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Deathwatch


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A: Jean Genet Pf: 1949, Paris Pb: 1949; rev. 1965 Tr: 1954 G: Drama in 1 act; French prose S: Cell in a French prison, 1940s C: 4mThree prisoners are confined in the same cell: Green Eyes, the most dominant, a murderer so dangerous that his feet are shackled; Lefranc, who is due to be released in a few days; and Maurice, the youngest, who is jealous of Lefranc's close relationship with Green Eyes. The men discuss Snowball, a magnificent black murderer on death row. Green Eyes, whose illiteracy has forced him to get Lefranc to write his letters, is afraid that Lefranc will now steal his girlfriend. When Green Eyes contemplates the guillotine and is concerned that his girl will find someone else, Maurice offers to kill her. Green Eyes insists that Lefranc and Maurice should draw lots to decide who should murder her. When she arrives at the prison to visit Green Eyes, he sends her away and says that the guard can have her. Lefranc, provoked by Maurice because he sneers at Lefranc's attempts to claim that his petty crimes make him a truly hard man, strangles Maurice. Lefranc now believes that he has become like Green Eyes, but Green Eyes rejects Lefranc's cowardly crime and calls the guards.

A: Jean Genet Pf: 1949, Paris Pb: 1949; rev. 1965 Tr: 1954 G: Drama in 1 act; French prose S: Cell in a French prison, 1940s C: 4m

This was Genet's first play, though not produced until two years after The Maids. With strong similarities to Sartre's No Exit, Deathwatch, based on Genet's own experiences in prison, explores particularly the agonizing struggle of two individuals trying to acquire the criminal glory enjoyed by Green Eyes and Snowball: ‘It's not enough…to be shut up lifeless in a cell. We've got to kill each other off as well.’ This mutual torture should be enacted ‘as in a dream’.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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