lines from sister beatrice

In classics long after, quotables on January 29, 2010 at 1:31 am

“This heavy veil that so constrains your throat / And weighs upon your heart. ‘Twas made for death / Never for life!” (Bellidor)

‘A miracle play in three acts,’ the Sister Beatrice of the play’s title is set to fall for a passing prince – in her confusion confiding to a statue of the virgin “To look at, like your son”. After a long, fairly undignified tug-of-hearts between said statue and her lover (armed with hyperbolic declarations), she dumps her uniform and scampers tearily off. Left alone, the statue sings of forgiveness and,climbing off its pedestal, decides to take her place (if you saw that coming, you’re not clever, you’re psychotic).

beatrice poster

Proclaiming ‘the hour of pardon’, the Beatrice Formerly Known As A Statue (Seriously) drifts about the abbey casually (but not at all covertly) performing miracles – although most of the nuns are too busy bewailing the empty pedestal where their marble virgin used to be. Questioning (they think) Beatrice, they first believe her responsible for looting the thing (Sister Gisela: “Profanatrix!”) but then she explodes into more supernatural spectacle (flames, blossoming boughs, hosannas) so they saint her instead.

sister beatrice by meyerhold

“…all the house / Is void as though my sins had emptied it…” (Sister Beatrice)

The real Beatrice arrives back in rags (“O see to what estate have brought her love / And sin, and all that men call happiness!) after twenty years of ‘all that men call happiness’ while the statue creeps back to its plinth (“‘I wait,’ she said, ‘until my saint returns'”). Unable to convince her fellow sisters of her elopement – “I lost all shame / I lost all reason, and I lost all hope. / All men by turns this body have profaned…” being countered check-matily with: “She is worn out with miracle” – our heroine ends the play somewhat confused, perhaps unworthily exasperated, and ‘falls back exhausted among the sheets’.


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