicide or make a new life for himself. In a brilliant opening soliloquy, Witkacy establishes the hero's character as a metaphysical quester racked by self-doubts and ironic afterthoughts, and lays bare the work­ ings of his mind. Rockoffer does not, however, remain alone for long. With the arrival of Ella's mother to attend her daughter's wedding, accompanied by another matron, the progressive, nearly mathematical orchestration of The Cuttlefish reaches its full complement and highest point of complexity. Two sudden acts of violence bring the drama to a swift climax and general exodus. Acting out his Hyrcanian desires, the dictator brutally kills Ella with one blow of his sword in response to her hysterical pleas for death at the thought of losing the reluctant Rockoffer. The second matron—a blowsy aging tart—then discloses that she is Hyrcan's mother. Deeply humiliated at being the son of a whore and—perhaps worse in his fascistic view—of a Jewish father, the ridiculous strongman leaves the stage abruptly, muttering threats. Murder and usurpation result as Rockoffer, too, puts the absolute into effect in life. On the pretext that he did not like the way that Hyrcan talked to his mother, the artist shoots the inept dictator—decorously committing the violence offstage—and returns to proclaim that he is now Hyrcan V. Following his Hyrcanian desires, Rockoffer will prove that the artist alone is qualified to rule. In assuming power in the artificial kingdom of Hyrcania, Rockoffer hopes to create in life what he has failed to create in art. By imparting entirely new meaning to the concept of Hyrcanian desires, he feels that he can succeed where Hyrcan went astray. His Hyrcania will be a creative synthesis of man's aspirations and knowledge, not the repressive tyranny that his predecessor had envisaged. Rockoffer's reign as Hyrcan V will be one of enlarged consciousness. His promise to his friends, "Together, we'll create pure nonsense in life, not in Art," antici-

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pates the Surrealists' liberating creed, as expressed by their call for a moment of intense meaninglessness which would reflect and concentrate the absurdity of the world about us, and thus serve to make us more aware of our precarious human condition. Yet there are other, more sinister undercurrents that can be detected in Rockoffer-Hyrcan's final resolve. In succumbing to the temptation of power and in following [his] Hyrcanian desires, the artist may become a fanatical monomaniac and grow to be an even more dangerous dictator than Hyrcan IV. Thus, on the one hand, Witkacy prophetically senses that in actual practice the role of superman is a fraudulent pose on the part of frustrated weaklings which will be used to justify the worst crimes and lead directly to totalitarian oppression and the destruction of all human values, rather than to any freedom of the spirit. The playwright doubts the possibility of greatness in the modern world and questions the superiority of the self-appointed strongman. Above all, the author of The Cuttlefish finds these Nietzschean delusions of grandeur comic and theatrical. Witkacy's longings for the absolute are constantly undercut by his own ironic self-doubts and deep feeling for the imperfection and failure inherent in human

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On the other hand, Witkacy adopts wholeheartedly Nietzsche's hatred of complacent mediocrity, herd instincts, and anthill happiness for all, and he shares the German philosopher's scorn for liberal mercantile democracy, British empiricism, and egalitarian society so homogenized that absolute values become eroded. Moreover, Witkacy deliberately chooses Zarathustra's lonely, heroic search for intensity of life over bourgeois practicality and pragmatic calculation of profit and loss, and he experiences a Nietzschean imperative for greatness in an age of boredom and conformity. The playwright sees himself in the role of exceptional individual and artist-aristocrat at odds with the masses and their drudgery and slave mentality. The author of The Cuttlefish regards the artist as the sole champion of metaphysical values, driven to the point of insanity by the uncomprehending mob in his defense of mystery. For Nietzsche, as for Witkacy, madness is the distinguishing mark of genius.

Select Bibliography on Witkiewicz
Degler, Janusz. "Witkacy's Theory of Theatre." Russian Literature 22.2 (1987): 139-56. Dorczak, Anita. "S. I. Witkiewicz as an Avant-Garde Writer." Australian Slavonic and East European Studies 4.1 - 2 (1990): 69-89. Dukore, Bernard. "Spherical Tragedies and Comedies with Corpses: Witkacian Tragi­ comedy." Modern Drama 18(1975): 291 -315. Folcjewski, Zbigniew. "The Cubist Factor in Witkacy's Theater of Pure Form." Etudes sur le Futurisme et les Avant-Gardes I.I (Jan. 1990): 3-13. Polish Review 18 (1973): "Witkiewicz Issue." See also Gerould, Twentieth-Century Polish Avant-Garde Drama; Kiebuzinska; and Kott, in the General Bibliography.

T h e Cuttlefish, or The Hyrcanian Worldview
Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz
Motto: Don't give in even to yourself.


PAUL ROCKOFFER, forty-six years old, but looks younger (his age becomes clear during the course of the action). Fair-haired. In deep mourning. THE STATUE ALICE D'OR, twenty-eight years old. A blonde. Dressed in a tightfitting sheath resembling alligator skin. THE KING OF HYRCANIA,1 Hyrcan IV. Tall, thin. Vandyke beard, large mustache. A bit snub-nosed. Large eyebrows and longish hair. Purple cloak and helmet with a red plume. A sword in his hand. Under his cloak a golden garment. (What he has on under that will be revealed later on.) ELLA, eighteen years old. Chestnut hair. Pretty. TWO OLD GENTLEMEN, in frock coats and top hats. They can be dressed in the style of the thirties.2 TWO MATRONS, dressed in violet One of them is Ellas mother. GRUMPUS, the footman. Gray livery coat with large silver buttons and gray top hat. JULIUS II, 3 sixteenth-century Pope. Dressed as in the portrait by Titian.
Reprinted from A Treasury of the Theatre, 4th ed., vol. 2, ed. John Gassner and Bernard F. Dukore; trans. Daniel C. and Eleanor S. Gerould (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970), 626-37. 1. Hyrcania, on the Caspian Sea, was a province of the ancient Persian empire. The Hyrcanian tiger, noted for its ferocity, is mentioned by Pliny, Vergil, and Shakespeare. 2. Sic. The Cuttlefish was written in 1922! 3. Giuliano della Rovera (1445-1513) was elected Pope in 1503. A patron of the arts, he commissioned Michaelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.


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The stage represents a room with black walls with narrow emerald green designs. A little to the right on the wall in the center of the stage is a window covered with a red curtain. In places marked (X) a light behind the curtain goes on with a bloody glow, in places marked (+) it goes out. A little to the left, a black rectangular pedestal without ornamentation. Alice d'Or lies on her stomach on the pedestal, leaning on her arms. Paul Rockoffer paces back and forth, clutching his head in his hands. An armchair to the left of the pedestal. Another one closer to the center of the stage. Doors to the right and to the left. ROCKOFFER: Oh, God, God—in vain I call Your name, since I really don't believe in You. But Fve got to call someone. Fve wasted my life. Two wives, working like a madman—who knows why—after all, my ideas aren't officially recognized, and the remains of my paintings were destroyed yesterday, by order of the head of the Council for the Production of Handmade Crap. Fm all alone. STATUE: [Without moving; her head in her hands] You have me. ROCKOFFER: So what? Fd rather I didn't. All you do is remind me that there's something else. But in yourself you're just a poor substitute for what's really important. STATUE: I remind you of the further road which opens before you in the wilderness. All the fortune-tellers have predicted that you'll devote your­ self to Occult Knowledge in your old age. ROCKOFFER: [With a contemptuous wave of his hand] Oh! Fm absolutely incorrigible in maintaining a perpetual grudge against poor humanity, and I can't find a single drop of healing medicine. Fm like a useless, barren pang of conscience, from which not even the meagerest bud of hope for improvement can blossom. STATUE: You're a far cry from real tragedy! ROCKOFFER: That's because my passions aren't too strong. The life Fve wasted escapes hopelessly into the gray distance of my past. Is there anything more horrible than the gray past which we still have to keep on digesting over and over again? STATUE: Think how many women you could still have, how many nameless mornings, softly gliding through the mysteries of noontime, then finally how many evenings you could spend in strange conversations with women marveling at your downfall. ROCKOFFER: Don't talk to me about that. Don't rip open the innermost core of strangeness. All that is closed—forever closed, because of boredom: galloping, raging boredom. STATUE: [With pity] How trite you are . .. ROCKOFFER: Show me someone who isn't trite, and Fll let my throat be cut as a sacrifice on that person's altar.


A woman—or rather the personification of everything impossi­ ble about women. Life's unrealizable promises. STATUE: At least be glad you exist at all. Just think—even prisoners serving life sentences are glad of the gift of life. ROCKOFFER: What's that got to do with me? Should I be happy just because right now Fm not impaled on a lonely mound in the middle of the steppes or because Fm not a sewer cleaner? Don't you really know who I am? STATUE: I know you're funny. You wouldn't be, if you could fall in love with me. Then you'd grasp your mission right here on this planet, you'd be a unique personality, itself and only itself—just that one, and no one else... ROCKOFFER: [Uneasily] So you recognize that there's an absolute, I repeat, an absolute hierarchy of Beings,4 do you? STATUE: [Laughing] Yes and no—it depends. ROCKOFFER: Tell me what your criteria are, I humbly beseech you. STATUE: You've given yourself away. You're neither a philosopher nor an artist. ROCKOFFER: Oh, so you've had your doubts about that anyhow. No, Fm not. STATUE: [Laughing] Then you're just an ambitious nobody, aren't you? Despite everything, for them you're a genius at creating new metaphysical shocks. ROCKOFFER: Fm pretending— just pretending because Fm bored. I know it's not even decent—it's not decent to pretend. STATUE: Still, you've got something in you that goes way beyond anything my other lovers had. But unless you love me, you won't get one step further. ROCKOFFER: Stop talking about those eternal lovers of yours that you're always bragging about. I know you have influence in real life and that through you I could become who the hell knows what. But somebody real, not just somebody in my own e y e s . . . STATUE: You're exaggerating: greatness is relative. ROCKOFFER: Now Fm going to tell you something: you're trite; worse—you're thoughtful; still a hundred times worse—you're basically good. STATUE: [Upset] You're wrong . . . Fm not good at all. [Suddenly in another tone] But I love you! [She stretches out toward him.] ROCKOFFER: [Staring at her] What? [Pause] That's true, and that's why it doesn't matter to me. The light of the Sole Mystery has been extin­ guished for me . . . [X] [A knock at the right; the Statue assumes her former pose.] and its unfathomableness. .. STATUE: [Impatiently] Quiet—the Pope's coming.
4. The "hierarchy of Beings" probably comes from the work of the German philosopher and biologist Ernest Haeckel (1834-1919), who popularized Darwinism and traced the chain of being from one-celled creatures to man.

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[In another tone] I beg you, introduce me to the Pope. He's the only ghost I still feel like talking to . .. [Enter the Pope.] JULIUS ii: Greetings, daughter, and you, my unknown son . . . [Paul kneels. The Pope gives him his slipper to kiss.] Only let's not talk about Heaven. Alighieri was 100 percent right. Even a child knows that, but I still have to say that the human imagination cannot conceive such happiness. That's why it was hell that our son Dante portrayed with so much talent.5 I'll even go so far as to say that Dore's illustrations6 express quite well the inadequacy of human concepts and the human imagination to portray this kind of, as it were .. .

STATUE: Boredom . . .

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ii: Quiet, daughter. You don't know what you're talking about. [Emphatically] This kind of happiness. [Jokingly] Well, my son: get up and come over here and tell me who you are . .. STATUE: Holy Father, he's the great artist and philosopher, Paul Rockoffer. JULIUS ii: [Raising both hands up in horror] So it's you, is it? You, wretched infidel, who dared reach out for the fruit of the Highest Mysteries?
ROCKOFFER: [Proudly, getting up] It is I!

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JULIUS II: [With humility, his hands on his stomach] I'm not talking about you as an artist. You're great. O h , I was a fierce patron of the arts. [+] Now that's all over, all over! Yes, I've learned to appreciate decadence in art. T h e y don't understand it, a n d yet that's the only way they live them­ selves. I'm talking about t h e people of your time. [Indignantly] W h a t a terrible thing—all your paintings burned. M y son, eternal reward awaits you in Heaven.
STATUE: In Heaven? Ha, ha, ha.

JULIUS II: [Good-naturedly]

D o n ' t laugh, daughter. Heaven has its good sides

too. Nobody suffers there, a n d that counts for something. ROCKOFFER: I'm a philosopher, Holy Father, b u t I've continued to be a good

Catholic, too. I can't stand that lie any more. ii: Yes—you're a Catholic, maitre Paul, but not a Christian. There's a great difference, a very great difference. And what lies can't you stand anymore, my son? ROCKOFFER: That I'm pretending as an artist, that is, that I've been pretend­ ing up to now. All my art is a hoax, a deliberate, carefully planned hoax. JULIUS ii: I'm disregarding the fact that there can be no question of Truth once we start discussing Beauty in the abstract. But that's what's so awful, that your art and the art of people like you is the sole Truth. You've discovered the last possible consolation, but I've got to take it away from
JULIUS 5. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), in The Divine Comedy. 6. Gustave Dore (18327-1883), French illustrator and painter.

you. [Solemnly] Your art is the sole Truth on earth. I didn't know you personally, but I do know your paintings very well in marvelous divine reproductions. [Gloomily] That's the sole Truth. STATUE: And what about the dogmas of faith? JULIUS II: [Hurriedly] They're Truth too, but in another dimension. In earthly terms they're Truth for our poor understanding. Only there [he points to the ceiling with his finger] their mystery blazes forth in all its fullness before the dazzled intellect of the liberated. ROCKOFFER: [Impatiently] Holy Father, theology isn't my specialty, and I'd prefer not to talk about philosophy. With Your Holiness's kind permis­ sion, let's talk about Art. I know I lie, and that's good enough for me. No one will make me believe that my Art is genuine, not even you, a guest from a genuine Heaven. JULIUS ii: [With his finger pointing toward the ceiling] Up there, where I come from, they know about that better than you do, you miserable speck of dust. But after all, an artist's worth comes from either rebellion or success. What would Michelangelo have been if it weren't for me or other patrons of the arts (may God punish them for it). A few madmen eager for new poisons raise up the man who concocts them to the apex of humanity, and then a crowd of nonentities adore him, gaping at the agony and ecstasy of the ones who've been poisoned. Isn't the fact that the Council of the Production of Handmade Crap burned your works a proof of your greatness? STATUE: You're beaten, Paul, baby. Bow down before His Holiness's connoisseurship. [Rockoffer kneels.] ROCKOFFER: Something terrible's happened. I don't know any more whether I'm lying or not. And I was the one who knew everything about myself. Holy Father, you've taken away my last hope. I'd finally found one thing I was absolutely sure of, and you, you cruel old man, you've destroyed even that. JULIUS ii: [To the Statue, pointing at Rockoffer] That's what comes from pursuing the absolute in life. [To Rockoffer] My son, in life as in philoso­ phy, relativity is the only wisdom. I was a believer in the absolute myself. My God, what respectable person hasn't been! But those times are over. Now, what all of you fail to realize is that not every biped who's read Marx or Sorel7 is highest in the earthly hierarchy of Beings, nor do you realize that I, for example, and the rest of you are two different kinds of Beings, and not just varieties of the human species. Only Art, despite decadence, has remained on a high plane. ROCKOFFER: [Getting up, in despair] She tells me the same thing. I'm sur­ rounded by treachery on all sides. I don't have any enemies. I look for
7. Georges Sorel (1847-1922), French sociologist and theorist of revolution.

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them night and day in all the back alleys and only find some sickening jellyish mess, but no opponents worthy of me. Can Your Holiness under­ stand that? JULIUS ii: [Puts his hand on Rockoffer's head] Who could understand you bet­ ter, my son? Do you think that history has given me full satisfaction in that respect? Whom do you take me for? Can you suppose that I, Julius della Rovere, was content having as my chief foe that mediocrity Louis XII? [With deep emotion] Oh! Like God without Satan and Satan without God is he who has not acquired an enemy worthy of him. STATUE: It's dangerous to base one's greatness on the negative value of one's friends. It's worse than admitting the relativity of Truth. JULIUS ii: [Drawing near her and stroking her under the chin] Oh, you, you cute little dialectician! Who educated you so well, my nice little woman? STATUE: [Sadly] Unhappy love, Holy Father, and not only that, but for somebody I despise. Nothing can teach us women dialectics so well as the combination I just mentioned. JULIUS ii: [To Rockoffer] Poor maitre Paul, how you must have suffered with that precieuse. In my day that type of woman was a little different. They were real titanesses. I myself, my God, even I . . . [Ella runs in from the left. Dressed in a sky blue dress. A mans straw hat with sky blue ribbons. She has gray gloves and a whole pile of different colored packages in her arms. Grumpus follows after her in a gray servant's coat and a gray top hat, carrying twice as many packages as she is. Both of them pay absolutely no attention to Alice d'Or.] ROCKOFFER: Help! I forgot, I have a fiancee. ELLA: [Throwing the packages on top of Grumpus and running up to Rock­ offer] My dearest! But you're happy you have one, now that you've re­ membered she exists. My one and only: look at me. [She cuddles up to him. Grumpus, laden down, stays where he is. Julius II goes over to the left and stands leaning on the base of the Statue.] ROCKOFFER: [Embraces her gently with his right arm and looks straight ahead madly] Wait, I have the impression that I've fallen from the fourth floor. I don't understand myself very well. You know, Mr. della Rovere has just proved that my Art is Truth. I've lost the prop for my carefully planned hoax. ELLA: [Chattering away] I'll do everything for you. Just rely on me. I've fixed up our little apartment divinely. The small sofas have already been covered—you know, the golden material with the tiny rose stripes. And the sideboard is just the most beautiful thing. All the furniture for the dining room is really pretty, but there's something strange about the sideboard. There's some sort of dreadful mystery in those faces made out of iron-gray wood. They were done by Zamoyski8 himself. You can keep
8. Jan Zamoyski, a Polish artist and friend of Witkiewicz.

all your drugs in there. I won't bother you, Til let you do everything you want, only in moderation. [Rockoffer smiles vacantly.] Aren't you happy? [Ella suddenly grows sad] Mother furnished my boudoir for me herself. Everything's covered in pink silk with sky blue flowers. ROCKOFFER: [Embraces her with sudden tenderness] But of course—I am happy. My poor little thing . .. [He kisses her on the head.] JULIUS II: [To the Statue] Look, daughter, how this little bird's chattering lulls our good docile snake to sleep. ELLA: [Looking around] Who's that old man? ROCKOFFER: Don't you know? It's Pope Julius II: he's come straight from Heaven to bless us. ELLA: [Turning to Julius II] Holy Father . . . [Kneels and kisses his slipper. Grumpus puts the packages on the ground, kneels down too, and kisses the Pope's other slipper.] Oh, how happy I am! JULIUS ii: [To the Statue] Well, what can you do with such innocence and goodness? [To all those present] I bless you, my children. I wish you a swift and unexpected death, my little daughter. You'll be the most beau­ tiful of all the angels whose garlands twine about the throne of the Almighty. ROCKOFFER: [Falling on his knees] Oh, how beautiful this is! I feel that from now on I could start painting like Fra Angelico. All decadence has van­ ished without a trace. Thank you, Holy Father. JULIUS ii: [To the Statue] See how it's possible to be a sower of good in this world without even meaning to be. Look at the blissful faces on those two children. Maitre Paul has grown at least ten years younger. STATUE: Not for long, Your Holiness. You don't realize how quickly time passes for us. Time is relative. You know Einstein's theory, Holy Father. Transferring the concept of psychological time to physics produced a wonderful flowering of knowledge about the world, an indestructible creation of absolute Truth. [Ella gets up and goes over to Paul, who also gets up. They kiss in ecstasy. Grumpus gets up likewise and looks at them, deeply moved.] JULIUS ii: My, my, my! In Heaven, where we live, no one believes in physics, my child. It's only a simplified system for all of you to understand phe­ nomena since your brains stopped short at the frontier beyond which the creation of metaphysics is possible. Every step in the hierarchy of Beings has its own boundary. Human philosophy has got itself all bottled up. The coefficient of all knowledge is infinite only within each boundary. But what about what's happening on the planets of Aldebaran! Ho, ho! They know their "Einstein" there too, but they've known how to place him in his proper sphere. STATUE: [Anxiously] And so the world really has no bounds? JULIUS II: Of course not, my child.

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Then even you, Holy Father, won't live eternally? And what about Heaven? JULIUS II: Heaven is only a symbol. You people must accept the theory of diverse bodies united in a single individual. But the number of these bodies is limited. Eventually we'll all die for good. The sole mystery is God. [He points to the ceiling. (X)] STATUE: Ah! [She falls down on the pedestal. Julius II sits on the chair on the leftside.] ELLA: [Drawing away from Rockoffer] What's that? I heard a voice inside me saying something about eternal death. [+] ROCKOFFER: [Pointing to the prone Alice d'Or] That statue said it. It just passed out. It's a symbol of the past which I sacrificed for you. ELLA: [Astounded] But there's nobody there! ROCKOFFER: Didn't you hear how His Holiness was philosophizing with it? ELLA: Paul, stop joking. The Holy Father was talking to himself. Don't stare so blankly: I'm afraid. Tell me the truth. ROCKOFFER: You wouldn't understand anyhow, my child. Let's not talk about it. JULIUS ii: Yes, daughter, mattre Paul is right. A good wife shouldn't know too much about her husband. Within certain limits, a husband should be a mystery. ELLA: I have to know everything. You're torturing me, Paul. Our little apart­ ment, which made me so happy, is beginning to terrify me in this vision of the future you and the Pope have created together. A kind of shadow has fallen on my heart. I want my mother. ROCKOFFER: [Embracing her] Quiet, little girl. I've begun to believe in my future. I'm returning to Art and I'll be happy. We'll both be happy. I'll start painting again calmly, without any orgies with form, and I'll end my life as a good Catholic. JULIUS ii: [Bursts out laughing.] Ha, ha, ha! ELLA: End your life? I'm just beginning it with you. ROCKOFFER: I'm old—you must understand that once and for all. ELLA: You're forty-six—I know. But why does your face say something dif­ ferent? Can the soul be so different from the face? ROCKOFFER: [Impatiently] Oh, quit bothering me about my soul. It's an essence so complicated that I've never been able to see myself as a whole. It was only an illusion. Stop thinking about me and accept me as I am. ELLA: Paul, tell me who you really are. I want to know you. ROCKOFFER: I'm unknowable even to myself. Look at the paintings I've already done and you'll see who I used to be. But if you look at what I'm going to do now, you'll see what I want to be. The rest is a delusion. ELLA: And is that what love is?

ROCKOFFER: Love? Shall I tell you what love is? In the morning Fll wake you with a kiss. After a morning bath, we'll drink coffee. T h e n Fll go paint, and you'll read books, which Fll suggest for you. T h e n dinner. After dinner, we'll go for a walk. T h e n work again. Tea, supper, a little serious discussion, and finally you'll fall asleep, not too fatigued by sensual plea­ sures, to conserve strength for the next day.
ELLA: And so, on and on, without end?

ROCKOFFER: You mean: to the very e n d . Such is life for those devoid of absolute desires. We are limited, and Infinity surrounds us. It's too trite even to talk about. ELLA: But I want to live! W i t h that hope in mind I've fixed u p our dear little apartment, I've looked after everything. I've got to really live. ROCKOFFER: Tell m e , please, what is life "really"? ELLA: Now I don't know anything any more and that terrifies me. ROCKOFFER: D o n ' t force m e to make speeches. I could tell you things, beautiful a n d horrible, deep a n d infinitely remote, b u t it would be just § *jj

one more lie. STATUE: [Waking up (X)] A little drama is beginning. Our little Paul has decided to become sincere. ELLA: I'm hearing that evil voice of a strange being inside me again. [Looking around] That's funny—I feel that there's somebody here, but I don't see anyone except you and the Pope.[+] STATUE: I am the lady Pope for fallen titans. I teach them the gray wisdom of daily existence. ELLA: [In fear] Paul—stop hypnotizing me. I'm afraid. ROCKOFFER: Don't say anything more. I'm beginning to be afraid myself. I don't even know myself how I know that person. ELLA: What person? Oh, my God, my God—I'll die of fright. I'm afraid of you. Holy Father—save me. You've come from Heaven. JULIUS II: [Getting up, speaking with cruelty] How do you know that Heaven isn't a symbol for the most awful renunciation?—renouncing one's real personality. I'm a shadow, just as she is. [He points to the Statue.] ELLA: But there isn't anyone there, is there? Take pity on me, Holy Father. All this affects me like a bad dream. JULIUS ii: Dream on, my child. Maybe this moment of terror is the most beautiful in your whole life. Oh, how I envy all of you. [Ella covers her
face with her hands.]

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A strange force is entering me again. Ella—I can't conquer decadence with you. ELLA: [Without uncovering her face] Now I understand you at last. I've either got to die for you or stop loving you. [Uncovers her face.] I love you now that I see how you're descending into the abyss. This is my real life.

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little virgin's making progress like crazy. Now I'll never get you back again, Paul, honey. ELLA: That voice again. But I'm not afraid of anything now. It's already happened. My fate's already sealed somewhere. And the sooner the bet­ ter, Paul. Now I won't go back to mother. I'll stay with you now. JULIUS ii: Don't be in such a hurry, daughter. You've already entered on the right path. But it doesn't mean you've got to be in quite such a hurry. ROCKOFFER: Holy Father, the speed of my transformations terrifies me too. In a moment I may become a statesman, an inventor, who the hell knows what. Whole new layers have shifted in my head like an avalanche. JULIUS ii: Wait—I hear footsteps in the hallway downstairs. I have a ren­ dezvous with King Hyrcan today. ROCKOFFER: What? Hyrcan IV? Is he still alive? You know, he was a classmate of mine at school. He was always dreaming about an artificial kingdom in the old style. JULIUS ii: And he created it. I guess you don't ever read the newspapers. [He listens.] That's him—I recognize his powerful, commanding footsteps. [Suspense] ELLA: But is he real or is he something like Your Highness? JULIUS ii: [Outraged] Something like! You're taking too many liberties, my daughter. ELLA: I'm not afraid of anything now. JULIUS ii: You've already died—you have nothing to fear. ELLA: Nonsense. I'm alive and I'll create a completely normal life for Paul. He'll fall slowly, creating wonderful things. I'm not at all as innocent and stupid as all of you think. I've got a little venom in me too . . . [X] [From the right, enter Hyrcan IV in a purple coat which comes down to the ground. He has a helmet on his head with a red plume. A huge sword in his hand.] HYRCAN IV: Good evening. How are you, Rockoffer? You weren't expecting me today. I've heard you're getting married.—It'll never work. [Kneels quickly in front of the Pope and kisses his slipper; getting up] I'm glad to see His Holiness is in good health. Heaven agrees with him very well. [Approaches the Statue.] How are you doing, Alice—Alice d'Or, isn't it? Remember our orgies in that marvelous dive—what was it called? [He squeezes the Statue's hand.] STATUE: Perdition Gardens. [Ella turns around at the sound of her voice.]
HYRCAN iv: Exactly.


ELLA: [Pointing at the Statue] She was the one who was here! It was her voice I kept hearing as though it was in me. It's not nice to eavesdrop on our conversation that way!

It's not my fault that you didn't see me, Ella . .. ELLA: Please don't call me by my first name. I'm asking you to leave this house. I'm staying here with Paul now. [To Rockoffer] Who is that woman? ROCKOFFER: My former mistress. I'm letting her live in this room. I was a little afraid in this huge house and that's why . . . ELLA: You don't have to justify yourself. From now on I'm going to be here and I'm asking you to get rid of that lady immediately. JULIUS II: Not so fast, my daughter. You may overreach yourself. ELLA: I don't want her here and that's all there is to it. Paul, did you hear me? [She sits down in the armchair to the left.] ROCKOFFER: Certainly, my dear. That's no problem. [Goes toward the Statue.] My Alice, we must part. Get down off that pedestal and clear out. This is the end. You'll get money from my bank. [He pulls out a check book and begins to write. (+)] HYRCAN iv: [To Rockoffer] If I may be permitted to ask—who's that broad? [He indicates Ella.] Is she your new mistress, or is she the fiancee I've been hearing about? ROCKOFFER: [He stops writing and remains indecisive.] My fiancee. HYRCAN iv: [To Ella] Oh—in that case perhaps you'll allow me to introduce myself: I'm Hyrcan IV, king of the artificial kingdom of Hyrcania. You'll be so kind as not to order my friend about, or you'll find I make short work of things. STATUE: You talk marvelously, Hyrcan. HYRCAN iv: I don't need your advice either, Alice. I'll settle things with you too at the proper time. The situation—apart from my kingdom, which is the only really unusual thing—is the tritest in the world: a friend decided to free his friend from women—the ordinary bags, masculettes, and battle-axes who've infested him. ROCKOFFER: To prove what? Isn't your kingdom only a badly disguised form of insanity, my friend? HYRCAN iv: You'll find out soon enough. You're already suffering from a prison psychosis, living in freedom. Overintellectualized sex combined with fluctuation between decadence and classicism in art. First of all, to hell with art! There's no such thing as art. JULIUS ii: Excuse me, sire. I won't allow maitre Paul to be made an ordinary pawn in the hands of Your Royal Highness. He's got to go to pieces in a creative way. ELLA: I've been saying the same thing . . . HYRCAN iv: [Speaks to the Pope without paying any attention to what she has said.] He doesn't have to go to pieces at all. That's just the way perverse young girls jabber when they sniff for carrion or the way depraved patrons

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of the arts think. Paul won't go to pieces: he'll make himself into some­ one new and different. None of you have any idea what conditions are like in my country. It's the sole oasis left in the whole world. JULIUS ii: The world is by no means limited to our planet.. . HYRCAN IV: Holy Father, I don't have time to plumb the depths of Your Holiness's posthumous knowledge. I am a real man, or rather a real super­ man. I create a reality which is the incarnation of Hyrcanian desires. STATUE: There's no such thing as Hyrcanian desires. .. JULIUS ii: [Politely to the Statue] That's just what I wanted to say. [To Hyrcan] That word doesn't even exist, it's just an empty sound without meaning. HYRCAN IV: Once I give it a definition, this empty sound will become a con­ cept, and from then on it will exist in the world of ideas for all eternity. JULIUS ii: [Laughing] But only ahead in time, not backward, sire. HYRCAN IV: That's just the point. No behinds for me. I reverse events, and life too only goes ahead, and not backward. ROCKOFFER: You know, Hyrcan, you're beginning to interest me. HYRCAN IV: Experience it—it's wonderful. Once you experience it, you'll be so thrilled and have such a sense of power, you'll go out of your mind. [To the Pope] You see—I call Hyrcanian desire the desire for putting the absolute into effect in life. Only by believing in the absolute and in its realization can we create something in life. JULIUS II: And what good will that be to anyone? What will come of it? HYRCAN IV: That's senile skepticism, or rather senile doddering. Oh, that's right—I forgot that Your Holiness is practically six hundred years old. What'll come of it is that we'll experience our life on the heights of what's possible on this damned small globe of ours, and not waste away in a continual compromise with the ever-growing strength of social stickingtogetherness and regimentation. Some consider me an anarchist. I spit on their rancid opinions. I'm creating supermen. Two, or three—that's enough. The rest is a pulpy mass—cheese for worms. "Our society is as rotten as a cheese." Who said our society is as rotten as a cheese? JULIUS ii: Never mind about that, sire. I came here for a serious discussion on saving art from a total decline and fall. The fight against so-called pureblaguism.9 It's finally got to be proved that Pure Blague is impossible. Even God, although he's all-powerful, wouldn't really be able to blague anything perfectly and completely. HYRCAN IV: Humbug. As I was coming here, I gave some thought to the problem of Art. Art has come to an end and nothing will ever revive it. There isn't any sense to our discussion.
9. Pure humbug, or pure hoax, was itself a hoax by Witkiewicz. In the early twenties he announced a new theory of art called "Pur-blaguism" and anonymously published a small pamphlet which purported to contain works by various authors in the new pure-blague style.

JULIUS II: But, sire, as I see it, Your Royal Highness is a follower of Nietzsche, at least in social questions. Nietzsche himself recognized Art as the most important stimulus for personal power. HYRCAN iv: [Threateningly] What? Me a follower of Nietzsche? Please don't insult me. He was the life philosophy for a bunch of dunderheads willing to drug themselves with absolutely anything. I don't accept any drugs, and therefore I don't accept art either. My ideas arose completely inde­ pendently. I didn't read any of that trash until after I'd created my coun­ try. That's enough. Our conversation is over. JULIUS II: All right. But just one more thing: such a formulation of the question, with your goal already in mind, isn't that Pure Pragmatism? You can believe in the absolute in life or not, but to believe in it as a preconceived theory for experiencing on the heights, as Your Royal High­ ness put it, this wretched life of ours on our small globe—likewise your expression, my son—is a self-contradiction and a devaluation of Hyrcanian—yes, I repeat Hyrcanian—desires themselves! Ha, ha! HYRCAN IV: That's pure dialectics. Maybe in Heaven it's worth something. I'm a creator of re-al-i-ty. Understand, Holy Father. And now that's enough—don't get me upset. JULIUS II: Sire, I beg you, just one more question. HYRCAN IV: Well? JULIUS II: How's religion doing over there in your country? HYRCAN iv: Everyone believes whatever he wants. Religion has come to an end too. JULIUS ii: Ho, ho! That's rich. And he wants to create old-time power without religion. Really, sire, that strikes me as a stupid farce. Look at the most savage tribes, at the aboriginal Arunta or whoever they are. Even they have religion. Without religion there are no countries in the old sense of the word. There can only be an anthill. HYRCAN iv: No, no—not an organized anthill, only a great herd of straggling cattle, over which I and my friends hold power. JULIUS ii: But what do you believe in, my son? HYRCAN IV: In myself, and that's good enough for me. But if I ever need to, I'll believe in anything at all, in any old fetish, in a crocodile, in the Unity of Being, in you, Holy Father, in my own navel, what difference does it make?! Is that clear? JULIUS ii: You, sir, are a combination of a very clever but ordinary bandit and the worst kind of pragmatist. You're not a king at all, at least not for me. From now on we won't have anything more to do with each other. [He goes to the left and sinks exhausted into his armchair. Hyrcan stands there looking angry, leaning on his swore/.]

