(wc 1761 – uh, oh!)
Irony is a great “I” word, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to write about it. There are several different types of irony. There is the trope, or verbal irony, in which the words spoken or expressed have a meaning different (often the opposite) than the original meaning. As an example, I remember watching a movie with our sons called “He-Man,” (I think). I believe Dolph Lundgren was the star, and my Gentle Readers, if there ever was a more apt walking advertisement for weightlifting (and maybe steroids) than he, I would like to see him. Anyway, when he first appeared on screen in his near-naked, sharply carved “muscle-ness,” I leaned over to our eldest son and said, “Someone needs to tell that guy to work out!”
There is situational irony, in which what happens versus what is expected to happen are different. For instance: A man in his brand new suit goes to great lengths to avoid being squirted on by a kid with a water pistol, but in his efforts to avoid getting wet, falls into a swimming pool.
But another type of irony will be the subject of my post today – dramatic irony. I often find myself in a world of dramatic irony – that effect produced by a narrative story, film, or play in which the reader and/or audience knows more about present or future circumstances than a character in the story. When did that sort of irony come along? Or has it always been so? Perhaps. I would imagine that the ancient oral tradition of preserving a culture’s history generated dramatic, (and/or comic), observations of irony when they listened to their stories after hearing them for the first time. My example for this was provided by my muse, Poly, after much play-writing angst.
Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. If you had never heard the story, or never read it, you would not know the future outcome of Adam’s and Eve’s transgression. But once you know the story, the dramatic, ironic tension is definitely there.
ONE DAY IN EDEN
(A play in one act by Paula Tohline Calhoun)
Just like the ads for the restaurant “The Olive Garden,” it is like “an Italian street festival, in a lovely garden setting.” There is at least one fig tree visible, and another mysterious tree upstage center laden with beautiful fruit.
Serpent: a very handsome and cunning man, slightly older than Adam and Eve.
Eve: A beautiful, naïve girl, appears to be about 15 years old, and physically mature.
Adam: A handsome, naïve boy, also physically mature, just slightly older than Eve. He has an evident scar on his side.
Insider: The hapless observer who knows the story in its entirety. He is visible and known to all except Adam and Eve.
Act I, Scene i – The curtain rises on our garden, and we see Serpent watching Eve, who is seated and combing her hair, humming. The serpent whistles to Eve.
Serpent: Hey! Eve, Honey! Come over here! Have I got a treat for you!
Eve: Who, me? (Serpent nods and beckons her over to him).
Insider: (Aloud, to self) – “Eve! Don’t listen to him! You’ll regret it!”
Serpent: I just picked this gorgeous piece of fruit from that tree over there in the center of the garden. Have a bite and tell me it’s not the most delicious thing you ever put in your mouth!
Eve: Oh, YUM! (Stops suddenly before taking a bite.) Wait! Did you say you got this from the tree over there in the center of the garden? (Serpent nods in the affirmative.) We’re not supposed to eat that! Daddy told us not to! He said we might get a REALLY bad stomach ache! Anything else we can have, but not that! It looks really good, but no, thank you! I’m a good girl!
Serpent: Oh, come on! Eve! (rolling his eyes) You have got to be kidding me! Don’t tell me you believe everything your Daddy tells you and that you do everything he tells you to! Are you s—-in’ me?
Insider: (Aloud, to self) Run Eve, RUN! Get out of there NOW!!
Eve: Of course I do! Why? You mean you don’t? I didn’t know you even could do those no-no things. Besides, why wouldn’t I believe my Daddy?
Insider: You go girl!
Serpent: Eve! Eve, Honey! Your Daddy has you hoodwinked! Pull off that virgin-wool sweater from over your eyes – (aside) and I do mean virgin! [Serpent winks at Insider. Insider rolls eyes and groans.] Listen to me! [Insider makes gestures in attempt to distract Eve from Serpent, to no avail.] I’m the one who will tell it to you like it is, Babe! I was with your Daddy when he created this sweet set-up, and believe me, he set it all up for his advantage! He’s a smart cookie, and his plan is that everybody else will think so too. He wants to make sure you and your boyfriend Adam don’t louse things up for him. [A look of curiosity and bewilderment begins to grow in Eve’s eyes.] He told you not to eat that fruit because he doesn’t want anybody around who is as smart as he is! You eat that luscious beauty there, and Sister, your shackles are off! No more “Do this, do that; don’t do this, don’t do that!” Your “Yes, Daddy!; no, Daddy!” days are over. One bite, and from here on in, Baby, you da man! er, wo-man!
