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Pantagleize


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A: Michel de Ghelderode Pf: 1930, Saint-Trond, Belgium Pb: 1934 Tr: 1960 G: Pol. com. in 3 acts and epilogue; Flemish prose S: A European city, in an indeterminate period between two wars C: 12m, 1f, extras Pantagleize is by his own admission a complete nonentity who writes for a fashion magazine. On his 40th birthday he decides to greet people with ‘What a lovely day!’ – unaware that this is the signal for the planned uprising of the Liberals to begin. Observed by a plain-clothes policeman, revolutionaries are gathered in a café, where Pantagleize goes to take coffee. Greeting everyone with his chosen phrase, Pantagleize sparks off the revolution and is hailed as their leader. One revolutionary, a Jewess, knocks out the policeman, embraces Pantagleize, and declares that he has saved humanity. Falling in love with her, he follows her instructions to raid the state bank and seize the Conservatives' treasure. Unaware that she has been killed by the policeman, Pantagleize succeeds in his daring raid, because he tells the militia and their cowardly commander ‘to go to hell’ – again unaware that this is the official password. At a banquet given by the revolutionaries in his honour, the rebels are killed off one by one by the waiters. The remaining revolutionaries are brought to trial, and Pantagleize is condemned to death, despite his counsel's argument that he was the victim of coincidences. As he dies before the firing squad, Pantagleize still manages to utter: ‘What a lovely day!’

A: Michel de Ghelderode Pf: 1930, Saint-Trond, Belgium Pb: 1934 Tr: 1960 G: Pol. com. in 3 acts and epilogue; Flemish prose S: A European city, in an indeterminate period between two wars C: 12m, 1f, extras

As society became more complex and bureaucracy invaded people's lives more and more, many writers celebrated the resourcefulness and resilience of the little man in the face of authority (cf. novels by H. G. Wells, Heinrich Mann, and Jaroslav Hašek, and plays like Brecht's Schweyk in the Second World War). Usually, such characters survive, but though Pantagleize dies, he retains his cheerful optimism to the end, a prototype for Beckett's Winnie in Happy Days.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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