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Break of Noon


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A: Paul Claudel Pf: 1948, Paris Pb: 1906; rev. 1948, 1949 G: Drama in 3 acts; unrhymed French verse S: Ship in the Indian ocean, a Hong Kong cemetery, and a temple in China, early 20th c. C: 3m, 1fTravelling with her businessman husband by boat to China, the beautiful Ysé de Ciz encounters a Chinaman, Mesa, who is weakened by God's apparent deafness to his devotion. Bored by her husband De Ciz and her former lover Amalric, Ysé attempts to seduce Mesa. Landed in Hong Kong, Ysé's husband leaves on a business trip which leads to his death, and she and Mesa make passionate love in a cemetery. Finding no fulfilment with Mesa, even though she is bearing his child, she marries her former lover Amalric. Later, she and Amalric find themselves trapped in a Confucian temple during an uprising. They prepare to dynamite the building rather than be taken alive. Mesa comes through the enemy lines and in a long monologue to the silent Ysé declares his continuing love for her. Amalric knocks him out, steals his pass that will give them safe passage, and sets off with Ysé. She soon returns, however, to die in Mesa's arms.

A: Paul Claudel Pf: 1948, Paris Pb: 1906; rev. 1948, 1949 G: Drama in 3 acts; unrhymed French verse S: Ship in the Indian ocean, a Hong Kong cemetery, and a temple in China, early 20th c. C: 3m, 1f

Claudel, a devout Catholic, here explores, in a more subtle way than in his better known The Tidings Brought to Mary (1912), the search for reconciliation with the divine. In this hauntingly beautiful play, which Claudel rewrote for Jean-Louis Barrault's revival in 1948, Mesa (the name suggests ‘half’) becomes complete through his selfless devotion to love.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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