Field, Michael. Deirdre ; A Question of Memory ; Ras Byzance. London, England: Poetry shop, 1918. Web. 01 Mar. 2016. . https://ia600401.us.archive.org/6/items/deirdrequestiono00fielrich/deirdrequestiono00fielrich.pdf
by Tara Williams and Humaira Zakaria
The day after a dance, in Ferencz Renyi’s home, Ferencz is thinking about his position as a school teacher, the possibility of a relationship between his good friend Lazlo and his soon to be sister-in-law Erzsi. Erzsi enters and they discuss marriage, the war, and the fact that Ferencz’s friend Lazlo is hopelessly in love with her. Erzsi dismisses the idea of this match as if something was not allowing her to pursue this course. They discuss the impending revolt between their Hungarian village and the occupying Austrian troop. Erzsi recalls that at the dance while Ferencz and Irma were dancing, an Austrian spy was watching Irma very intensely.
Lazlo enters with marching papers. Ferencz is to be Captain, and they will join Colonel’s Szabo’s regiment. Erzsi is excited by the prospect of war and supports the revolution with songs from Hungarian history to boost the morale of the enlisted men. Ferencz is afraid to break the news of his departure to his fiancée Irma, and Lazlo declares his love and life to Erzsi while she declares her life to the revolution. Lazlo confesses that fighting and dying for Erzsi has more value than fighting for the country; she has Lazlo pledge to fight for her even though she cannot love him back and he accepts.
Ferencz’s mother enters to say farewell to her son, and she expresses how proud she is of him for fighting against the Austrians. To get Ferencz excited and more determined to fight, she tells him a story of her torture for harboring a fugitive by General Haynau. Shortly after Ferencz was born, she had been jailed and flogged for hiding a fugitive in her home twelve hours. The fugitive was caught and killed, and Ferencz’s mother was arrested. She tells her son that they treated women very horribly. Her captors would berate, flog, and torture the women. She wants Ferencz to go to battle and avenge her honor and protect the women and children of the village.
It is also Irma’s birthday, and Ferencz is concerned about their meeting before he leaves. When Irma arrives, they discuss his departure, and she becomes hysterical. Ferencz passionately kisses Irma and tells her that he is leaving within the hour. They ask where he is going and he refuses to tell. The troops gather in Ferencz’s home and discuss their plans and desire for victory. They are led by Erzsi in a patriotic song of Hungary and the curtain drops.
Ferencz’s mother is in the village vineyard with Erzsi and Irma, and she is anxious about Haynau being so close to the village. They discuss the unusual cruelty of General Haynau and Ferencz’s mother fears the possibility that Ferencz may never return home. Irma refuses to accept this possibility and expresses that she hopes he will do anything he can to save his life. The mother hopes her son will do anything to protect the women and children of the village – even if it means his death. In their conversation, Irma acknowledges that both she and Erzsi love Ferencz, but he chooses and appreciates her love more. Mother replies that she wished that Irma loved him the way that Erzsi does.
Lazlo returns to the village on a mission to retrieve Colonel Szabo’s letters because he had grown impatient with waiting for news. Lazlo agreed to this risky endeavor in hopes of seeing Erzsi. He tells the women that yesterday Ferencz has already won a battle and is presently headed out on another mission. Irma asks Lazlo to stay long enough for her to send a letter to Ferencz and, while waiting, Lazlo sees Erzsi. Lazlo is not dressed in uniform; he notes Erzsi’s negative reaction and acknowledges that she is ashamed of him but stresses that what he is doing is “risky business” and if caught as a spy he could be killed. However, he only volunteered because it would give him an opportunity to see Erzsi. Erzsi claims that his kind of mission is not a characteristic of being a soldier – fighting is.
An Austrian officer, Mansfeldt, enters. He arrests Lazlo as a spy. Mansfeldt discloses that Ferencz had been captured earlier that morning, and he had been ordered to fetch Irma and Ferencz’s mother. At the moment, Ferencz was alive because he knew where the Hungarian regiment was hiding. Irma claimed that she would go to get Ferencz to speak to save his life and that she never hated the Austrians. This statement prompts an argument between Irma and Erzsi. Irma wants to get Ferencz to talk so that he could be saved, but Erzsi tries to convince Irma to let him die. Erzsi promises to care for Irma all her days if she does not do this; Erzsi tells Irma that if she loves Ferencz, she needs to understand that Ferencz must die. At this point, Erzsi admits that she is in love with Ferencz and will miss him terribly, but he must die for the cause. Irma is upset but determined to save Ferencz. She is told by Ferencz’s mother that she is not good enough for her son and that she must prepare for the worst. Irma goes with the intent to save his life and his mother goes with the intent to say goodbye.
The scene is set in the Austrian headquarters where Ferencz and Lazlo are being detained. General Haynau and Mansfeldt discuss how challenging it will be to get the information from Ferencz. Haynau questions Ferencz about where the regiment’s location is. Ferencz will not give any information and would rather die before he gives Haynau the location. Haynau informs Ferencz that if he does not give the location of the troops, his mother will be shot. Fear begins to set in, and he screams, “Defile! Defile!” Mother tells him that he must keep silent and that she does not fear death. Mother insists that if she knew his secret she would not tell it either and so he must not speak. Ferencz’s mother assures her son that she is proud of him. Ferencz refuses Haynau’s request, and he covers his ears and falls against a chair as she is taken out and shot to death (off-stage). Next, Irma is brought in to plead with Ferencz. Irma is determined to save Ferencz so that she may marry. Ferencz realizes that she does not understand the seriousness of the situation. When she is told that she will be shot, she begins to beg Ferencz to tell but the stress of his mother’s death and now understanding that he loved a woman only concerned with herself, he starts becoming unhinged. Ferencz tries to remember and shouts at Haynau that the pressure is compromising his memory. Haynau’s patience is cut short, and he threatens to shoot Irma if Ferencz does not disclose the location, but Ferencz goes completely mad and cannot remember anything. He says that his “memory is wandering about among rocks,” but he pleads for Irma’s life. He wants to save Irma from being shot, but he cannot not remember where the regiment was hiding. Haynau believes that Ferencz “conveniently forgets” where the regiment was. Irma is taken away and is shot dead (off scene). Haynau orders Lazlo to be brought in and demands that Lazlo gives the location of Colonel Sbazo and the regiment. Haynau threatens Lazlo, saying he will kill Erzsi. Lazlo tells General Haynau of the regiment’s location. Lazlo reasons that all the troops love Erzsi and they are willing to die for her and decides to give the location, screaming, “Jablunkau Defile,” while covering his face in shame. General Haynau gives the orders to shoot the traitor and release the madman, and the curtain falls.