A: Ugo Betti Pf: 1951, Rome Pb: 1951 Tr: 1956 G: Drama in 4 acts; Italian prose S: Town hall in an Italian mountain village, mid-20th c. C: 7 m, 3f, 1 child (m), extrasRebel forces searching for Queen Elisabetta, who is trying to escape to safety, have stopped a bus, forcing the passengers to disembark. The military interpreter who interrogates them recognizes the prostitute Argia as his former mistress but now wants nothing to do with her. Argia realizes that a peasant woman is the Queen and denounces her to the rebel chief Commissar Amos. When the Queen tells Argia of the ordeals she has endured, Argia takes pity on her and helps her to escape, and is then suspected by Amos of being the Queen herself. She explains that her superior manner is her response to a life of humiliation. The summoned interpreter refuses to recognize her, and the peasant woman, the real Queen, commits suicide. With no one to identify her, Argia is condemned to death. Amos, threatening her with torture, offers her her life in exchange for an admission of guilt and a list of her accomplices. However, Argia has grown fully into the role of the Queen and haughtily refuses to contemplate any deals. Only when the Queen's young son is brought and threatened, does she relent, but can no longer remember the names that the Queen gave her. She goes out serenely to meet her death.
A: Ugo Betti Pf: 1951, Rome Pb: 1951 Tr: 1956 G: Drama in 4 acts; Italian prose S: Town hall in an Italian mountain village, mid-20th c. C: 7 m, 3f, 1 child (m), extras
Regarded in Italy as one of their greatest 20th-century playwrights, Betti is not well known internationally, although this play did become popular. It is one of his few plays on a political theme, although its main interest is in the nature of identity, which everybody can create for themselves. As Argia says: ‘I am as I should always have wished to be…Palaces have nothing to do with it.’