Banville, Theodore, and John Gray. The Kiss. Edinburgh: Tragara, 1983. Print.
by Kaitlyn D’Agostino, Denise Conejo, and Chris Didier
The Kiss, a one-act play by Theodore de Banville, opens in a lush forest at the brink of dawn. Urgele, who is cursed with the visage and constitution of a decrepit old crone, is about to die unless she can receive a kiss upon her cheek from the lips of a virgin. Her hopes rest on Pierrot, an innocent young man, who has stopped in Urgele’s corner of the wood to eat. Urgele hides as he sets up his picnic. Pierrot, bemoaning his lack of a dining companion, confesses that he would eat with the devil himself to avoid eating alone. When Pierrot sees the weak and stumbling Urgele, he rushes to her aid and offers her a place next to him in the shade and shares his bread and wine. Urgele, momentarily reinvigorated by the young man’s compassion and courage-giving wine, asks him for her lifesaving kiss. Pierrot, acknowledging his own inexperience, shies away from Urgele and is reluctant to grant her the simple favor. However, inspired by the suffering heroes of antiquity, he finally kisses her upon her third urging.
Pierrot’s kiss breaks Urgele’s curse, and she transforms into a young woman and is clothed in beautiful fabrics and draped in glittering jewels. She reveals to the instantly besotted Pierrot that she is a fae who had been cursed by a wizard. She thanks her savior but confesses that she, in her freedom, will probably forget her imprisonment as well as her hero when she returns to her people.
Pierrot feels that Urgele owes him a great debt, but eschews her offer to repay his kiss with one of her own. Because he has seen her in all her awesome loveliness, he proclaims that nothing will satisfy the debt except possessing her fully. His virtue and innocence, although the key to Urgele’s restored beauty, now burdens him, though his inexperience doesn’t stop him from grabbing at Urgele and attempting to have sex with her.
Urgele insists that were she to consent to giving him her virtue, she would be forever banished from her family and their lands of pleasure and plenty. Pierrot says that he will marry Urgele, which momentarily seems to weaken her resistance to him and the two imagine their pastoral future together while playing on multiple connotations of the color white. However, when Pierrot resumes his attempts to embrace her, she again frustrates the ardent suitor by insisting that they have a proper wedding with witnesses and ceremonies. Pierrot argues that the forest has supplied all that they should need; the old oaks shall be their family, a blackbird shall act as their registrar, and the birds shall serenade their reception.
Exhausted of excuses, Urgele relents, but insists that he make sure that their coupling is hidden from any possible voyeur. Alone for a moment, the fae soliloquizes about her dwindling magic as well as the loss of her long-defended virtue, though she admits that she does believe in Pierrot’s earnest love for her and that she “loves him on the whole” (1.1. 256).
Pierrot returns to the conflicted fae, but their secured privacy is interrupted by the sound of a chorus of fairies who arrive to return their sister to her home. Urgele leaves with them after she kisses Pierrot as payment for his original token. Pierrot confesses that without Urgele, his life can have no happiness and he would be better off dead. His hopeless sorrow is short-lived as the finality of death quickly dissuades him from self-slaughter. After all, Pierrot reflects, the world is full of beauty as well as beautiful women from whom the well-made Pierrot can win many kisses. Pierrot concludes this monologue by breaking the fourth wall and telling the audience that he wishes to fetch the actress who played Urgele. Urgele returns to address the women in the theatre, asking them to indulge the actors and the writer with their cheers and applause.