Read an ExcerptEight Plays
By ARTHUR SCHNITZLER
NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY PRESS
Copyright © 2007
William L. Cunningham
All right reserved.
Chapter One Anatol
Max, Anatol's confidant
Cora, an unmarried seamstress
Gabriele, a married woman
Bianca, a circus equestrienne
Emilie, an unmarried girl
Waiter at the Hotel Sacher
Annie, an actress
Else, a married woman
Franz, Anatol's servant
Ilona, an actress
Herr Winkler, father of Anatol's fiancée
* * *
Vienna, turn of the twentieth century
A QUESTION FOR FATE
MAX: I truly envy you, Anatol ...
MAX: Well, I must tell you I was stunned. Until now I've really regarded the whole thing as a fairy tale. But now that I've seen it ... how she fell asleep before my eyes, how she danced when you told her she was a ballerina, and how she wept, when you told her her lover was dead-and how she pardoned a criminal, when you made her a queen ...
ANATOL: Yes, yes.
MAX: I see there's a magician inside you!
ANATOL: In all of us.
ANATOL: I can't agree with that.... No more uncanny than life itself. No more uncanny than many things we've arrived at over centuries. Just how do you think our forbears felt when they suddenly heard that the earth rotates? They must all have gotten dizzy!
MAX: Yes.... But that applied to everyone.
ANATOL: And if we were to discover springtime anew! ... We wouldn't believe that either! In spite of the green trees, in spite of the blooming flowers, and in spite of love.
MAX: You're misguided, that's all drivel. Along with that animal magnetism ...
ANATOL: Hypnotism ...
MAX: No, that's another matter. I could never ever let myself be hypnotized.
ANATOL: Childish! What does it matter if I bid you fall asleep, and you lie down quietly?
MAX: Yes, and then you tell me, "You are a chimney sweep," and I climb into the fireplace and get sooty! ...
ANATOL: Well, those are just pranks.... The big thing about it is the scientific utilization. But alas, we're simply not that far along.
MAX: How's that ...?
ANATOL: Well, how do I, who was able to transport that girl into a hundred different worlds, how do I then bring myself into another world?
MAX: Isn't that possible?
ANATOL: I've already tried it, to tell the truth. I stared at this diamond ring for several minutes and implanted the idea into myself: "Anatol! Fall asleep! When you awaken, the thought of that woman who drives you mad will have vanished from your heart."
MAX: Well, when you awakened?
ANATOL: Oh, I didn't fall asleep at all.
MAX: That woman ... that woman? ... So you're still ...!
ANATOL: Yes, my friend! ... I'm still! I'm unhappy, I'm wild about her.
MAX: So you're still ... in doubt?
ANATOL: No ... not in doubt. I know that she's deceiving me! While she hangs on my lips, while she strokes my hair ... whenever we're in a blissful moment ... I know that she's deceiving me.
MAX: And your proof?
ANATOL: I sense it ... I feel it ... therefore I know it!
MAX: Strange logic!
ANATOL: Those females are always being unfaithful to us. It's quite natural for them ... they just don't know it.... Just like I have to read two or three books at the same time, those women have to have two or three love affairs.
MAX: She loves you after all?
ANATOL: Infinitely ... but that's irrelevant. She's being unfaithful to me.
max: And with whom?
ANATOL: Do I know? Perhaps with a prince who maybe followed her on the street, perhaps with a dilettante poet from a house in the suburbs who maybe smiled out of the window at her when she went by in the early morning!
MAX: You're a fool!
ANATOL: And what kind of reason would she have not to be unfaithful to me? She's like all the others, she loves life and doesn't reflect. If I ask her, "Do you love me?"-she says yes-and she is speaking the truth. And if I ask her, "Are you being faithful to me?"-she says yes again-and again she's speaking the truth, because she doesn't remember the others at all-at least not in that moment. And has a woman ever answered you, then, "My dear boyfriend, I'm being unfaithful to you"? And where are we to derive any certainty then? And if she's being unfaithful to me-
MAX: So maybe she is, after all!-
ANATOL: Then it's pure chance.... In no way does she think, "Oh, I must be loyal to him, my dear Anatol" ... in no way ...
MAX: But if she does love you!
ANATOL: Oh, my naive friend! If that were a reason!
ANATOL: Why am I not faithful to her? ... I certainly do love her, after all!
MAX: Yes indeed! But ... a man!
ANATOL: That stupid old phrase! We're always wanting to persuade ourselves that women are different than we are in that respect! Yes, some ... those whom their mother locked up, or those who have no spirit.... We're quite the same. If I tell a woman, "I love you, only you"-I don't feel that I'm telling her a lie, even if I rested on the breast of another woman the night before.
MAX: Yes ... you!