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Well, they demolished you, my petty chieftain. The Holy Father is really a first-class dialectician. ROCKOFFER: You know, Hyrcan, actually His Holiness is partly right in all this. Besides, I must point out that the tone of our group deteriorated as soon as you came in. The conversation became downright crude. JULIUS ii: You're quite right, my son; to talk to slobs you've got to talk like a slob. ROCKOFFER: [To Hyrcan] I don't entirely agree with you in the matter of fundamental principles either. ELLA: Oh, Paul, then all's not lost yet. HYRCAN iv: [Waking up from his meditation] Yes—I'm a slob, but I'm what I am and there's no one else like me. Listen to me. I'm talking to all of you as an equal with equals for the last time. Paul—make up your mind. Alexander the Great was a slob too. And anyhow, we have a ruler here with us. You can read about Mr. della Rovere and his doings in any outline of history. JULIUS ii: [Getting up] Shut up! Shut up! ROCKOFFER: [Quietly to Hyrcan] Leave him alone. [Aloud] I won't allow


anyone to insult the Holy Father in my house, not even the King of Hyrcania. JULIUS ii: T h a n k you, my son. [Sitting down] A pragmatist on the throne! No—this is absolutely u n h e a r d of. It's actually funny. Ha-ha-ha! HYRCAN iv: Well, Paul, go ahead. Maybe your objections will be somewhat more to the point. Believe m e , I only want your happiness. If you don't leave with m e now for Hyrcania on the eleven o'clock express, you're through. I won't c o m e back here again. I'll break off diplomatic relations and start a series of wars. Digging u p and burning down anthills and moronhills. A lovely business. ROCKOFFER: You've already done one thing for m e . All the little problems I used to be concerned with seem completely insignificant to m e now.

[Sits in the armchair to the left; suddenly wakes up from her stupefied condition.] And the problem of love, too? ROCKOFFER: Wait a minute, Ella, I'm in a different dimension right now. [To Hyrcan] But I must confess I don't see greatness on your side either. HYRCAN iv: What do you mean? ROCKOFFER: His Holiness used a word that I can't get out of my head—but you won't be offended, will you, Hyrcan? HYRCAN iv: At you—never. Go ahead. What word? ROCKOFFER: Bandit. You're actually a petty robber baron, not an important ruler. You're only great given the extremely low level of civilization in your country. Nowadays, Nietzsche's superman can't be anything more than a small-time thug. And those who would have been rulers in the

past are the artists of our own times. Breeding the superman is the biggest joke I've ever heard of. HYRCAN IV: You're talking like a moron. You don't understand the first thing about my concept of Hyrcanian desires. You're living your life as an absolutist—that's a fact. You're too much either for yourself or for socalled society. You're a perfect specimen of "moral insanity," but you've got the strength of at least four normal people, according to the standards of our time. ROCKOFFER: Yes, that's a fact. That's why I've decided to end it all right now by committing suicide. ELLA: [Getting up] Paul, what's happening to you? Am I dreaming? STATUE: He's right. I never dared tell him that, but it's the only, really ob­ vious, trite solution. HYRCAN IV: Shut up, you broads! One's worse than the other. [ To Rockoffer] You fool, did I come here from my Hyrcania to see the downfall of my only friend? I've already got two strong types. I've absolutely got to have a third. You're the only one who can do it. ROCKOFFER: But what's a regular work day like in this Hyrcania of yours? What do you really occupy yourselves with there? HYRCAN IV: Power—we get drunk on power in all its forms from morning till night. And then we feast in an absolutely devastatingly glorious fashion, discussing everything and viewing everything from the unattainable heights of our reign. ROCKOFFER: A reign over a heap of idiots incapable of organizing them­ selves. An ordinary military dictatorship. Under favorable conditions a really radical state socialism can do the same thing. HYRCAN IV: But what was humanity in the past but a heap of beings, a formless pulpy mass without any organization? In order to hold on to their power, the pseudo-Titans evolved by socialism have to lie. We don't. Our life is Truth. ROCKOFFER: So it's a question of Truth. Is Truth also an integral part of the Hyrcanian worldview? HYRCAN IV: Of course. But if all humanity wears a mask, the problem of Truth will disappear all by itself. I and my two friends, Count de Plignac and Rupprecht von Blasen, are creating just such a mask. Society masked and we alone who know everything. ROCKOFFER: But isn't there something of a comedy in it all? You know what's chiefly discouraged me? Your costume. HYRCAN IV: But that's nothing. I thought you were more impressed by "scen­ ery," and that's why I dressed up this way. I can take this fancy stuff off. [He goes on talking as he takes his clothes off. Under his coat he reveals a golden garment He throws it off and stands in a well-tailored, normal

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cutaway. He takes off his helmet as well He puts the clothes in the middle of the stage. He continues to hold his sword in his hand.] But you know what greatness consists of? Attaining isolation. To create such an island of brutalized, bestial spirits amid the sea of regimentation engulfing everything—now, that takes a little more strength than Mr. della Rovere had in the sixteenth century. Not to speak of the Borgias—they were just common clowns. GRUMPUS: Most gracious lord—I'll go to Hyrcania too. If you're going to serve, you might as well serve real masters. HYRCAN iv: [To Rockoffer] See? That dolt's recognized my true worth, but you won't even try to understand me. ROCKOFFER: Wait; my daimon has split in two. It's an unheard-of event in the history of mankind. I hear two secret voices telling me two parallel truths which will never meet. The contradiction between them is of an infinite order. 10 HYRCAN IV: I keep a certain philosopher in my court, one Chwistek by name. On the basis of his concept of "the plurality of realities" he's establishing the systematic relativization of all Truth. He'll explain the rest to you. He's a great sage. I'm telling you, Rockoffer, come with me. ROCKOFFER: My conscience as a former artist is growing to the dimensions of an all-encompassing tumor. A new monster feeds on itself. Monsters, till now tormented in cages, have conquered unknown areas of my disin­ tegrating brain. ELLA: [Getting up] He's simply gone mad. Most gracious lord, ask whatever you will, but don't take him away from me. Now that he's a madman, he'll create wonderful things as long as he's with me. ROCKOFFER: You're mistaken, little girl. I'm clear-headed as never before. Long ago I recognized my madness—for me it was much less interesting than my extremely cold, clear consciousness. [Ella sits down, stunned.] STATUE: That's the Truth. Once, when I was with him, he overcame a fit of madness. It was metaphysical madness, of course, but my life was also hanging by a thread. He's a psychic athlete, and a physical one, too— sometimes. HYRCAN IV. Alice, believe me, for him you were only a sort of vinegar in which he preserved himself until my arrival. I'm grateful to you for that. You can come with me to Hyrcania. STATUE: [Climbing down from the pedestal] All right—you can make me into the priestess of whatever cult you want. I'm ready for anything.
10. Leon Chwistek (1884-1944), Polish logician, esthetician, mathematician, essayist, painter, and close friend of Witkiewicz. In The Plurality of Realities (1921) he postulated four different kinds of reality which give rise to four different kinds of art.

JULIUS II: So youVe also become a pragmatist, my daughter. I didn't expect that. STATUE: But Holy Father, in the depths of your soul aren't you really a pragmatist, too? JULIUS ii: [Getting up] Perhaps, perhaps. Who's to say? My worldview is subject to constant transformations. HYRCAN IV: To have my concept recognized, I'm even willing to let art disappear from my realm for good. I appoint you patron of the dying arts, Holy Father, on condition that you won't tempt Paul Rockoffer. He can be an absolutist only in life, not in art. JULIUS II: All right, all right. I give in. In any case, you've opened up new perspectives for me. Just between you and me, you have no idea how madly, hopelessly bored I've been in Heaven. Starting today I'm extend­ ing my leave for at least three hundred years. [Hyrcan and Rockoffer whisper.] STATUE: Julius della Rovere, you can count on me: With my dialectics, I'll make twenty of those three hundred years a delight for you. In the eve­ ning, after a tiring day's work, you'll tell me all about it and have a really serious talk with a woman who's both wise and moderately perverse. JULIUS II: Thanks, daughter. I'm going to Hyrcania. ELLA: [Getting up] I can't take any more! This is some ghastly nightmare, all these discussions of yours. I'm not at all good and noble, and I feel as though I've been asphyxiated by some hideous poison gas. And besides, all this is boring. You're tearing my heart apart just as a game, a stupid, boring game. I want to go to Hyrcania, too. When Paul feels unhappy, at least he'll have me, and I'll save him. Sire, will Your Royal Highness take me with him? HYRCAN IV: Out of the question. Paul must forget his former life. You'll start tempting him right away to make artistic excuses for why he fell or who the hell knows what. All creative impulses must be stifled in embryo. ELLA: And how's it all finally going to end? What then? HYRCAN IV: Then, as usual, death takes over, but along with it the feeling that life has been experienced on the heights, and not in the filthy cesspool of society, where there's art instead of morphine. ROCKOFFER: So you're opposed to drugs? I can't get along without them. HYRCAN IV: I still approve of the alkaloids, but I have the greatest contempt for all psychic drugs. Aside from the fact that you won't create anything, you can do whatever you want. [Ella approaches Paul and they whisper.] JULIUS II: Your Hyrcania, Sire, strikes me as a kind of sanitorium for people sick of society. The way you describe it, of course. Actually it's the lowest kind of whorehouse for the playboys in life . . .

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IV: But they're absolutists, every one of them—if they don't manage to get through the wall, at least they leave the bloody marks of a smashed skull on it. That's where my greatness lies. JULIUS ii: But after all, you could have been a pickpocket, Sire, like the duke in Marion Lescaut HYRCAN iv: I could have been, but I'm not. I'm the king of the last real kingdom on earth. Greatness lies only in what succeeds. If I'd been completely unsuccessful, I'd have only been ridiculous from the very start. JULIUS ii: You still can fall. And then what? HYRCAN IV: I'll fall from a certain height. After all, there's never been a tyrant who didn't fall. JULIUS ii: That's just where the pettiness lies: in the idea of a certain height. HYRCAN iv: I can't fall through Infinity. Even in the world of physics we have finite speed, since there's nothing beyond the speed of light. Practically speaking, it's infinite. JULIUS ii: [Ironically] Practically speaking! Pragmatism's at the bottom of everything. But it doesn't matter. For the time being, I prefer that to Heaven. HYRCAN IV: Rockoffer, did you hear that? No one has ever received a greater compliment. The Holy Father is with us. ELLA: [Clinging to Paul] Answer me, at least make up your mind. ROCKOFFER: I'm going. It's always worth abandoning the foreseeable for the unknown. Besides, it's the basis for the New Art, the art of vile surprises. HYRCAN iv: Thanks, but don't even compare Hyrcanianness and art. Hyrcania must be experienced. ROCKOFFER: The Dadaists said the same thing about Dadaism, until they were all hanged. No—that's enough. I'm yours. Everything's so disgust­ ing that there isn't any stupidity great enough not to be worth sacrificing everything in our lives for it. Let me die, but not in all this petty shabbiness. I had intended to die in Borneo or Sumatra. But I prefer the mystery of becoming to the mystery of staying the same. I'm coming. ELLA: Paul, I beg you. I won't bother you. Take me with you. ROCKOFFER: No, child. Let's not even talk about it. I know your spiritual traps. As a woman, you don't exist for me at all. ELLA: Paul, Paul—how cruelly you're tearing me apart inside! I'll die. Think of our poor, lonely little apartment, and my unhappy mother. ROCKOFFER: I'm terribly sorry for you. Now I really love you for the first time . .. ELLA: Paul! Wake up from this hallucination. If you can't stay, at least let me go to my death and destruction!

IV: [Pushing her away from Rockoffer] Lay off him. She's a cuttlefish, not a woman. Did you hear me? This is the last time I'm telling you this. ELLA: [Flaring up] Then kill me—I won't leave him myself. [From the right enter two matrons and two old men elegantly dressed in black.] MOTHER: Ellie, let me introduce you to two of your uncles you don't know. They're the ones who are financing your marriage with Paul. Mr. Ropner and Mr. Stolz—my daughter—my daughter's fiance, the well-known painter Mr. Paul Rockoffer. [The two old men greet Ella.] ROCKOFFER: First of all, I'm no longer her fiance, and secondly, in introduc­ tions a person's first name and occupation should never be mentioned, particularly since I've changed my occupation. You'll have to pardon me, Maria, but unknown perspectives are opening up before me. I'll be something along the line of a cabinet minister in Hyrcania. Hyrcanian desires gratified at last! It would take too much time to try to explain it all at once now. I hardly understand it myself. MOTHER: I can see that. You must be drunk, Paul. Ella, what does this mean? ELLA: Mama, it's all come to nothing. He's not drunk, and he hasn't gone mad. It's the most obvious, cold, cruel truth. The king of Hyrcania is taking him with him. He's stopped being an artist. [The Mother is dumbfounded.] HYRCAN IV: Yes, ma'am, and we'll settle things amicably. I don't like big scenes in the grand manner when I'm not on my own home ground. I'll pay you whatever damages you ask. MOTHER: I'm not concerned about money, but about my daughter's heart. HYRCAN IV: Don't be trite, please. And besides, I'm not just any lord or master, I'm a king. MOTHER: I've read about that Hyrcania of yours in the newspapers. It's the theater critics who write about it. Not one decent politician even wants to hear it mentioned. It's an ordinary theatrical hoax, that Hyrcania of yours. A depraved and degenerate band of madmen and drunkards took it into their heads to simulate a regime in the old style! You ought to be ashamed, Mister! Hyrcania! It's simply a disgrace, "bezobrazia" a la maniere russe.11 HYRCAN IV: [Throwing his sword on the pile of clothes] The old lady's gone crazy. Be quiet. Rockoffer's agreed and I'm not going to let any mum­ mified battle-axes get him in their clutches. Let's go. [Paul remains undecided.] ELLA: Mama, I won't live through this. I want to go too.
HYRCAN 11. Bezobrazia, which is Russian for "disgrace," is a common expression of indignation and outrage.

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What? So you're against me too? Aren't you ashamed in front of your uncles you've just met? If you keep behaving this way, we won't get a single cent. Ella, come to your senses. ELLA: [Clutching her head] I don't want to live! I can't! Only I don't have the courage to die. [To the king] Hyrcan, most poisonous of civilized reptiles, crowned slob, kill me. I want pain and death—I've already suffered too much today. MOTHER: Ella, what a way to talk! Who taught you such dreadful expressions? ELLA: I don't even know myself. I'm playing a role—I know that—but I'm suffering terribly. [To the king] I beg you—kill me. HYRCAN IV: You want me to? That won't cost me anything. In Hyrcania everything is possible. The absolute in life—can you understand that, you vile dishwashers of plates others licked long ago? ROCKOFFER: Wait—maybe it can all still be settled by a compromise. I can't stand scenes a n d rows. Ella will go quietly back to h e r mother, a n d I'll at least leave with a clear conscience. ELLA: N o , n o , no—I want to die. M O T H E R : D o you want to poison the last days of my old age? And what about o u r little apartment, a n d o u r nice evenings together, just the three of us, a n d later surrounded by children: yours a n d Paul's, m y darling grand­ children. ELLA: Mama, don't torture me. I'll poison your life worse if I stay with you than if I die right now at the hands of the king. MOTHER: [In despair] What difference does it make who kills you. You die only once, but my old age will be poisoned to the very end. ELLA: No—I must die right away. Every minute of life is unbearable anguish. HYRCAN iv: Do you mean that seriously, Miss Ella? [X] ELLA: Yes. I was never so serious. HYRCAN iv: All right, then. [He picks up his sword, which is lying on the pile of royal robes, and strikes Ella on the head with it Ella falls without a groan. ] MOTHER: Oh!!! [She falls on Ella's corpse and remains there until almost the end of the play. Hyrcan stands leaning on his sword. The old men whisper vehemently among themselves. Matron II remains calm. (+)] ROCKOFFER: I'm just beginning to understand what the Hyrcanianness of Hyrcanian desires actually is. Now at last I know what it means to put absolutism into practice in real life. [He clasps Hyrcan's hands in his.] JULIUS II: I've committed many atrocities, but this pragmatic crime has moved me deeply. I bless you, poor mother, and you, spirit of a maiden pure and lofty beyond all earthly conception. [He blesses the group on Hyrcan's left.] Well, sire, she lived her life as an absolutist, too—you've got to admit that.


IV: Her death has moved me too. Fve come to recognize a new kind of beauty. I didn't know that there could be anything quite so unexpected outside of Hyrcania. ONE OF THE OLD MEN: [Drawing near] Well, all right, gentlemen, but what now? How are we going to settle all this? We understand, or rather we can guess what it's all about. Actually it's a trite story, but how can it all be explained and justified? JULIUS II: Well, gentlemen. I'm a tolerant person, but I can't stand your company any longer. You understand—I was the Pope. Kiss me quickly on the slipper and clear out, while you're still in one piece. I can't stand dull, commonplace thinking masquerading as phony good nature. [The old men kiss his slipper and, crumpling their hats in their hands, go out to the right with astonished faces. Meanwhile, the others continue talking.] HYRCAN IV: Paul—go with this flunkey right now and get ready for the trip. The Hyrcania Express leaves in an hour. I'm here incognito and don't have my special train with me. ROCKOFFER: All right—Grumpus, leave these ladies here and come along. [He and Grumpus pass to the right. Matron II comes up to Hyrcan. Rockoffer and Grumpus stop on the threshold.] MATRON II: Hyrcan—don't you recognize me? I'm your mother. HYRCAN IV: I recognized you instantly, Mama, but you're the one hidden shame in my life. I'd prefer not to apply the Hyrcanian worldview to my own mother. My mother, mother to a king—an ordinary whore! How ghastly! JULIUS II: And so even you have sacred treasures hidden in the depths of your pragmatic-criminal heart? I didn't expect that. HYRCAN IV: Holy Father—don't meddle in what's none of your business. [To Matron II] Mama, I advise you, get out of here and don't cross my path ever again. You know, I inherited a bloody and violent disposition from my father. MATRON II: But couldn't I be a priestess of love in your country? In olden times the daughters of Syrian princes deliberately offered up their vir­ ginity to an unknown stranger for a couple of copper pieces. HYRCAN IV: That was in olden times and that made it beautiful. You didn't get started that way. You were the mistress of our idiotic aristocrats and obese Semitic bankers. I don't even know whose son I am—me, a king. What a nasty mess. MATRON II: Why should you care? All the more credit to you that starting from nothing you've raised yourself up to the height of a throne. A ridiculous one, but still a throne. HYRCAN IV: Still, I'd prefer to know my genealogy and not get lost in guess­ work.

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ir. You're funny. What difference does it make whether you're Aryan or Semitic or Mongolian? Prince Tseng, ambassador of the Celestial Empire, was one of my lovers, too. Nowadays . . . HYRCAN IV: Shut up—don't get me in a rage! JULIUS II: Common pragmatic snobism. So even in Hyrcania there are irrele­ vant issues. Yes—Napoleon was right: recherche de paternite interdite. STATUE: Ha, ha, ha! Hyrcan and the mother problem, that's a good one! HYRCAN IV: I'm leaving. I don't want to have a new row. If I weren't here incognito, you'd see it would all end quite differently. [He goes to the door and leaves at the same time as Rockoffer and Grumpus.] MATRON ii: [Running toward the door] Hyrcan, Hyrcan! My son! [She runs out] JULIUS H: [To the Statue] That's a fine kettle offish! And what do you say to that, my daughter! STATUE: I knew we couldn't get off without a few discordant notes. [Behind the scenes, a shot is heard, and then a dreadful roar from Hyrcan IV.] JULIUS ii: What's that now? Some fiendish surprise. My stay in Heaven has made my one time nerves-of-steel too sensitive. I've grown unaccus­ tomed to shots. [Ella's mother doesrit even hat an eyelash.] STATUE: Quiet. With Paul, anything is possible. Let's wait: this is a really strange moment. I feel an extraordinary, non-Euclidean tension through­ out all space. The whole world has shrunk to the dimensions of an orange. JULIUS ii: Quiet—they're coming. [Rockoffer runs in with a revolver in his hand, followed by Matron II.] ROCKOFFER: I've killed him. I've avenged the death of poor Ella. JULIUS: Who? Hyrcan? ROCKOFFER: [Embracing Matron II] Yes. And you know what alienated me from him most? That scene with his mother. I don't remember my mother, but I feel sure I wouldn't have treated her that way. If you want absolutism in life, there's absolutism in life for you. He drove me to it himself, the dog. JULIUS II: Well, fine—that's very nice of you, my son. But what's going to come of it? ROCKOFFER: [To Matron II] Just a minute. First of all, I ask you, in memory of your son and my friend, to consider me as your second son. He was un­ worthy of you. A matron—a whore—where could I find a better mother? MATRON ii: [Kissing him on the head] Thank you, Paul—my son, my true, dear son!

ROCKOFFER: That's enough. Let's go. JULIUS II: But where? What' 11 we do without that thug Hyrcan? Worse still— what'll we do without Hyrcania? Now that our Hyrcanian desires have reached their peak and, so to speak, run absolutely wild? ROCKOFFER: Oh—I see Your Holiness has really lost all his wits. Is there anyone who deserves to be king of Hyrcania more than I do? Is there any absolutist who's carrying out his ideas in real life more than I am? Give me the whole world and I'll smother it with kisses. Now we'll create something diabolical. I feel the strength of a hundred Hyrcans in me. I, Paul Hyrcan V. I won't be a joker the way he was. Out with this junk. [He kicks the royal robes and sword on the floor.] I'll create a really cozy little nook in the Infinity of the world. Art, philosophy, love, science, societyone huge mishmash. And not like groveling worms, but like whales spouting with sheer delight, we'll swim in it all up to our ears. The world is not a rotten cheese. Existence is always beautiful if you can only grasp the uniqueness of everything in the universe. Down with the relativity of truth! Chwistek's the first one I'll knock off! We'll forge on in the raging gale, in the very guts of absolute Nothingness. We'll go on burning like new stars in the bottomless void. Long live finiteness and limitations. God isn't tragic; He doesn't become—He is. Only we are tragic, we, limited Beings. [In a different tone] I'm saying this as a good Catholic, and I hope I won't offend Your Holiness's feelings by doing it. [In his former tone] Together, we'll create pure nonsense in life, not in Art. [Again in a different tone] Hmm—it's revolting! They're all different names for the same gigantic, disgusting weakness. Completely new— everything new. [Clutches his breast] I'm getting tired. Poor Ella! Why couldn't she have lived till now? [He falls into deep thought] STATUE: Didn't I say that with good old Paul you can expect anything? JULIUS II: But you won't leave me for him, my daughter? STATUE: Never. Paul is too intense for me—and too young. [She kisses Julius IPs hand.] JULIUS H: I'm only afraid that the actual results may not live up to such a promise. I'm afraid of humbug. STATUE: I am, too—a little. But it's always worth trying. ROCKOFFER: [Waking up from his meditation] And you, Holy Father, will you go with us? In Heaven, will they grant you an extension of your leave? JULIUS H: To tell the truth—in Heaven they think I really belong in Hell. But you see, as a Pope they can't decently do . . . that to me . . . you know? That's why I can get a leave to any planet I want without any difficulties whatever. ROCKOFFER: That's great. Without you, infernal old man, I wouldn't be able to take any more. You appealed to me because your inner transforma­ tions were sincere. But poor Ella—if it were only possible to bring her

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back from the dead! What wouldn't I give for that right now! He was the one who made me do it: that damned Hyrcan. [Ella springs up suddenly, pushing her Mother aside.] ELLA: Fm alive! I was only knocked out. Fm going with you! Fll be queen of Hyrcania! ROCKOFFER: [Embracing her] What happiness, what endless happiness! My most dearly beloved, forgive me. [He kisses her.] Without you, even Hyrcania would be only a ghastly dream. MOTHER: [Getting up in tears] You're a good man, Paul. I knew you wouldn't abandon poor Ella. [Paul goes over to her and kisses her hand.] ROCKOFFER: Adopted mother and mother-in-law, Fll take both of you with us to Hyrcania. I know how to value the advice of older women who've experienced a great deal. Even the uncles—those two old idiots, we'll take them with us too. Let's go—whatever he's done, Hyrcan opened a new way for us. May his memory be sacred to us. JULIUS II: What generosity, what generosity! This is one of the most beautiful days of my life beyond the grave. In any case, God is an inscrutable mystery. [X] Come, my daughter. ROCKOFFER: Matrons, let's get a move on—the Hyrcania Express leaves in ten minutes—we've got to hurry. [The Matrons leave, passing by Grumpus] GRUMPUS: His Royal Highness just breathed his last in my arms. ROCKOFFER: [Offering his arm to Ella] Well, may he rest in peace. Now I am king of Hyrcania. And even if I have to stand on my head and turn my own and other people's guts upside down, Fll carry out my mission on this planet. Understand? GRUMPUS: Yes, Your Royal Highness. [Rockoffer goes out with Ella. Julius II goes out after them with the Statue. (+)] JULIUS II: [As he leaves] Even the worst fraud that scoundrel perpetrates on society has the strange charm of a finished work of art. I wonder if I'll be able to create a new artistic center in this infernal Hyrcania. STATUE: In artistic matters, you're the almighty power, Holy Father . . . [They go out, followed by Grumpus. The packages and the clothing of the king remain in the middle of the stage.]

O n a New Type of Play
Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz

"On a New Type of Play" is the last section ofAn Introduction to the Theory of Pure Form in the Theater, which first appeared in 1920 in numbers 1, 2, and 3 of Skamander, a leading Polish avant-garde literary magazine of the 1920s and 30s. Coming to the theater from painting, and strongly influenced by nonrepresentational modern art, Witkiewicz was able to develop a complete aesthetic theory of nonrealistic drama early in his own career as a playwright. His quest for "pure form77 in the theater makes Witkiewicz part of the avantgarde European reaction against the realistic, psychological drama and social problem play which had dominated the stage since the 1890s. Before the First World War, Jacques Copeau, the guiding force behind modern French drama, attacked the socially constructive theater based on observation of real life as philistine and bourgeois, an adjunct of journalism, not art. The aim of the theater, Copeau argued, is not to make the spectator think, but to " 'make him dream,7 by evoking and suggesting the multiplicity and mystery of life.771 By the middle twenties, Gabriel Marcel suggested that "the future belongs to the theater of pure fantasy,772 and Benjamin Cremieux talked of the idea of "pure theater,77 which like pure poetry would have a technique of its own that would free it of the social content of realistic drama
Reprinted from "The Madman and the Nun' and Other Plays by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, ed. Daniel C. Gerould and C. S. Durer; trans. Daniel C. Gerould and C. S. Durer (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1968), 291-97. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wash­ ington Press. 1. Jacques Copeau, Critiques d'un autre temps (Paris: Editions de la Nouvelle Revue Franchise, 1923), p. 230. 2. Gabriel Marcel, "La crise de la production dramatique," L'Europe Nouvelle 39 (Septem­ ber 29, 1923), p. 1255.

and give it independent life as pure movement3. In the 1930s, Antonin Artaud, in the manifestoes collected in The Theater and Its Double, formulated his theory of the theater of cruelty which rejects psychology and logic for violence, dreams, and the internal world of uman considered metaphysically!^ Witkiewicz anticipated many of these ideas and quite independently came to conclusions similar to those of his Western European contemporaries. It is important to note that Witkiewicz's idea of pure theater is inclusive; he wishes not to rid the theater of reality, but to transpose it into a new dimension. Pure Form can absorb all kinds of material; the internal arrangement is simply freed from traditional discursive and didactic demands. [Translators' note] Theater, like poetry, is a composite art, but it is made up of even more elements not intrinsic to it; therefore, it is much more difficult to imagine Pure Form on the stage, essentially independent, in its final result, of the content of human action. Yet it is not perhaps entirely impossible. Just as there was an epoch in sculpture and painting when Pure Form was identical with metaphysical content derived from religious concepts, so there was an epoch when performance on stage was identical with myth. Nowadays form alone is the only content of our painting and sculpture, and subject matter, whether concerned with the real world or the fantastic, is only the necessary pretext for the creation of form and has no direct connec­ tion with it, except as the "stimulus" for the whole artistic machine, driving it on to creative intensity. Similarly, we maintain that it is possible to write a play in which the performance itself, existing independently in its own right and not as a heightened picture of life, would be able to put the spectator in a position to experience metaphysical feeling, regardless of whether the fond of the play is realistic or fantastic, or whether it is a synthesis of both, combin­ ing each of their individual parts, provided of course that the play as a whole results from a sincere need on the part of the author to create a theatrical idiom capable of expressing metaphysical feelings within purely formal di­ mensions. What is essential is only that the meaning of the play should not necessarily be limited by its realistic or fantastic content, as far as the totality of the work is concerned, but that the realistic element should simply exist for the sake of the purely formal goals—that is, for the sake of a synthesis of all the elements of the theater: sound, decor, movement on the stage, dialogue, in sum, performance through time, as an uninterrupted whole—so trans­ formed, when viewed realistically, that the performance seems utter non­ sense. The idea is to make it possible to deform either life or the world of fantasy with complete freedom so as to create a whole whose meaning would be
3. Benjamin Cremieux, "Chronique dramatique," Nouvelle Revue Frangaise 27 (August 1, 1926), 233-37. 4. Antonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, trans. M. C. Richards (New York: Grove Press, 1958), p. 92.

