dilluns, 29 de juny de 2015
Tragedy of an Elderly Gentleman: A.D. 3000, in three acts, is the longest in the collection and opens in Galway Bay, in Ireland. There are still men with short lives, including the subjects of a British Empire with its capital in Baghdad and those of the Empire of Turania. The men who have the privilege of long lives, on the other hand, reside in the old British Isles, especially in Ireland. The irony of the Irishman Shaw is not spared on his fellow countrymen who have erected a monument to Falstaff, champion of cowardice, now at the apex of civil virtues after a series of wars which led to the end of European civilisations. Around the oracle of a Pythoness, we find some of the key personalities of history: an elderly gentleman from Baghdad, especially uncomfortable because of his “old age,” a politician who will go back to Baghdad giving a false version of the oracle of the Pythoness, and the Emperor of Turania, a caricature of Napoleon. The Pythoness will order death for the Emperor, so that he does not outlive his glory. Implacable, the Pythoness will also see to the death of the old gentleman by shaking his hand with a lethal grip, when he asks her to be able to remain in the kingdom of men with long life.One hardly knows which is the more appalling: the abjectness of the credulity or the flippancy of the scepticism. — Shaw's Preface” ― George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah 1 likes Like “It is not easy to make the best of both worlds when one of the worlds is preaching a Class War, and the other vigorously practising it.Back to Methuselah (A Metabiological Pentateuch) by George Bernard Shaw consists of a preface (An Infidel Half Century) and a series of five plays: In the Beginning: B.C. 4004 (In the Garden of Eden), The Gospel of the Brothers Barnabas: Present Day, The Thing Happens: A.D. 2170, Tragedy of an Elderly Gentleman: A.D. 3000, and As Far as Thought Can Reach: A.D. 31,920. As Far as Thought Can Reach: A.D. 31,920 As Far as Thought Can Reach is in a time when short-lived people are a mere footnote in ancient history, and great longevity is the norm. The opening scene is a sunlit glade at the foot of thickly wooded hill, on a warm summer afternoon in 31,920 AD. On the west side stands a little classic temple and in the middle of the glade there is a marble altar, shaped like a table, and long enough for a man to lie on. Rows of curved marble benches, spaced well apart, fan out from the altar. A path with stairs of rough-cut stone leads upward from the temple to the hill. In the glade, a group of youths and maidens, all appearing to be eighteen or older are dancing gracefully to music played on flutes. As they dance, a stranger, physically in the prime of life but with a wrinkled, timeworn face, comes down the stony stairs, rapt in contemplation, and bumps heedlessly into a pair of dancers. He is an "Ancient". Remonstrances ensue and the Ancient apologizes, saying that had he known there was a nursery here, he should have gone another way. However, after a swift reconciliation, he is invited to join the festivities. The Ancient refuses, saying he is too mature for gambolling; ancients must stick to their own ways of enjoyment. He leaves and the children pledge to stay forever young, but Chloe, somewhat older, says she feels drawn toward the ancient's way of life. She is nearly four years old and is wearying of the activities of children. This leads to a rift with two year old Stephen, her romantic partner, but she doesn't mind because it frees her to seek solitude, where she can meditate. Acís, a three-year old, tries unsuccessfully to comfort him, but Stephen insists on remaining disconsolate until he finds another partner. It will be a busy day at the nursery: a birth is scheduled followed by the Festival of the Artists. A She-Ancient arrives to supervise the birthing. She asks if the child is ready to be born and Acis says the child is more than ready, that she has been shouting and kicking inside her egg and refuses to wait quietly. The birthing proceeds: In procession, youths carry a new tunic, ewers of water, big sponges and, finally a huge egg, which is placed upon the altar. The egg keeps shouting "I want to be born! I want to be born!" and internal kicking rocks it so hard that it must be held steady to keep it from rolling off the altar. The Ancient deftly opens the shell using a pair of saws and reveals a pretty girl, looking fresh and rosy, but with strands of spare albumen clinging to her body. She looks seventeen years old. The other children bathe her, despite her shrieks and protestations. Her fury turns to delight with the beauty of her tunic when they dress her. She takes a few uncertain steps, but quickly learns to walk, then the Ancient names her Amaryllis, as requested by the other children. The Ancient examines the newly born carefully and pronounces her fit to live. The other children are jubilant because defective children are painlessly destroyed. She, however, will live until she has a fatal accident, which, by the laws of chance, is inevitable for everyone. The Ancient leaves the children to their play. Amaryllis provides amusing interludes throughout the remainder of the play. The Festival of the Artists begins. Their two greatest sculptors will show their latest masterpieces and be crowned with flowers, honoured with dithyrambs and have dances done around them. The sculptors, Arjillax and Martellus, arrive. Martellus apparently brought nothing and Arjillax is jeered because he brought busts of ancients, which the children think are ugly; they want youthful beauties, like themselves. Arjillax explains that he intends to place images in the temple that range in age from the newly-born to the full glory of maturity. Martellus laughs, but not in mockery; he says he, too, attempted such a project, but has smashed all his sculptures and thrown away his tools. Asked why, he says life alone is true and meaningful and that marble remains marble, no matter how skilfully it is shaped. Instead of sculptures, he has brought a scientist, Pygmalion, who is a greater artist than the world has seen before. Pygmalion has successfully created a pair of living, artificial human beings and is ready to display them, which he does, to an audience made impatient by his incomprehensible scientific explanations. The creations are a man and woman, noble in appearance, beautiful to look at and splendidly attired. Arriving hand in hand, they are gratified by the attention they receive. They are plainly modelled from the primitives of the twentieth century. Pleasant at first, their behaviour soon turns murderous and Pygmalion is killed during his efforts to control them. The Ancients arrive, having sensed that they were needed, and destroy the couple painlessly. Their remains are collected, using sanitary precautions, and burnt at Pygmalion's laboratory, which is also destroyed. The Ancients make use of the occasion to explain the realities of life to the young ones, compare artistic images to dolls and to say interest in them will be outgrown. One's own body is the last of many dolls and it will be shed, as well. A man's eventual destiny is to be bodiless, a vortex of energy, immortal, and free to roam among the stars. Tired of their talk with children, the Ancients go their separate ways. As night is falling, the children seek shelter in the temple. Darkness ensues and the ghost of Adam appears as a vague radiance. Next come the ghosts of Eve and Cain, then those of the Serpent and Lilith, mother of mankind. Each has a say, in accordance with their characters, and Lilith prophesies an end of life's slavery to matter, whereupon the spectres vanish.
In the year 31,920 AD, the human race has become egg-shaped. There are no more children because, as soon as they come out of the shell, the human beings start talking like adults. The prototype of this new race is a four-year old girl who prefers philosophical reflection about mathematics to children's games and feelings of love. Despite the control exercised on life, death and matter, it is impossible to know what will happen in the remote future and death may come unexpectedly, not with illness, but only by accidents of a various kind. A long discussion on the destiny of life takes place