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From: "Tony Ellis" <tellis@futurenet.co.uk>
Subject: (urth) Re: Dr Talos's Play
Date: 24 Nov 1997 09:26:45 +0100

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

 RE>Dr Talos's Play

Paul C Duggan wrote (re raising sons from stones):
>I had originally thought that that was a reference to Jesus words about
>being able to raise up stones as sons of abraham...

Actually, that makes just as much sense as my theory. I wonder which is

Re Nephilim:
>Huh? Part of the Bible but not the "christian universe"? I guess most
>assume they perished in the flood (except for grendels mother :-).

Christianity teaches that there was only one Son of God. And as for
perishing in the flood... if the Son of God can walk on water, then why
not the Sons? :-)

CRCulver wrote:
>LOL, look up Nephilim in "The Devil's Dictionary," that wonderful satire
>by Ambrose Bierce, and you'll see that you and that definition agree in

Sadly I don't have a copy. Care to share this definition with Paul C
Duggan and I?

Mantis wrote:
>Re: the length of the play and the completeness of the drama we are
>shown.  First off, please count the number of times the stage
>direction "stage darkens" appears--this traditionally indicates the
>end of one "act" and the beginning of the next "act." 

It also indicates the division between one "scene" and the next "scene",
which is what I would call these divisions. An "act" normally consists
of a number of scenes, these do not, but each changes the locale.

>...I count five, myself, but I also
>think the play has been cut off: so six acts, at least.

Ironically, if the divisions are acts, five would be an appropriate
number. Horace established the five-act play, and it became the model 
for Renaissance drama, which Dr Talos's play resembles more than any
other kind.

In any event, I still don't see any justification for extrapolating a
symbolic "divine week", I'm afraid. 

However, let me confess that in doing a little more research to defend
my theory that what we see of the play is all there is, I instead found
evidence which shoots my theory down in flames! In the chapter in Claw 
that follows the play, Severian says that what what was supposed to
happen at the point Baldanders broke free was that "Baldanders would 
rest the flambaux from me, pretend to break my back, and so end the 
scene." This indicates, I can't deny it, that there are indeed more 
scenes to come.

Mantis goes on to say, with some justifaction:
>Second, if this =3Dreally=3D is all the play that there is, then how do
>you explain the presence of the following characters in the list
>preceeding the play: Angelic Beings, The New Sun, The Old Sun, The

I can't, Mantis, and I should have spotted this - but then, neither do
you explain why Severian ends his transcript where he does. Or why, in
Shadow, Severian describes as "the final part" of the play a scene that
is precisely the final scene of the transcript. If the play doesn't end
here, why is Severian saying it does?  

The simplest explanation I can come up with (apart from the one in which
Gene Wolfe fails to proof the final draft of Claw properly) is that
Severian is talking about the play =3Das it was performed=3D rather than =
it existed as a whole. The play the peasants saw ended with Baldanders
breaking free, and so, by mischance, does the play the House Absolute
sees, so this is the play Severian reports to us. He does say, in 
Chapter XXIV of Claw, that he wants to record the play "as it might have
been recorded by some diligent clerk in the audience." And what we get
is indeed the play that clerk would have seen.

>"How else can the play end but on a knife-edge, with the New Sun
>battling Darkness and everything else still in doubt?"
>Uh, is this a trick question? <g> It can end with the triumph of the
>New Sun, naturally!  Be careful--you are assigning allegorical
>qualities to a play already steeped in mythos: the battle at the
>truncation is not between "the New Sun" (a character on the list who has
>not yet appeared in the play--though he probably was spotted by the
>countessa) and "Darkness" (a character who does not exist in the
>play); rather, it is between the Familiar (a torturer) played by a
>torturer and Nod (a titan who would retake the throne of Zeus) played
>by a titan who would retake the throne of Zeus

It seems hardly fair of you, Mantis, to criticise my reading of the
battle as overly allegorical when actually I'm making your own point
that the play "is constantly being acted out in the course of all five
books." Of course "Darkness" and "the New Sun" don't appear in the
play as characters, but they are still the main contenders in the Book
of the New Sun story on which the play is based. I could just as easily 
criticise your critique for bringing in "Zeus" when he manifestly 
doesn't exist in the play.

I think we have to see the play as two plays: the Whole Play, which
exists mainly in Dr Talos's head (but also "on the fragments of soiled
paper we passed from hand to hand that afternoon"), and the Performed
Play  the play that is actually enacted. The Whole Play may have any
number of additional scenes, we just don't know, but the Performed Play
is the one Wolfe shows us, and for that reason, I think, the one we are
supposed to think about. 

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