ANATOL: I ... yes! And perhaps not you? And her, my adored Cora, perhaps not her? Oh! And it puts me into a frenzy. If I got down on my knees before her and said, "My darling, my dear child- everything is forgiven you in advance-but tell me the truth," what good would it do me? She would lie, as she did before-and it would get me no further than before. Not one has ever implored me, "For heaven's sake, tell me ... are you really being faithful to me? Not a word of reproach if you're not, but the truth! I have to know." ... And how did I respond? ... I lied ... calmly, with a blissful smile ... with the purest conscience. I thought, "Why should I distress you?" And I said, "Yes, my sweet angel! Faithful unto death." And she believed me and was happy!
MAX: Well, then!
ANATOL: But I don't believe it and I'm not happy! I would be, if there were some infallible means of getting those foolish, sweet, hateful creatures to speak or to find out the truth in some other way.... But there isn't any, other than chance.
MAX: And hypnosis?
MAX: Well ... hypnosis ... This is how I mean it: you get her to fall asleep and then you say, "You must tell me the truth."
ANATOL: Hmm ...
MAX: You must.... Do you hear ...
ANATOL: Strange! ...
MAX: It must work, after all.... And then you go on to ask her ... Do you love me? ... Someone else? ... Where do you come from? ... Where are you going? ... What's the other man's name? And so forth.
ANATOL: Max! Max!
MAX: Well ...
ANATOL: You're right.... One could be a magician! One could conjure forth a word of truth out of a woman's mouth ...
MAX: Well, then! I see you're saved! Cora is certainly a suitable medium ... this very evening you can know if you've been deceived ... or if you're a ...
ANATOL: A god! ... Max! ... I embrace you! ... I feel as if I've been liberated ... I'm a completely different man. I have her in my power ...
MAX: I'm really curious ...
ANATOL: What's that? Do you perhaps doubt?
MAX: Ah yes, others aren't allowed to doubt, just you ...
ANATOL: Certainly.... When a husband steps out of the house where he has just discovered his wife with her lover, and a friend comes up to him and says, "I think your wife is deceiving you," he won't answer, "I've just come to that conclusion" ... but "You're a scoundrel and ..."
MAX: Yes, I'd almost forgotten that it's the first duty of friendship to let one's friend keep his illusions.
ANATOL: Just be quiet ...
MAX: What is it?
ANATOL: Don't you hear her? I know the sound of those steps, even when they're just in the vestibule.
MAX: I don't hear anything.
ANATOL: Already so close! ... In the hall ...
[He opens the door.]
CORA: Good evening! Oh, you're not alone ...
ANATOL: Friend Max!
CORA [entering]: Good evening! Why this darkness? ...
ANATOL: Ah, it's still just twilight. You know I love that.
CORA [stroking his hair]: My little poet!
ANATOL: My dearest Cora!
CORA: But I'll put on the light all the same.... You'll permit me.
[She lights the candles in the lamps.]
ANATOL [to MAX]: Isn't she delightful?
CORA: Well, how are things going? For you, Anatol-and for you, Herr Max?-Have you been chatting long?
ANATOL: For half an hour.
CORA: Well then. [Taking off her coat and hat] And about what?
ANATOL: About this and that.
MAX: About hypnosis.
CORA: Oh, here we go again with hypnosis! All that can make one quite foolish.
ANATOL: Well ...
CORA: Say, Anatol, I'd like you to hypnotize me sometime.
ANATOL: I ... you ...?
CORA: Yes, I imagine that can be very pretty. That is-if you would do it.
ANATOL: Thank you.
CORA: If a stranger did it ... no, no, I wouldn't want that.
ANATOL: Well, my darling ... if you want, I'll hypnotize you.
ANATOL: Now! At once, on the spot.
CORA: Yes! Good! What do I have to do?
ANATOL: Nothing more, my dear child, than to stay quietly seated in the armchair and then to be so good as to fall asleep.
CORA: Oh, I'll be so good!
ANATOL: I'll position myself here in front of you, you'll look at me ... now ... just look at me ... I'll stroke your forehead and over your eyes. So ...
CORA: Well now, and what then ...
ANATOL: Nothing ... you simply have to want to fall asleep.
CORA: You know, when you stroke me over the eyes like that, I feel quite strange ...
ANATOL: Quiet ... don't talk.... Sleep. You're already quite tired.
ANATOL: Yes! ... A little tired.
CORA: A little, yes ...
ANATOL: Your eyelids are getting heavy ... very heavy, you can barely lift your hands anymore ...
CORA [softly]: Really.
ANATOL [goes on stroking her forehead and over her eyes, monotonously]: Tired ... you're quite tired ... fall asleep now, my dear child.... Asleep.
[He turns to max, who watches admiringly, and gives an expression of victory.]
Sleep ... Now your eyes are firmly closed ... You can't open them any longer ...
[CORA tries to open her eyes.]
ANATOL: It won't work ... you're sleeping ... just go on sleeping calmly.... So ...