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defined only by its purely scenic internal construction, and not by the demands of consistent psychology and action according to assumptions from real life. Such assumptions can be applied as criteria only to plays which are heightened reproductions of life. Our contention is not that a play should neces­ sarily be nonsensical, but only that from now on the drama should no longer be tied down to pre-existing patterns based solely on life's meaning or on fantastic assumptions. The actor, in his own right, should not exist; he should be the same kind of part within a whole as the color red in a particular painting or the note C-sharp in a particular musical composition. The kind of play under discussion may well be characterized by absolute freedom in the handling of reality, but what is essential is that this freedom, like "nonsensicality" in painting, should be adequately justified and should become valid for the new dimension of thought and feeling into which such a play transports the spectator. At present we are not in a position to give an exam­ ple of such a play, we are only pointing out that it is possible if only foolish prejudices can be overcome. But let us assume that someone writes such a play: the public will have to get used to it, as well as to that deformed leg in the painting by Picasso. Although we can imagine a painting composed of entirely abstract forms, which will not evoke any associations with the objects of the external world unless such associations are self-induced, yet it is not even possible for us to imagine such a play, because pure performance in time is possible only in the world of sounds, and a theater without characters who act, no matter how outrageously and improbably, is inconceivable, simply because theater is a composite art, and does not have its own intrinsic, homogeneous elements, like the pure arts: Painting and Music. The theater of today impresses us as being something hopelessly bottled up which can only be released by introducing what we have called fantastic psychology and action. The psychology of the characters and their actions should only be the pretext for a pure progression of events: therefore, what is essential is that the need for a psychology of the characters and their actions to be consistent and lifelike should not become a bugbear imposing its particular construction on the play. We have had enough wretched logic about characters and enough psychological "truth"—already it seems to be coming out of our ears. Who cares what goes on at 38 Wspolna Street, Apartment 10, or in the castle in the fairy tale, or in past times? In the theater we want to be in an entirely new world in which the fantastic psychology of characters who are completely implausible in real life, not only in their positive actions but also in their errors, and who are perhaps completely unlike people in real life, produces events which by their bizarre interrela­ tionships create a performance in time not limited by any logic except the logic of the form itself of that performance. What is required is that we accept as inevitable a particular movement of a character, a particular phrase having a realistic or only a formal meaning, a particular change of lighting or decor, a particular musical accompaniment, just as we accept as

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inevitable a particular part of a composition on a canvas or a sequence of chords in a musical work. We must also take into account the fact that such characters7 thoughts and feelings are completely unfettered and that they react with complete freedom to any and all events, even though there is no justification for any of this. Still, these elements would have to be suggested on the same level of formal necessity as all the other elements of perfor­ mance on the stage mentioned above. Of course, the public would have to be won over to this fantastic psychology, as with the square leg in the paint­ ing by Picasso. The public has already laughed at the deformed shapes on the canvases of contemporary masters; now they will also have to laugh at the thoughts and actions of characters on the stage, since for the time being these cannot be completely explained. We believe that this problem can be resolved in exactly the same way as it has been in contemporary painting and music: by understanding the essence of art in general and by growing accustomed to it. Just as those who have finally understood Pure Form in painting can no longer even look at other kinds of painting and cannot help understanding correctly paintings which they laughed at before as incomprehensible, so those who become used to the theater we are proposing will not be able to stand any of the productions of today, whether realistic or heavily symbolic. As far as painting is concerned, we have tested this matter more than once on people who were apparently incapable of understanding Pure Form at the beginning, but who after receiving systematic "injections" over a certain period of time reached a remarkably high level of perfection in making truly expert judgments. There may be a certain amount of perversity in all this, but why should we be afraid of purely artistic perversity? Of course, perverseness in life is often a sad affair, but why should we apply judgments which are reasonable in real life to the realm of art, with which life has essentially so little in common. Artistic perversity (for example, unbalanced masses in a pictorial composition, perversely tense movements or clashing colors in a painting) is only a means, and not an end; therefore, it cannot be immoral, because the goal which it enables us to attain—unity within diversity in Pure Form—cannot be subjected to the criteria of good and evil. It is somewhat different with the theater, because its elements are beings who act; but we believe that in those new dimensions which we are discussing even the most monstrous situations will be no less moral than what is seen in the theater today. Of course, even assuming that a certain segment of the public interested in serious artistic experiences will come to demand plays written in the style described above, such plays would still have to result from a genuine creative necessity felt by an author writing for the stage. If such a work were only a kind of schematic nonsense, devised in cold blood, artificially, without real need, it would probably arouse nothing but laughter, like those paintings with a bizarre form of subject matter which are created by those who do not suffer from a real "insatiable pursuit of new forms," but who manufacture

them for commercial reasons or pour epater les bourgeois. Just as the birth of a new form, pure and abstract, without a direct religious basis, took place only through deforming our vision of the external world, so the birth of Pure Form in the theater is also possible only through deforming human psychol­ ogy and action. We can imagine such a play as having complete freedom with respect to absolutely everything from the point of view of real life, and yet being extra­ ordinarily closely knit and highly wrought in the way the action is tied together. The task would be to fill several hours on the stage with a perfor­ mance possessing its own internal, formal logic, independent of anything in "real life." An invented, not created, example of such a work can only make our theory appear ridiculous, and, from a certain point of view, even absurd (for some, even infuriating or, to put it bluntly, idiotic), but let us try. Three characters dressed in red come onstage and bow to no one in particular. One of them recites a poem (it should create a feeling of urgent necessity at this very moment). A kindly old man enters leading a cat on a string. So far everything has taken place against a background of a black screen. The screen draws apart, and an Italian landscape becomes visible. Organ music is heard. The old man talks with the other characters, and what they say should be in keeping with what has gone before. A glass falls off the table. All of them fall on their knees and weep. The old man changes from a kindly man into a ferocious "butcher" and murders a little girl who has just crawled in from the left. At this very moment a handsome young man runs in and thanks the old man for murdering the girl, at which point the characters in red sing and dance. Then the young man weeps over the body of the little girl and says very amusing things, whereupon the old man becomes once again kindly and good-natured and laughs to himself in a corner, uttering sublime and limpid phrases. The choice of costumes is completely open: period or fantastic—there may be music during some parts of the perfor­ mance. In other words, an insane asylum? Or rather a madman's brain on the stage? Perhaps so, but we maintain that, if the play is seriously written and appropriately produced, this method can create works of previously unsuspected beauty; whether it be drama, tragedy, farce, or the grotesque, all in a uniform style and unlike anything which previously existed. On leaving the theater, the spectator ought to have the feeling that he has just awakened from some strange dream, in which even the most ordinary things had a strange, unfathomable charm, characteristic of dream reveries, and unlike anything else in the world. Nowadays the spectator leaves the theater with a bad taste in his mouth, or he is shaken by the purely biological horror or sublimity of life, or he is furious that he has been fooled by a whole series of tricks. For all its variety, the contemporary theater almost never gives us the other world, other not in the sense of being fantastic, but truly that other world which brings to us an understanding of purely formal beauty. Occasionally something like this happens in the plays of writers of previous

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ages, plays which after all have their significance and greatness that we certainly do not want to deny them with any fanatical fury. This element which we are discussing can be found in some of the plays of Shakespeare and Slowacki, for example, but never in its purest form, and, therefore, despite their greatness, these plays do not create the desired effect. The climax and the conclusion of the kind of play which we are propos­ ing may be created in a complete abstraction from what might be called that debasing feeling of pure curiosity about real life, that tension in the pit of the stomach, with which we watch a drama of real life, and which constitutes precisely the one and only appeal of plays today. Of course we would have to break this bad habit, so that in a world with which, on the realistic level, we have no contact, we could experience a metaphysical drama similar to the one which takes place among the notes of a symphony or sonata and only among them, so that the denouement would not be an event of concern to us as part of real life, but only as something comprehensible as the inevitable conclusion of the purely formal complications of sound patterns, decorative or psychological, free from the causality found in real life. The criticism of absolute freedom made against contemporary artists and their works by people who do not understand art can also be applied here. For example, why three characters, not five? Why dressed in red, not green? Of course, we cannot prove the necessity for that number and color, but it should appear inevitable insofar as each element is a necessary part of the work of art once it has been created; while we are watching the play unfold, we ought not to be able to think of any other possible internal interrelation­ ships. And we maintain that, if the work is to be created with complete artistic sincerity, it will have to compel the spectators to accept it as inevita­ ble. It is certainly much more difficult with the theater than with other arts, because, as a certain expert on the theater has asserted, the crowd as it watches and listens is an essential part of the performance itself, and more­ over the play has to be a box-office success. But we believe that sooner or later the theater must embark upon the "insatiable pursuit of new forms," which it has avoided up until now, and it is to be hoped that extraordinary works, within the dimensions of Pure Form, still remain to be created, and that there will not simply be more "renaissance" and "purification" or repeti­ tion ad nauseam of the old repertoire which really has nothing at all to say to anybody. We must unleash the slumbering Beast and see what it can do. And if it runs mad, there will always be time enough to shoot it before it is too late.



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French Surrealism

oger Vitrac, poet and playwright, was born on November 17, 1899, in Pinsac, France. He was one of the original signers of the First Surrealist Manifesto (1924), but along with Antonin Artaud he was later expelled from official Surrealist circles because of his pursuit of commercial theater opportunities for his work. In 1926, he founded the Theatre Alfred-Jarry with Artaud and Robert Aron, and there he produced his first two full-length plays, The Mysteries of Love (written in 1924 and first produced in 1927) and Victor, or The Children Take Over (1928), which combine farce and fantasy with the darker sensibility of tragedy. Antonin Artaud directed the original productions of both dramas. The Mysteries of Love was one of the first plays to use the Surrealist technique of automatic writing, as a pair of lovers continually change their relationship and interact with other characters whose identities shift fre­ quently; as in Vitrac's later plays, greater emphasis is placed here on the sugges­ tive sounds of words than on their literal meaning. Victor created a scandal and ran for only three performances, although it was successfully revived in 1962 by Jean Anouilh. In this work Vitrac satirizes the follies of society through a world of fantasy in which a seven-foot-tall, nine-year-old child speaks and acts like an adult and dies of a heart attack. Vitrac's absurdist vision and flights of imagination make him an important predecessor to the Theater of the Absurd, his influence being particularly evident in the works of Eugene lonesco. The only person associated with Surrealism who ever sought to make a career for himself as a dramatistseeking consolation in absinthe meanwhile—Vitrac died on January 22, 1952, in Paris.


Roger Vitrac and The Mysteries of Love
n M ' ^30 appeared a brochure called Le theatre Alfred Jarry et I'hos| tilite publique. It is almost certain that this document, generally i ^ k attributed to Antonin Artaud, was written by Roger Vitrac. For this reason, the statement it contains on Les mysteres de I'amour is D^^ especially interesting to us, particularly since—despite Vitrac's recent quarrel with Breton's group—it reflects no inclination to uproot the play from the context to which it belongs: "An ironical work which renders concrete on stage the disquiet, double solitude, dissembled criminal thoughts, and eroticism of lovers. For the first time, a real dream was realized in the theater." The operative words here are "real dream," "renders concrete," and "real­ ized in the theater." Les mysteres de I'amour illustrates its author's viewpoint on life by making audible human responses usually not articulated, and by act­ ing out subconscious relationships not always of necessity rationally explicable. In putting his characters' fantasies on stage, without troubling to distinguish dream from reality and nightmare from diurnal activity, Vitrac proceeds much further than in his one-act Entree libre (1922). He now locates drama in con­ frontations precipitated by desire or fear, longing or revulsion, where dialogue delivers words normally unvoiced, so that his characters can "live as we dream" and "dream as we live," as Vitrac put it in his note to the 1948 Gallimard edi­ tion of his plays. Les mysteres de I'amour invites us into the realm where Sur­ realism reigns and where we come to understand what Breton meant when he spoke in his Nadja of "descending truly into the lowest depths of the mind, where it is no longer a matter of night falling or rising again (is this then daylight?)." Like the ready-made phrases conventionally employed to transmit the condi­ tioned reflex of familiar emotional response, the banalities of polite conversa­ tion go by the board. They succumb in Vitrac's play to explosive language and gesture that revitalize human attitudes by releasing them from habit and stereo­ typed courtesy. In Les mysteres de I'amour the playwright wants to revitalize the conventions of courtship, love, and marriage, to undermine the mythology of romance—through language and action, by dream and by vision—so that it is no longer possible to take it or them for granted. To achieve this aim, Vitrac jux­ taposes unlike elements throughout the play: reality against dream, chaos against order, the mundane against the fantastic, the modes of Surrealism against those of traditional or well-made drama. The very structure of Les mysteres de I'amour exemplifies these juxtaposi­ tions: although it consists of a clearly defined prologue and three acts, with a prosaic story—the courtship, marriage, unhappiness, separation, and reconcilia­ tion of a young couple—continuing through the first scene of each act, oneiric elements insistently intervene in the form of Lea's dreams and Patrice's visions. To confound reality and dream still further, and to convey a sense of disjunction

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Excerpted from J. H. Matthews, Theatre in Dada and Surrealism (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse Univer­ sity Press, 1974), 119-27. By permission of the publisher.

that denies rationally simplified correspondences or oppositions between dream and reality, the play's scene divisions—"tableaux"—are numbered consecutively, one to five, ignoring the work's three-act division entirely. Moreover, scenes that take place between two people, with minimal stage directions, on sets that are essentially bare, alternate with elaborately staged scenes filled with impossibly grotesque events, objects, and characters. Following a brief prologue, showing Patrice tracing lines in the mud of a public square after a rainstorm, the first tableau begins. It takes place in a stagebox, opening while the house lights are still on. Throughout this part of the drama Patrice and Lea [Patrick and Leah] occupy an intermediary position be­ tween the public and the stage where the spectator anticipated seeing the drama enacted, when he took his seat. Action has been displaced, brought forward, and is now under way closer than he expected. If without difficulty he can identify a stock situation, when he sees Patrice kneeling at Lea's feet and saying, "Accept these flowers," no theatrical precedent exists to reassure him before the gesture accompanying these words: Patrice slapping Lea's face. The young woman calls for her mother, not to complain, but to whisper the good news—"Mama! if you only knew, Patrice loves me." Patrice, meanwhile, has announced that he is going for a walk by the seaside and has sat down facing the audience. Within a few moments he is directing offensive remarks at members of the public. Patrice's conduct at this point sets a precedent to be followed quite often as the drama unfolds. In this play, where action begins in a stage-box, moving up only later t o t h e stage, t h e barrier separating t h e public f r o m t h e spectacle frequently tumbles. T h e spectator finds himself denied t h e comfortable feeling of distance that is, he used t o believe, an invariable condition of watching events enacted beyond t h e safety z o n e o f t h e footlights. Patrice confides in t h e au­ dience, "Lea loves me," delivering this aside at t h e t o p o f his voice. A t his urging, Lea makes a similar confession, shouting, "I love Patrice. O h ! I love his guts. O h ! I love this buffoon. O h ! I love this buffoon. F r o m all aspects, f r o m every seamy side, in all his shapes. L o o k at t h e m , Patrice. Listen t o t h e m . H a ! ha! ha!" A voice f r o m o u t f r o n t expresses a sense o f outrage in which every m e m b e r o f t h e audience shares t o some extent: " B u t why! Merciful heaven! W h y ? Is t h e r e something w r o n g w i t h you?" As o t h e r spectators begin t o intervene, their cries are punctuated by revolver shots, before t h e lights at last go d o w n and silence is restored, temporarily. Nothing, so far, marks a significant departure in Les mysteres de I'amour from effects tried out by Breton and Soupault in S'il vous plait. Very soon, however, the concept of theatrical dialogue is broadened. When someone in the audience declares aggressively, "Mr. Patrice, you are a criminal," Patrice responds. Before long, Vitrac is questioning the fundamental convention of dramatic presentation when he allows his hero to say, "They are waving at us," and permits Patrice and Lea to wave back in friendly fashion. Involving his public directly, the playwright takes a significant step. He deliberately brings the "dream" onstage face to face with the "reality" in the auditorium, or, as Breton puts it in Nadja, "that which is very summarily opposed" to dream "under the name of reality." Practicing prov­ ocation as he elects to do, Vitrac increases the public's feeling of disorientation

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before the dislocated conversations of Patrice and Lea, in which at times neither seems to hear what the other is saying. In short, he draws his audience into the action so as to make them more keenly aware of being left out of things. Although the lights have come on again, revealing that action is still confined to the stage-box, Lea behaves as if in her own dining room when warning Patrice and a rival, Dovic, to watch out for the furniture as they roll on the floor in a brutal fight. A few minutes later, she speaks to Patrice of being in their bedroom. Only now do the house lights go out and the footlights come up. There follows a brief illogical sequence involving an old and a young man whom we never see again, which could well have been modeled on the last act of S'il vous plcfii Understandably, a few spectators express disapproval. The theater manager comes on stage to announce that the play is over. Unfortunately, we are informed, the author, a Mr. Theophile Mouchet, has just killed himself. When the manager has gone off, someone out front calls for the author: The curtain rises. The author appears. He is in shirt sleeves. His face and clothes are covered with blood. He is roaring with laughter. He is laughing with all his might and holding his sides. The two curtains fall suddenly. To leave the theater at this point, as one seems to have been invited to do, means missing the second tableau. This takes place on a stage divided into three sets. On the Quai des Grands-Augustins in Paris, Patrice is seen as a lieutenant of Dragoons. Lea is carrying a doll. She says it is his child, but Patrice drops the baby in the Seine anyway. In his bedroom Lloyd George (played by Dovic, he looks like a certain British prime minister) lifts the sheets on a bed, showing Lea, who recognizes it with horror, the head of a little girl resting on the pillow. When he pulls the sheets right back to uncover the child, "It is naturally only a bust of flesh sawn off at shoulder level." In the presence of Lea and Patrice, Lloyd George proceeds to demonstrate his skill by sawing off the head of a young boy he has carried in under his arm: "That's quite a job, or I'm no judge." This whole tableau is situated in a twilight zone where horror and laughter commingle—Vitrac, we notice, specifies that the flesh bust's role is a mute one— and where the dead and the living converse. Lea's mother and her late father join her and Lloyd George for dinner, while, upon the advice of Lloyd George, their daughter places Patrice's knees under the flesh bust to conceal that a crime has taken place. Patrice's head is now at liberty to withdraw to the top of a mirrorwardrobe from which it observes the domestic scene. To her dead father's annoyance, Lea finds the antics of Patrice's head so distracting that she finally has to cover it with a sheet of newspaper. "You'll really have to take an interest in my stories," Mr. Morin comments petulantly, after being interrupted while telling one that begins quite promisingly: "Well, that night the sea was bad. We were catching sardines by the netful. But the darkness, the thunder, the lightning, and especially the niggers in the stokehold, not to mention the leopard . . ." Lloyd George goes off with him in the direction of the Quai des Grands-Augustins, agreeing that Lea is mad. Left alone, Lea and Madame Morin walk over to the bed, from which slowly rise "two arms like two dead branches, but on which two

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enormous very white hands have blossomed." In spite of her mother's warning ("Oh! my child! Don't go near. She has leprosy"), Lea kneels by the bed, recog­ nizes the victim's resemblance to herself, and concludes, "You really must agree that one doesn't die of love." One finds it easiest perhaps to accept the second tableau as a nightmare dreamed by Lea. She has the last word, and we see her lying in bed as the next tableau opens the second act. But Vitrac, we notice, does not tell us this is the case, in the way that he took care to do when including dreams in Entree fibre. He has given up establishing boundaries between the true and the false, the fanciful and the factual because, apparently, such boundaries no longer have any validity in his estimation. This would explain why, after letting us see cotton wool take fire in Lloyd George's bedroom when Patrice's head passed close by in a dream sequence, now, in the real world of a conventionally decorated hotel room, Vitrac shows us Lea's hands burning Patrice's lips as he kisses them, and smoking as she goes over to the washbasin to plunge them into water. Neither of the lovers, we observe, finds this phenomenon any more difficult to accept than Lea's mother and dead father found events in the second tableau. A butcher arrives to collect a parcel tied with string, left for him on the kitchen table. He grumbles that it is not worth his while to call again for so little: "Even if you were to give me the skin with the nails and hair, I'd not give you a penny more," he declares. Lea's evasiveness under Patrice's questions about this man and the reasons for his visit adds to the mystery pervading Vitrac's drama, just as t h e butcher's complaint contributes t o t h e heavy atmosphere o f m o n ­ strous violence in Les mysteres de I'amour. T h e third tableau may provide less striking visual manifestations o f mystery than w h e n Lloyd G e o r g e was o n stage, but t h e behavior of Patrice and Lea is no less disturbing, in its way. Lea examining sights visible in Patrice's right eye, Patrice's account o f a cryptic conversation w i t h a neighbor in the middle of t h e night, t h e slaps he gives Lea, and, above all, t h e f r e e d o m granted w o r d s (the basic elements o f conversation) in t h e remarks he makes t o her—all this points t o an emancipation o f dramatic f o r m t o which Vitrac is evidently dedicated. Meanwhile, s u m m o n e d by Patrice, Dovic, and M a d a m e M o r i n while Lea is off stage (giving birth t o a son), t h e a u t h o r has n o helpful answer t o give t o Patrice's questions a b o u t h o w this play is t o end: "Listen, my boy, your case interests m e hardly at all. It hardly interests t h e public, either." T h e m o s t t h e a u t h o r will admit is t h a t "in this case, I'd behave like y o u . But, in this case, p e r m i t m e t o withdraw." His brief visit has explained nothing, least of all Patrice's violent attack w i t h a chair, which leaves Dovic and M a d a m e M o r i n stretched o u t on t h e f l o o r and t h e stage spattered w i t h blood. Patrice's only excuse is t h e o n e he gives Lea: "Yes, that's the way it is. I'm left alone and you see w h a t happens." Even w h e n he is n o t alone, however, Patrice is s o m e w h a t unpredictable. A t t e m p t i n g t o set his son o n a pedestal over t h e fireplace, he allows t h e child t o fall f r o m his perch and kill himself. Evidencing a bewildering jumble of emotional responses, Lea exclaims, "Ha! Ha! H a ! . . . Murder! Murder! He over there, my lover, my Papa, my Papa, my Patrice, he's killed my Guigui, my Guigui, my Guillotin. (Changing her tone.) Incidentally, you could have given him another name.

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Infanticide." This final exclamation does not prevent her, of course, from telling a policeman who comes to investigate that the child caught measles when it fell. The fourth tableau shows us Patrice as Mussolini and Madame Morin as a stranger in mourning. Madame Morin disappears as soon as she has entrusted her two dogs and child to someone she does not know—Lea, who finds the little boy looks like "the one I have at home, like my Patrice." Unable to get rid of the child, she gives us a chance to observe that, as she remarks, "A love is always a big nuisance." But this whole sequence, which lacks the inventiveness of the Lloyd George interlude, brings us nothing new. It was omitted from Artaud's 1927 production of Les mysteres de I'amour. Also omitted, more surprisingly, was the fifth tableau, which constitutes the whole of the third and final act. As the fifth tableau begins, Lea is being brought down by hotel elevator, between two policemen, her hands bloody, her white dress in shreds. We learn that she has broken the mirror-wardrobe, demolished the dressing table, set fire to the drapes in her room, and strangled the goldfish. She has done all this, it appears, because Patrice did not keep a few impractical promises, like taking her to the North Pole and giving her stars of his own fabrication. In the vestibule Lea demonstrates strange faculties, giving testimony to the magic power of words. She announces that a door will open of its own accord; it does so. She tells the policemen that they are going to say the word "light"; they do so in unison. As is the case with a similar prediction in Breton's Nadja, the door's obedience may seem a coincidence. Meanwhile the policemen's willingness to humor a prisoner they think mad leads them to repeat readily enough the words "light" and "night," which she forecasts. But neither coincidence nor indulgence explains how Lea succeeds in summoning Patrice merely by pronouncing his name. Patrice's arrival frightens the policemen off, literally freeing Lea and introduc­ ing an interlude involving several children. Now the conversation takes the direction followed later in "Le dialogue en 1928" and "Le dialogue en 1934":

Mr. Patrice, what do you bring in your shoes?

Elephants under the palm trees.

And what about that lion looking at us?

That, my child, is liberty.

And what about the automobile, is it for us?

It is unbreakable and deep.

Are you giving us some new perfume?

Take these birds.

T h e first child is t h e son of t h e bakery's horse, while t h e second is t h e offspring of his mother's sewing machine. T h e third, father o f a colonel in t h e Zouaves, shoots t h e o t h e r t w o , then remarks t o Patrice, " W h a t d o you expect, Papa, I was t h e father of a colonel of Zouaves by accident, but I will always be t h e son o f love." A f t e r listening t o all this, t h e spectator may feel entitled t o ask, as Patrice n o w does, " W h a t is going t o b e c o m e o f m e in this w h o l e business?" W h a t e v e r answer suggests itself, it is clear that nothing is t o be gained by looking t o Patrice f o r elucidation o f Les mysteres de I'amour. H e tells a strange tale about t h e harvesting o f factory smokestacks. T h e n he tries t o shoot t h e a u t h o r w i t h a revolver handed him by t h e latter, w h o c o m m e n t s , "Useless, my dear Patrice! Your bullets don't penetrate. A n d that's a pity!" W h e n Patrice tries t o r e t u r n t h e revolver because it is o f no use t o him, t h e author insists o n his retaining it: "If you don't w a n t t o d o this for m e , do it in t h e interest of t h e drama you are playing. I assure you that a last revolver shot is indispensable t o t h e denouement." Soon after presenting Lea w i t h a revolver of her o w n , t h e author leaves, first whispering t o Patrice, " A bit of g o o d advice, my friend, use t h e piece. Your future depends o n it." Has he told t h e truth? W e are free t o make up o u r o w n minds about this, since t h e play comes t o a close before Patrice has t h e chance t o use his w e a p o n . During his final discussion w i t h her, Lea fires h e r revolver and he cries, just before t h e curtain falls, " W h a t have you d o n e , Lea? W h a t have you done? You have just killed a spectator." A bullet p r o n o u n c e d harmless during an anti-Pirandellian conversation b e ­ t w e e n Patrice and t h e author, o n stage, b e c o m e s lethal w h e n it passes t h e footlights o n its w a y into t h e audience. Vitrac's parting shot is n o t pointlessly confusing, a m e r e gesture o f defiance. Rather, it brings into focus t h e m o r a l implications o f his d r a m a o f f r u s t r a t e d love, w h i l e showing t h a t t h e spectator's passive r o l e in t h e t h e a t e r is n o g u a r a n t e e o f safety w h e r e d r e a m and reality cannot be k e p t apart. By t h e t i m e Les mysteres de I'amour is over, t h e public has been m a d e t o realize t h a t , in t h e d r e a m played o u t b e f o r e t h e m , verisimilitude has b e e n sacrificed t o t h e release o f an e m o t i o n a l e x p e r i e n c e t h a t makes its effect felt in t h e so-called real w o r l d . By t h e e f f o r t he brings t o dispelling t h e illusion t h a t his d r e a m is t o be t r e a t e d as m e r e a m u s e m e n t , R o g e r V i t r a c p r e ­ pares t h e w a y in Les mysteres de I'amour f o r Victor, ou Les enfants au pouvoir ( 1 9 2 8 ) . That Lloyd George and Mussolini form part of the cast is further evidence that Vitrac wants to dispel the illusion that his violent dream should be treated as mere amusement. For these two characters point the way, respectively, back to the mechanized carnage of World War I (Lloyd George was British prime minis­ ter from 1916 to 1922) and forward to the atomic holocaust as well as the ethnic genocide of World War II (Mussolini ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943). In the second tableau of Les mysteres de I'amour, however, Lloyd George performs acts of grue­ some butchery—sawing off heads, trying to dispose of the fragments of corpses— in a more or less domestic setting, in the company of Lea and Patrice. And in the fourth tableau Mussolini makes the argument that Lea should share her life with "a man, a child, and dogs"—in other words, with a family, the Fascist symbol for which, insidiously, was the fascio (a tightly wound bundle or close-knit group).

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Thus does Vitrac himself implicitly make the argument that the personal is the political, and he does so in appositely dreamlike fashion: that is, where past, present, and future can merge; where the actual and the potential are inextrica­ bly interwoven; where antithetical images of eroticism and death, laughter and lamentation, words and weaponry, parenthood and infanticide, homicide and suicide, authorship and autocracy can be freely juxtaposed; and where the other­ wise invisible connections between illusion and reality, thought and act, inner life and exterior landscape can be made frighteningly tangible. As in the first tableau, where Patrice's reduction of Lea to the parts of her body ("All these con­ structions of chalk, wax, wood, bone, and flesh should be incinerated"), even to a discarded fishhead, is thematically related to Lloyd George's, and later MussolinPs, literal reduction of the human body to inanimate object, ash, or sheer waste. The mysteries of love, indeed.


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Select Bibliography on Vitrac
Auslander, Philip. "Surrealism in the Theatre: The Plays of Roger Vitrac." Theatre Journal 32 (Oct. 1980): 357-69. Levitt, Annette S. "Roger Vitrac and the Drama of Surrealism." In Aeolian Harps: Essays in Literature in Honor of Maurice Browning Carter, ed. Donna G. Fricke and Douglas C. Fricke. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Press, 1976. 247-


. "The Domestic Tragedies of Roger Vitrac." Modern Drama 30.4 (Dec. 1987): 51427. See also Balakian, Surrealism; Benedikt and Wellwarth, Modern French Theatre; Bigsby; Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd; Hedges; Melzer; Nadeau; Sandrow; and Zinder in the Comprehensive Bibliography.

T h e Mysteries of Love A Surrealist Drama
Roger Vitrac

—The women who love us renew the true Sabbath. —Alfred Jarry (L'amour absolu)


twenty-three years of age LEAH, twenty-one years of age MRS. MORIN, Leah's mother

DOVIC (diminutive of Ludovic), thirty years old

(not a speaking part)

THE YOUNG MAN, an actor

THE OLD MAN, an actor THE THEATER MANAGER THEOPHILE MOUCHET, author of the drama THE LIEUTENANT OF DRAGOONS (role taken by Patrick) LLOYD GEORGE (role taken by Dovic) THE CHILD OF RED AND YELLOW CLOTH (not a speaking part) THE CHILD SAWED OFF AT THE SHOULDERS (not a speaking part)
Reprinted from Modem French Theatre: The Avant-Garde, Dada, and Surrealism; An Anthology of Plays, ed. Michael Benedikt and George E. Wellwarth; trans. Ralph J. Gladstone (New York: Dutton, 1964), 227-67.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (role taken by Mrs. Morin)

son of Patrick and Leah (not a speaking part)


(role taken by Patrick)




(not speaking parts)

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A SPECTATOR (not a speaking part)

The stage represents a public square. The weather is cloudy. It has been raining. On the wall of a house is painted the portrait below. The mouth is black. The cheeks are red like lips. The eyes are pale. As the curtain rises, Patrick, crouching, is tracing sinuous lines in the mud with a stick. A Policeman enters. THE POLICEMAN: You there! What are you doing? PATRICK: As you see, sir, I am just finishing off her hair. He leaves, tracing a sinuous line. The curtain slowly falls.


A box overhanging the stage. The proscenium lights are out. The house lights, a chandelier above the audience, are lighted. To the right and left: black draperies. Framing the box: white lace, in festoons. As the curtain rises, Leah is seated. Patrick is at her knees.

For heaven's sake! Confess, Leah. LEAH: You're right. PATRICK: Aren't I, Leah? Now at last you're being reasonable. Confess it, then. Believe me, sooner or later, you would have to. Don't be obstinate like a child. You don't want to make me angry, do you? LEAH: Patrick! What are you doing? PATRICK (still kneeling): Why, nothing, Leah, nothing. You can see: I'm out for a walk. Ah! But will you confess now?

Then do accept these few flowers. (He slaps her.) LEAH (laughing): Mama, Mama, Mama! PATRICK: (cupping his hands as a megaphone): Mrs. Morin! Mrs Morin! Enter Mrs. Morin. MRS. MORIN: Excuse me, Madame, Sir, if I am disturbing you. LEAH: Oh, Mother! PATRICK: I'm in the way, aren't I? MRS. MORIN: What! You young snake! Tell me right off to go away. (To Leah.) He's as cool as a coconut. PATRICK (holding out a chair to her): As for me, I'm going to take a stroll down by the waterside. (He sits down and looks at the audience.) LEAH (softly): Mother! If you only knew how Patrick loves me. PATRICK (shouting): Look out! You're going to fall. MRS. MORIN: Why, that's fine, my dear. PATRICK (still shouting): Is it you, the ox? MRS. MORIN: And you, do you love him?

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LEAH: Why, naturally.

(still shouting): Go blow that lobster your father's nose, Girlie! MRS. MORIN: Perhaps he will grow up, dear. But as for me, I have too much to do with my dogs. Six little dogs, Leah! LEAH: Now you're getting on my nerves. Is it my fault if Old Man Morin wouldn't let me take my first communion? How spiteful! MRS. MORIN: You will nevertheless have to decide. LEAH: I don't dare. PATRICK: Aha! Now it's the goat! MRS. MORIN: Do you want me to speak for you? LEAH: Pretty smart; you'll take him from me. MRS. MORIN: Take that. She slaps her, then goes off. LEAH (crying): Patrick! Patrick! Patrick!


Devil take animals and the dining room. LEAH: You are alone in the world, Patrick. PATRICK: Oh, you! Have respect for those who are close to me! LEAH: Ah! I hear you quite well now. Therefore I'll tell you everything. PATRICK: Well, well, well.. .
LEAH: It's up to you to question me.

PATRICK: That doesn't matter; Mrs. Morin, you certainly do have a thick navel. LEAH: Is that all? You're cruel! PATRICK: I like that! That's a good one. What do you mean, Leah?
LEAH: I confess.

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Ah! A thousand thanks, Leah. Thank you, thank you a thousand times. Enter Patrick's three friends. FIRST FRIEND: I'm happy, you know. (They shake hands.) PATRICK: Thanks a lot. SECOND FRIEND: Pity. She was made for me. Must be made of wood, Patrick. PATRICK: Thanks a lot. (They shake hands.) THIRD FRIEND: Ah! The children's children. Save one for me. PATRICK: Thanks, and you? The three friends go off. I'll have the necktie. The circular saw-toothed necktie. And I'll make a bridge out of my blood, Leah. LEAH: You are good. PATRICK: Do you see, for a moment I took the lamb's part. It was bleating. Baa . . . Baa . . . Baa . . . The grass was getting off the train. It was putting on airs. The lamb pissed all over it. That's what it's like to be young. (Pause.) Oh, but pardon me! You confessed. Didn't you confess?

LEAH: Yes. But to what?

That's true, to what? you wait for me a moment? (She goes off and returns immediately with a basket filled with small dogs.) My mother is dogging you this basket for the way. PATRICK: Thanks. (He throws both dogs and basket into the audience.) Be­ cause I, you know, and religion . . . (A pause. Gesticulating.) What beautiful sunshine! What beautiful sunlight! (Pause.) Really, Leah? May I die of it on the spot! Oh! My friends. Enter the three friends. (Stillgesticulating.) Will you leave, all you others? The three friends leave. Do you see, Leah, I'm happy. I don't need anything else. I'm stifling. It's
LEAH: Will

the oysters. Do you hear? {Shouting.) It's the oysters. But what is the lemon doing? Ah, Leah, will you hide that leg, that knee! Will you hide that thigh! {Screaming.) Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! I will shout it out. I will shout it out from the rooftops, from the stars, from above the stars! {Taking the audience into his confidence.) Leah loves me, Leah loves me, Leah loves me. She confessed it. She loves me. {To Leah.) It's your turn now. Shout it out, Leah. Go on my little Leah, my Lele, my Leah-Leah. Shout it out, now, shout it, my Leahleahleah. LEAH {to the audience): I love Patrick. Oh! I love his guts. Oh! I love the clown. I love the clown. From every viewpoint, from every seam, from every form. Look at them, Patrick. Listen to them. Oh! Oh! Oh! . . . {She burst into laughter.) A VOICE {in the audience): But why? Merciful heavens! Why? Are you both ill?
LEAH: Madly.

