Le dialogue dans le marécage

by Marguerite Yourcenar

This short play was written at the latest in 1931, but perhaps as early as 1929. It is based on an event that took place in Italy during the Middle Ages, the story of a Sienese noblewoman, Pia de’ Tolomei, shut up in an insalubrious castle in Maremma by a jealous husband who has left her there to die. This moving anecdote, certainly totally made up, originates in some commentaries on four fairly cryptic lines in Dante’s Purgatory.


Having always read the classics of the Far East attentively, it is likely that at the time I wrote this one-act play I was aware of the Noh plays. It is certain, however, that the idea of consciously imitating a Noh did not occur to me. But if, as indicated in Claudel’s concise formula, “drama is something that happens, a Noh is someone who arrives,” Le dialogue dans le marécage" is a Noh whose Sire Laurent would be the Waki, that is the hallucinating pilgrim, and Pia the Shite, that is the ghost.

Marguerite Yourcenar

Performance created for the Ex-Ansaldo space – Milan, Summer 1991