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Architect and the Emperor of Assyria


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A: Fernando Arrabal Pf: 1967, Paris Pb: 1967 Tr: 1969 G: Drama in 2 acts; French prose S: A tropical island, mid-20th c. C: 2mA primitive native of a tropical island, the ‘Architect’, who has built himself a neat dwelling, is disturbed by a tremendous crash. This announces the arrival from the sky of a gentleman, the sole survivor of an aeroplane crash, who asks the Architect for help. As the frightened savage utters inarticulate noises, the gentleman introduces himself as the ‘Emperor of Assyria’. In order to acquaint the Architect with ‘civilization’, the Emperor gets him to act out roles with him: master and servant; priest and worshipper; sadist and masochist; mother and child; etc. All this, however, has the effect of reminding the Emperor of his own burden of guilt, so he asks the Architect to kill and eat him. The Architect duly does so, but he does not much enjoy eating the tough corpse, although he is relieved that it is not a Friday. Diving under the table to retrieve a bone, the savage re-emerges as the Emperor. The Emperor reappears as the Architect. The opening is repeated, with the new Emperor falling from the sky and the new Architect gibbering inarticulately.

A: Fernando Arrabal Pf: 1967, Paris Pb: 1967 Tr: 1969 G: Drama in 2 acts; French prose S: A tropical island, mid-20th c. C: 2m

The Spanish-French writer Arrabal often gave his absurdist theatre a violent twist, and in this, his best-known play, he depicts sadism and cannibalism. The remote setting allows Arrabal to question the values of contemporary civilization and to imply, in a manner reminiscent of Rousseau, that freedom from hierarchical structures might lead to the possibility of genuine structure (realized in the Architect's beautifully built hut).

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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