Are you both mad? PATRICK: Madly. A VOICE {in the audience): Do you hear them, Martine? A shot. ANOTHER VOICE: D O you hear them, Marie? A shot. ANOTHER VOICE: D O you hear them, Julie? A shot. ANOTHER VOICE: Do you hear them, Theresa? A shot. ANOTHER VOICE: Do you hear them, Michelle? A shot. ANOTHER VOICE: Do you hear them, Esther? A shot. SEVERAL VOICES: Kill me! Kill him! Kill her! Mercy! Pardon! The Child! Tumulty cries, shots. Suddenly the house lights go off. Instant silence. The box alone is half-lighted. PATRICK: Listen. A stroll in the mountains. The spruce trees are frozen. Ah, youth! Chandeliers under ice. And then the swamps! The swamps? So many beds with childless women. And suddenly there's the sparrowhawk. It's he. He is dead, I tell you. He falls like a flashing of lightning. There are no wings on either side of his naked body on the ground. There are two eyes. Isn't it so, Leah? LEAH: It isn't Leah. PATRICK: And yet it is she. The rest of the body, you'll say? Oh! See! She flies an ensign of blood. Do as she does, ladies. Hold onto your skin while removing your black mourning furs. Let it remain attached. You, Leah,


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above all, don't do it. Don't do it here. Your muscles would get cold and your nerves would become consumed. Oh, it's just that I don't allow myself to be surprised, that's all. Not me. Don't worry, my bed will smell neither of fulminate nor of powder, the way it does here. LEAH: What! It already smells like brains. PATRICK: Some good advice. Throw some sound and sweep under the arm­ chairs. This mud is an infection. LEAH: Stop it, Patrick. PATRICK: Order, damn it all! Tidy things up a bit. The women, please, lay them out on the right. The men standing on the left. And the children in the middle, in the sauce. LEAH: My big hero is right. PATRICK: Shut up. And now, Commissioner, please chain all these fine people up for me. A VOICE (in the audience): Mr. Patrick, you are a criminal. PATRICK I, sir? No, sir. Are you deaf? I love Leah. You should have shouted out that you love Julie, Marie, Theresa, Michelle, or Esther, and Leah would naturally have been among them. And I would experience a voluptuous pleasure in my wrists. LEAH: And I wouldn't have to sleep with phosphorus tonight. PATRICK: You little bird-brain. LEAH: Stop, Patrick. PATRICK (very casually): My dear, there will be a lot of people here tonight. LEAH: So much the better, so much the better. PATRICK: They're all signaling to us. Leah and Patrick make friendly gestures to the audience. The house lights come on. LEAH: And the face? PATRICK: Come, now! You remind me of a slashing knife. A wound. LEAH: Ah! That animal that pissed, how dear it is to your heart. PATRICK: No, Leah. I swear it. It was right in the forehead. Besides, it's of no importance. LEAH: The face, Patrick? PATRICK: Oh! Sirens! You all have it, you're all fishheaded. LEAH: Be a little discreet. If you force me to it, I'll be stark naked. PATRICK: How useless it all is. Only clothing interests me. An empty dress or suit or shirt walking about. All these constructions of chalk, wax, wood, bone, and flesh should be incinerated. A hat gliding along six feet above the sidewalk, have you ever seen that? LEAH: What shitabed notions! And help!


Leah! Leah! LEAH: What's the matter? PATRICK: Nothing to worry about. My plaster hurts. LEAH: Your plaster? PATRICK: My hollow space.
LEAH:So? PATRICK: Oh! So you can take your place at the pump. LEAH: Why, Patrick? PATRICK: Why, to pump up the red, my dear child. LEAH: Bladders and lanterns, my love? PATRICK: Isn't that always the way with bearded women! The intelligence of the extremities. Pause. Enter Dovic. Patrick looks at Leah dully. He is entirely indifferent to the scene that is to follow. DOVIC (to Leah): Absolutely, positively, no. LEAH: What's all this fuss? DOVIC: You jealous liar, that's it. LEAH: And all a-tremble, and all a-sweat, and all in tears. DOVIC: Now, which one did you want, the animal, machinery, or the child? LEAH: But he was opening up my belly, that one. DOVIC: You mean your noodle. LEAH: With his beard. DOVIC: Oh, no! No scandal here, right? I protest, Leah. (Slapping her.) I've always loved you. (Pinching her.) I still love you. (Biting her.) Give me credit for that? (Pulling her ears.) Did I have cold sweats? (Spitting in her face.) I caressed your breasts and your cheeks. (Kicking her.) Everything I had was yours. (Making as though to strangle her.) You left me. (Shaking her violently.) Did I hold it against you? (Striking her with his fist.) I am good-natured. (Throwing heron the ground.) I have already forgiven you. (He drags her around the box by the hair.) Patrick rises. LEAH (presenting Dovic to him): You know, Patrick, Dovic is a real gentleman. PATRICK: Who is this Dovic? DOVIC: That's me, sir. LEAH (whispering to Patrick): He has ants on the back of his head. PATRICK: Very good. And what interests you in life, Mr. Dovic? DOVIC: Love. Love really. PATRICK: Funny idea, coming to call. For without doubt you are dining with us?

LEAH: Did I invite him? DOVIC: I'm used to the stairs, and the key is always in the door. PATRICK: Perfect. (To Leah.) Close the windows a n d set the table. (To Dovic.) And love in what aspect? DOVIC (pointing to Leah): See for yourself. Without another word, Patrick and Dovic come to blows. They roll on the ground and strike each other violently. LEAH (following the combat): Look out for the statue. Lean over to the right or you'll knock the armchair over. Now to the left. You're rolling into the fireplace. Look out for the plants, Patrick! Dovic, your nose is bleeding, you're getting spots on the tablecloth. T h e dishes are in pieces. O h , my God! Bravo, both of you. A doorbell rings. Patrick, Dovic, stop it right now. Someone's ringing. G e t u p , Patrick! G e t u p , Dovic! Enter a few neighbors. Patrick and Dovic get up. Dovic is bloody. PATRICK (to Dovic): G o away. (To the neighbors.) And you too. DOVIC (showing a place in the box): T h a t palm is mine. Exit Dovic and the neighbors shrugging their shoulders.
LEAH: I've got a migraine.

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PATRICK: Never mind. Look, what sunshine! LEAH: Tell m e : You won't ask m e anything about my past life, Patrick?

Pause. Enter a woman dressed in a long nightgown. blue. PATRICK: Good day, M a d a m e .

Her face, hands, and feet are

LEAH: In our room? W h a t are you doing there, Patrick? PATRICK: W h y not? LEAH: Who's this tart? PATRICK: She's the virgin, Leah; she's the virgin. Are you happy? Exit the woman in the nightgown. The three knocks, traditional to French stagecraft, are heard. The house lights go off. The proscenium lights go on. The box is plunged into darkness. For a few seconds the curtain is strangely shaken. With each shake, the most diverse cries are uttered in the audience. Finally the curtain rises slowly. The stage is white. On the backdrop appears this inscription: ITS ALWAYS POSSIBLE TO DIE TWO HOURS ATA TIME C I G A R E T T E S : SILK From the left, enter a Young M a n in evening dress. From the right, an Old M a n with his beard trailing on the ground. The Young M a n divests himself

of his cane, his hat and his gloves, which he places on the floor of the stage. The Old Man raises his arms heavenward, and smiles. THE YOUNG MAN (pulling a bird out of his pocket): Dad, you have before you one who is about to die. THE OLD MAN: Then you will spread out my beard on the sheet. It needs to dry out. THE YOUNG MAN: Don't you ever wash it? Look how dirty it is! THE OLD MAN: Ah! When I was a child, Justin, it was as white as milk. The Young Man opens his hand. The bird flies off. Both go offstage to the left, weeping. The curtain falls abruptly. A shot is heard. A few protests arise in the audience. The Theater Manager appears immediately. THE THEATER MANAGER: Ladies and gentlemen, the play is over. The drama which it has been our privilege to present to you is by Mr. Theophile Mouchet. Mr. Theophile Mouchet has just killed himself. The Manager disappears. Stupor, then sudden and increasing laughter. A VOICE: Author! Author! ALL THE AUDIENCE (in chorus): Author! Author! Author! The curtain rises again. The Author appears. He is in his shirtsleeves. His face and clothing are covered with blood. He laughs. He laughs heartily. He laughs with all his might, holding his sides. Both curtains suddenly fall.

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The stage represents, on the left, the Quai des Grands-Augustins in Paris. To the right, a bedroom. In the center stands a small cabin with a porthole overlooking the Seine. In the background, in the space which should be occupied by the Palais de Justice, stands an advertising sign bearing this inscription in large blue letters: Le Petit Parisien. On the parapet, booksellers7 stalls affecting the shape of coffins. Above, red tugboat stacks. The bedroom has closed windows, formed like narrow arches, the tops of which are lost in obscurity; they are adorned with very white muslin curtains. In front of the fireplace and a couple of yards from the entrance to the room stands a stove of the u salamandery variety. But it is from the fireplace that, from time to time, blue flames emerge. The bed is entirely covered by the sheets. A table. Chairs. A pedestal lamp with a green shade on the table. A glass-fronted sideboard is filled with dishes. In a corner, some old newspapers. A package of medicated cotton wool stands in front of the stove. I

Enter the Lieutenant of Dragoons and Leah, carrying in her arms a cloth doll, half red, half yellow.


(as the Lieutenant of Dragoons): I don't like people's children. LEAH: Look at her, Patrick. She has my eyes, my nose, my mouth. They've cut her hair like this. It's sad. Is she a little Chinese girl? I happen to be a blonde. But you know that she's really yours. She blows into a child's toy trumpet The doll weeps. Enter Lloyd George. He looks like the former English prime minister.
LLOYD GEORGE: Psstt . . . Pstt . . . Pstt . . . Pstt . . . PATRICK:

Ah! What a terribly tragic conclusion. He seizes the doll, deposits it in the river, and disappears. Lloyd George goes into his room. Leah follows him. II

LEAH: I'm frightened, Dovic. Lloyd George crosses the room, raises the bedsheets, and reveals to a horrified Leah a little girls head resting on the pillow. LEAH: Mr. Lloyd George—I recognize her! With a sudden gesture, Lloyd George completely removes the sheets and uncovers the child. Naturally, it is only a bust of flesh which has been sawed off at the shoulders; the rest of the body has disappeared. Enter Patrick as the Lieutenant of Dragoons. His cheeks are hollow and his eyes deeply sunken. Leah rushes into the small cabin and begins to utter piercing shrieks, for the space of a few seconds. Lloyd George and Patrick remain facing each other, petrified. Leah rejoins them. (To Patrick.) Go on, go on, I can see you're not a party to these goings-on. Patrick slips into the bed beside the girls bust.

(to Leah): Ah! Now let's see a sample of my savoir-faire. He goes off stage to the right and returns immediately carrying a young man under his arm. He deposits him on the table, and saws off his head. During this operation, terrifying crashing sounds, and the sound of bells, are heard. (Carrying off the pieces.) There's a tidy bit of work, if I do say so myself. Leah shrugs her shoulders. She bends over the bed and removes the little girls eyes. They are as big as ostrich eggs. LEAH: My eyes, Patrick! My eyes! PATRICK (turning toward the wall): I don't want to see it. I don't want to see it. Enter Lloyd George. He is carrying a black suitcase, which he holds out to Leah. LLOYD GEORGE: Here, Madame, are the miraculous remains of the wellbeloved. Leah crosses the Quai des Grands-Augustins. She weeps and disappears. Enter Mrs. Morin, in mourning; and the late Mr. Morin. He has a mili-

tary haircut and wears checkered trousers. The lamp lights of itself All sit at the table. Patrick alone remains lying in the bed. Lloyd George sets four places. He brings numerous dishes: lobsters, chickens, dressed roasts, sherbets, pyramids of fruit. From time to time, he releases some birds. Leah returns. She takes her place. All eat and gesticulate in silence. Mr. Morin has removed his coat and is in his shirtsleeves. Mrs. Morin, her lips outrageously made up, a crepe hat on her head, remains motionless. LLOYD GEORGE (to Leah): Go over and arrange the Young Officer of Dra­ goons' knees below the little girl's shoulders. No one must notice that the child has been sawed off at the shoulders. The sheets, fallen in where the thighs and legs ought to produce natural protuberances, might give away the crime. LEAH: That's true. (She rises and arranges the knees of the Young Officer of Dragoons as Lloyd George has directed her. Then she returns to the table. Mr. Morin and Mrs. Morin have been pretending not to see anything.) LLOYD GEORGE (to Leah): Madame, kindly look at the sideboard. Leah raises her eyes and sees Patrick's head looking at her from on top of the sideboard. (Lloyd George rises, takes Leah by the arm, pulls her to the front of the stage, and says to her): How hard it's raining! I won't repeat it again. You are my unwilling accomplice, and if you talk, you will be handed over to the police. Besides, we must put an end to this. I propose the river. LEAH: Decidedly, this is becoming a mania with you. What I would prefer are those booksellers' chests along the Seine that close with a padlock and are covered over with a sheet of zinc. LLOYD GEORGE: My, my, can you see that? LEAH: Too late! Patrick as the Officer of Dragoons comes down from his observation point and goes over to the fire. The package of medicated cotton wool catches ablaze. Mrs. Morin utters a loud cry. Patrick calmly returns to his place on top of the sideboard. LLOYD GEORGE (laughing): Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! The assassination victims themselves fail in their attempt. All resume eating. Lloyd George rises only to fetch new dishes. MR. MORIN: However, that evening the sea was rough. Sardines were being taken by the netful. But the night, the thunder, the lightning, and espe­ cially the Negroes in the boiler room, not to mention the leopard . . . Eh, my wife? Surely you won't deny, Mrs. Morin, my wife, that one's ever eaten so well. LLOYD GEORGE: I know quite well, sir, how to handle all this. But tell me— which way is the harbor? Leah suddenly rises and, with the gestures of a sleepwalker, without being noticed, draws her chair near the dresser and covers Patrick's head over

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with a newspaper. She returns to the table and continues eating with the others. MR. MORIN: Still, you must take some interest in my stories. However, that evening, the sea was rough. Sardines were being taken by the netful. But the leopard and the captain's knife and all the glasses were shattered .. . At that moment the wind carries off the newspaper covering Patrick's head. Leah utters a loud cry. Mr. Morin rises and, taking Lloyd George by the arm, pulls him off toward the Quai des Grands-Augustins. She's mad, sir. What, ho! See the crazy woman! See the crazy woman! LLOYD GEORGE: Oh, my! The crazy woman! Oh! The crazy woman! They go offstage. MRS. MORIN: I've seen everything. Leah, come on over here. They go toward the bed where two arms are being raised which resemble two dead branches, but whereon are flowering two enormous, very white hands. Ah! My daughter! Don't come any closer. She has leprosy. Leah kneels. LEAH: She has my slanted eyes. My blond hair. My gleaming mouth. You must agree that you don't die of love.


The stage represents a hotel room. A bed. A table. Chairs. A wardrobe, and so on. Leah is stretched out on the bed. Patrick is at her bedside. PATRICK: It's turning. It's turning. LEAH: What's turning? PATRICK: Not the table, obviously. LEAH: The earth is turning. PATRICK: Be quiet. The daylight is in my left eye. LEAH: Oh!—he's starting that again! PATRICK: I said, the daylight is in my left eye. LEAH: Did I say it wasn't? (A pause.) And in your right eye, Patrick? PATRICK: There is a mountain. LEAH: Can I see? PATRICK: If you want. Leah bends over Patrick's eye, and looks. LEAH: What is it? PATRICK: It's a wheel.
LEAH: And behind it?

PATRICK: Behind it, there's a white quarry. LEAH: Yes, the workers are taking it easy. PATRICK: Aren't they, though! LEAH: What's that shining among the stones? PATRICK: Their tools. They're pretty, aren't they? They're made of nickel. The smallest one looks like a pink fingernail, and the biggest one like an ax. One of the men is holding the ax. Do you see him, Leah? LEAH: Very well. He seems tired. PATRICK: Still, he's got food and drink there. LEAH: He's taking a bath. That's curious. PATRICK: What's so curious about that? LEAH: He's melting. He's white. Now the animals are eating him. PATRICK: Poor creatures. LEAH: Poor creatures? Those vipers? Those flaming, scaly things? PATRICK: They haven't done anything to you. LEAH: In that case, kiss my hands. Patrick kisses her hands but suddenly leaps back. PATRICK: Ouch! LEAH: What have I done? PATRICK: You've burned me. Smoke is rising from Leah's hands. Leah goes toward the washstand and plunges them into the water. LEAH: And you—you frightened me! PATRICK: So in the future take care of your eyes, and leave mine alone. Leah weeps. That's no reason to cry. LEAH: The world bores me. PATRICK: Where is this world? LEAH: Here I am, Patrick; here I am. PATRICK: Pardon, Leah. The world, if you please. Leah stretches out on the bed. LEAH: Come, Patrick. PATRICK: Oh! How long it is. (Pointing to an electric lamp.) The equator on a grid. And what lands have you protected, Madame? Tahiti, Tahiti, where change purses drop like ripe bananas? Where lace is a valued auxiliary on the ambassadors' legs, Tahiti the shoe of spring? LEAH: Tahiti? My hips. You boor! PATRICK: Pull yourself together a bit, Leah. It's turning. LEAH: Not the table, obviously, you idiot. PATRICK: The earth is turning. The daylight is in my left eye.


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Why don't you get a grip on yourself and listen to me? PATRICK: And yet it does turn. LEAH: You're imagining things. PATRICK: I'm not doing anything any more. I am the machine that is to turn in a vacuum. That's the brain, you say? It's poisoned by work. It's at the stage of tetanus. A nice animal, that one. Only yesterday I could still eat. Today, Leah, it's all over. The brain is in the belly. We let that outcast do anything. The heart? You can look for it in the bed. The stomach? It licks my feet beneath the table. The liver makes faces in the mirrors. The spleen is in the drawer next to the corkscrew, and my lungs are having fun making holes in your canaries. My poor brain, that divine dough, bends under any yoke. It's not Leah who's complaining, is it? LEAH: Well! There's one who turns quickly, yet not at all awkwardly. Nev­ ertheless, I didn't want this warfare. The doorbell rings. PATRICK: Come in. Enter the Butcher. THE BUTCHER: Is there anything for me, little lady? LEAH: Yes, Casper. You will find everything wrapped up on the kitchen table. THE BUTCHER: Very good, Miss Leah. Exit the Butcher. PATRICK: Who is that fellow?
LEAH: He's a man of sorrows.

PATRICK: And what does he do?
LEAH: He slaughters cattle.

PATRICK: Poor creatures!
LEAH: No calling is to be despised.

Re-enter the Butcher. THE BUTCHER: Well now, Miss Leah, I'll not be coming to your place any more. Not worth the bother. Just some bones where even a whore wouldn't find a pittance! You can keep your garbage for the soldiers. You could give me the skin with the hair and nails on it now, and I still wouldn't give you another penny. You robber! Exit the Butcher. PATRICK: What does that man come to do here? LEAH: Nothing, dear. He's very talented, Casper is. He reupholsters the chairs and replaces the windowpanes. PATRICK: It seems to me I've seen his face before. LEAH: Come now, Patrick, don't say that. You always insist that I have to turn out the light before you go to bed.
PATRICK: W h o , me?


Yes, you. And that brain that you're so proud of. There's certainly a good-time Charlie: before a meal, all he dreams about is knife wounds, animals dying in the forest—and such language! And after that there's the prairie, the country with its delicate herbs where Mr. Patrick lies down like the cloud called cirrus which in shape looks like a pike and in color like fire. PATRICK: Go on! Next time our drainpipes won't dry up quite so quickly. LEAH: So it would seem. PATRICK: Only last night, someone was shouting: "Are you through cutting each other's throats up there?" I get up in my nightshirt and I answer, "This is August, dear sir, the month of the shower of stars." And do you know what our neighbor answers? LEAH: What did our neighbor answer? PATRICK: "When you have enough blood to go into business you should become a painter, not go around scandalizing people!"
LEAH: You see.


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PATRICK: You, naturally, are going to suppose that he's being reasonable. LEAH: What are you talking about? PATRICK: The reasons of lodgers. LEAH: Pardon me, I misunderstood. PATRICK: Would you dare suppose that I don't have my reason? LEAH: Far from it. Reason is balance, isn't it? You climb ladders well enough. PATRICK: Oh! That hair, what battles! LEAH: But how cosmetic! PATRICK: You said it. You could have seen through every pore in the skin. A diamond millstone, that chest. And it's fortunate. Women today select pink underthings! You, it's the mouth that lights your way. It's like a quarry of blood. LEAH: What nonsense! What about poetry? PATRICK (slaps her): Take that! LEAH: I'm not happy with you. PATRICK: (slaps her again): And now? LEAH: I'm unhappy. PATRICK (dragging her around by the hair): I'd be interested to know if I'll be a clock all my life. Or rather a clock's pendulum, or even pendent from a clock. LEAH: Have mercy, Patrick; have mercy! I won't start up again. I'll always be happy. PATRICK: Look at me, Leah. I'm not bad-looking—maybe I have something missing?

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What would that be? PATRICK: Fortune. Fortune for every care and garments for the skin. Fortune? Did I say fortune, Leah? Yes, I said fortune. What's most important of all is underwear. I go into a cafe. Faces are hidden behind pulled-up skirts. They are on the ceiling like pears. And suddenly everyone's kissing. They stick pins into the fleshy parts of their legs, and I hear on all sides: "How good-looking he is!" Chance, that pearl—I find it on the staircase. No, Leah, it's the fragrance that guides me. That house, I gild it every morn­ ing, for the evening before it is a ship in which we have both gone down. Open the door, for God's sake! And let the gesture accompany it. I said fortune. Fortune for every care and garments for the skin. LEAH: The skin! PATRICK: Ah! Don't touch on that one. My skin! My parchment? And also, skin yourself. LEAH: You're hard, Patrick. You're heartless. Well, I get along as I can—that's no one's lookout but my own. My behavior is my own. What was it someone once said? Love: the need to come out of oneself, someone once said. And that is why I ask you this: Are you through looking for what has been left me? Are you through looking at my skeleton? You're certainly quite an X-ray. LEAH: What I have to listen to! PATRICK: Ah, bah! What are you listening to? Are you really listening to this walking scaffold? A spinning top! Oh! The Skeleton and the Spinning top (a fable): A skeleton six feet tall Happened to run out of plaster The worms no longer cared for it it had become so brittle and lovely And the rest what did you do with it When sitting down at the table We made animals out of it And the reason is this speed supplied By the momentum of my darling's heart That top (The heart or the darling? -Both.) LEAH: Think of the future, rather. PATRICK: The child you bear in your bosom, Leah, infinitely disturbs me. You may remove it. LEAH: Rest assured, it's only temporary. Exit Leah. PATRICK (alone): What a business! But what sunlight! Enter Mrs. Morin.


Good day, Mr. Patrick. PATRICK: Mrs. Morin! I'm happy to see you. MRS. MORIN: You may believe that your pleasure is shared, my dear son-in-law. PATRICK: Son-in-law, do you say? Please be seated, and remain calm. You're no doubt bent on death. MRS. MORIN: On life, do you mean? PATRICK: On life, on death, I know that tune. Your daughter, Mrs. Morin, is an eel on that theme. MRS. MORIN: She has someone to take after. PATRICK: I have hinted at it, Madame: she takes after death. MRS. MORIN: But what sort of man are you, Mr. Patrick? PATRICK: Ah there we are! Enter Dovic. MRS. MORIN: There's Dovic. (To Dovic.) Good day, son-in-law. DOVIC: Leave me alone, you. (To Patrick.) Patrick, I'm quite fond of you. PATRICK: Just one question, Mr. Dovic. You doubtless know the author of this play?

DOVIC: He's my father. PATRICK: No.

rate, he's my best friend. PATRICK: Well, then, please have him step over here a moment. DOVIC: Hey, there! Author! Author! ALL (singing in chorus): Why, there's the author, how are you, old lady? Why, there's the author, how are you, my love? Enter the Author. THE AUTHOR: Good day, Mrs. Morin. Good day, Dovic; and good day to you, Patrick. PATRICK: You've come just at the right time: how do you want all this to end? THE AUTHOR: Well now, my lad, you seem quite involved in this. PATRICK: Don't I, though? One word more. THE AUTHOR: Go ahead. PATRICK: You betray yourself, sir. Am I to conclude that we are to go ahead? THE AUTHOR: Resolutely. PATRICK: Then it's useless to talk. No one here may have the floor. THE AUTHOR: Listen, my boy, your case doesn't interest me very much. It doesn't interest the public very much, either. PATRICK: You don't think so? THE AUTHOR: I understand myself as well as you understand me, and as well as you understand it.

DOVIC: At any


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I beg your pardon? You leave us alone. Tend to the women. I am speaking with the gentleman. (To the Author.) Just one little word of advice, if you please? THE AUTHOR: My friend, do you really want me to tell you something? Well, I am about to reveal my greatest weakness: in this particular case, I would behave as you do. But, in this particular case, permit me to withdraw. Exit. PATRICK: By Hercules! Let's go ahead. He seizes a chair and breaks up everything. He knocks down Dovic and Mrs. Morin. The stage is spattered with blood. The light goes out. He continues to flail about furiously in the dark. LEAH: (offstage): Ah! Ah! Mo—Mo—Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, aaaaah . . . The light goes on again. Patrick is in tatters. Dovic and Mrs. Morin are stretched out on the floor. Enter Leah, a child in her arms. LEAH (joyfully): It's a boy. (Taken aback with shock.) Oh, our apartment! And while I was giving birth to your son! PATRICK: Yes, now you see. You leave me alone and you see what happens. Let's see the child.
PATRICK: LEAH: It didn't take me too long? PATRICK: He seems well enough


put together. Don't you think he'll be too cold on the marble mantelpiece? LEAH: I'll clean the mirror and I'll make a fire every morning. But he'd be better off in the bed, between us. PATRICK: It's warm enough right there! You can sweep away the broken statues. (Taking his son and raising him up above him.) Guillotin, you will be called Guillotin, and all your life you will occupy the place of a masterpiece, there, between our two rooms, on the pedestal of the Venus de Milo. LEAH: What do you mean to do with your son? With your little sonny-boy, your Gui-gui, your Guiguillollo, your Guillo? PATRICK: Well, that's a nice role you've got ready for me. (Placing the child on the mantelpiece.) Hold steady. And now, Guillotin, come into my arms. The child risks a movement, loses its balance, falls and is killed. LEAH: Ah! Ah! Ah! . . . Murder! Murder! That one, my lover, my daddy, my daddy, my Patrick, who's gone and murdered my Guigui, my Guigui, my Guillotin. (Her tone changes.) By the way, you could have given him some other name. You infanticide! PATRICK: Enough, Leah. You will light the torches and prepare my traveling gear. I have things to do in the neighborhood. LEAH: Good night, Patrick. Exit Patrick.


(entering): Are you the one that's making all the noise? What's the matter with you, Madame? You're crying? Has someone beaten you? LEAH: Oh, it's nothing, Officer; it's the little one who fell and caught the scarlet fever. The curtain falls abruptly.


The stage simultaneously represents a railway station, a dining car, the seashore, a hotel lobby, a yard goods shop, the main square of a provincial town. To be suitably arranged are signal discs, telegraph wires, several laid tables, large pieces of cotton wool to simulate the foaming waves, ships7 masts, green plants, garden chairs, a sign bearing the inscription "Yard Goods," and an explorer's statue. A projector will light up each part of the stage according to the location of the action. As the curtain rises, Leah is alone in the center of the stage. Enter Mrs. Morin in full mourning. She is holding a child in her arms. By her side, both tied to the same leash, trot two dogs: a white fox terrier and a gray bulldog. MRS. MORIN: Pardon me, Madame, would you hold my child a moment? LEAH: I should hardly think so, Madame; my train leaves in five minutes. MRS. MORIN: Have no fear! I'll be back soon. Just long enough to pick up tickets for my dogs, and then I'll be back. Besides, what are you afraid of? My husband is in this coach. Darkness, then light. Mussolini is seated at a table. Enter Leah, the child in her arms and the dogs following her. Several passengers are eating. Leah sits, and the two dogs stretch out at her feet. A Conductor passes. LEAH: Is it luncheon time already? THE CONDUCTOR: It's five after twelve. LEAH: At what time will we arrive?



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Whistles. Steam noises. The train starts. LEAH (at the door): Stop! Stop! Stop! I've been given a child. . . . Yes, the child isn't mine . . . the woman . . . there! THE CONDUCTOR (laughing): Come now, Madame, that one's been tried on us before. You keep the child; you'd come to regret it later on. Leah sits down again. LEAH: What have they done? Me, a child-stealer? I should say not! But now how to get rid of it? A cherub is such a nuisance! MUSSOLINI (from his place): The sea air will do the child good. LEAH: That's true. MUSSOLINI: You understand, you can't.. .


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(interrupting him): Excuse me, sir, but you are mistaken. Your wife, I suppose it was, entrusted me with this child and these animals. Only you will readily understand that I cannot be burdened with a child, with dogs, and with a man, at my age. MUSSOLINI: Well! You could say a man, a child, and dogs. Darkness, then light. MUSSOLINI (alone): The sea! What foam! Not a drop of water. Just foam. Foam up to the roofs ofthe houses. It rises at regular intervals. I've never seen anything so impressive! And this town, built on a bridge! The sea, where is the sea? It's two feet below, the sea. I'm frightened. Darkness, then light. Enter Leah from the left with the child and the dogs. An old Chambermaid enters from the right. LEAH: Funny country. THE CHAMBERMAID (sitting on one ofthe steps to the stage): You're not obliged to stay here. LEAH: Could I have a few bones for my dogs? A Cook enters from the left. He is peeling some vegetables. A second Cook follows him; he too is peeling vegetables. Finally, the last to enter is a Man in Evening Dress, with white gloves, also peeling vegetables. THE MAN IN EVENING DRESS (to the Chambermaid): Answer the lady! Yes, Madame, you'll be given some bones. Leah manifests great joy. She places the child and the dogs underneath her dress (without being afraid to show her legs) and shakes them in all directions. LEAH: The bulldog is unhappy. Why, I hadn't noticed his paws. He has paws like a tiger's. Enter Mussolini; the Cooks and the Man in Evening Dress, who seemed interested in Leah's actions, are seized with panic, and flee. Leah places the dogs on the floor. She keeps the child in her lap. Mussolini kicks the fox terrier and sends it rolling into the wings. You brute! You've bashed his snout in, and his ear! MUSSOLINI: Doctors aren't for dogs: better have him taken care of. Leah places the child on the floor. LEAH: Oh, how horrible are these black shoes, these laced shoes, and these black stockings! I'm going to buy him some others.
MUSSOLINI: No, it's useless.

LEAH: You're right: I'd better go. Darkness followed by light. The yard goods shop. LEAH: I'd like some white leather booties for the child. THE SHOPKEEPER: Sky blue would be prettier. LEAH: No, white! I want white booties! THE SHOPKEEPER: What taste!

LEAH: Everyone to his taste. (She examines the booties.) Why! The soles are made of cork. They can't be very practical. They'd soak up the water. THE SHOPKEEPER: And what about wine-bottle corks when you push them under water? LEAH: All right, I'll take the sky blue ones. Darkness followed by light. LEAH (seated): I'm going to Saint Affrica, in Africa. I can't take you. MUSSOLINI: Complain! I advise you to complain. A husband without looking for one, a child you haven't borne, and dogs you haven't bought. LEAH: He has curls. He's blond. He has large black eyes. He looks like the one I have at home, like my Patrick. I'm keeping the child. He's too pretty. Darkness, then light LEAH (holding the child by the hand): The light is opaque; the atmosphere is heavy. It is the city of wills-o'-the-wisp. And those people, those black phantoms. It is all very disturbing. (She runs.) There! I've got one! It's Mussolini. MUSSOLINI: Well! It's obvious you've never had a child before. You're run­ ning like a madwoman, running as though you were alone, and you're dragging the brat on the floor. LEAH: Yes, you're right. I'd forgotten him. I was holding him by the hand. But, first, please call me "Madame." I can't stand disrespect. MUSSOLINI: There she goes again! Mussolini, the child, and the dogs begin to weep. LEAH: What's wrong with you? Why are you crying? MUSSOLINI: Ah, I don't hold it against you. (Taking the child's black shoes from his pocket.) Here, put his old shoes, his black shoes, back on him. Someday he may be able to race along with you. But just now he needed them. LEAH: Oh, my God! If I could only change my heart! (She throws away the blue shoes and places the black ones on the child's feet) And the hair falling straight down over his forehead—where are his lovely blond curls? MUSSOLINI: Yes, he had on a wig. Leah begins to walk rapidly around the stage holding the child by the hand and saying: LEAH: Oh—it's true! Now he runs as fast as I, he runs as fast as I, he runs as fast as I. (She stops and takes the child into her arms.) My little one, my little one, now we will never part again. You will have no more wigs. And so that you may pass unrecognized I will dye your hair black. Exit Leah followed by the dogs. Mussolini sits down and holds his head in his hands. The curtain slowly falls.