MAX [tries to ask him something]: You know ...
ANATOL: Calmly. [To cora] ... Sleep ... soundly, sleep deeply.
[He stands for a time in front of cora, who breathes calmly and sleeps.]
So ... now you can ask.
MAX: I just wanted to ask if she's really sleeping.
ANATOL: You see she is.... Now let's wait a few moments.
[He stands in front of her, looks at her calmly. Long pause.]
Cora! ... You'll answer me now.... Answer. What is your name?
ANATOL: Cora, we're in the forest.
CORA: Oh ... in the forest ... how beautiful! The green trees ... and the nightingales.
ANATOL: Cora ... Now you'll tell me the truth in all things.... What will you do, Cora?
CORA: I'll tell the truth.
ANATOL: You'll answer all my questions truthfully, and when you awaken, you will have forgotten everything! Do you understand me?
ANATOL: Now sleep ... sleep calmly. [To max] So I'll go ahead and ask her ...
MAX: Anatol, just how old is she?
ANATOL: Nineteen.... Cora, how old are you?
MAX: Ha ha.
ANATOL: Shhh ... that's certainly extraordinary.... You can see from that ...
MAX: Oh, if she had only known what a good medium she is!
ANATOL: The suggestion worked. I'll go on asking her.-Cora, do you love me ... ? Cora ... do you love me?
ANATOL [triumphing]: Do you hear that?
MAX: Now then, the main question, whether she is faithful.
ANATOL: Cora! [Turning around] That question is foolish.
ANATOL: One can't ask like that!
ANATOL: I've got to form the question differently.
MAX: But I think it's precise enough.
ANATOL: No, that's just the mistake, it's not precise enough.
MAX: How's that?
ANATOL: If I ask her, "Are you faithful?" she'll take it in the broadest possible sense.
ANATOL: Perhaps she'll include her whole ... past.... Possibly she'll think about a time when she loved someone else ... and she'll answer no.
MAX: Well, that would also be quite interesting.
ANATOL: I think ... I know Cora met others before me.... She once told me herself, "Yes, if I had known that someday I would meet you ... then ..."
MAX: But she didn't know.
ANATOL: No ...
MAX: And as for your question ...
ANATOL: Yes.... This question ... I find it crude, at least in that form.
MAX: Well then, pose it something like this: "Cora, have you been faithful to me since the time you've known me?"
ANATOL: Hmm ... That might be something. [In front of cora] Cora! Have you been ... ? That's also nonsense!
ANATOL: I ask you ... just imagine how we got to know each other. We didn't sense that we would come to love each other so madly. Those first days we both regarded the whole thing as something passing. Who knows ...
MAX: Who knows ...?
ANATOL: Who knows if she didn't begin to love me-only after she stopped loving someone else? What did she experience the day before I met her, before we spoke our first words to each other? Was it possible for her just to break away like that, without much ado? Or did she maybe have to drag along someone else from her past, I say, like an old chain behind her for days and weeks?
ANATOL: I want to go on even further.... The first time it was certainly just a mood of hers-like with me. Neither of us could look at it any differently, we didn't demand anything from each other than a fleeting, sweet happiness. What can I reproach her for, if she committed any wrong during that time? Nothing-nothing at all.
MAX: You're being characteristically gentle.
ANATOL: No, by no means, I just think it's ignoble to take advantage of a momentary situation in that way.
MAX: Well, that's surely a noble intent. But I want to help you out of that embarrassment.
MAX: You ask her as follows: "Cora, since you've loved me ... have you been faithful to me?"
ANATOL: That sounds very clear in fact.
MAX: ... Well?
ANATOL: But it's by no means clear.
ANATOL: Faithful! What does that actually mean: faithful? ... Picture for yourself ... yesterday she was riding on the train, and a gentleman sitting across from her touched the tip of her foot with his. But surely one mustn't rule out that she'll see even that as a breach of faith, thanks to her characteristically refined sensitivity no doubt associated with her being a hypnotic medium. Hypnosis raises that perceptive ability to an infinite level, of course.
MAX: Well, listen to that!
ANATOL: All the more so when she became acquainted with my perhaps somewhat exaggerated views through the conversations we were sometimes accustomed to having on that theme. I myself told her, "Cora, even when you simply take a look at another man, even that is being unfaithful to me!"
MAX: And what did she do?
ANATOL: And she, she laughed in my face and said just how could I believe that she would look at another man.
MAX: And you still believe-?
ANATOL: Things do happen-picture it yourself-a pushy fellow follows her in the evenings and presses a kiss on the back of her neck.
MAX: Well-that ...
ANATOL: Well-that's surely not impossible-after all!
MAX: Then you don't want to ask her.
ANATOL: Oh still-after all ...
Excerpted from Eight Plays by ARTHUR SCHNITZLER
Copyright © 2007 by William L. Cunningham . Excerpted by permission.
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