chapter  29
16 Pages

Toward the Theatre of Mystery

The Miracle of Saint Anthony will amount to a full production, despite the small size of the play. If it is played well, the audience will leave satised … The play requires qualities of sharpness and compactness in acting. Let us now talk about the play. What attracts us in this play and

gives us warm feelings? Why did Maeterlinck write this play? Why does it read so well? It is not the extraordinary nature of the situation that is important but something else. We laugh at ourselves a little, when we laugh at the characters of this play. We understand all of them so well. What is so familiar in this play, and what unites us with its author? We feel pity for Anthony. The meeker he is, the more moving. St. Anthony says: “I came to answer your prayers.” This outlines the through action. Maeterlinck wrote a comedy, and comedy always mocks at some-

thing. In this comedy, however, Maeterlinck does not mock the way others do, but in his own unique way. His is not an exposing

laughter of Shchedrin,2 nor is it Gogol’s tears,3 etc. This is a mere smile. Maeterlinck smiled at people. What shall we play here? Guests [at the funeral] are just a mere

background; breakfast is also a background. What should we play on this background? It is imperative to play Maeterlinck. We could afford not to play Scheglov,4 or Sutro,5 but we were obliged to play Chekhov. The same is true of Maeterlinck. Chekhov’s Huntsman6 depicts an everyday life in Russia, and national types. The Miracle of Saint Anthony is typically international. National characterization is of little relevance in this play. Policemen of all countries have something in common; they all say the same: “I need to see your identication.” Characterization in this play can be as it may. Virginie can be played this way, or the other. As long as you play her heart. Upon watching this play, the audience should feel moved and embar-

rassed. The audience should be muttering under their breath: “We are no better … ” This play is a smile of Maeterlinck, as he somewhat divorced himself

from Aglavaine and Selysette, from the Blind, from Intruder, in short, from everything that exposed the screams of his soul. He distracted himself from this, lit up a cigar, snacked on partridge, and felt himself again. Perhaps, at that time, he dined with his friends, the priest and the doctor: What if a saint would appear on this earth? Well, this cannot be-said the doctor-I don’t believe this. Oh, we are such sinners-the priest replied-The Lord won’t grace

us with his mercy. In short, neither one allowed for the possibility of such a fact,

although under different pretexts. This is how Maeterlinck wrote this play-lightly, without hysterics,

without reproaches on the account of the people. He wrote it while his heart was at rest.