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The stage represents a hotel lobby at midnight. As the curtain rises, a clock is heard to strike, bells ring, there are footsteps and shouts on the stairs. The elevator filled with lodgers goes up and down at full speed. People in evening gowns, evening dress, shirtsleeves, and so on. SEVERAL VOICES: —It's number 53. —It's on the fourth. —On the fourth. —53? —A woman. —Do they know who she is? —She's living alone. —She's an actress. —An American. —A housewife. —A prostitute. —The poor woman; what's wrong with her? —She's gone mad. —There's noth­ ing wrong with her. —She's hysterical. —She's wrecking everything. —She's wrecking the furniture. —She's breaking the windows. —She's about to set fire to the whole building. ONE LOUDER VOICE (from above): We can't get it open. Will you open up? (A pause.) No? (A pause.) Break down the door. A loud cry, followed by absolute silence. The elevator comes down. Leah, her hands dripping blood, her white dress in tatters, is in it between Two Policemen. Jostling on the stairs as the lodgers rush down to watch. FIRST POLICEMAN (to the Manager): What's her name? THE MANAGER: We don't know. Here we call her Madame Leah. SECOND POLICEMAN: Hasn't she filled in a police form? THE MANAGER: Police matters are your concern. FIRST POLICEMAN: That's right. In that case, Madame Leah—since Madame Leah it is—kindly follow us. LEAH (exaltedly): I will follow you to the ends of the earth, to the ends of the earth. (Bursts of laughter.) SECOND POLICEMAN: Either she's crazy or she's drunk. Do you know if she has any vices, sir? THE MANAGER: I've been trying to tell you that I don't know her at all. FIRST POLICEMAN: That's no answer. Couldn't she be injecting herself or inhaling drugs? THE MANAGER (to Leah): Do you inject yourself? Do you inhale drugs? LEAH: I neither inject myself nor do I inhale drugs. FIRST POLICEMAN (to the lodgers): Does anyone here know Madame Leah? Is there someone here who can tell us anything about her? ALL: Madame Leah? Madame Leah? Madame Leah? . .. FIRST POLICEMAN: Now, then, what has she done, this Madame Leah? THE MANAGER: She smashed the wardrobe. She made a shambles of the bathroom. She strangled the goldfish in their tank. She set fire to the curtains in her room. That's what she's done, this Madame Leah. She'll have to pay for it too, this Madame Leah.


Did you hear what he said, Madame? You will admit these facts, I assume? LEAH (to the Manager): I did not come here, sir, to occupy a number, not even Number 53. You say I smashed the wardrobe: Patrick had promised to take me to the pole. Did he do it? You say I made a shambles of the bathroom? Patrick had promised me some stars which he had made himself. You press on a coiled spring: you're supposed to see the sea, the trees, and the clouds. What did I see? You say I strangled the goldfish in their tank? I sold all I could of Saint Patrick's body. The rest had gone on a trip. Has the rest come back? If it has, why hasn't someone told me? I will build you artificial grottoes at my own expense and I will buy you clocks made of silk and human flesh. And I will stock your holy-water pond in which carp and Holy Sacraments will swim. As for your curtains, sir, I set them ablaze to please you. Marlborough, Marlborough died in the wars. It's only right that you should resurrect his mouth on the balcony of your hotel. I did what I could to open his eyes. But your walls are of iron, sir, your walls have nickel pupils. They have stripped off the flesh from my insect hands, my little Frenchwoman's frogs.

Charming! Mad? Charming! Mad, but charming. The lodgers slowly withdraw. THE MANAGER: Ladies and gentlemen, kindly, I beseech you, return to your apartments. May I ask that you be a little discreet? I myself am mortified by this scandal. Happily, it's all over. All's well that ends well, isn't that right, gentlemen? Good night, ladies. (To the Policemen.) See what you can do with her. No more scenes, right? I don't want to make an issue of this. I just want to be left in peace. Good night. FIRST POLICEMAN: Madame Leah, please come with us. SECOND POLICEMAN: Come with us. LEAH: Officers! (Pointing to the door.) Look at that door.

It's about to open. It must open. FIRST POLICEMAN: That's right, it must open. I'm going to open it myself right away. LEAH (sadly): Don't trouble yourself, Officer. It will open by itself. The door opens by itself. Just look at the power of words. POLICEMEN (together): What about the power of words? LEAH: You'll see. Say the word "light." POLICEMEN (together): Light. LEAH (disconcerted): Now you have followed the light. Not a thing changed. The light keeps shining. It keeps shining all by itself.



The Policemen shrug their shoulders. And now, say: "the night." POLICEMEN (together): Let's humor her. The night. LEAH: It's waiting for you, just as your shadows wait for you to follow you. The night gets along without us. It passes all by itself. But I, I say, I am going to say, that I carry him . . . and he passes . . . as though molded by my throat and sprung from my mouth: "Patrick." Enter Patrick. The Policemen flee in terror. Ah! Patrick, what joy! They kiss. PATRICK: Weren't you still waiting for me? Were you still waiting for me? LEAH: I was hardly waiting for you at all. Still, yesterday while I was eating strawberries, I said to myself: "Will I ever see the cream on the table again? Patrick in his place?" And I took some sugar. PATRICK: And you took some sugar? LEAH: I took some. Ah! All that sugar I wasted! PATRICK: And the house? LEAH: Now it's in the hands of the electricians. Clap of thunder. PATRICK: What is that sound?
LEAH: It's thunder.


But the sky is like lead. LEAH: Today is Corpus Christi day. PATRICK: Today is Corpus Christi day. Enter some Children. FIRST CHILD: Mr. Patrick, what did you bring in your shoes? PATRICK: Elephants beneath the palms. SECOND CHILD: And that lion looking at us? PATRICK: That, my boy, is liberty. THIRD CHILD: And the automobile, is it for us? PATRICK: It's unbreakable and deep.

FIRST CHILD: Are you giving us any new scents?

Take these birds. SECOND CHILD: Give us something more. PATRICK: Leah, don't you have anything for these children? LEAH: Children, leave your father alone. THE CHILDREN: But Patrick isn't our father! PATRICK: Who is your father, then, children? FIRST CHILD: Mine is the bakery's horse. SECOND CHILD: Mine is my mother's sewing machine.

PATRICK (to the Third Child): And who is yours? THIRD CHILD: My father, Mr. Patrick? Rather say my son who is off fighting the Arabs. He has a large face like an apple tart and giant's ears. My son's beard grows in his wallet and he has eyes in all his pockets. They say he's quite a character. But, then, what don't they say? Isn't that right, Mr. Patrick? They also say you buy Negresses to make grape preserves and that you sell the leavings to the goldsmiths. Such a disgusting trade fairly makes me retch. My son will never get over it when he finds out. He's a good friend of Leah's, isn't he, my girl? This is what he said to me before he went away: "Be happy, little father! Leah is the finest of the finest, and it won't be long before Patrick smashes the terrace of the house against her face." I didn't say anything to such nonsense. Leah forbids me to talk about it, but she thinks a lot of characters like me. Isn't that right, children? THE CHILDREN (together): Yes, sir. Long live the colonel's father! PATRICK: Ah! sir! Your son is a colonel? THIRD CHILD: We've been knocking ourselves out repeating it. My son is a colonel of Zouaves. PATRICK: Go on, dear child, assemble your troops and leave me in peace. THIRD CHILD: By my command! Fall in! The Children line up side by side. The colonels father pulls a revolver from his pocket and kills them point-blank. Write that down in your hunting record, Mr. Patrick! PATRICK: Oh, my son, my son! Think of the future of our line! Come here and let me decorate and embrace you properly. THIRD CHILD: What do you want, Papa? I was the father of a colonel of Zouaves by accident, but I'll always be a child of love. Clap of thunder. PATRICK: Begin reading the proclamation. LEAH: My God, you've given me the breasts of a cow—give me today the crested helmet of rebellion, for Patrick and my child have forsaken me. Clap of thunder. THIRD CHILD: Rise, Madame. Your Patrick has lost nothing in his travels. The Nile flows through many lands, and I was my family's joy before the age of reason. Give thanks to your son while you accept mine. If Patrick had met the colonel of Zouaves, he would have lacked for nothing. He would have been restored to you a eunuch, Leah. And my father would today have that bayonet-like voice which is the sign of imminent genius. LEAH: Thank you, little one. You speak like a book. THIRD CHILD: Mother, books don't speak. PATRICK: What do they do, my son? THIRD CHILD: They read. Clap of thunder.




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Go away, you swarm of flies. Miniature graybeards. Go blow your noses. They get on my nerves, these children. They exasperate me. LEAH: Yes, they're killing each other. I'm fed up with it too. PATRICK: A fine bonnet, that crown of newborn babes, one of whom already has a son who is a colonel of Zouaves. But how do I fit into the story? And the final outcome? LEAH: YouVe put on weight, Patrick. PATRICK: The outcome? LEAH: Ah! I've waited so long already!
PATRICK: The outcome? LEAH: How impatiently!


Yes, that's right. But to conclude . .. LEAH: To conclude what? PATRICK: To love each other.
LEAH: Fm hungry.

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Oh, my dear, what big teeth you have! The better to rock you with, my child. PATRICK: Well, then, let's go to sleep. LEAH: No, I want you to tell me a story. PATRICK: Well, then, Fll tell you one. It will be the last. The factory chimneys are harvested at the end of November. First they are polished by being rolled in sand. They come out smooth and bright after that operation. Some are set aside for reproduction, on the right; the others are placed on the left. The latter are divided into two parts. One part is for arma­ ments. Cannons are made from them. The rest are sold at auction. These are therefore scattered. But as they change hands, they wear out, and soon nothing is left of these former factory chimneys. All that remains is the factories and the cannons. Then the cannons are aimed at the facto­ ries. A cannon is given away to every lady who asks for one, so that finally not a single cannon remains. LEAH: And, dear Patrick, what do the ladies do with all those cannons? PATRICK: My dear, you don't have to believe me—but they eat them. LEAH: It's not true. Enter the Author. THE AUTHOR: Hey there! Patrick! LEAH: Who are you? PATRICK: He's the Author. THE AUTHOR: Do you need me? PATRICK: No, thank you. THE AUTHOR (handing him a revolver): Here, take this; you'll need it.

right. (He fires at the Author.) THE AUTHOR: It's no use, my dear Patrick! Those bullets can't penetrate me. And it's a shame! PATRICK: Well, then, keep the thing. I have no use for it. THE AUTHOR: Please. If you won't do it for me, then do it for the sake of the drama you are enacting. I assure you that a shot at the end of the play is absolutely necessary for the development of the plot. PATRICK: Do you think so? THE AUTHOR: I'm sure of it. PATRICK: Then I will obey you. Good-bye, sir. THE AUTHOR: Farewell, Patrick. LEAH (to the Author): Tell me something.


Aren't you going to give me anything? That's a reasonable question. Take this. (He hands her another revolver.) LEAH: Is it loaded, at least? (To Patrick.) I'm sure you haven't examined your weapon. THE AUTHOR: Have no fear; they are both suitably provided [equipped]. LEAH (to Patrick): Don't you think the gentleman takes after Dovic a little? PATRICK: The gentleman has all his parts properly in place. That's enough, Leah. THE AUTHOR: You should make allowances, Patrick. Leah is a woman. PATRICK: What did you say? THE AUTHOR: I said: Leah is a woman. PATRICK: I'm a woman too, then. What would you say to that? THE AUTHOR: What I say is this: I know more about it than you do, but I must say I didn't think you'd turn out so well. PATRICK: See how white my skin is. THE AUTHOR: That wouldn't prove very much. PATRICK: It wouldn't prove anything, actually, if it were not for the perpetual snows. The perpetual snows, sir, if you care to know, have taught me to see clearly into this. The mountains, it is true, did somewhat disturb me. But do you know what I did with the mountains? THE AUTHOR: What did you do with the mountains? PATRICK: I turned them into men. THE AUTHOR: Your words make everything impossible, my friend. PATRICK: Well, then, write plays without words. THE AUTHOR: Did I ever intend to do otherwise? PATRICK: Yes, you put words of love into my mouth.


You should have spat them out. I tried to, but they turned into gunshots or dizzy spells. THE AUTHOR: That's hardly my fault. Life is like that. PATRICK: Leave life alone, then, and increase the size of your brain. THE AUTHOR: Without fail. PATRICK: When it gives birth, save a little brain for me. THE AUTHOR: You can count on me. PATRICK: I can really do without it, but it will amuse Leah's child. THE AUTHOR: Don't you have anything else to ask me?

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May I ask you for something too? THE AUTHOR: If you don't ask for too much. LEAH: Then give us two little brains. One for the child and the other for me. THE AUTHOR: For you? LEAH: Yes, that will give me three. THE AUTHOR: How is that?


LEAH: Mine, Patrick's, and yours. (hastily): Count on me, count on me. (To Patrick, in low tones.) One bit of good advice, my friend; use that thing you're holding. Your future depends on it. (He runs away.) PATRICK: Where are you running off to? Where are you running off to? THE AUTHOR: I'm going to give birth. Good night. A long pause. Patrick and Leah look at each other. PATRICK: Ah, Leah, there's still love! LEAH: Love worn down to the bare rope, and the rope to hang yourself. Love: the secret work of wear. There's just you, Patrick. PATRICK: Me, let's talk about it! Me, a little cork of marrow bobbing on a string. There's you, Leah. LEAH: Ah, Patrick: the beautiful architecture of wrath! I would be quite willing to live on roses: they have a flowery odor. I need coal and bedsheets. There is pain, Patrick. PATRICK: Pain? A burning drop of oil engendering a body. The curving of the earth is the pain of the world, as the tongue is the pain of thought, as the isthmus of the neck is the pain of the body and, when it is sliced through, the most painful criminals are severed from life. Pain? The great genesis. But there is kindness, Leah. LEAH: Kindness? No, Patrick. Kindness, a gift at the end of a rubber band, the flabby malady of death. Fat cheeks and overburdened knees. Don't try to touch me with that. The trained-dog factory. But there is forgiveness, Patrick.


Forgiveness, like the sun. Forgiveness, like returning. Forgiveness, like a boomerang. Forgiveness, like births. Forgiveness, like the seasons. Forgiveness, without any ill feelings. LEAH: There is death. PATRICK: Yes, death. But death like forgiveness. Like snow on the mountain. Forgiveness, like fire you slice with a knife. Forgiveness, like the water houses are made of. Forgiveness, like the murderer other crimes are made of. Forgiveness, like the living other dead are made of. Forgiveness, like the secret the storms are made of. Forgiveness, like the horse fortunes are made of. Forgiveness, like the old man the clouds are made of. Forgiveness, like me, whom I am making a criminal of. Forgiveness, like you whom I am making a deadly acid of. The heart is red already. Flow. Leah. Hands on the copper of shadows. The heart is red already as far as the end of the theater, where someone is about to die. LEAH: Enough, Patrick! (She fires a shot) PATRICK: What have you done, Leah? What have you done? YouVe just killed a spectator.

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^ ^ ndre Breton, poet, novelist, playwright, theorist, and editor, ^ ^ H was born on February 18, 1896, in Tinchebroy (Orne), ^ ^ # France. Although he never practiced medicine, Breton attended medical school, and his study of mental illness and his exposure IQJP^ to the writings of Sigmund Freud fueled his interest in dreams. The earliest influence on Breton's poetry was Symbolism, particularly the poetry of Paul Valery and Arthur Rimbaud. By 1916 he had joined the Dada movement, and although he was a follower of Tzara, Breton contributed to the demise of Dada when in 1924 he and Jacques Vache founded Surrealism as a movement. The Magnetic Fields (1919), on which Breton collaborated with Philippe Soupault, is generally regarded as the first genuine Surrealist work, and their subsequent play, If You Please (1920), remains one of the earliest and best examples of "automatic writing," a technique the Surrealists developed to help them bypass their brains' logical functions. As editor of the magazine Litterature, Breton became the official leader of the Surrealist movement. He published three theoretical documents central to the development of Surrealism: First Surrealist Manifesto (1924), Second Surrealist Manifesto (1930), and What Is Surrealism? (1934). In the first, he defined Surreal­ ism as "pure psychic automatism" and stated Surrealism's central goal: to bridge the gap between the waking moments of reality and the dream state of sleep. He moreover advocated the denial of logic and even morality in the creation of art. Later, communism became the central focus of the Surrealists' agenda—until 1935, that is, when Breton broke with this political movement. He remained a Marxist and Surrealist, however, and while he was in exile in New York during World War II introduced Surrealism as an influence on American art. He died on September 28, 1966, in Paris.

First Surrealist Manifesto
Andre Breton

We are still living under the reign of logic, but the logical processes of our time apply only to the solution of problems of secondary interest. The abso­ lute rationalism which remains in fashion allows for the consideration of only those facts narrowly relevant to our experience. Logical conclusions, on the other hand, escape us. Needless to say, boundaries have been assigned even to experience. It revolves in a cage from which release is becoming increasingly difficult. It too depends upon immediate utility and is guarded by common sense. In the guise of civilization, under the pretext of progress, we have succeeded in dismissing from our minds anything that, rightly or wrongly, could be regarded as superstition or myth; and we have proscribed every way of seeking the truth which does not conform to convention. It would appear that it is by sheer chance that an aspect of intellectual life— and by far the most important, in my opinion—about which no one was supposed to be concerned any longer has, recently, been brought back to light. Credit for this must go to Freud. On the evidence of his discoveries a current of opinion is at last developing which will enable the explorer of the human mind to extend his investigations, since he will be empowered to deal with more than merely summary realities. Perhaps the imagination is on the verge of recovering its rights. If the depths of our minds conceal strange forces capable of augmenting or conquering those on the surface, it is in our greatest interest to capture them; first to capture them and later to submit them, should the occasion arise, to the control of reason. The ana­ lysts themselves can only gain by this. But it is important to note that there is
Excerpt reprinted from Avant-Garde Drama: A Casebook, ed. Bernard F. Dukore and Daniel C. Gerould; trans. Patrick Waldberg (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976), 563-72.

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no method fixed a priori for the execution of this enterprise, that until the new order it can be considered the province of poets as well as scholars, and that its success does not depend upon the more or less capricious routes which will be followed. It was only fitting that Freud should appear with his critique on the dream. In fact, it is incredible that this important part of psychic activity has still attracted so little attention. (For, at least from man's birth to his death, thought presents no solution of continuity; the sum of dreaming m o m e n t s even taking into consideration pure dream alone, that of sleep—is from the point of view of time no less than the sum of moments of reality, which we shall confine to waking moments.) I have always been astounded by the extreme disproportion in the importance and seriousness assigned to events of the waking moments and to those of sleep by the ordinary observer. Man, when he ceases to sleep, is above all at the mercy of his memory, and the memory normally delights in feebly retracing the circumstance of the dream for him, depriving it of all actual consequence and obliterating the only determinant from the point at which he thinks he abandoned this constant hope, this anxiety, a few hours earlier. He has the illusion of continuing something worthwhile. The dream finds itself relegated to a parenthesis, like the night. And in general it gives no more counsel than the night. This singular state of affairs seems to invite a few reflections: 1. Within the limits to which its performance is restricted (or what passes for performance), the dream, according to all outward appearances, is con­ tinuous and bears traces of organization. Only memory claims the right to edit it, to suppress transitions and present us with a series of dreams rather than the dream. Similarly, at no given instant do we have more than a distinct representation of realities whose coordination is a matter of will.* It is impor­ tant to note that nothing leads to a greater dissipation of the constituent elements of the dream. I regret discussing this according to a formula which in principle excludes the dream. For how long, sleeping logicians, philoso­ phers? I would like to sleep in order to enable myself to surrender to sleepers, as I surrender to those who read me with their eyes open, in order to stop the conscious rhythm of my thought from prevailing over this material. Perhaps my dream of last night was a continuation of the preceding night's, and will be continued tonight with an admirable precision. It could be, as they say. And as it is in no way proven that, in such a case, the "reality" with which I am concerned even exists in the dream state, or that it does not sink into the immemorial, then why should I not concede to the dream what I sometimes refuse to reality—that weight of self-assurance which by its own terms is not exposed to my denial? Why should I not expect more of the dream sign than
* We must take into consideration the thickness of the dream. I usually retain only that which comes from the most superficial layers. What I prefer to visualize in it is everything that sinks at the awakening, everything that is not left to me of the function of that preceding day, dark foliage, absurd branches. In "reality," too, I prefer to fall

I do of a daily increasing degree of consciousness? Could not the dreams as well be applied to the solution of life's fundamental problems? Are these problems the same in one case as in the other, and do they already exist in the dream? Is the dream less oppressed by sanctions than the rest? I am growing old and, perhaps more than this reality to which I believe myself confined, it is the dream, and the detachment that I owe to it, which is aging me. 2.1 return to the waking state. I am obliged to retain it as a phenomenon of interference. Not only does the mind show a strange tendency to disorientation under these conditions (this is the clue to slips of the tongue and lapses of all kinds whose secret is just beginning to be surrendered to us), but when functioning normally the mind still seems to obey none other than those suggestions which rise from that deep night I am commending. Sound as it may be, its equilibrium is relative. The mind hardly dares express itself and, when it does, is limited to stating that this idea or that woman has an effect on it What effect it cannot say; thus it gives the measure of its subjectivism and nothing more. The idea, the woman, disturbs it, disposes it to less severity. Their role is to isolate one second of its disappearance and remove it to the sky in that glorious acceleration that it can be, that it is. Then, as a last resort, the mind invokes chance—a more obscure divinity than the others— to whom it attributes all its aberrations. Who says that the angle from which that idea is presented which affects the mind, as well as what the mind loves in that woman's eye, is not precisely the same thing that attracts the mind to its dream and reunites it with data lost through its own error? And if things were otherwise, of what might the mind not be capable? I should like to present it with the key to that passage. 3. The mind of the dreaming man is fully satisfied with whatever hap­ pens to it. The agonizing question of possibility does not arise. Kill, plunder more quickly, love as much as you wish. And if you die, are you not sure of being roused from the dead? Let yourself be led. Events will not tolerate deferment. You have no name. Everything is inestimably easy. What power, I wonder, what power so much more generous than others confers this natural aspect upon the dream and makes me welcome unre­ servedly a throng of episodes whose strangeness would overwhelm me if they were happening as I write this? And yet I can believe it with my own eyes, my own ears. That great day has come, that beast has spoken. If man's awakening is harsher, if he breaks the spell too well, it is because he has been led to form a poor idea of expiation. 4. When the time comes when we can submit the dream to a methodical examination, when by methods yet to be determined we succeed in realizing the dream in its entirety (and that implies a memory discipline measurable in generations, but we can still begin by recording salient facts), when the dream's curve is developed with an unequaled breadth and regularity, then we can hope that mysteries which are not really mysteries will give way to


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the great Mystery. I believe in the future resolution of these two states— outwardly so contradictory—which are dream and reality, into a sort of abso­ lute reality, a surreality, so to speak. I am aiming for its conquest, certain that I myself shall not attain it, but too indifferent to my death not to calculate the joys of such possession. They say that not long ago, just before he went to sleep, Saint-Pol-Roux placed a placard on the door of his manor at Camaret which read: THE POET


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There is still a great deal to say, but I did want to touch lightly, in passing, upon a subject which in itself would require a very long exposition with a different precision. I shall return to it. For the time being my intention has been to see that justice was done to that hatred of the marvelous which rages in certain men, that ridicule under which they would like to crush it. Let us resolve, therefore: the Marvelous is always beautiful, everything marvelous is beautiful. Nothing but the Marvelous is beautiful. . . . One night, before falling asleep, I became aware of a most bizarre sentence, clearly articulated to the point where it was impossible to change a word of it, but still separate from the sound of any voice. It came to me bearing no trace of the events with which I was involved at that time, at least to my conscious knowledge. It seemed to me a highly insistent sentence—a sentence, I might say, which knocked at the window. I quickly took note of it and was prepared to disregard it when something about its whole character held me back. The sentence truly astounded me. Unfortunately I still cannot remember the exact words to this day, but it was something like: 'A man is cut in half by the window'; but it can only suffer from ambiguity, accom­ panied as it was by the feeble visual representation of a walking man cut in half by a window perpendicular to the axis of his body. * It was probably a simple matter of a man leaning on the window and then straightening up. But the window followed the movements of the man, and I realized that I was dealing with a very rare type of image. Immediately I had the idea of incorporating it into my poetic material, but no sooner had I invested it with poetic form than it went on to give way to a scarcely intermittent succession of sentences which surprised me no less than the first and gave me the impression of such a free gift that the control which I had had over myself up
* Had I been a painter, this visual representation would undoubtedly have dominated the other. It is certainly my previous disposition which decided it. Since that day I have had occasion to con­ centrate my attention voluntarily on similar apparitions, and I know that they are not inferior in clar­ ity to auditory phenomena. Armed with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper, it would be easy for me to follow its contours. This is because here again it is not a matter of drawing, it is only a matter of tracing. I would be able to draw quite well a tree, a wave, a musical instrument—all things of which I am incapable of furnishing the briefest sketch at this time. Sure of finding my way, I would plunge into a labyrinth of lines which at first would not seem to contribute to anything. And upon opening my eyes I would experience a very strong impression ofjamais vi/." What I am saying has been proved many times by Robert Desnos. To be convinced of this, one has only to thumb through No. 36 oiFeuilles Libres, which contains several of his drawings (Romeo and Juliet, A Man Died This Morning, etc.). They were taken by this review as drawings of the insane and innocently published as such.

to that point seemed illusory and I no longer thought of anything but how to put an end to the interminable quarrel which was taking place within me.* Totally involved as I was at the time with Freud, and familiar with his methods of examination, which I had had some occasion to practice on the sick during the war, I resolved to obtain from myself what one seeks to obtain from a patient—a spoken monologue uttered as rapidly as possible, over which the critical faculty of the subject has no control, unencumbered by any reticence, which is spoken thought as far as such a thing is possible. It seemed to me, and still does—the manner in which the sentence about the man cut in two came to me proves it—that the speed of thought is no greater than that of words, and that it does not necessarily defy language or the moving pen. It was with this in mind that Philippe Soupault (with whom I had shared these first conclusions) and I undertook to cover some paper with writing, with a laudable contempt for what might result in terms of literature. The ease of realization did the rest. At the end of the first day we were able to read to each other around fifty pages obtained by this method, and began to compare our results. Altogether, those of Soupault and my own presented a remarkable similarity, even including the same faults in construction: in
both cases there was the illusion of an extraordinary verve, a great deal of emotion, a considerable assortment of images of a quality such as we would never have b e e n capable of achieving in ordinary writing, a very vivid graphic quality, and here and there an acutely comic passage. T h e only difference between our texts seemed to m e essentially due to our respective natures (Soupault's is less static than mine) and, if I may hazard a slight criticism, due to the fact that he had m a d e the mistake of distributing a few words in the way of titles at the head of certain pages—no doubt in the spirit of mystification. O n the other hand, I must give h i m credit for maintaining his steadfast opposition to the slightest alteration in the course of any passage
* Knut Hamsun attributes the kind of revelation by which I have just been possessed to hunger, and he may well be right. (The fact is that I was not eating every day at that period.) Unquestionably the manifestations that he describes below are the same as mine: The next day I awoke early. It was still dark. My eyes had been open for a long time when I heard the clock in the flat overhead sound five o'clock. I wanted to go back to sleep, but had no success. I was completely awake and a thousand things ran through my mind. All of a sudden several good pieces came to me, just right for use in a sketch or article. I found abruptly, and by chance, very beautiful phrases, phrases such as I had never written. I repeated them to myself slowly, word for word: they were excellent. And they kept coming. I rose and took a piece of paper and pencil to the desk behind my bed. It was as though a vein had burst in me, one word followed another, set itself in place, adapted itself to the situation, scenes accumulated, action unfolded, replies surged in my brain. I enjoyed myself prodi­ giously. Thoughts came to me so rapidly and continued to flow so abundantly that I lost a multitude of delicate details because my pencil could not go fast enough, and even then I was hurrying, my hand was always moving. I didn't lose a minute. Sentences continued to be driven from me, I was at the heart of my subject. Apollinaire affirmed that Chirico's paintings had been executed under the influence of cenesthesiac pains (migraines, colic).


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which seemed to me rather badly put. He was completely right on this point, of course.* In fact, it is very difficult to appreciate the full value of the various elements when confronted by them. It can even be said to be impossible to appreciate them at the first reading. These elements are outwardly as strange to you who have written them as to anyone else, and you are naturally distrust­ ful of them. Poetically speaking, they are especially endowed with a very high degree of immediate absurdity. The peculiarity of this absurdity, on closer examination, comes from their capitulation to everything—both inad­ missible and legitimate—in the world, to produce a revelation of a certain number of premises and facts generally no less objective than any others. In homage to Guillaume Apollinaire—who died recently, and who ap­ pears to have consistently obeyed an impulse similar to ours without ever really sacrificing mediocre literary means—Soupault and I used the name SURREALISM to designate the new mode of pure expression which we had at our disposal and with which we were anxious to benefit our friends. Today I do not believe anything more need be said about this word. The meaning which we have given it has generally prevailed over Apollinaire's meaning. With even more justification we could have used supernaturalism, employed by Gerard de Nerval in the dedication of filles du feu. f In fact, Nerval appears to have possessed to an admirable extent the spirit to which we refer. Apollinaire, on the other hand, possessed only the letter of Surrealism (which was still imperfect) and showed himself powerless to give it the theoretical insight that engages us. Here are two passages by Nerval which appear most significant in this regard: I will explain to you, my dear Dumas, the phenomenon of which you spoke above. As you know, there are certain storytellers who cannot invent without identifying themselves with the characters from their imagination. You know with what conviction our old friend Nodier told how he had had the misfortune to be guillotined at the time of the Revolution; one became so convinced that one wondered how he had managed to stick his head back on. And since you have had the imprudence to cite one of the sonnets composed in this state of supernaturalist reverie, as the Germans would say, you must hear all of them. You will find them at the end of the volume. They are hardly more obscure than Hegel's metaphysics or Swedenborg's MEMORABLES, and would lose their charm in explication, if such a thing were possible, so concede me at least the merit of their expression.!
* I believe increasingly in the infallibility of my thought in regard to myself, and it is too accurate. Nevertheless, in this writing down of thoughts, where one is at the mercy of the first exterior distraction, "transports" can be produced. It would be inexcusable to seek to ignore them. By definition, thought is strong and incapable of being at fault. We must attribute those obvious weaknesses to suggestions which come from outside. t And also by Thomas Carlyle in Sartor Resartus (chap. 8, "Natural Supernaturalism"), 1833-34. + See also L'IDEOREALISME by Saint-Pol-Roux.

It would be dishonest to dispute our right to employ the word SURREAL­ ISM in the very particular sense in which we intend it, for it is clear that before we came along this word amounted to nothing. Thus I shall define it once and for all: Surrealism, noun, masc, Pure psychic automatism by which it is in­ tended to express, either verbally or in writing, the true function of thought. Thought dictated in the absence of all control exerted by reason, and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations. Encycl. Philos. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of association heretofore neglected, in the omnipotence of the dream, and in the disinterested play of thought. It leads to the permanent destruction of all other psychic mechanisms and to its substitution for them in the solution of the principal problems of life. The forms of Surrealist language adapt themselves best to dialogue. Here, two thoughts confront each other; while one is being delivered, the other is busy with it; but how is it busy with it? To assume that it incorporates it within itself would be tantamount to admitting that there is a time during which it is possible for it to live completely off that other thought, which is highly unlikely. And, in fact, the attention it pays is completely exterior; it has only time enough to approve or reject—generally reject—with all the consideration of which man is capable. This mode of language, moreover, does not allow the heart of the matter to be plumbed. My attention, prey to an entreaty which it cannot in all decency reject, treats the opposing thought as an enemy; in ordinary conversation, it "takes it up" almost always on the words, the figures of speech, it employs; it puts me in a position to turn it to good advantage in my reply by distorting them. This is true to such a degree that in certain pathological states of mind, where sensory disorders occupy the patient's complete attention, he limits himself, while continuing to an­ swer the questions, to seizing the last word spoken in his presence or the last portion of the Surrealist sentence some trace of which he finds in his mind. Q. "How old are you?" A. "You." (Echolalia.) Q. "What is your name?" A. "Forty-five houses." (Gamer syndrome, or beside-the-point replies.) There is no conversation in which some trace of this disorder does not occur. The effort to be social which dictates it and the considerable practice we have at it are the only things which enable us to conceal it temporarily. It is also the great weakness of the book that it is in constant conflict with its best, by which I mean the most demanding, readers. In the very short di­ alogue that I concocted above between the doctor and the madman, it was in fact the madman who got the better of the exchange—because, through his replies, he obtrudes upon the attention of the doctor examining him—and

because he is not the person asking the questions. Does this mean that his thought at this point is the stronger? Perhaps. He is free not to care any longer about his age or name. Poetic Surrealism, which is the subject of this study, has focused its efforts up to this point on reestablishing dialogue in its absolute truth, by freeing both interlocutors from any obligations of politeness. Each of them simply pursues his soliloquy without trying to derive any special dialectical pleasure from it and without trying to impose anything whatsoever upon his neighbor. The remarks exchanged are not, as is generally the case, meant to develop some thesis, however unimportant it may be; they are as [disin­ terested] as possible. As for the reply that they elicit, it is, in principle, totally indifferent to the personal pride of the person speaking. The words, the images are only so many springboards for the mind of the listener. In Les champs magnetiques, the first purely Surrealist work, this is the way in which the pages grouped together under the title Barrieres must be conceived of— pages wherein Soupault and I show ourselves to be impartial interlocutors.



