Commentary by Maurice Maeterlinck

By Annie Stewart

Maeterlinck’s Thoughts on Theatre and His Work
Maeterlinck’s Thoughts on Theatre and His Work
Maeterlinck’s Thoughts on Theatre and His Work
Conversation with Maurice Maeterlinck
Conversation with Maurice Maeterlinck

 “It seems to me that a play should first and foremost be a poem; but since truly regrettable circumstances tend, in the long run, to bind it more closely than any other type of poem to received conventions, which to keep life simple we are constrained to accept as realities, the poet must at times play a double game

and give the illusion that these conventions have been  respect, and here and there evoke, by certain recognized sings, the existence of this ordinary and auxiliary life, the kind of life that we are in fact accustomed to seeing. For example, isn’t what is called a character study neither more nor less than one of those very concessions the poet is forever being forced to make?” (315).

 

On Not Making Cheap Theatre
On Not Making Cheap Theatre

“Until I find a better way, here’s what I’d do: put people on stage in ordinary and humanly feasible circumstances (since we’ll be obliged to practice deceit for a long time to come), but put them there so that, by an imperceptible displacement of the usual angle of perception, their relations with the unknown appear unmistakably… there must be a way of showing and making it felt that mystery is about to intervene” (317).

From Confessions of a Poet
From Confessions of a Poet

“I feel myself attracted, above all, by the unconscious gestures of being, which pass their luminous hands through the loop-holes of this rampart of artifice in which we are confined. I would like to study everything that is unformulated in an existence, everything that has no expression in death or in life, everything that seeks a voice in a heart. I would like to ponder instinct, in its sense of light, forebodings, unexplained, overlooked, or extinguished faculties and notions, irrational motives, the marvels of death, the mysteries of sleep…I would like to spy patiently, on the flames of primal being” (295)

From Tragedy of Everyday Life
From Tragedy of Everyday Life

“I have come to believe that an old man sitting in his armchair, simply waiting beneath his lamp, listening, without realizing it, to all the eternal laws which rule over his home, interpreting without comprehending the silence of doors and windows and the small voice of the light, submitting to the presence of his soul and of his destiny, head slightly bowed, without suspecting that all the powers of this world are active and watchful in this room, like attentive maid-servants, unaware that the little table he leans on is actually held in place over the abyss by the sun itself,

and that there is not a single star in the sky nor a single force of the soul that is indifferent to the movement of an eyelid that droops or of a thought that takes flight – I have come to believe that this motionless old man in reality lives a life that is more profound, more human, and more universal than the lover who strangles his mistress, than the captain who comes home victorious…I’m not so sure that a static theatre is impossible. It seems to me that it even exists. Most of Aeschylus’s tragedies are tragedies without movement” (301-302).

Tragedy of Everyday Life Continued
Tragedy of Everyday Life Continued

“There must be something beyond the dialogue that is externally necessary.The only words that count in the play are those that at first glance seemed useless. It is in these words that the soul of the play lies. 

Alongside the indispensable dialogue, there is almost always a second dialogue that seems superfluous. Pay close attention and you’ll see that the second dialogue is the only one to which the soul listens deeply, because here alone is it that the soul is addressed” (302).

Work Cited
Work Cited

Maeterlinck, Maurice, David Willinger, and Daniel C. Gerould. A Maeterlinck Reader: Plays, Poems, Short Fiction, Aphorisms, and Essays. New York: Peter Lang, 2011. Print.