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He Who Gets Slapped


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AT: The Painted Laugh A: Leonid Andreev Pf: 1915, Moscow Pb: 1916 Tr: 1921 G: Drama in 4 acts; Russian prose S: The ante-room of a circus in a French city, early 20th c. C: 14m, 5f, extras‘Papa’ Louis Briquet manages a circus, whose star is the beautiful bareback rider Consuela. Consuela's father Mancini threatens to take her from the circus if Briquet does not lend him money. A strange middle-aged intellectual comes and asks to join the circus. He is engaged as a clown and is known only as ‘He who gets slapped’. Overhearing Briquet's common-law wife Zinida plead for the love of Bezano, a young equestrian, Consuela's fellow performer, ‘He’ longs to love too. When a fat baron wants Consuela for himself, Mancini offers to sell her in marriage. Hypnotizing Consuela, ‘He’ warns her that marriage to the Baron will kill her and that ‘He’ loves her. ‘He’ then confronts a Gentleman, whom he addresses as ‘Prince’, a writer who has stolen ‘He's’ ideas and his wife but ‘He’ says he will remain in the circus. Consuela gives a final performance before marrying the Baron. ‘He’ is so desperate to prevent the wedding that he gives Consuela poison then drinks some himself. ‘He’ reassures her that she will now live eternally. The grieving Baron shoots himself, and ‘He’ says that they will fight for Consuela's love in heaven.

AT: The Painted Laugh A: Leonid Andreev Pf: 1915, Moscow Pb: 1916 Tr: 1921 G: Drama in 4 acts; Russian prose S: The ante-room of a circus in a French city, early 20th c. C: 14m, 5f, extras

This is the best known and most intriguing of Andreev's 28 plays composed between 1905 and 1916. Written in a bold Expressionist manner, this ‘dramatic presentation’ opposes the doubts and ponderings of the nameless intellectual (‘He’) to the vigorous life force of the circus folk. ‘He's’ loving is neither crudely successful like the lustful Baron nor as romantically beautiful as the yearning of the lion-tamer; his is inept and leads only to death. The morose Andreev, who himself attempted suicide three times, knew that ‘He’ deserves to get slapped.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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