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The Theater of Cruelty

ntonin Artaud, poet, theorist, playwright, actor, director, and designer, was born in Marseilles, France, on September 4, 1896. From 1921 to 1924, he worked as an actor for some of the most respected and influential avant-garde directors in Paris, in­ cluding Aurelien Lugne-Poe, Charles Dullin, and Georges Pitoeff (in the last case, in Georges and Ludmilla PitoefTs influential production of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author). In 1924, Artaud joined the Surrealist movement and served as director of the Bureau of Sur­ realist Research in 1925. Because of his devotion to theater, however— a theater that Andre Breton found to be too oriented toward commer­ cial production—and also because of his "unorthodox" interest in occultism, mysticism, and Oriental religion, Artaud split with the Surrealists. Along with Roger Vitrac and Robert Aron, he founded the Theatre Alfred-Jarry in Paris in 1926. For the Theatre Alfred-Jarry, he directed the premieres of Vitrac's Mysteries of Love (1927) and V7ctor, or The Children Take Over (1928), but not even the success of the latter production could save the theater, which closed after two seasons. Artaud attempted to start another theater, the Theater of Cruelty, in 1935, but its first and only production, his own The Cenci (based on works by Shelley and Stendhal), received poor reviews and closed quickly. Ultimately, Artaud influenced the avant-garde more through his theoretical writings than through his plays and productions. In The Theater and Its Double (1938), a collection of his articles, Artaud articulated his concept of a theoretical language dependent on the body rather than the word as its primary unit of expression. He coined the term "theater of cruelty" to capture his vision of theater, in which a visceral attack on the senses would be used to confront what Artaud saw as a diseased society. The plays he wrote during the 1920s—The Spurt of Blood (1925), The Philosopher's Stone (1926), and The Burnt Belly, or The Crazy Mother (1927)—are all characterized by violent images in disconnected


sequences that defy ordinary logic. Artaud's theories were heavily influenced by the physical style of a Balinese dance company he saw at the Colonial Exposition of 1931 in Paris, as well as by his own battles with psychosis. He was first institutionalized at the age of eighteen and then confined to sanatoriums from 1937 to 1946. He died of cancer in Ivry-sur-Seine on March 4, 1948, yet his writings and dramatic vision exerted a powerful influence on avant-garde the­ ater, including the work of Adamov, Genet, Arrabal, lonesco, Beckett, Grotowski, the Living Theater, and Peter Brook, for the rest of the century.


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Artaud's Theater of Cruelty and The Spurt of Blood
u-^—, ^ ^ rtaud's revolutionary ideas took written shape in the 1930s, lu^^ ^^m when he wrote the essays later collected in The Theater and Its ng^ ^^0 Double. To realize his theatrical aims, he founded the Theater ^^^ of Cruelty in 1935. Its only production was The Cenci, a tale of incest D ^ F * and murder, based on Stendhal's story and Shelley's tragedy—the only full-length play Artaud wrote. With musique concrete plus frenzied shouting and ritualistic chanting by the actors, including himself as Count Cenci, the production—also directed by Artaud—was badly received (possibly owing to philistine incomprehension), lasted just seventeen days, ruined him financially, led him to despair, and probably exacerbated his insanity. As his cruel theater ultimately would have been, Artaud's impassioned essays in The Theater and Its Double are a jeremiad against the traditional theater. To Artaud, the idolatry of masterpieces is an act of bourgeois conformism. "No More Masterpieces!" he cries. Valid for the past, they have nothing to say to the present, and their forms "no longer respond to the needs of the time." Instead of subordinating theatrical elements to the text, Artaud would either get rid of the text or else subjugate it to theatrical language (such as movement, lighting, scenery, and sound). Anxious to put an end to the dominance of the spoken word, he wants "a language halfway between gesture and thought," a language addressed not to the spectator's mind but to the senses. It would express what is "beyond the reach of the spoken language." To Artaud, theater should not be an intellectual experience but should "shake the organism to its foundations and leave an ineffaceable scar." In his theater, "violent physical images [would] crush and hypnotize the sensibility of the spectator^]," assaulting them with sensual, theatrical means. Neither reas­ suring nor restful, discursive nor detached, Artaud's theater aims at disturbing the senses, pushing the audience's experience to new extremes, revealing our cultural hypocrisies, and releasing subconscious as well as anarchic impulses. In these respects, he says, it resembles the plague, which is likewise "a delirium and is communicative." Like the plague, theater "is the revelation, the bringing forth, the exteriorization of a depth of latent cruelty by means of which all the per­ verse possibilities of the mind, whether of an individual or a people, are lo­ calized." Artaud's proposed theater is one of cruelty, by which he does not mean decapitation, dismemberment, or assault with knife and meat cleaver, but rather the cruelty of existence, of humans' precarious position in the universe. "We are not free," he declaims. "And the sky can still fall on our heads. And the theater has been created to teach us that first of all." (Ironically, while Europe was suffering convulsions like those of the plague, while cruelty in all senses of the word lacerated civilization during World War II, he was safely incarcerated in an insane asylum.) Artaud, then, sought total theater. Demolishing the traditional barrier beBy Bert Cardullo. Published here for the first time.

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tween stage and spectator, he would place the latter in the middle of the action. With their senses bombarded on all sides, the spectators would become part of a stage-spectator space in which there was little or no distinction between playing area and audience area. For such a theatrical event, Artaud would aban­ don the conventional theater building and, reconstructing the interior of a barn or a hangar, deploy the action all over the floor, as well as in galleries and on catwalks. Moreover, the action could occur in various parts of the room, even on various levels, at the same time. In this theater, the audience's senses would be overwhelmed by groans, shrieks, incantations, harmonic tones, apparitions, ritualistic costumes and masks, giant effigies, and swift changes of dazzling light, together with pulsating sexual rhythms. Words would be used less as language than as sounds, and noises also would figure prominently. In Artaud's radio production of his To End God's Judgment (1947)—a blasphemous and obscene but hypnotic, powerful poem about humanity, God, and the cosmos—shouts and incantations mixed with the sounds of percussion instruments. In his production plan for Strindberg's Ghost Sonata (around 1928), the steps of some characters would be muffled, those of others magnified; the voice of the Cook, to be played by a dummy, would be amplified by several loudspeakers, thus hiding its source; and the wind would blend with people's voices. Lighting would not merely illuminate but also create special effects and assault the audience's senses. In Artaud's production of The Cenci, blinding lights terrified the characters—and the specta­ tors—while unrealistic costumes vividly projected these figures' inner states. As Count Cenci, for instance, Artaud wore a tight-fitting costume upon which his chest, stomach, and leg muscles were outlined in white—as if his skin had been stripped off—a grotesque visualization of the character's grotesque, tortured soul. The Spurt of Blood—written in 1924 but not performed until forty years later in Peter Brook's London Theatre of Cruelty—can be seen in traditional, literary terms, but it can also be seen in Artaud's untraditional terms. Regarded conven­ tionally, it symbolically dramatizes such themes as the movement from inno­ cence and faith to lust and fear (the Young Man), degeneration (in place of the godliness of the body are "the little obscenities of man"), blasphemy (the Bawd's biting of God's wrist) and its consequences, the reality behind myths (the greed, brutality, and selfishness behind the idealistic image of the Knight, for instance), and the dangerous fascination of women (represented by scorpions that crawl from beneath a skirt). To regard the play only in this manner, however, is to regard an unconventional work conventionally. The Spurt of Blood is also an early example of the theater of cruelty. Employing not only language but also purely theatrical means, such as shifting tones of voice, to convey meaning, Artaud creates violent images of the cruelty of human exis­ tence in a world in which the sky bombards human beings and shakes them to their core. In a nightmarish universe in which a Young Man's exclamation that the world is beautifully built is followed by a rending of the heavens ("The sky has gone mad," he says next), Artaud presents a fantastic temporal spectrum of creation and destruction speeded up and slowed down, like a phonograph rec-

ord. Associating gluttony and lust, sex and violence, even innocence and swinish­ ness, The Spurt of Blood attacks the senses with bizarre sights and sounds as it reaches toward our subconscious impulses and fears.

Select Bibliography on Artaud
Barber, Stephen. Antonin Artaud: Blows and Bombs. London: Faber and Faber, 1993. Bermel, Albert. "The Dreamer as Mankind: The Fountain of Blood, by Antonin Artaud." In Bermel, Contradictory Characters, 256-68. New York: Dutton, 1973. . Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, 47-54,62-64. New York: Taplinger, 1977. Cohn, Ruby. "Artaud's Jet de sang: Parody or Cruelty?" Theatre Journal 31(1979): 312-18. Costich, Julia F. Antonin Artaud. Boston: Twayne, 1978. Esslin, Martin. Artaud. London: Calder, 1976. Goodall, Jane. Artaud and the Gnostic Drama. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Greene, Naomi. Artaud: Poet Without Words. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970. Knapp, Bettina. Antonin Artaud: Man of Vision. 1969. Chicago: Swallow, 1980. Sellin, Eric. The Dramatic Concepts ofAntonin Artaud. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1968. See Ahrends; Benedikt and Wellwarth, Modern French Theatre; Finter; Hayman; Kott; Matthews, Theatre in Dado and Surrealism; Plunka; Torelli; Torn; and Wellwarth, in the General Bibliography.

T h e Spurt of Blood
Antonin Artaud


YOUNG MAN: I love you and everything is beautiful. YOUNG GIRL: [With quavering voice] You love me and everything is beautiful. YOUNG MAN: [In a lower tone] I love you and everything is beautiful. YOUNG GIRL: [In an even lower tone] You love me and everything is beautiful. YOUNG MAN: [Leaving her abruptly] I love you. [Silence] Face me.
Reprinted from A Treasury of the Theatre, vol. 2, 4th ed., ed. John Gassner and Bernard F. Dukore; trans. Ruby Cohn (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970), 705-6.

YOUNG GIRL: [As before, standing opposite him]

There. [In an exalted, high-pitched voice] I love you, I am great, I am lucid, I am full, I am dense. YOUNG GIRL: [In the same high-pitched voice] We love each other. YOUNG MAN: We are intense. Ah, how beautifully the world is built. [Silence. There is a noise as if an immense wheel were turning and moving the air. A hurricane separates them. At the same time, two stars are seen colliding, and from them fall a series of legs of living flesh, with feet, hands, scalps, masks, colonnades, porticos, temples, alembics, falling more and more slowly, as if in a vacuum; then three scorpions one after another, and finally a frog and a beetle which come to rest with desperate slowness, nauseating slowness] YOUNG MAN: [Crying with all his strength] The sky has gone mad.

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[He looks at the sky] Let's hurry away from here. [He pushes the Young Girl before him] [Enter a medieval Knight in gigantic armor, followed by a Wet-Nurse holding her breasts in her hands, and puffing because her breasts are swollen] KNIGHT: Let go of your tits. Give me my papers. WET-NURSE: [Screaming in high pitch] Ah! Ah! Ah! KNIGHT: Damn, what's the matter with you? WET-NURSE: Our daughter, there, with him. KNIGHT: Quiet, there's no girl there. WET-NURSE: I'm telling you that they're screwing. KNIGHT: What the Hell do I care if they're screwing?
WET-NURSE: Incest. KNIGHT: Midwife.

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[Plunging her hands deep into her pockets, which are as big as her breasts] Pimp. [She throws his papers at him]

KNIGHT: Let me eat.

[The Wet-Nurse rushes out] [He gets up, and from each paper he takes a huge hunk of Swiss cheese. Suddenly he coughs and chokes] KNIGHT: [With full mouth] Ehp. Ehp. Show me your breasts. Show me your breasts. Where did she go? [He runs out] [The Young Man comes back] YOUNG MAN: I saw, I knew, I understood. Here on a public street, the priest,

the cobbler, the peddler, the entrance to the church, the red light of the brothel, the scales of justice. I can't stand it any longer! [Like shadows, a Priest, a Cobbler, a Beadle, a Bawd, a Judge, a Peddler, arrive on stage] YOUNG MAN: IVe lost her; give her back to me. ALL: [In different tones] Who, who, who, who?
YOUNG MAN: My wife.



[Very fat] Your wife, you're kidding! YOUNG MAN: Kidding! Maybe she's yours! BEADLE: [Tapping his forehead] Maybe she is. [He runs out] [The Priest leaves the group and puts his arm around the neck of the Young Man] PRIEST: [As if confessing someone] To what part of your body do you refer most often?

YOUNG MAN: To G o d .

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[Confused by the reply, the Priest immediately shifts to a Swiss accent] PRIEST: [In Swiss accent] But that isn't done any more. We no longer hear through that ear. You have to ask that of volcanoes and earthquakes. We wallow in the little obscenities of man in the confession box. That's life. YOUNG MAN: [Much impressed] Ah that's life! Then everything is shot to hell. PRIEST: [Still with Swiss accent] Of course. [At this moment, night suddenly falls onstage. The earth quakes. There are furious thunder and zigzags of lightning in every direction; through the zigzags all the characters can be seen running around, bumping into each other and falling, then getting up and running about like crazy. Then, an enormous hand seizes the Bawd by her hair, which bursts into flame and grows huge before our eyes] HUGE VOICE: Bitch, look at your body! [The Bawd's body is seen to be absolutely naked and hideous beneath her blouse and skirt, which become transparent as glass]
BAWD: Leave me alone, God.

[She bites God in the wrist An immense spurt of blood lacerates the stage, and through the biggest flash of lightning the Priest can be seen, making the sign of the cross. When the lights go on again, all the characters are dead, and their corpses lie all over the ground. Only the Young Man and the Bawd remain, devouring each other with their eyes. The Bawd falls into the Young Man's arms] BAWD: [With the sigh of one having an orgasm] Tell me how it happened to you. [The Young Man hides his head in his hands. The Wet-Nurse comes back, carrying the Young Girl under her arm like a bundle. The Young Girl is

dead. The Bawd takes her and drops her on the ground, where she collapses and becomes flat as a pancake. The Wet-Nurse no longer has her breasts. Her chest is completely flat ] KNIGHT: [In a terrible voice] Where did you put them? Give me my Swiss cheese. WET-NURSE: [Boldly and gaily] Here you are. [She lifts up her dress. The Young Man wants to run away, but he is frozen like a petrified puppet] YOUNG MAN: [As if suspended in the air, and with the voice of a ventriloquist] Don't hurt Mommy! KNIGHT: She-devil! [He hides his face in horror. A multitude of scorpions crawl out from beneath the Wet-Nurse's dress and swarm between her legs. Her vagina swells up, splits, and becomes transparent and glistening, like a sun. The Young Man and Bawd run off as though lobotomized] YOUNG GIRL: [Getting up, dazed] The virgin! Ah, that's what he was looking

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N o More Masterpieces
Antonin Artaud

One of the reasons for the asphyxiating atmosphere in which we live without possible escape or remedy—and in which we all share, even the most revolu­ tionary among us—is our respect for what has been written, formulated, or painted, what has been given form, as if all expression were not at last exhausted, were not at a point where things must break apart if they are to start anew and begin fresh. We must have done with this idea of masterpieces reserved for a selfstyled elite and not understood by the general public; the mind has no such restricted districts as those so often used for clandestine sexual encounters. Masterpieces of the past are good for the past: they are not good for us. We have the right to say what has been said and even what has not been said in a way that belongs to us, a way that is immediate and direct, corresponding to present modes of feeling, and understandable to everyone. It is idiotic to reproach the masses for having no sense of the sublime, when the sublime is confused with one or another of its formal manifesta­ tions, which are moreover always defunct manifestations. And if, for exam­ ple, a contemporary public does not understand Oedipus Rex, I shall make bold to say that it is the fault of Oedipus Rex and not of the public. In Oedipus Rex there is the theme of incest and the idea that nature mocks at morality and that there are certain unspecified powers at large which we would do well to beware of, call them destiny or anything you choose. There is in addition the presence of a plague epidemic which is a physiReprinted from Antonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, trans. Mary Caroline Richards (New York: Grove, 1958), 74-83. Used by permission of Grove Atlantic, © 1958.

cal incarnation of these powers. But the whole in a m a n n e r and language that have lost all touch with the rude and epileptic rhythm of our time. Sophocles speaks grandly perhaps, but in a style that is no longer timely. His language is too refined for this age; it is as if he were speaking beside the point. However, a public that shudders at train wrecks, that is familiar with earthquakes, plagues, revolutions, wars; that is sensitive to the disordered anguish of love, can be affected by all these grand notions and asks only to b e c o m e aware of them, but on condition that it is addressed in its own language, and that its knowledge of these things does not come to it through adulterated trappings and speech that belong to extinct eras which will never live again. Today as yesterday, the public is greedy for mystery: it asks only to be­ c o m e aware of the laws according to which destiny manifests itself, and to divine perhaps the secret of its apparitions. Let us leave textual criticism to graduate students, formal criticism to aesthetes, and recognize that what has b e e n said is not still to be said; that an expression does not have the same value twice, does not live two lives; that all words, once spoken, are dead and function only at the m o m e n t when they are uttered; that a form, once it has served, cannot be used again and asks only to be replaced by another; and that the theater is the only place in the world where a gesture, once made, can never be m a d e the same way twice. If the public does not frequent our literary masterpieces, it is because those masterpieces are literary, that is to say, fixed; and fixed in forms that no longer respond to the needs of the time. Far from blaming the public, we ought to blame the formal screen we interpose between ourselves and the public, and this new form of idolatry, the idolatry of fixed masterpieces which is one of the aspects of bourgeois conformism. This conformism makes us confuse sublimity, ideas, and things with the forms they have taken in time and in our minds—in our snobbish, precious, aesthetic mentalities which the public does not understand. How pointless in such matters to accuse the public of bad taste because it relishes insanities, so long as the public is not shown a valid spectacle; and I defy anyone to show m e here a spectacle valid—valid in the supreme sense of the theater—since the last great romantic melodramas, i.e., since a h u n d r e d years ago. T h e public, which takes the false for the true, has the sense of the true and always responds to it when it is manifested. However, it is not upon the stage that the true is to be sought nowadays, but in the street; and if the crowd in the street is offered an occasion to show its h u m a n dignity, it will always do so. If people are out of the habit of going to the theater, if we have all finally come to think of theater as an inferior art, a means of popular distraction,

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and to use it as an outlet for our worst instincts, it is because we have learned too well what the theater has been, namely, falsehood and illusion. It is because we have been accustomed for four hundred years, that is since the Renaissance, to a purely descriptive and narrative theater—storytelling psy­ chology; it is because every possible ingenuity has been exerted in bringing to life on the stage plausible but detached beings, with the spectacle on one side, the public on the other—and because the public is no longer shown anything but the mirror of itself. Shakespeare himself is responsible for this aberration and decline, this disinterested idea of the theater which wishes a theatrical performance to leave the public intact, without setting off one image that will shake the organism to its foundations and leave an ineffaceable scar. If, in Shakespeare, a man is sometimes preoccupied with what tran­ scends him, it is always in order to determine the ultimate consequences of this preoccupation within him, i.e., psychology. Psychology, which works relentlessly to reduce the unknown to the known, to the quotidian and the ordinary, is the cause of the theater's abasement and its fearful loss of energy, which seems to me to have reached its lowest point. And I think both the theater and we ourselves have had enough of psychology. I believe furthermore that we can all agree on this matter sufficiently so that there is no need to descend to the repugnant level of the modern and French theater to condemn the theater of psychology. Stories about money, worry over money, social careerism, the pangs of love unspoiled by altruism, sexuality sugar-coated with an eroticism that has lost its mystery have nothing to do with the theater, even if they do belong to psychology. These torments, seductions, and lusts before which we are nothing but Peeping Toms gratifying our cravings, tend to go bad, and their rot turns to revolution: we must take this into account. But this is not our most serious concern. If Shakespeare and his imitators have gradually insinuated the idea of art for art's sake, with art on one side and life on the other, we can [stick to] this feeble and lazy idea only as long as the life outside endures. But there are too many signs that everything that used to sustain our lives no longer does so, that we are all mad, desperate, and sick. And I call for us to react. This idea of a detached art, of poetry as a charm which exists only to distract our leisure, is a decadent idea and an unmistakable symptom of our power to castrate. Our literary admiration for Rimbaud, Jarry, Lautreamont, and a few others, which has driven two men to suicide, but turned into cafe gossip for the rest, belongs to this idea of literary poetry, of detached art, of neutral spiritual activity which creates nothing and produces nothing; and I can bear witness that at the very moment when that kind of personal poetry which involves only the man who creates it and only at the moment he creates it

broke out in its most abusive fashion, the theater was scorned more than ever before by poets who have never had the sense of direct and concerted action, nor of efficacity, nor of danger. We must get rid of our superstitious valuation of texts and written poetry. Written poetry is worth reading once, and then should be destroyed. Let the dead poets make way for others. Then we might even come to see that it is our veneration for what has already been created, however beautiful and valid it may be, that petrifies us, deadens our responses, and prevents us from making contact with that underlying power, call it thought-energy, the life force, the determinism of change, lunar menses, or anything you like. Be­ neath the poetry of the texts, there is the actual poetry, without form and without text. And just as the efficacity of masks in the magic practices of certain tribes is exhausted—and these masks are no longer good for anything except museums—so the poetic efficacity of a text is exhausted; yet the poetry and the efficacity of the theater are exhausted least quickly of all, since they permit the action of what is gesticulated and pronounced, and which is never made the same way twice. It is a question of knowing what we want. If we are prepared for war, plague, famine, and slaughter we do not even need to say so, we have only to continue as we are; continue behaving like snobs, rushing en masse to hear such and such a singer, to see such and such an admirable performance which never transcends the realm of art (and even the Russian ballet at the height of its splendor never transcended the realm of art), to marvel at such and such an exhibition of painting in which exciting shapes explode here and there but at random and without any genuine consciousness of the forces they could rouse. This empiricism, randomness, individualism, and anarchy must cease. Enough of personal poems, benefiting those who create them much more than those who read them. Once and for all, enough of this closed, egoistic, and personal art. Our spiritual anarchy and intellectual disorder are a function of the anarchy of everything else—or rather, everything else is a function of this anarchy. I am not one of those who believe that civilization has to change in order for the theater to change; but I do believe that the theater, utilized in the highest and most difficult sense possible, has the power to influence the aspect and formation of things: and the encounter upon the stage of two passionate manifestations, two living centers, two nervous magnetisms is something as entire, true, even decisive, as, in life, the encounter of one epidermis with another in a timeless debauchery. That is why I propose a theater of cruelty.—With this mania we all have for depreciating everything, as soon as I have said "cruelty," everybody will at once take it to mean "blood." But "theater of cruelty" means a theater difficult and cruel for myself first of all. And, on the level of performance, it is

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not the cruelty we can exercise upon each other by hacking at each other's bodies, carving up our personal anatomies, or, like Assyrian emperors, send­ ing parcels of human ears, noses, or neatly detached nostrils through the mail, but the much more terrible and necessary cruelty which things can exercise against us. We are not free. And the sky can still fall on our heads. And the theater has been created to teach us that first of all. Either we will be capable of returning by present-day means to this superior idea of poetry and poetry-through-theater which underlies the Myths told by the great ancient tragedians, capable once more of entertain­ ing a religious idea of the theater (without meditation, useless contempla­ tion, and vague dreams), capable of attaining awareness and a possession of certain dominant forces, of certain notions that control all others, and (since ideas, when they are effective, carry their energy with them) capable of recovering within ourselves those energies which ultimately create order and increase the value of life, or else we might as well abandon ourselves now, without protest, and recognize that we are no longer good for anything but disorder, famine, blood, war, and epidemics. Either we restore all the arts to a central attitude and necessity, finding an analogy between a gesture made in painting or the theater, and a gesture made by lava in a volcanic explosion, or we must stop painting, babbling, writing, or doing whatever it is we do. I propose to bring back into the theater this elementary magical idea, taken up by modern psychoanalysis, which consists in effecting a patient's cure by making him assume the apparent and exterior attitudes of the de­ sired condition. I propose to renounce our empiricism of imagery, in which the uncon­ scious furnishes images at random, and which the poet arranges at random too, calling them poetic and hence hermetic images, as if the kind of trance that poetry provides did not have its reverberations throughout the whole sensibility, in every nerve, and as if poetry were some vague force whose movements were invariable. I propose to return through the theater to an idea of the physical knowl­ edge of images and the means of inducing trances, as in Chinese medicine, which knows, over the entire extent of the human anatomy, at what points to puncture in order to regulate the subtlest functions. Those who have forgotten the communicative power and magical mime­ sis of a gesture, the theater can reinstruct, because a gesture carries its energy with it, and there are still human beings in the theater to manifest the force of the gesture made. To create art is to deprive a gesture of its reverberation in the organism, whereas this reverberation, if the gesture is made in the conditions and with the force required, incites the organism and, through it, the entire individu­ ality, to take attitudes in harmony with the gesture. The theater is the only place in the world, the last general means we still

possess of directly affecting the organism and, in periods of neurosis and petty sensuality like the one in which we are immersed, of attacking this sensuality by physical means it cannot withstand. If music affects snakes, it is not on account of the spiritual notions it offers them, but because snakes are long and coil their length upon the earth, because their bodies touch the earth at almost every point; and because the musical vibrations which are communicated to the earth affect them like a very subtle, very long massage; and I propose to treat the spectators like the snake charmer's subjects and conduct them by means of their organisms to an apprehension of the subtlest notions. At first by crude means, which will gradually be refined. These immedi­ ate crude means will hold their attention at the start. That is why in the "theater of cruelty" the spectator is in the center and the spectacle surrounds him. In this spectacle the sonorization is constant: sounds, noises, cries are chosen first for their vibratory quality, then for what they represent. Among these gradually refined means, light is interposed in its turn. Light which is not created merely to add color or to brighten, and which brings its power, influence, suggestions with it. And the light of a green cavern does not sensually dispose the organism like the light of a windy day. After sound and light there is action, and the dynamism of action: here the theater, far from copying life, puts itself whenever possible in communi­ cation with pure forces. And whether you accept or deny them, there is nevertheless a way of speaking which gives the name of "forces" to whatever brings to birth images of energy in the unconscious, and gratuitous crime on the surface. A violent and concentrated action is a kind of lyricism: it summons up supernatural images, a bloodstream of images, a bleeding spurt of images in the poet's head and in the spectator's as well. Whatever the conflicts that haunt the mind of a given period, I defy any spectator to whom such violent scenes will have transferred their blood, who will have felt in himself the transit of a superior action, who will have seen the extraordinary and essential movements of his thought illuminated in extraordinary deeds—the violence and blood having been placed at the service of the violence of the thought—I defy that spectator to give himself up, once outside the theater, to ideas of war, riot, and blatant murder. So expressed, this idea seems dangerous and sophomoric. It will be claimed that example breeds example, that if the attitude of cure induces cure, the attitude of murder will induce murder. Everything depends upon the manner and the purity with which the thing is done. There is a risk. But let it not be forgotten that though a theatrical gesture is violent, it is disin­ terested; and that the theater teaches precisely the uselessness of the action which, once [performed,] is not to be [performed,] and the superior use of the state unused by the action and which, restored, produces a purification.

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I propose, then, a theater in which violent physical images crush and hypnotize the sensibility of the spectator seized by the theater as by a whirl­ wind of higher forces. A theater which, abandoning psychology, recounts the extraordinary, stages natural conflicts, natural and subtle forces, and presents itself first of all as an exceptional power of redirection. A theater that induces trance, as the dances of Dervishes induce trance, and that addresses itself to the organ­ ism by precise instruments, by the same means as those of certain tribal music cures which we admire on records but are incapable of originating among ourselves. There is a risk involved, but in the present circumstances I believe it is a risk worth running. I do not believe we have managed to revitalize the world we live in, and I do not believe it is worth the trouble of clinging to; but I do propose something to get us out of our [malaise] instead of continuing to complain about it, and about the boredom, inertia, and stupidity of everything.

Qi Russian Oberiu

leksandr Vvedensky, playwright, children's fiction writer, poet, ! and theorist, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on ' December 6, 1904. After graduating from the Lentovskaia gymnasium (secondary school) in 1921, he briefly studied law and Asian languages before focusing on the writing of poetry and drama. From 1923 to 1926, Vvedensky did research into the nature of poetry with Igor Terentev, the Futurist poet and theater director who headed the Institute of Artistic Culture in Leningrad. In 1925, Vvedensky met Daniil Kharms, and together the two of them formed the core of a group of avant-garde writers that would officially found Oberiu in 1928. (The name is derived from the initials of the group's full name: Obedinenie Realnogo Iskusstva, or the Society for Real Art; its members called themselves Oberiuty.) Their earliest theater work was created with Radiks, a student drama group from the Institute for Art History, and included several evenings of Dadainspired theater, poetry, and dance. In 1928, the Oberiuty published a manifesto in which they declared their preference for visual elements and spectacle over plot and argued for a drama unconstrained by logic. The Oberiuty produced poetry, manifestos, plays, and provocative performances that attempted to expand the meaning of words through distortion and juxtaposition. Along with other avant-gardists, the Oberiuty came under government attack as a threat to socialism in 1930, at which time they disbanded rather than risk reprisals for their continued public affiliation. Vvedensky was arrested and imprisoned in 1931 and began living in exile in Kursk in 1932. In 1936 he moved to Kharkov, Ukraine, where in 1938 he wrote Christmas at the Ivanovs' (his only full-length drama), not only a parody of the realistic conven­ tions and assumptions of socialist realist drama of the 1930s, but also a demon­ stration of the absurdity of everyday, domestic routine and the meaninglessness



of life in general (like lonesco's Bald Soprano [1950] and a number of other plays from the Theater of the Absurd). Vvedensky was arrested once again on September 27, 1941, but the circumstances of his death remain uncertain; either he died of dysentery, or he was shot by a guard around December 20, 1941, while being transported from Kharkov in a prison convoy.




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The Oberiuty
_ ^ ^ ^ ^ more entertaining and funnier exercise in the absurd than Is^^ ^ ^ f l Elizabeth Bam, Vvedensky's Christmas at the Ivanovs' is an "antin^p» v ^ f t l Christmas anti-play" (to borrow George Gibian's character_ ization) which freely uses absurdist, grotesque, and surreal techniques 0 ^ ^ to spoof not only the conventions of Christmas celebrations but the conventions also of traditional representational drama. The play opens with the seven Ivanov children (though nobody, not even the parents, is called Ivanov) being given a bath by nurses on Christmas Eve. The children all have different surnames and range in age from one to eighty-two years. While they are in the tub, off to the right cooks are slaughtering chickens and suckling pigs. In the art-as-shock style of Dada and Surrealist drama, violence and sex frequently come together. As two of the sisters, Dunya and Sonya, quarrel over the latter's boasts about the size of her breasts and buttocks, a nurse menaces Sonya with an ax because of her bad language. But Sonya is incorrigible and continues to scandalize the rest with frank talk about masturba­ tion and how she intends to expose herself to guests during the Christmas celebration. The nurse finally chops off her head in disgust. After the police remove her, the scene shifts to a forest where woodcutters are felling trees for Christmas. One of them is the nurse's fiance Fyodor, who boasts of his love for her. When the woodcutters ride out on a sled, animals appear and talk among themselves. The patent surrealism of the first scene is reinforced in the animal scene, in which the dialogue takes place between a giraffe, a wolf, a beaverlike animal, a lion, and a "porky" suckling pig. The surreal and absurd merge in the following scene as the dead Sonya's mother and father return home, find their daughter in a coffin with her decapi­ tated head lying on a cushion nearby, and then proceed to have intercourse in the same room. Within the context of the surreal, everything, of course, is possible. And so we find absurd stage directions such as the following in which Vvedensky is obviously having fun with his readers: Sonya (formerly a thirty-two-year-old girl) lies like a railway post that has been knocked over. Can she hear what her mother is saying? How can she? She is quite dead. She has been killed. The door opens. Father enters, followed by Fyodor, followed by woodcutters. They carry in a Christmas tree. They see the coffin, and all take off their caps. Except for the tree, which has no cap and which understands nothing about it all. (p. 171; all translations from George Gibian, ed. and trans., The Man with the Black Coat Russia's Literature of the Absurd: Selected Works ofDaniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky [Cornell University Press, 1971 ]) Moreover, at the very end of the scene Sonya's head and body engage in conver­ sation (p. 172):
Reprinted from Harold B. Segel, "The Oberiuty: Swan Song of the NER" in Twentieth Century Russian Drama (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 230-38.

THE HEAD: Body, you heard everything. THE BODY: I heard nothing. I have no ears. But I felt it all. In the realm of the surreal, not only is everything possible but inversion is commonplace. When the murderess-nurse is brought to an insane asylum for examination, it appears that the one who is really insane is the examining doctor. Believing himself to be persecuted, he fires a pistol at a mirror which he takes to be one of his enemies. When an attendant enters and asks who fired the gun, the doctor says that it was the mirror. Before the scene ends, Vvedensky manages to slip in another surreal stage direction, this one calling for the doctor's patients to sail away out of the room in a boat, pushing themselves along the floor with oars. They are off to pick berries and mushrooms. With the third act virtually all pretense of a plot vanishes. The opening stage direction reads: Table. A coffin on the table. In the coffin, Sonya Ostrova. Inside Sonya Ostrova, a heart. In the heart, coagulating blood. In the blood, red and white corpuscles. Also of course gangrene poison, (p. 181) The first speaker is the dog Vera, who recites a poem. The one-year-old boy Petya comes in and he and the dog converse. At one point the dog asks him if he is surprised that she is talking and not barking. Petya's answer? "What can surprise me, at my age? Calm down." At the end of the scene, brother and sister Misha Pestrov and Dunya Shustrova enter. Misha wishes her a Happy Christmas, then declares: "Soon there will be a Christmas pee." Dunya replies, "Not pee but bee. No bee but tree. Best wishes. Is Sonya sleeping?" The dog Vera answers the question, saying, "No. She is peeing." The scene shifts next to a courtroom, where no sooner does the judge appear than he declares that he is dying and is quickly replaced with another judge. But the second judge also dies and has to be replaced. The court protocol read by the Secretary consists of nothing more than a series of nonsense qua­ trains. Finally, the nurse who killed Sonya is sentenced to be executed by hanging. The fourth act [follows,] with another typical Vvedensky stage direction: The ninth scene, like all the preceding ones, represents events which took place six years before my birth, or forty years ago. That is the least of it. So why should we grieve and weep that somebody was killed? We didn't know any of them, and anyway they have all died. (p. 185) The children are at last permitted to view the Christmas tree. The mother plays the piano and sings, but the mood becomes somber when the mother recalls Sonya's death and begins to weep. At this point, the twenty-five-year-old son Volodya shoots himself in the temple and then tells his mother not to cry but to laugh for he too has shot himself. The mother replies by singing that she will not spoil their good time. But the topic of death again intrudes when the oneyear-old son Petya says that life will pass quickly and soon they will all die. Thereafter the characters onstage die (after announcing that they are about to die), leaving just the father and mother. Before they too die, they exchange the following (p. 189)..

