Tuesday, August 7, 2007

canadian swashbuckling

by George F. Walker

The first time I came across this play was in a drama classroom about a million years ago. I certainly didn't understand it then and I fear I may not understand it now, but I'm going to give it a "stab." It seems to me that if nothing else, this is one hell of a fun play to read. (I'm sure there's more to it. Really I am. But isn't it refreshing, once in a long while, to just have fun?)

Zastrozzi is a man who believes that the world is a fundamentally negative place filled with negative people doing negative things. As a result, he sees chaos as the natural order of the world and crime as the only action worth engaging in, and the only thing with any meaning. Throughout the play we are told that Zastrozzi has no weaknesses, and that he believes that mankind is weak and the world ugly, and "the only way to save them both is to destroy them." He is out to kill Verezzi, a stupid man who is the epitome of the flaky artistic type; he believes that his art is truth without the peskiness of reality, when really it's just bad. Verezzi believes that he himself is God, which sets the play up with the battle of good and evil in Verezzi and Zastrozzi. Except that good here is deeply ironic, and Verezzi has more in common with an old shoe than with the embodiment of God.

In the end, Zastrozzi, who has set out to kill "God" and prove the lack of God at the same time, he allows Victor to find God before he dies and therefore Zastrozzi doesn't kill God but instead reifies him. When he is face to face with Veressi, in the end, Zastrozzi lets him live, saying that he needs and opponent. When the two men symbolize God and Satan, they cannot kill each other, because each defines the other in turn. There is no one without the other, and each needs the other to exist.

One disturbing character in the play is Matilda, who is only happy and sexually fulfilled when she is being abused by someone as violently as possible. She accepts that Zastrozzi is a murderer, an abuser, and a rapist -- and it is those things that attract him to her, rather than acting as a deterrent or scaring her about him. There is one other female character in the play is Julia. Unlike the damaged Matilda, Julia demands complete rationality and kindness from people with whom she interacts. At the end of the play, though, both women are dead. Does it matter which path a woman follows in life and love, then, if she ends up murdered in the end?

No comments: