Page:The thirty-six dramatic situations (1921).djvu/57

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SIXTEENTH SITUATION 55

B — Disgrace Brought Upon Oneself Through Madness: — Aeschylus' "Thracians;" Sophocles' "Ajax;" to some extent "Saul" (Gide).

C — Loss of Loved Ones Brought About by Madness: — "Sakuntala" by Kalidasa, (form, amnesia). The philtre of Hagen, in Wagner.

D — Madness Brought on by Fear of Hereditary Insanity: — "L'Etau" (Andre" Sardou, 1909).

The case of A (3), transferred to the past and treated according to a quid-pro-quo process, is that of one of the merriest comedies of the nineteenth century, "L'Affaire de la rue de Lourcine" by Labiche.

Numberless examples of this Sixteenth Situation have filled the disquieting pages of alienists' journals. Mental diseases, manias of various types, offer powerful dramatic effects which have not yet been exploited. These furnish, doubtless, but points of departure toward the Situation whose real investiture takes place at the moment of the hero's restoration to reason, — which is to say, to suffering. But if it ever happens that these three phases — the etiology of delirium, its access, and the return to a normal condition — are treated with equal strength and vigor, what an admirable work will result!

The first of the three stages, which bears upon the explanations of insanity, has been variously held to be divine (by the Greeks), demoniac (by the Church), and, in our own times, hereditary and pathological. Hypnotism has recently created another nuance; the hypnotist here forms a substitute, — a sorry one it is true, — for divinity or demon. Drunkenness furnishes us a nuance unfamiliar to Greece; what is today more commonplace, and at the same time more terrible, than the disclosure of an important secret or the committing of a criminal act, while under the influence of drink?

Is it necessary to say that all ties, all interests, all human desires, may he represented crossed and illuminated by the light of dementia?

For the rest, this situation of Madness is far from having been neglected in our theater. Shakespeare, in his most personal dramas, has made use of insanity