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FATHER P.: They've died too. They say the woodcutter Fyodor has finished his studies and become a teacher of Latin. What has happened to me? A stab­ bing in the heart. I see nothing. I'm dying. MOTHER p.: What are you saying? You see there is a man of the common people, and he's worked his way up. God, what an unhappy Christmas we're having. (She falls down and dies.) In their shocking, often puzzling, yet often delightful blending of the absurd, grotesque, and nonsensical t h e plays of Kharms and Vvedensky represent an e x t r e m e f o r m , perhaps the most extreme, o f Russian avant-garde drama of the first t w o decades of the twentieth century. But in order t o view them in the proper perspective, they should be regarded, I think, as the end of a tradition rather than as an isolated episode in the history of twentieth-century Russian drama o r as the beginning of anything new. T h e absurd and grotesque permeate 3 the most original Russian plays of the N E P [ N e w Economic Policy] era, but the a5 plays of Kharms and Vvedensky are anything but typical NEP satires. Apart from o the names of the characters, there is nothing Russian about the plays, nor do § they bristle with the topical satire of the comedies of Erdman, Romashov, Buift gakov, and Mayakovsky. They also lack the philosophical dimension and social tf implications of the plays of such later absurdists as lonesco, Beckett, Pinter, and t the Poles Siawomir Mrozek and Tadeusz Rozewicz. Christmas at the Ivanovs is a _ spoof on the ritual of Christmas celebration but it cannot be seen as directed £§ against a Russian celebration o f Christmas. For all its nonsense, Elizabeth Bam does evoke a sense of dread but what further o r m o r e specific meaning does the play have? Because of their apparent absence o f meaning, their experimental nature, their sexual frankness, and their mocking irreverence, the plays o f Kharms and Vvedensky lay beyond any possible redemption once socialist realism became the aesthetic law of the land. Their suppression and the fate suffered by their authors meant that a watershed in postrevolutionary Russian literature had been reached; N E P was definitely at an end, not only as an economic policy but, more grievously, as an artistic ambience.

Select Bibliography on Vvedensky
Nakhimovsky, Alice Stone. Laughter in the Void: An Introduction to the Writings ofDaniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky. Vienna: Wiener Slawistischer Almanach, 1982. Nikol'skaia, Tat'iana. "The Oberiuty and the Theatricalization of Life." In Daniel Kharms and the Poetics of the Absurd, ed. Neil Cornwell, 195-99. Houndmills, England: Macmillan, 1991. Vishevsky, Anatoly. "Tradition in the Topsy-Turvy World of Parody: Analysis of Two 'Oberiu' Plays." Slavic and East European Journal 30.3 (Fall 1986): 355-66. See also Gibian; Listengarten; and Roberts, in the General Bibliography.

Christmas at the Ivanovs
Aleksandr Vvedensky

PETYA PEROV—one-year-old boy NINA SEROVA—eight-year-old girl VARYA PETROVA—seventeen-year-old girl VOLODYA KOMAROV—twenty-five-year-old boy

SONYA OSTROVA—thirty-two-year-old girl
MISHA PESTROV—seventy-six-year-old boy DUNYA SHUSTROVA—eighty-two-year-old girl

PUZYROVA—mother PUZYROV—father FYODOR THE WOODCUTTER THE DOG VERA UNDERTAKER Nannies, policemen, woodcutters, a clerk, a medical attendant, a doctor, patients, judges, court employees, a secretary, a giraffe, a lion, a piglet, chambermaids, cooks, soldiers, teachers of Latin and Greek. The action takes place in the 1890s.
This translation is published here for the first time. Trans. Julia Listengarten and Karin Coonrod.


(There is a painted bathtub in the first scene. Christmas Eve, so the children are bathing. A chest of drawers stands there, as well. To the right of the door, cooks are slaughtering chickens and slaughtering piglets. Nannies, nannies, nannies are washing the children. All the children are in the big bathtub, except Petya Perov, a one-year-old boy, who is bathing in a pan standing directly in front of the door. A clock hangs on the wall to the left of the door. Its face shows nine in the evening.) ONE-YEAR-OLD BOY PETYA PEROV Will there be Christmas? There will be. Yet suddenly there will not be. Suddenly I will die. NANNY Wash yourself, Petya Perov. Soap your ears and neck. You can't talk

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I can talk inside my thoughts. I can cry. I can laugh. What do you want? VARYA PETROVA (seventeen-year-old girl) Volodya, scrub my back. God knows, moss has grown on it. What do you think? VOLODYA KOMAROV (twenty-five-year-old boy) I think nothing. I burned my


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(seventy-six-year old boy) Now you will have a blot. Which I know nothing will remove. Ever. SONYA OSTROVA (thirty-two-year old girl) You, Misha, are always wrong. Better look at what has happened to my breasts. DUNYA SHUSTROVA (eighty-two-year-old girl) Bragging again. You bragged about the buttocks, now the breasts. Fear God. SONYA OSTROVA (thirty-two-year-old girl. Hangs her head like a grown-up Ukrainian.) You hurt me. Fool, idiot, slut. NANNY (waving an axe as though it were a small hatchet) Sonya, if you keep cursing, I will tell your father and mother, I will kill you with the axe. PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) And you will feel for a brief flash how your skin splits open and how the blood spurts out. What you will feel next is unknown to us. NINA SEROVA (eight-year-oldgirl) Sonyechka, that nanny is crazy or criminal. She can do anything. Why did they bring her to us? MISHA PESTROV (seventy'-six-year-old boy) Children, quit quarreling. Nobody will live to see Christmas this way. The parents have bought candles, candies, and matches—matches to light the candles. SONYA OSTROVA (thirty-two-year-old girl) I don't need the candles. I have a finger. VARYA PETROVA (seventeen-year-old girl) Sonya, don't persist in this. Don't persist. Clean yourself better.


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(twenty-five-year-old boy) Girls must wash more often than boys or they become repulsive. I think so. MISHA PESTROV (seventy-six-year-old boy) Oh, enough of this rubbish. Tomor­ row is Christmas, and we will all be celebrating. PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) Only I will sit in the arms of the guests in turn, with a serious and stupid look, as if I understood nothing. I and invisible God. SONYA OSTROVA (thirty-two-year-old girl) And when I enter the hall, when they light the Christmas tree, I will hold up my skirt and show everything to everybody. NANNY (becoming ferocious) No, you won't. You have nothing to show—you are still little. SONYA OSTROVA (thirty-two-year-old girl) No, I will show it. I still have a little one. This is true, what you say. This is even better. This is not what you have. NANNY (Seizes the axe and chops off her head.) You deserved this death. CHILDREN (scream) Murderer. She is a murderer. Save us. Stop the bath. (The cooks stop slaughtering chickens and slaughtering piglets. Having moved away from the body two paces, the bloody, reckless head lies on the floor. The dog Vera howls behind the doors. The police enter.) POLICE Where on earth are the parents? CHILDREN (in chorus) They are at the theater. POLICE They left a while ago, then? CHILDREN A while, but not forever. POLICE What are they watching, A ballet or a drama? CHILDREN Must be a ballet. We love our mama. POLICE Such cultured people discern we. CHILDREN Do you always wear cothurni? POLICE Always. We see a cadaver And a head disengaged. Here a person is lying ineffectively, Herself not whole entirely. What happened here? CHILDREN Nanny with the axe Killed our sister-dear. POLICE And where is the murderer? NANNY I am here in front of you. Tie me up. Lay me down. And execute me.

Hey, servants, a light. SERVANTS We sob immoderately. And the light burns shamelessly. NANNY (sobbing) Sentence the horse, Pity my remorse. POLICE Why sentence the horse, If the horse is not guilty Of this bloodshed? We will never find A guilty horse. NANNY I am mentally deranged. POLICE Hurry up, get dressed. They'll decide over there. You'll go through examination by the experts. Put handcuffs or fetters on her. ONE COOK NOW, nanny, your destiny lies with these fetters.


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Hey, cooks, quiet. Hurry up, hurry up, let's go. Good-bye, children.


(A knocking on the door is heard. Puzyrov-father and Puzyrova-mother rush in. They are driven mad with grief. They shout, bark, and bellow horribly. A clock hangs on the wall to the left of the door. Its face shows twelve midnight.)


(The same evening and a forest. There is so much snow that one could carry it off by cartloads. And, in fact, this is happening. In the forest woodcutters cut down Christmas trees. Tomorrow many Russian and Jewish families will have Christmas. Among other woodcutters one called Fyodor stands out. He is the fiance of the nanny who committed the murder. What does he know about it? He knows nothing yet. He gently cuts down the Christmas tree for Christmas at the Puzyrovs. All the beasts have hidden in their lairs. The woodcutters sing a hymn in chorus. On the same clock to the left of the door the same nine in the evening.)

How pleasant in a wood, How bright the snowfall. Pray to the wheel so good, It is rounder, rounder than all. The silent, lovely trees Lie lengthwise on horses' backs. Stepchildren squeal angelically, And in their sleds make tracks. Tomorrow is Christmas Day, And we dishonorable folk

To toast it, shout "hooray" And drink until we choke. God watches us from his throne, Gently and knowingly he smiles. "Ah, people," he softly intones, "You are my little orphan exiles." FYODOR (pensively) No, you don't know what I will tell you now. I have a fiancee. She works as a nanny for the big Puzyrov family. She is very beautiful. I love her very much. She and I are already living together as husband and wife. (Each woodcutter, to the extent of his ability, makes a gesture to indicate interest in what Fyodor just said. As it turns out, they cannot speak. The fact that just now they were singing is simply an occurrence of the sort life is so



full of.)


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But she is very nervous, that fiancee of mine. Nothing to be done. Hard job. Big family. Many children. Nothing to be done.


(Although he spoke, he spoke out of order. So it doesnt count His friends always talk out of order.)

After I have done with her, I never feel bored and never feel dis­ gusted. We have one soul. So now I will bring the tree, and at night I will go to her. She has bathed the children and is waiting for me now. Nothing to be done.


(Fyodor and the woodcutters sit down on the sled and ride out of the forest) (Beasts emerge: a Giraffe, a wonderful beast; a Wolf, a beaverlike beast; a Lion, the king; and a porky Piglet.) GIRAFFE The clock is ticking. WOLF Like a herd of sheep. LION Like a herd of bulls. PIGLET Like sturgeon gristle. GIRAFFE The stars shine. WOLF Like the blood of sheep. LION Like the blood of bulls. PIGLET Like the milk of a wet nurse. GIRAFFE The rivers flow. WOLF Like the words of sheep.


Like the words of bulls. Like the goddess salmon. Where is our death?



WOLF In the souls of sheep. LION In the souls of bulls. PIGLET In the spacious vessels.

Thank you very much. The lesson is over.

(The beasts—the Giraffe, a wonderful beast; the Wolf, a beaverlike beast; the Lion, the king; and the porky Piglet, just as they are in life—exeunt. The forest remains alone. The face on the clock to the left of the door shows midnight)

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SCENE 3 (Night Candles, floating down river. Glasses. Beard. Saliva. Tears. Puzyrovamother. She wears feminine armor. She is a beauty. She has a large bosom. Sonya Ostrova lies prone in the coffin. She is bloodless. Her cut-off head lies on the cushion right up against her former body. A clock hangs on the wall to the left of the door. Its face shows two in the morning.) PUZYROV-FATHER (cries) My little girl, Sonya, how can this be? How can this be? In the morning you were still playing with the ball and running around as if alive. PUZYROVA-MOTHER Sonyechka. Sonyechka. Sonyechka. Sonyechka. Sonyechka. Sonyechka. Sonyechka. PUZYROV-FATHER (cries) T h e devil m a d e us go to the theater and watch that silly ballet with woolly fat-bellied ballet dancers. As I now recollect, o n e of them, jumping and shining, smiled at m e . But I thought, why do I need her: I have children, I have a wife, I have money. And I was so exhilarated, so exhilarated. T h e n we left the theater, and I called the c o a c h m a n and told h i m : Vanya, drive us h o m e fast—my heart tells m e something is wrong. PUZYROVA-MOTHER (yawns) O h cruel G o d , cruel G o d , why are you punish­ ing us? PUZYROV-FATHER (blows his nose) We were like a flame, and you are ex­ tinguishing us. PUZYROVA-MOTHER (powders herself) We wanted to celebrate Christmas for our children.

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(kisses her) And we will celebrate, we will. No matter what.


(undresses herself) Oh, we will have a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree of all Christmas trees. (his imagination on fire) You are my beauty, and the chil­ dren are such sweethearts.



(gives in to him) God, why does the sofa creak so? How

awful this is. (having finished his business, he cries) God, our daughter has died, and we are here like beasts. PUZYROVA-MOTHER (cries) Didn't die, didn't die, that's the thing. She was killed.

(A nanny enters carrying the one-year-old Petya Perov.) The boy woke up. There is no peace in his soul. He is frowning. He looks at everything with repugnance. PUZYROVA-MOTHER Sleep, Petenka, sleep. We are keeping you safe. PETYA (one-year-old boy) But is Sonya still dead? PUZYROV-FATHER (sighs) Yes, she is dead. Yes, she was killed. Yes, she is dead. PETYA (one-year-old boy) I thought so. So will there be Christmas? PUZYROVA-MOTHER There will be. There will be. What are all you children doing right now? PETYA (one-year-old boy) All of us children are sleeping right now. And I am falling asleep. (He falls asleep.)

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(The nanny takes him to the parents, who bless him with the sign of the cross and kiss him. The nanny takes him away.)

(to his wife) You stay alone for a while by the coffin. I will be right back. I will go to see if the Christmas tree is coming in. (He runs out of the room. He returns in a second, rubbing his hands.) We need to add more candles—these are sinking into oblivion. (He bows low to the coffin and his wife and exits on his toes.) PUZYROVA-MOTHER (alone) Sonyechka, you know, as we were climbing the stairs, a black crow was flying above me all the time, and I felt my heart twisting with sorrow, and when we came into the apartment, and when the servant Stepan Nikolaev said, "She was killed, she was killed," I did not cry out in a gloomy voice. How frightened I was. How frightened. How uneasy.

(Sonya Ostrova—formerly a thirty-two-year-old girl—lies still like a cut-down rail post. Does she hear what her mother is saying to her? No, how could she? She is completely dead. She was killed.) (The door opens wide. Puzyrov-father enters. Followed by Fyodor. Followed by the woodcutters. They carry the Christmas tree. They see the coffin, and all of them take their hats off. Except the Christmas tree, which does not have a hat and which understands nothing about this.)


Quiet, my boys, quiet. Here is my little daughter-girl breath­ ing her last breaths. But not even her last (he sobs)—her head is cut off. FYODOR You are speaking about grief to us. But we are bringing happiness to you. Here we brought the Christmas tree.


SECOND WOODCUTTER An epistle to the Greeks.

A person is drowning. Save him. (All exeunt. Sonya Ostrova, the former thirty-two-year-old girl, remains alone. Her remains: head and body.) THE HEAD Body, did you hear it all? THE BODY I, Head, heard nothing. I have no ears. I felt it all.

(The face on the clock to the left of the door shows three in the morning.) ACT II

(Precinct. Night Sealing wax. Police. The clock face to the left of the door shows midnight. The clerk is sitting and the constable is sitting.) CLERK Sealing wax always has hot lips. The quill pen has two beautiful hips.

I am bored, clerk, I stood guard all day, eclipsed. I froze. I shivered. And nothing matters to me, Wandering rain and pyramids Egyptian in sunny Egypt. Amuse me. CLERK You, constable, I see, have lost your mind. Amuse you? I am your boss.

Oh, God,
Pharmacies, taverns, and houses of ill repute Will one day drive me mad and dissolute. Instead of taking poisoned people to the pharmacy, Fd prefer to sit in a library And read various passages of Marx and dream, And in the morning, drink not vodka but cream. CLERK And what happened to that drunk? Is he still swinging?

He is swinging like this pendulum, And the Milky Way is swinging above him. How many there are of these toilers of the sea, Outcast folk and peasant serfs.


(Enter Police Chief and gendarmes.) Everyone stand. Everything clear. Pray to God. Right here, right now, they are bringing a criminal.

(Soldiers, servants, cooks, and teachers of Latin and Greek drag in the nanny who killed Sonya.)

Let her go. (Addresses the nanny.) Go to prison. NANNY My hands are covered with blood. My teeth are covered with blood. God has abandoned me. I am mentally deranged. She is doing some­ thing now. POLICE CHIEF You nanny, who are you talking about? Look, don't ramble in your speech. Give me a glass of vodka. Who is she? NANNY Sonya Ostrova, whose head I cut off. She is thinking something now. I am cold. My head hurts, as does my stomach. CLERK And still young. And still not bad-looking. And still beautiful. And still like a star. And still like a string. And still like a soul. CONSTABLE (to nanny) I can imagine your situation, You killed the girl with the axe. Now your soul suffers mutilation, A spiritual parallax. POLICE CHIEF SO, nanny, how do you feel? Is it pleasant to be a murderer?
NANNY NO. Difficult.

You know, they'll execute you. My God, they'll execute you. NANNY I bang my fists. I bang my feet. Her head is in my head. I am Sonya Ostrova—the nanny cut my head off. Fedya-Fyodor, save me.

Once, I remember, I stood on guard in a bitter frost. People walked by, animals ran wildly. A cloud of Greek horsemen passed by on the boulevard like a shadow. I blew a loud whistle, calling the janitors to myself. For a long time we all stood looking through the telescopes. Putting our ears to the ground, we waited for the clatter of hooves. Then, vainly and idly we looked for the army of horsemen. Quietly sobbing, alas for us, we departed for our homes. POLICE CHIEF Why have you told us this? I am asking you. Fool! Climber! You do not know the civil service. CONSTABLE I wanted to distract the murderer from her dark thoughts. CLERK Knocking. These are medics. Medics, take her to your lunatic asylum.

{Knocking on the door, the medics enter.) MEDICS Whom do we take—that Napoleon? {Exeunt The face on the clock to the left of the door shows four in the morning.)

{Lunatic asylum. A doctor stands near the barrier and aims at the mirror. Flowers, paintings, and small rugs are around. The face on the clock to the left of the door shows four in the morning.) DOCTOR God, how terrifying. Everyone is crazy around here. They haunt me. They devour my dreams. They want to shoot me. Here is one of them; he sneaked up and is aiming at me. He aims but doesn't shoot, he aims but doesn't shoot. He doesn't shoot, he doesn't shoot, he doesn't shoot, but he aims. So I will shoot. {He shoots. The mirror breaks. Enter a stony attendant.) Who fired the cannon? DOCTOR I don't know—probably the mirror. And how many of you are there? ATTENDANT There are many of us. DOCTOR Now, now. My foolishness hurts a little. Somebody has been brought in. ATTENDANT The nanny-murderer has been brought in from the precinct. DOCTOR Is she black as coal? ATTENDANT You know I don't know everything. DOCTOR What to do? I don't like this little rug. {He shoots it. The attendant falls as though dead.) Why did you fall? I shot the little rug, not you. ATTENDANT {gets up) It seemed to me I was a little rug. I was mistaken. This nanny says she is mentally deranged. DOCTOR That is what she says; we don't say that. We won't say that without reason. I, you know, hold all our garden with all its trees and under­ ground worms and silent clouds right here, right here—what is it called? {He points to the palm of his hand.) ATTENDANT Grapes. DOCTOR No. ATTENDANT Wall. DOCTOR No. In the palm of my hand. So, bring in this nanny.

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{The nanny enters.)

NANNY I am mentally deranged. I killed a child. DOCTOR It is not good to kill children. You are healthy. NANNY I did not do it on purpose. I am mentally deranged. I can be executed. DOCTOR You are healthy. You have color in your face. Count to three.
NANNY I can't.

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One. Two. Three. DOCTOR You see, and yet you say you can't. You have a constitution of iron. NANNY I am talking desperately. I didn't count, your attendant did. DOCTOR At this point it is difficult to prove. Do you hear me? ATTENDANT I hear you. I am the nanny, I must hear everything. NANNY God, my life is ending. Soon I'll be executed. DOCTOR Take her away and bring in the Christmas tree. Thank God, that's better. Just a little bit jollier. I am sick and tired of being on duty. Good night. (Patients sail from the hall into the room in a boat, pushing the oars against the floor.) Good morning patients, where are you going? To pick mushrooms, to pick berries. DOCTOR Very good. ATTENDANT I'll go for a swim with you. DOCTOR Nanny, go execute yourself. You are healthy. You are blooming with health.

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(The face on the clock to the left of the door shows six in the morning.)

(Corridor. Doors over here. Doors over there. And doors right here. Dark. Fyodor the woodcutter, fiance of the nanny who killed Sonya Ostrova, in a tailcoat, with candy in hand, walks through the corridor. For some unknown reason he is blindfolded. The face on the clock to the left of the door shows five in the morning.) FYODOR (enters through one of the doors) Are you sleeping? VOICE OF ONE OF THE MAIDS I am sleeping, but come in. FYODOR That means you are in bed. Look, I brought you a treat. THE MAID Where did you come from? FYODOR I was at the public baths. I washed myself with brushes, like a horse. They blindfolded me. Why don't I take off my tailcoat? MAID Take your clothes off. Lie on me.

I will, I will. No rush. Eat the treat. MAID I am eating it. And you do your work. Tomorrow we will have Christmas. FYODOR (he lies on her) I know. I know. MAID And our girl was killed. FYODOR I know. I heard. MAID She is already lying in the coffin. FYODOR I know. I know. MAID The mother cried, and also the father. FYODOR (gets up off her) I am bored with you. You are not my fiancee.

MAID SO what?


are a stranger to my spirit. I will soon disappear like a poppy. MAID Who needs you? But, do you want to do it one more time? FYODOR No, no, I have a terrible sadness. I will soon disappear like happiness. MAID What are you thinking about right now? FYODOR About how the whole world has become uninteresting to me after you. And the table lost the salt and the sky and the walls and the window and the sky and the forest. I will soon disappear like the night. MAID You are impolite. I will punish you for that. Look at me. I will tell you something unnatural. FYODOR Try. You are a toad. MAID Your fiancee killed the girl. Did you see the killed girl? Your fiancee cut off her head.
FYODOR (croaks)

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(grins) Do you know the girl Sonya Ostrova? That is who she killed. FYODOR (meows) MAID What, are you in pain? FYODOR (sings like a bird) MAID And this is the one you loved. And why? And what for? And you yourself probably . . .

FYODOR No, not myself. . .

Sure, sure, do you think I believe you? FYODOR Word of honor. MAID G O away. I want to sleep. Tomorrow will be Christmas. FYODOR I know. I know. MAID What are you babbling now? I want nothing to do with you. FYODOR I am babbling out of great grief. What is left for me to do? MAID Grieve, grieve, grieve. And still nothing will help you. You are right. FYODOR And still nothing will help me. MAID Yet maybe you will try to study, study, study.


I will try. I will learn Latin. I will become a teacher. Good-bye.

MAID Good-bye.

(Fyodor disappears. The maid sleeps. The face on the clock to the left of the door shows six in the morning.) ACT III


(Table. Coffin on the table. Sonya Ostrova in the coffin. A heart inside Sonya Ostrova. Coagulating blood inside the heart. Red and white corpuscles in the blood. And of course putrefaction of the corpse. Everybody sees that it is dawn. The dog Vera, with her tail between her legs, walks around the coffin. The face on the clock to the left of the door shows eight in the morning.)


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Around the coffin walk I Looking carefully with my eye. _ What could this death signify? A poor person prays for bread. Bronze folk pray to blue sky spread. A priest will say the Mass instead. The corpse lies here freezing. The taste of ham is pleasing. Dulcinea is dead—no appeasing. Every place there are bloody spots. What evil manners, evil plots. Nanny, your action rots. Life is for decoration. Death is for trepidation. Why, Nanny, this annihilation? For the most important arteries And the most courageous bacteria, What, nanny, are your criteria? Fyodor would your buttocks pet Always in the morning sweat, Now you'll be a corpse to forget. (The one-year-old boy Petya Perov enters, stumbling.)

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I am the youngest—I wake up earlier than everybody else. I remember now that two years ago I didn't remember anything. I hear the dog reciting a speech in verse. She is crying ever so quietly.


How cold it is in the hall. What, Petya, did you call? PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) What can I call? I can only announce some things.

I howl, I howl, I howl, I strive, Wishing Sonya were alive.
PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) She was unusually indecent. And now it is

frightening to look at her. THE DOG VERA Are you not surprised that I speak and do not bark? PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) What can surprise me at my age? Relax. THE DOG VERA Give me a glass of water. This is too much for me. PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) Don't worry. During my short life I will see even worse things. THE DOG VERA This Sonya, wretched Ostrova, was immoral. But I showed her . .. Explain all this to me. PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) Daddy, Mummy, Uncle, Aunty, Nanny. THE DOG VERA What are you saying? Come to your senses. PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) I am now one year old. Don't forget. Daddy. Mummy. Uncle. Aunty. Fire. Cloud. Apple. Stone. Don't forget. (He leaves the room in his nanny's arms, while pooping in his pants.) THE DOG VERA (recollecting) He actually is still little and young. (Misha Pestrov and Dunya Shustrova enter, mumbling and holding hands.)

(seventy-six-year-old boy) Happy day! Today is Christmas.

Soon there will be glee. DUNYA SHUSTROVA (eighty-two-year-old girl) Not glee but a bee. And not a bee but a tree. Happy day. Happy day. Is Sonya sleeping?
THE DOG VERA No, she is peeing.

(The face on the clock to the left of the door shows nine in the morning.)

(There is a painted courtroom in the eighth scene. Vintage judges—judging in wigs. Insects are hopping. Mothballs are gathering strength. Gendarmes are inflating. The face on the clock to the left of the door shows eight in the morning.) JUDGE (croaking) Having not been able to wait until Christmas—I died.

{He is quickly replaced by another judge.) I feel bad, I feel bad. Save me. {He dies. He is quickly replaced by another judge.) ALL {in chorus) We are frightened by the two deaths. It is a rare occasion—judge for yourself.

ALL OTHERS {in turn):

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We judge. We will judge And so awake. They carry The court And the vessel Of the people. They carry The judges On dishes. {Having started its session, the court gets down to the case of Kozlov and Oslov.)

{reads from the record) One winter evening Kozlov Went to wash his nanny goats. At the river he met Oslov, Who had scrubbed his donkeys' coats. Oslov says to Kozlov: "What I say to you is true. And written in the Chasoslov: Wet goats are taboo." Kozlov says to Oslov: "You can spare the reprimand. It's the psalter that I'm fond of; Let the Chasoslov be damned!" Oslov says to Kozlov: "But the Psalms us likewise tell That goats you mustn't wash off, Or, by God, you'll go to Hell!" Kozlov says to Oslov: "Oh, shut up, you stupid twit. My goats have had enough of you And think you're full of shit!"

Oslov says to Kozlov: "Hey, don't you treat me like a fool. Fll break this willow branch off And beat your goats—you mule!" Kozlov says to Oslov: "Touch my goats and by this hand, Pll beat your stupid donkeys down Until they cannot stand!" "You stupid ass!" "You old nanny!" And the snow is turning red; For now there's lots of blood, And nearly all the livestock's dead. For just like wilting flowers, The goats lie on the snow; And the donkeys, overpowered, Have fallen to their foe. Kozlov brays at Oslov, "Resuscitate my goats!" Oslov bleats at Kozlov, "Revive my donkeys!" JUDGES The phenomenon of death is evident THE SECRETARY Hmm, evident.
JUDGES Do not say "hmm."

right, I won't.

I begin the trial: I judge, I argue, I sit, I decide —No, I do not transgress. Once more: I judge, I argue, I sit, I decide —No, I do not transgress. Once more: I judge, I argue, I sit,

I will decide —No, I will not transgress. I have finished judging—everything is clear to me. Adelina Franzevna Shmetterling, who has been a nanny and has killed the girl Sonya Ostrova: execute—hang her. NANNY (shouts) I cannot live. THE SECRETARY So you will not. So we are meeting you halfway. (Everybody understands that the nanny was present at the court trial, and the conversation about Kozlov and Oslov took place simply to divert attention. The face on the clock to the left of the door shows nine in the morning.) (End of Scene 8. End of Act III) |


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(Scene 9, like all the previous ones, depicts events that took place six years before my birth or forty years before us. At least. So there is no need for us to get upset and grieve that somebody was killed. We didnt know any of them, and they all died, in any case. A couple of hours passed between Act 3 and Act 4. In front of the tightly closed doors stand the children, freshly washed, wreathed with flowers. The face on the clock to the left of the door shows six in the evening.) PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) They will open right now. They will open right now. How interesting. I will see the Christmas tree. NINA SEROVA (eight-year-old girl) You saw it last year, too. PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) I saw, I saw. But I don't remember. I am still young. Still silly. VARYA PETROVA (seventeen-year-old girl) Ah, Christmas tree, Christmas tree. Ah, Christmas tree, Christmas tree. Ah, Christmas tree, Christmas tree. DUNYA SHUSTROVA (eighty-two-year-old girl) I will jump around. I will shout with laughter. VOLODYA KOMAROV (twenty-five-year-old boy) Nanka, I want to go to the toilet. NANNY Volodya, if you need to go to the toilet, whisper in your own ear; otherwise you will embarrass the girls. MISHA PESTROV (seventy-six-year-old boy) But do girls go to the toilet? NANNY They do. They go. MISHA PESTROV (seventy-six-year-old boy) But how? How do they go? And do you go? NANNY They go the way it needs to be done. I go too. VOLODYA KOMAROV (twenty-five-year-old boy) See, I went. See, it feels better. How soon will they let us in?


(seventeen-year-old girl, whispers) Nanny. I also need to go. I am excited. NANNY (whispers) Pretend that you are going. MISHA PESTROV (seventy-six-year-old boy) Where does she want to go with you? GIRLS (in chorus) Where the tsar goes on foot. (They cry and stay back.) NANNY You fools. You should have said that you were going to play the piano. PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) Why do you teach them to lie? What is the use of this lie? How boring to live, no matter what they say. (Suddenly the door opens. In the doorway stand the parents.)

Well, let's celebrate. I did what I could. Here is the Christ­ mas tree. And right now Mama will play. PUZYROVA-MOTHER (true to what was said, sits down at the piano, plays, and sings) Suddenly the music thunders Like a sword smiting granite asunder. All open the door And we enter Tver. Not Tver, but simply the festive hall, Filled with the Christmas tree so tall. All hide the sting of spite: One flies like a bee in sunlight, Another like a moth in a chase Above the trunk of the tree in space, And the third like a huge fireplace, The fourth like chalk erased, The fifth brushes up against the candle and screams, And I growl, I growl, I growl in dreams. PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) Christmas tree, I must tell you: How beauti­ ful you are. NINA SEROVA (eight-year-old girl) Christmas tree, I want to explain to you: How good you are. VARYA PETROVA (seventeen-year-old girl) Ah, Christmas tree, Christmas tree. Ah, Christmas tree, Christmas tree. Ah, Christmas tree, Christmas tree. VOLODYA KOMAROV (twenty-five-year-old boy) Christmas tree, I want to inform you: How splendid you are. MISHA PESTROV (seventy-six-year-old boy) Bliss, bliss, bliss, bliss. DUNYA SHUSTROVA (eighty-two-year-old girl) Like teeth. Like teeth. Like teeth. Like teeth.



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I am very glad that everybody is having fun. I am very unhappy that Sonya died. How sad that everybody is sad. PUZYROVA-MOTHER (sings) Aouyeeya BGRT. (Unable to continue singing, cries.) VOLODYA KOMAROV (twenty'-five-year-old boy. He shoots at his temple above the ear.) Mama, don't cry. Laugh. See, I shot myself. PUZYROVA-MOTHER (sings) All right, I will not darken your celebration. Let's celebrate. And yet, poor, poor Sonya. PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) It's okay, it's okay, Mama. Life will pass quickly. Soon everybody will die. PUZYROVA-MOTHER Petya, are you joking? What are you saying? PUZYROV-FATHER He doesn't seem to be joking. Volodya Komarov has already died. PUZYROVA-MOTHER Did he really die? PUZYROV-FATHER Yes, certainly. He shot himself. DUNYA SHUSTROVA (eighty-two-year-old girl) I am dying while I sit in the armchair. PUZYROVA-MOTHER What is she saying? MISHA PESTROV (seventy-six-year-old boy) I longed for longevity. There is no longevity. I have died. NANNY Children's diseases, children's diseases. When will they ever learn to conquer you? (Dies.) NINA SEROVA (eight-year-old girl) Nanny, nanny, what is it with you? Why do you have such a sharp nose? PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) The nose is sharp, but the knife and razors are still sharper. PUZYROV-FATHER We still have our two youngest children left. Petya and Nina. Well, we will carry on somehow. PUZYROVA-MOTHER That doesn't console me. What, is the sun outside the window? PUZYROV-FATHER What sun? It is evening right now. We will put out the lights on the Christmas tree. PETYA PEROV (one-year-old boy) I want to die so much. Passionately. I am dying. I am dying. So, I have died. NINA SEROVA (eight-year-old girl) And I. Ah, Christmas tree, Christmas tree. Ah, Christmas tree, Christmas tree. Ah, Christmas tree. That is all. I have died. PUZYROV-FATHER And they too have died. They say that the woodcutter Fyodor has finished studying and has become a teacher of Latin. What is it with me? What a sharp stab in the heart. I see nothing. I am dying.


