Places: The Intruder

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: L’Intruse, 1890 (English translation, 1891)

First produced: 1891

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Tragedy

Time of work: Early twentieth century

Places DiscussedCountry house

Country Intruder, Thehouse. The play’s only location is an ordinary setting in extraordinary circumstances: a dimly lit room in an old country. The room has doors at the left and right and a small concealed door in a corner. Stained glass windows on the back wall are predominantly green, giving an eerie cast to interior objects lighted by the light from the outside. A glass door beside them opens to a terrace. In another corner is a clock, and a lighted lamp provides illumination. There is also a table with chairs around it.

The play opens in the late morning, when a family assembles to wait for news of the mother’s illness; the atmosphere is one of terror and foreboding. Doors open by themselves, and then refuse to close. The lamp casts flickering shadows. Sounds are heard for which no explanation can be found. With very little plot or characterization, Maeterlinck creates an atmosphere of mystery that gradually escalates into full-blown terror.

BibliographyBass, Ruth. “Backstage at the Guggenheim.” Review of The Intruder, by Maurice Maeterlinck. Art News 85, no. 6 (Summer, 1986): 16, 18. In this review of Hanne Tierney’s staging of Maeterlinck’s play with puppetlike figures at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in January, 1986, Bass shows how the play lends itself to creative revival and aesthetic innovation. Tierney designed her expressionistic figures, controled them at a keyboard by invisible fishing lines, and spoke all of their parts in a monotone.Block, Haskell M. Mallarmé and the Symbolist Drama. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1963. Block provides a broad view of symbolist drama and discusses in depth the aesthetic theory of its precursor, Mallarmé, and its masters, of whom Maeterlinck was the most outstanding. Block includes a discussion of The Intruder.Daniels, May. The French Drama of the Unspoken. Edinburgh: University Press, 1953. After discussing the positivistic mind-set of the end of the nineteenth century, Daniels devotes two chapters to Maeterlinck’s plays, all of which are a strong reaction to naturalistic theater. Analyzes the nature of spectator response to Maeterlinck’s theater of the unexpressed in The Intruder and Pelléas and Mélisande (1892).Finney, Gail. “Dramatic Pointillism: The Examples of Holz and Schlaf’s Die Familie Selicke and Maeterlinck’s L’Intruse.” Comparative Literature Studies 30, no. 1 (1993): 1-15. Finney describes George Seurat’s pointillistic neo-impressionistic painting style and shows how “temporal or linguistic pointillism” occurs in Johannes Schlaf’s Die Familie Selicke (1890) and Maeterlinck’s The Intruder. She indicates that many of the dramatic techniques found in Maeterlinck’s play are used by such later twentieth century playwrights as Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, Samual Beckett, and Harold Pinter.Heller, Otto. Prophets of Dissent: Essays on Maeterlinck, Strindberg, Nietzsche and Tolstoy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1918. Includes one essay devoted to Maeterlinck. Heller in 1918 already understood that the dramatist’s secular mysticism represented a retreat into the “central ego” and an effort to express the unknown internal forces that motivate individuals. Maeterlinck’s theater communicates humankind’s frustration before the invisible, uncontrollable forces, both internal and external, that no longer fall under the old categories of fate and religion.
Categories: Places