Princess Maleine

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Princess Maleine
Written by Maurice Maeterlinck
Genre Fairy tale drama

Princess Maleine (French: La Princesse Maleine) is a play by Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck. It was the author's first play. It is an adaption of the Brothers Grimm's Maid Maleen.

Publication[edit]

The play was first published in serial form in La Societe Nouvelle, a Brussels periodical. Since Maeterlinck desired the play be published in book form, his mother tightened her budget and gave him 250 francs. The play was printed in December, 1889.[1]

Maeterlinck mailed a copy of his play to Stéphane Mallarmé, from whom it was eventually passed to Octave Mirbeau, who wrote a very warm review of the work for Le Figaro. In the review he said the play was "superior in beauty to what is most beautiful in Shakespeare."[2]

List of characters[edit]

  • Hjalmar, king of one part of Holland
  • Prince Hjalmar, his son
  • Marcellus, king of another part of Holland
  • Godeliva, his wife
  • Princess Maleine, their daughter
  • Anne, queen of Jutland
  • Little Allan, her son
  • Princess Uglyane, her daughter
  • Angus, friend of Prince Hjalmar
  • Stephano, officer of Marcellus
  • Vanox, officer of Marcellus
  • Nurse to Maleine
  • A chamberlain
  • A physician
  • A madman
  • Seven nuns
  • A big black dog named Pluto
  • Lords, officers, a cowherd, a cook, a cripple, peasants, servants, etc.

Synopsis[edit]

Maleine is expected to marry Prince Hjalmar, whose father is old and senile. Her parents and King Hjalmir have a misunderstanding. Thus, she is locked in a tower. She escapes with her nurse and, concealing her identity, becomes a servant in the house of Hjalmar. She learns that the prince is now effianced to Uglyane, whose mother is cruel. Queen Anne, upon discovering Maleine's identity, coaxes King Hjalmir into helping her kill the princess. Outraged, Prince Hjalmir kills Anne and then himself.

Themes[edit]

A salient theme in Princess Maleine is decline. Maeterlinck believed that man was completely powerless against a higher force, which exercised its will upon the world. Thus, the characters are dominated by their surroundings and are unable to control the events in their own lives.[3] Uglyane is completely dominated by her mother, and barely has a voice in the play at all. Prince Hjalmir is a coward. King Hjalmir is an old, sickly, senile figure. He resembles other kings in literature who are feeble, like Shakespeare's King Lear. He personifies decline and the waning years of a weak authority.[4]

Chaos is also an underlying theme. As Maleine wanders through the woods, the forest symbolizes chaos as it is dark and full of unseen predators. Whenever there is a juxtaposition of dark and light in the story, chaos ensues. The play ends in chaos, for there is no moral or championing of social values.[5]

Since Princess Maleine is set in a vague time and place, it resembles a fairy tale.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Maurice Maeterlinck, Bettina Knapp, (Twayne Publishers: Boston), 28-9.
  2. ^ Knapp, 39.
  3. ^ Knapp, 32.
  4. ^ Knapp, 32-5.
  5. ^ Knapp, 36-8.