Eve: [nervously biting thumb nail] That doesn’t sound like the Daddy I know. Are you really, really telling me the truth? Daddy has never given me a single reason not to trust him. [hesitates, thinking] Daddy is always telling me what I can and can’t do; but he also wants me to enjoy our garden, and the tree is part of the garden. If he didn’t want me to enjoy it, why did he make it so pretty, or even bother making it at all?
Insider: Eve, please! Don’t you know what happens when people start thinking? Stop before it’s too late! If you do what that serpent says, you are bringing us all down! It will be thousands of years before we can recover from the fall!
Serpent: Now, you’re beginning to catch on! Your Daddy just doesn’t want any competition! Take a nice juicy bite, and from then on, the sky’s the limit! (to Insider, Serpent sneers: for real – the upper one, anyway!) Besides, you and Adam will finally get yourselves in good shape! I don’t want to be a “spoiler” (heh-heh to Insider), but you and Adam will discover some things your Daddy has never told you about, like Exercise, Sweat, Tears, Pain! And wait til you find out about giving birth! You are gonna love it!
Eve: Really? Well, if you say so! Shouldn’t I go get Adam first? I mean, he wants to know those things you told me about. He’ll love giving birth, too, I bet!
Insider: Good idea, Eve! Maybe you’ll get distracted and forget all about this! Maybe Adam will talk you out of it. . .nah! [Smacking his own forehead.] Fat chance! He has been under your thumb ever since he woke up and saw you hovering over him, pressing a cool cloth to his side. [Throws his hands up in desperation.]
Serpent: Well, you could go get him first, but why? Taste it first, and then you can give him your personal observations. When he sees what it does for you, he’ll see there is no harm in being in the know, and just like your Daddy. He’ll be able to hold his own – you will too – on your evening strolls with Daddy. Just think!
Insider: No! For all of our sakes! NOOOOOOOOO! [Puts hands over face and begins to sob.]
[Eve takes fruit, looks at it warily, sniffs it, then smiles and takes a large bite. At the same time, the sounds of someone approaching are heard, followed by the entrance onstage of Adam, calling Eve’s name. Serpent exits, quietly.]
Adam: There you are, Eve! I’ve been looking all over for you. I heard voices. Who you been talkin’ to? What’re you eatin’?
Eve: [Mouth full, she points, suddenly mystified, at spot where Serpent had just been. She mumbles (ad lib), barely intelligibly, that the serpent had given her this fruit and told her it was really OK to eat it, and that Adam would want to try it. Then wiping juice from mouth, and swallowing, she hands the half-eaten fruit to Adam and says, clearly and enthusiastically] Here! Have a bite! It’s delicious!
[The Insider throws his hands in air, a gesture of pleading. Letting them fall in resignation, and with a long and audible sigh, Insider walks to edge of stage, sits down, legs dangling over apron, and silently weeps.]
Adam: [Confused, looking for whoever Eve said she was speaking to, and shaking his head in a gesture to restore his hearing, turns back to Eve and says,] Huh? You stepped on what in whose backyard? [absent-mindedly takes fruit from Eve’s hand.] Ooooh! This smells great! I didn’t know I was hungry!
[Adam takes large bite. As he does so, a look of astonishment comes over Eve’s face, followed by the same on Adam’s. They both begin to gawk at one another, noticing their own bodies for the first time, and in abject embarrassment, they start clutching at the flora around them to cover their nakedness.]
In a grand deus ex machina moment, the curtain falls at the same time a huge flash of lightning is seen and a loud roll of thunder roars. There is a smoky haze, and the lights and noise continue for about two minutes.
Act I, Scene ii – The curtain rises. Adam and Eve stand huddled together, each wearing clothing made from animal skins. The stage is empty of props, (there is a bare dirty floor, and a smoky haze remains in the air), except for a large golden gate, stage right, that is barred shut, with some stern angels standing by it, guarding with swords the entry back into the garden. Clutching one another, Adam and Eve slowly exit stage left, accompanied by one last roll of thunder. Just before reaching their exit, Serpent is seen, on his belly, slithering off the stage just before them.]
Eve: [Just before exit, Eve hesitates upon seeing Serpent, and says to Adam] He looks kinda familiar. Haven’t we seen that guy somewhere before?
Adam and Eve exit, curtain falls to music of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” or the “Loony Toons-That’s All Folks” theme (director’s choice).
This is a long post, I hope not too boring to all of you insiders, but I am sure that you, like I, have had enough. . .
(Want to know more about irony? Check this out!)