What are you saying? You see, there is a man of the masses who achieved what he wanted. God, such an unhappy Christmas we are having. (Falls and dies.)

(End of Scene 9, and also of the act, and also of the whole play.) (The face on the clock to the left of the door shows seven in the evening.)

^ p 3 aniil Ivanovich Kharms, playwright, children's fiction writer, M V poet, and theorist, was born on December 30, 1905, in St. ^ L ^ k Petersburg, Russia. A self-styled eccentric who, like Alfred Jarry, attempted to draw public attention to his work through his odd 0 ^ * personal behavior, Kharms was a member of several avant-garde writ­ ing groups during the 1920s. In 1925, he met Vvedensky, and together they became the center of a group of writers who in 1928 officially founded Oberiu; as early as 1926, though, they had produced work along the lines of their 1928 manifesto. Kharms' writing, most notably in his early play Elizabeth Bam (1928), rejects Realism and conventional plot structure in favor of dissemination of a Maeterlinckian-Kafkaesque aura of doom that gives way to a Gogolian atmo­ sphere of absurdity; a dark, even tragigrotesque humor; and an extreme, non­ sensical violence of the kind favored by Artaud in the Theater of Cruelty. Following the disbanding of Oberiu, Kharms limited his published work to children's stories. In 1931, he was arrested and then exiled on account of his writing. Kharms was jailed again on August 23, 1941, and he is believed to have died of starvation in a Ukrainian prison on February 2, 1942. In the late 1960s, his work began to be rediscovered in Eastern Europe and the West, and, in the wake of glasnost, the reprinting and translation of his writing have resulted in a re­ newed appreciation of the contributions of Kharms and the Oberiuty to the dramatic avant-garde.

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T h e Oberiu Manifesto
Daniil Kharms, Aleksandr Vvedensky, and others

Oberiu (the Association for Real Art) works with the House of the Press and unites those working in all forms of art who accept its program and apply it in their work.1 Oberiu is divided into four sections: literature, fine arts, theater, and cinema. The fine-arts section carries on its work in experimental ways; the other sections are presented at evening programs, in stage productions, and in print. At this time Oberiu is organizing a musical section.

The Social Role of Oberiu
The great revolutionary shift in culture and the conditions of everyday life so characteristic of our age is being impeded in the area of art by many abnormal phenomena. We have not yet completely understood the undeni­ able truth that the proletariat cannot be satisfied in the area of art with the artistic method of old schools, that its artistic principles go much deeper and undermine old art at the roots. It is ridiculous to think that when Repin is painting in the year 1905, he is a revolutionary artist. It is still more ridicu­ lous to think that all AKHRR'S [Associations of Artists of Revolutionary Russia] bear within themselves the seeds of a new proletarian art.
Reprinted from The Man with the Black Coat: Russia's Literature of the Absurd—Selected Works of Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky, ed. and trans. George Gibian (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1971), 245-54. © George Gibian. 1. Oberiu was a word made up out of the initial sounds of the words for Association for Real Art (Ob'edinenie Real'nogo Iskusstva). The sound u was added at the end just for fun.

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We welcome the demand for a universally intelligible art comprehen­ sible in its form even to a village schoolboy, but the demand for only such art leads into a maze of the most terrible mistakes. As a result we have heaps of literary trash overflowing in book warehouses, while the reading public of the first proletarian state reads translations of Western bourgeois writers. We understand very well that it is impossible to find a single correct solution for the situation that has developed. But we do not understand at all why a number of artistic schools which work tenaciously, honestly, and persistently in this area are pushed, as it were, to the back alleys of art, at a time when they ought to be supported in every way by the entire Soviet community. We do not understand why the school of Filonov has been pushed out of the Academy, why Malevich cannot carry on his architectural work in the USSR, why Terentev's Inspector General was so badly received. We do not understand why so-called leftist art, which has not a few merits and achievements to its credit, is considered to be hopeless junk and, still worse, charlatanism. How much inner dishonesty, how much artistic bankruptcy is concealed in such a wild approach. Oberiu now comes forward as a new section of leftist revolutionary art. Oberiu does not concern itself only with the subject matter and the high points of artistic work; it seeks an organically new concept of life and ap­ proach to things. Oberiu penetrates into the center of the word, of dramatic action, and of the film frame. The new artistic method of Oberiu is universal. It finds a way to represent any subject. Oberiu is revolutionary precisely by virtue of this method. We are not so presumptuous as to regard our work as completed. But we are firmly convinced that a strong foundation has been laid and that we have enough strength to build further. We believe and know that only the left course in art will lead us to the highway to the new proletarian artistic culture.

Poetry of the Oberiuty
Who are we? And why do we exist? We, the Oberiuty, are honest workers in art. We are poets of a new world view and of a new art. We are not only creators of a poetic language, but also founders of a new feeling for life and its objects. Our will to create is universal. It spans all genres of art and penetrates life, grasping it from all sides. The world covered by the rubbish of the tongues of a multitude of fools bogged down in the mire of "experiences" and "emotions" is now being reborn in all the purity of concrete, bold forms. Some people even now call us zaumniki.2 It is difficult to decide whether that is because of a complete misunderstanding or a hopeless failure to grasp
2. Zaumniki (from zaurn—"trans-sense"): writers who use made-up syllables and sounds, re­ jecting existing languages and referential meaning.

the principles of literary art. No school is more hostile to us than zaum. We, people who are real and concrete to the marrow of our bones, are the first enemies of those who castrate the word and make it into a powerless and senseless mongreL In our work we broaden the meaning of the object and of the word, but we do not destroy it in any way. The concrete object, once its literary and everyday skin is peeled away, becomes a property of art. In poetry the collisions of verbal meanings express that object with the exactness of mechanical technology. Are you beginning to complain that it is not the same object you see in life? Come closer and touch it with your fingers. Look at the object with naked eyes, and you will see it cleansed for the first time of decrepit literary gilding. Maybe you will insist that our subjects are "unreal" and "illogical"? But who said that the logic of life is compulsory in art? We marvel at the beauty of a painted woman despite the fact that, contrary to anatomical logic, the artist twisted out the shoulder blade of his heroine and moved it sideways. Art has a logic of its own, and it does not destroy the object but helps us to know it. We broaden the meaning of the object, the word, and the act. This work proceeds in different directions; each of us has his own creative personality, and this often confuses people. They talk about an accidental association of various people. Evidently they assume that a literary school is something like a monastery in which the monks are all exactly alike. Our association is free and voluntary. It unites masters, not apprentices; artist-painters, not wall painters. Everybody knows himself and everybody knows what links him to the others. A. VVEDENSKY (at the extreme left of our association) breaks the object down into parts, but the object does not thereby lose its concreteness. Vvedensky breaks action down into fragments, but the action does not lose its creative order. If one were to decode it completely, the result would give the appearance of nonsense. Why appearance? Because obvious nonsense is the zaum word, and it is absent from Vvedensky's works. One must be more curious, not too lazy to examine the collision of word meanings. Poetry is not porridge that one swallows without chewing and forgets right away. K. VAGINOV,3 whose world phantasmagoria passes before our eyes as though clothed in fog and trembling. But through this fog you feel the close­ ness of the object and its warmth; you feel the influx of crowds and the rock­ ing of trees which live and breathe after their own fashion, after Vaginov's fashion, for the artist has sculptured them with his own hands and warmed them with his own breath. IGOR BAKHTEREV, a poet who finds himself in the lyrical coloring of his object material. The object and the action, broken down into their compo­ nent parts, spring into being again, renewed by the spirit of new Oberiu
3. The author of several books, among which the novel Goat's Song and the volume of verse An Attempt at Uniting Words by Means of Rhyme are particularly noteworthy.

lyricism. But lyricism here does not exist for its own sake, it is no more than the means of displacing4 the object into the field of new artistic perception. N. ZABOLOTSKY, a poet of naked concrete figures brought close to the eyes of the spectator. One must hear and read him more with one's eyes and (/) fingers than with one's ears. The object does not crumble; on the contrary, it 5 1 becomes tighter and firmer, as though to meet the feeling hand of the O spectator. The development of action and the setting play a secondary role to Q that main task. < DANIIL KHARMS, a poet and dramatist, whose attention is concentrated, >* ■ not on a static figure, but on the collision of a number of objects, on their UJ interrelationships. At the moment of action, the object assumes new conUJ crete traits full of real meaning. The action, turned inside out, in its new 2 appearance still keeps a classical touch and at the same time represents a > broad sweep of the Oberiu worldview. <zf BOR. LEVIN, 5 a prose writer at present working experimentally.

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Such are the broad outlines of the literary section of our association as a whole and of each of us in particular; our poems tell the rest of the story. As people of a concrete world, object, and word—that is how we see our social significance. To cleanse the world by the movements of a hand, to cleanse the object of the rubbish of ancient putrefied cultures—are these not the real needs of our time? It is for that reason that our association bears the name Oberiu—Association for Real Art. O n the Road to a N e w C i n e m a The film has, up to now, not existed as an independent art. It has been a combination of old "arts," and at best there have been isolated timid at­ tempts to chart new paths in the search for a real language of the film. That is how it has been. Now the time has come for the cinema to find its own real face, its own means of making an impression, and its own—really its own—language. Nobody is able to "discover" the cinematography of the future, and we are not promising to do that. Time will do that for us.
4. Displacing: the Russian word is sdvinut', related to the noun sdvig, both very common in the terminology of Russian Futurism, Khlebnikov, and the Oberiuty. It is difficult to find an English word with the same connotations. It means a shift, a change, a push of something into something else. It is frequently used by the Oberiuty because it expresses for them a violent, decisive meta­ morphosis, a shifting from one plane of being or perception or representation to another—a wrench­ ing or a yanking from one level of semantics or existence to another, a shift from one category of conventional thinking or living to another. Significantly, it is a word used in Russian for a geological fault. 5. Probably the same Boris Levin (a.k.a. Doyvber Levin) whom Marshak, according to Har­ rison Salisbury, [gave the epithet] "a Himalayan bear," and who was killed early in World War II in a Nazi attack during his first night in a dugout. See Harrison E. Salisbury, The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad (New York, 1969), p. 175.

But to experiment, to search for ways to a new cinema, and to strengthen some new artistic steps—that is the duty of every honest cinematographer. And we are doing that. In a short note there is not space to tell in detail about all our work. Let us now say only a few words about "Film No. 1," which is already finished. In the cinema, the time for subjects (themes) is past. Adventure films and comedies, precisely because they have subjects, are now the most unfilmlike genres. When the subjects (the action, the plot) are self-sufficient, they subordinate the material. The finding of autonomous, specific material is in itself already a key to the finding of the language of the film. "Film No. 1" is the first stage of our experimental work. The plot is not important to us. Important to us is the "atmosphere" of the material, of the subject chosen by us. Separate elements of the film can be completely unconnected as far as plot and meaning are concerned. They can be antipodal. We repeat, that is not the point. The whole essence is in the atmosphere peculiar to the given material—the subject. Our main concern is to bring to light that atmo­ sphere. How we solve this problem can be understood most easily when we see the films on the screen. On January 24 of this year, in the House of the Press, we shall give a program. There we shall show a film and tell in detail about our searches and orientations. The film was made by the makers of "Film No. 1"— Alexander Razumovsky and Klementy Mints.

The Oberiu Theater
Suppose two people walk out on the stage, say nothing, but tell each other something by signs. While they are doing that, they are solemnly puffing out their cheeks. The spectators laugh. Is this theater? Yes, it is. You may say it is balagan.6 But balagan is theater. Or suppose a canvas is let down on the stage. On the canvas is a picture of a village. The stage is dark. Then it begins to get lighter. A man dressed as a shepherd walks onstage and plays on a pipe. Is that theater? Yes. A chair appears on the stage; on the chair is a samovar. The samovar boils. Instead of steam, naked arms rise up from under the lid. All these—the man and his movements on the stage, the boiling samovar, the village painted on the canvas, the light getting dimmer and getting brighter—all these are separate elements of theater. Until now, all these elements have been subordinated to the dramatic plot—to the play. A play has been a story, told through characters, about some kind of event. On the stage, all have worked to explain the meaning and course of that event more clearly, more intelligibly, and to relate it more closely to life.
6. Balagan: Punch and Judy show; booth show at a fair.

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That is not at all what the theater is. If an actor who represents a minister begins to move around on the stage on all fours and howls like a wolf, or an actor who represents a Russian peasant suddenly delivers a long speech in Latin—that will be theater, that will interest the spectator, even if it takes place without any relation to a dramatic plot. Such an action will be a separate item; a series of such items organized by the director will make up a theatrical performance, which will have its plot line and its scenic meaning. This will be a plot which only the theater can give. The plots of theatrical performances are theatrical, just as the plots of musical works are musical. All represent one thing—a world of appearances—but depending on the material, they render it differently, after their own fashion. When you come to us, forget everything that you have been accustomed to seeing in all theaters. Maybe a great deal will seem ridiculous. We take a dramatic plot. We develop it slowly at first; then suddenly it is interrupted by seemingly extraneous and clearly ridiculous elements. You are surprised. You want to find that customary logical sequence of connections which, it seems to you, you see in life. But it is not there. Why not? Because an object and a phenomenon transported from life to the stage lose their lifelike sequence of connections and acquire another—a theatrical one. We are not go i n g to explain it. In order to understand the sequence of connections of any theatrical performance, one must see it. We can only say that our task is to render the world of concrete objects on the stage in their interrelation­ ships and collisions. We worked to solve this task in our production of Elizabeth Bam. Elizabeth Bam was written on commission for the theatrical section of Oberiu by one of the members, D. Kharms. The dramatic plot of the play is shattered by many seemingly extraneous subjects which detach the object as a separate whole, existing outside its connection with others. Therefore, the dramatic plot does not arise before the spectator as a clear plot image; it glimmers, so to speak, behind the action. The dramatic plot is replaced by a scenic plot which arises spontaneously from all the elements of our specta­ cle. The center of our attention is on it. But at the same time, separate elements of the spectacle are equally valuable and important to us. They live their separate lives without subordinating themselves to the ticking of the theatrical metronome. Here a corner of a gold frame sticks out—it lives as an object of art; there a fragment of a poem is recited—it is autonomous in its significance, and at the same time, independent of its will, it advances the scenic plot of the play. The scenery, the movement of an actor, a bottle thrown down, the train of a costume—they are actors, just like those who shake their heads and speak various words and phrases. The structure of the performance was worked out by I. Bakhterev, Bor. Levin, and Daniil Kharms. Staging: I. Bakhterev.


Ql American Dada and Surrealism
■-■ -» ertrude Stein, poet, novelist, playwright, and theorist, was m^J born February 3, 1874, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. As a stuC ^ % d e n t a t ^adcliffe College from 1893 to 1897, she studied psy%m^r chology with William James, a pursuit that influenced her subsequent experiments with language. Two of her undergraduate re­ search papers focused on automatic writing, a technique later cham­ pioned by Andre Breton and the early Surrealists. From 1897 to 1901, she studied medicine at Johns Hopkins University, but she did not complete the degree. Stein moved in 1903 with her partner and per­ sonal secretary, Alice B. Toklas, to Paris, where she became closely associated with several modernist painters, including Picasso, Matisse, Braque, and Cezanne. Stein shared their interest in abstraction and was particularly influenced by Picasso's Cubism and Cezanne's ideas about movement in painting. Her seventy-seven plays, most notably It Happened, a Play (1913), In Circles (1920), Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights (1938), and Yes Is for a Very Young Man (1946), uniformly reject plot, linearity, and causality—in short, "referentiality"— in favor of a somewhat cryptic poeticism that stresses the importance of individ­ ual words and the rhythmic motion of language. As she put it in her 1934 lecture "Plays," she desired "to make a play the essence of what happened" but would do so by telling "what could be told if one did not tell anything." In other words, "anything that was not a story could be a play." One of Stein's operas, Four Saints in Three Acts (libretto by Virgil Thompson), was acclaimed on Broadway in 1934, and her plays were successfully revived in a series of productions by the Judson Poets' Theater in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Many critics have identified Stein's influence on such dramatists as Thorn­ ton Wilder, lonesco, Beckett, and Pinter. And her use of distorted, fragmented language and repetitive, absurd dialogue has an acknowledged legacy in recent avant-garde theater work, including the plays and productions of Richard Fore­ man and Robert Wilson. She died on July 27, 1946, in Paris.

Atom and Eve
A Consideration of Gertrude Stein's Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights ore intellectually accessible than much of Gertrude Stein's early work, Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights (1938) blends her unique approach to language and structure " ^ with universal themes, which for her included feminist ones. The play U ^ F * represents a transition between the two periods in Stein's oeuvre that Donald Sutherland has established: 'The Play as Movement and Landscape, 1922-1932" and "The Melodic Drama, Melodrama and Opera, 1932-1946."' In Doctor Faustus Stein uses identifiable characters and attributes specific dialogue to them, but the language exhibits all the idiosyncrasies of her earlier work—lack of punctuation, multiple identities for major characters, disembodied voices, punning, non sequiturs, and repetition. As Michael Hoffman writes, Stein's "lan­ guage now focuses on something other than its own structure; she shifts from [that] concern to such traditional literary problems as those of moral value and human identity; but she still maintains throughout the play a style readily identi­ fiable as her own."2 Although several essays have been published on Stein's drama in general, and on Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights in particular, few attempts have been made to connect her plays with other avant-garde work of the period. Aside from its formal similarities to the European avant-garde—in particular to the Dadaist and Surrealist drama being written and produced in early twentieth-century Paris—and that avant-garde's much smaller dramatic offshoot in the United States—Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights is important for its explicit violations of the three fundamental elements of conventional or traditional drama, as de­ scribed in the introduction to this collection: psychology, causality, and morality or providentiality. Rather than merely mimic the techniques of the Dadaists or Surrealists, Stein disrupts this triad even further than either E. E. Cummings in Him (1927) or Thornton Wilder in his allegedly avant-garde Our Town (1938), thereby establishing herself as the foremost dramatist of the early American avant-garde. In Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, not only has Gertrude Stein replaced spiritual uncertainty about the existence of God with the secular amorality of modern technology; she has also replaced the psychoscientific certainty about personality that is integrated yet developing with the inability of humanity either to comprehend itself or to evolve. In this play, all the characters are reduced to the same frustrating inability to understand the world or act in it. Marguerite Ida-Helena Annabel (the central female character, whose dual names and fluc­ tuating identity mark her as a kind of composite woman) cannot defend herself against the man from over the seas; the devil cannot control Doctor Faustus
By Sarah Bay-Cheng. Published here for the first time. 1 Donald Sutherland, Gertrude Stein: A Bibliography of Her Work, 1951 (Westport, Conn.: Green­ wood, 1976), 207. 2 Michael J. Hoffman, Gertrude Stein (Boston: Twayne, 1976), 85.


(even long enough t o convince him that he has a soul); Faustus cannot regulate the lights once he has created t h e m , and at the end of the play he fails t o convince Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel t o accompany him t o hell. N e i t h e r t h e dog nor the boy has any p o w e r over his o w n life; they are manipulated by Faust—and ultimately killed by him. Like Wilder's Our Town, Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights thus investigates the triumph of technology and the role of G o d in m o d e r n life. But rather than offer romantic nostalgia and spiritual redemption t o a Depression-weary and warw a r y American public, in t h e f o r m of isolation—and isolationism—in a quaint N e w Hampshire t o w n of the t u r n of t h e century, Stein portrays the impotence of human beings w i t h o u t G o d , w i t h o u t morals, and w i t h o u t a real sense of themselves. Indeed, in an almost Absurdist fashion, Stein's characters revel in their o w n frustration and ignorance. Faustus' frustrations w i t h the w o r l d culminate in his desire t o "go t o hell," which neatly returns t h e play t o its theological question—does D o c t o r Faustus have a soul? Paradoxically, Mephistopheles informs Faustus that he cannot enter hell w i t h o u t a soul, and Faustus has sold his. A n d , considering Stein's dismissal of traditional Judeo-Christian theology as well as conventional dramatic suspense, it should c o m e as no surprise that she begins her play after t h e central religious crisis—Faustus' decision t o sell his soul t o t h e devil for knowledge—which in Goethe's o r Marlowe's dramatization of the Faust legend serves as the turning point. In o r d e r t o enter hell, in any event, Faustus is told that he must c o m m i t a sin. W h e n he asks, " W h a t sin, h o w can I w i t h o u t a soul c o m m i t a sin," Mephistophe­ les peremptorily replies, "Kill anything" ( 1 1 6 ) . Faust then kills his companions, the boy and the dog, and descends into hell, w h e r e he wants t o go in o r d e r t o escape t h e reality that he himself has created through his rejection of G o d in favor of technology. But, for Stein, the t e r m "hell" describes that very techno­ logical reality ( o r nightmare): "Any light is just a light and n o w t h e r e is nothing m o r e either by day o r by night just a light" (91). T h e unrelenting light can be read as a m o d e r n analogue t o the eternal fires of hell. This technological light has the capacity, w i t h its heat and radiance (neither w a r m and nourishing like t h e sun nor gently haloed like candlelight), t o o v e r w h e l m all o t h e r forms of light and, like the hell of theology, every type of faith. Living in Europe during the 1930s, Stein thus reflects the anxiety of a conti­ nent only recently recovered f r o m the first mechanized w o r l d war, yet n o w poised on t h e brink of a second, w h o s e technological devastation and human destructiveness w o u l d beggar the imagination. Like o t h e r avant-garde w r i t e r s of her t i m e , she suggests that life cannot be completely understood, and she avers that no G o d exists t o create moral o r d e r o r t o prevent humankind f r o m selfextinction through technology. Again, like so many o t h e r avant-garde w r i t e r s , Stein has lost faith in t h e traditional patriarchal G o d , but she has also lost faith both in unconventional feminine spirituality and, paradoxically, in t h e potential of any individual without absolute faith. Faust's "individual quest," after all, ends in murder, despair, and chaos. A n d t h e grim attitude that permeates Stein's Doctor Faustus will continue after W o r l d W a r II in t h e w o r k s of such w r i t e r s as Jean-Paul Sartre, A l b e r t Camus, Samuel Beckett, and Eugene lonesco, w h o saw human-

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kind's trust in a higher power as having been betrayed by the human folly—the hellfire of the Holocaust and atomic obliteration—of the last great war.


Select Bibliography on Stein
Bowers, Jane Palatini. "They Watch Me as They Watch This": Gertrude Stein's Metadrama. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991. Bridgman, Richard. Gertrude Stein in Pieces. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. Knapp, Bettina L Gertrude Stein. New York: Continuum, 1990. Neuman, Shirley. " 'Would a Viper Have Stung Her If She Only Had One Name?': Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights." In Gertrude Stein and the Making of Literature, ed. Shirley Neuman and Ira D. Nadel, 168-93. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1988. Pladott, Dinnah. "The Semiotics of Post-Modern Theatre: Gertrude Stein." In Approches de I'opera IApproaches of the Opera, ed. Andre Helbo, 303-14. Paris: Didier, 1986. Ryan, Betsy Alayne. Gertrude Stein's Theatre of the Absolute. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1984. Schaefer, James R, Jr. "An Examination of Language as Gesture in a Play by Gertrude Stein." Literature in Performance 3 (1982): 1-14. Shafer, Yvonne. "Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)." In Shafer, American Women Playwrights, 1900-1950, 190-202. New York: Peter Lang, 1995. Stewart, Allegra. "An American Version of the Faust Myth." In Stewart, Gertrude Stein and the Present, 144-87. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967. See also Robinson, in the General Bibliography.

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Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights
Gertrude Stein

ACT I Faust standing at the door of his room, with his arms up at the door lintel looking out, behind him a blaze of electric light. Just then Mephisto approaches and appears at the door. Faustus growls out.— The devil what the devil what do I care if the devil is there. Mephisto says. But Doctor Faustus dear yes I am here. Doctor Faustus. What do I care there is no here nor there. What am 1.1 am Doctor Faustus who knows everything can do ev­ erything and you say it was through you but not at all, if I had not been in a hurry and if I had taken my time I would have known how to make white electric light and day-light and night light and what did I do I saw you miserable devil I saw you and I was deceived and I believed miserable devil I thought I needed you, and I thought I was tempted by the devil and I know no temptation is tempting unless the devil tells you so. And you wanted my soul what the hell did you want my soul for, how do you know I have a soul, who says so nobody says so but you the devil and everybody knows the devil is all lies, so how do you know how do I know that I have a soul to sell how do you know Mr.
Reprinted from Gertrude Stein, Last Operas and Plays, ed. Carl Van Vechten (New York: Rinehart, 1949), 89-118. Peter Owen Ltd., London.


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Devil oh Mr. Devil how can you tell you can not tell anything and 11 who know everything I keep on hav­ ing so much light that light is not bright and what after all is the use of light, you can see just as well without it, you can go around just as well without it you can get up and go to bed just as well without it, and 11 wanted to make it and the devil take it yes you devil you do not even want it and I sold my soul to make it. I have made it but have I a soul to pay for it Mephisto coming nearer and trying to pat his arm. Yes dear Doctor Faustus yes of course you have a soul of course you have, do not believe them when they say the devil lies, you know the devil never lies, he de­ ceives oh yes he deceives but that is not lying no dear please dear Doctor Faustus do not say the devil lies. Doctor Faustus. Who cares if you lie if you steal, there is no snake to grind under one's heel, there is no hope there is no death there is no life there is no breath, there just is every day all day and when there is no day there is no day, and anyway of what use is a devil unless he goes away, go away old devil go away, there is no use in a devil unless he goes away, how can you remember a devil unless he goes away, oh devil there is no use in your coming to stay and now you are red at night which is not a delight and you are red in the morning which is not a warning go away devil go away or stay after all what can a devil say. Mephisto. A devil can smile a devil can while away whatever there is to give away, and now are you not proud Doc­ tor Faustus yes you are you know you are you are the only one who knows what you know and it is I the devil who tells you so. Faustus. You fool you devil how can you know, how can you tell me so, if I am the only one who can know what I know then no devil can know what I know and no devil can tell me so and I could know without any soul to sell, without there being anything in hell. What I know I know, I know how I do what I do when I see the way through and always any day I will see another day and you old devil you know very well you never see any other way than just the way to hell, you only know one way. You only know one thing, you are never ready for anything, and I everything is always now and now and now perhaps through you I begin to know that it is all

just so, that light however bright will never be other than light, and any light is just a light and now there is nothing more either by day or by night but just a light. Oh you devil go to hell, that is all you know to tell, and who is interested in hell just a devil is interested in hell because that is all he can tell, whether I stamp or whether I cry whether I live or whether I die, I can know that all a devil can say is just about going to hell the same way, get out of here devil, it does not interest me whether you can buy or I can sell, get out of here devil just you go to hell. Faustus gives him an awful kick, and Mephisto moves away and the electric lights just then begin to get very gay. All right then

Doctor Faustus sitting alone surrounded by electric lights. His dog comes in and says Thank you. One of the electric lights goes out and again the dog says Thank you. The electric light that went out is replaced by a glow. The dog murmurs. My my what a sky. And then he says Thank you.

Ifldoit If you do it What is it. Once again the dog says Thank you. A duet between Doctor Faustus and the dog about the electric light about the electric lights. Bathe me says Doctor Faustus Bathe me In the electric lights During this time the electric lights come and go What is it says Doctor Faustus


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Thank you says the dog. Just at this moment the electric lights get brighter and nothing comes Was it it says Doctor Faustus Faustus meditates he does not see the dog. Will it Will it Will it be Will it be it. Faustus sighs and repeats Will it be it. A duet between the dog and Faustus Will it be it Just it. At that moment the electric light gets pale again and in that moment Faustus shocked says It is it A little boy comes in and plays with the dog, the dog says Thank you. Doctor Faustus looks away from the electric lights and then he sings a song.

Let me alone Oh let me alone Dog and boy let me alone oh let me alone Leave me alone Let me be alone little boy and dog let let me alone He sighs And as he sighs He says Dog and boy boy and dog leave me alone let me let me be alone. The dog says Thank you but does not look at Faustus A pause No words The dog says Thank you I say thank you

Thank you The little boy The day begins today The day The moon begins the day Doctor Faustus There is no moon today Dark silence You obey I obey There is no moon today. Silence and the dog says I obey I say Thank you any day The little boy says Once in a while they get up. Doctor Faustus says I shall not think I shall not No I shall not. Faustus addresses little boy and dog Night is better than day so please go away The boy says But say When the hay has to be cut every day then there is the devil to pay The dog starts and then he shrinks and says Thank you Faustus half turns and starts I hear her he says I hear her say Call to her to sing To sing all about to sing a song All about daylight and night light. Moonlight and starlight electric light and twilight every light as well. The electric lights glow and a chorus in the distance sings Her name is her name is her name is Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel. Faustus sings I knew it I knew it the electric lights they told me so no dog can know no boy can know I cannot know they cannot know the electric lights they told me so I would not know I could not know who can know who can tell me so I know


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you know they can know her name is Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel and when I tell oh when I tell oh when I when I when I tell, oh go away and go away and tell and tell and tell and tell and tell, oh hell. The electric lights commence to dance and one by one they go out and come in and the boy and the dog begin to sing. Oh very well oh Doctor Faustus very very well oh very well, thank you says the dog oh very well says the boy her name her name is Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel, I know says the dog I know says the boy I know says Doctor Faustus no no no no no nobody can know what I know I know her name is not Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel, very well says the boy it is says the boy her name is Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel, no no no says Doctor Faustus, yes yes yes says the dog, no says the boy yes says the dog, her name is not Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel and she is not ready yet to sing about daylight and night light, moonlight and starlight electric light and twilight she is not she is not but she will be. She will not be says Doctor Faustus never never never, never will her name be Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel never never never never well as well never Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel never Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel. There is a sudden hush and the distant chorus says It might be it might be her name her name might be Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel it might be. And Doctor Faustus says in a loud whisper It might be but it is not, and the little boy says how do you know and Faustus says it might be it might not be not be not be, and as he says the last not be the dog says Thank you.

I am I and my name is Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel, and then oh then I could yes I could I could begin to cry but why why could I begin to cry. And I am I and I am here and how do I know how wild the wild world is how wild the wild woods are the wood they call the woods the poor man's overcoat but do they cover me and if they do how wild they are wild and wild and wild they are, how do I know how wild woods are when I have never ever seen a wood before. I wish (she whispered) I knew why woods are wild why animals are wild why I am I, why I can cry, I wish I wish I knew, I wish oh how I wish I knew. Once I am in I will never be through the woods are there and I am here and am I here or am I there, oh where oh where is here oh where oh where is there and animals wild animals are everywhere. She sits down. I wish (says she conversationally) I wish if I had a wish that when I sat down it would not be here but there there where I could have a chair there

where I would not have to look around fearfully everywhere there where a chair and a carpet underneath the chair would make me know that there is there, but here here everywhere there is nothing nothing like a carpet nothing like a chair, here it is wild everywhere I hear I hear everywhere that the woods are wild and I am here and here is here and here I am sitting without a chair without a carpet, oh help me to a carpet with a chair save me from the woods the wild woods everywhere where everything is wild wild and 11 am not there I am here oh dear I am not there. She stands up with her hands at her sides she opens and closes her eyes and opens them again. If my eyes are open and my eyes are closed I see I see, I see no carpet I see no chair I see the wild woods everywhere, what good does it do me to close my eyes no good at all the woods the woods are there I close my eyes but the green is there and I open my eyes and I have to stare to be sure the green is there the green of the woods, I saw it when my eyes were closed I saw the wild woods everywhere and now I open my eyes and there there is the wild wood everywhere. Would it do as well if my name were not Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel would it do as well I would give up even that for a carpet and a chair and to be not here but there, but (and she lets out a shriek,) I am here I am not there and I am Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel and it is not well that I could tell what there is to tell what there is to see and what do I see and do I see it at all oh yes I do I call and call but yes I do I see it all oh dear oh dear oh dear yes I am here. She says In the distance there is daylight and near to there is none. There is something under the leaves and Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel makes a quick turn and she sees that a viper has stung her. In the distance there is daylight and near to there is none. There is a rustling under the leaves and Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel makes a quick turn and she sees that a viper has stung her, she sees it and she says and what is it. There is no answer. Does it hurt she says and then she says no not really and she says was it a viper and she says how can I tell I never saw one before but is it she says and she stands up again and sits down and pulls down her stocking and says well it was not a bee not a busy bee no not, nor a mosquito nor a sting it was a bite and serpents bite yes they do perhaps it was one. Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel sits thinking and then she sees a country woman with a sickle coming. Have I she says have I been bitten, the woman comes nearer, have I says Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel have I have I been bitten. Have you been bitten answers the country woman, why yes it can happen, then I have been bitten says Mar­ guerite Ida and Helena Annabel why not if you have been i