Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The plot of The Satin Slipper is so exceedingly complicated that John O’Connor felt the need to include a ten-page summary with his English translation, on which Paul Claudel himself collaborated. Fortunately, readers can appreciate the basic themes of this play even if they do not remember all of its intricate subplots.

Love, spiritual growth, and the search for happiness through religion are the major themes of The Satin Slipper. Claudel reminds his readers that God often works in unexpected ways. Published versions of this play open with a Portuguese proverb, “God writes straight with crooked lines,” followed by Saint Augustine’s remark that “even sins” play a role in Divine Providence.

The complex evolution of Prouheze and Rodrigo is quite extraordinary. In the very first scene of this play, Rodrigo’s brother, a dying Jesuit, laments that his brother “has turned his back” on God in order “to conquer and possess” Prouheze. The Jesuit priest senses that God will somehow transform the physical desires of Prouheze and Rodrigo into a longing for spiritual values “in the deprivation of each other’s presence through the daily play of circumstance.” Spectators may attribute these fortuitous circumstances either to mere chance or to Divine Providence.

Several images of love and spiritual belief are presented in The Satin Slipper. These include the basic amorality of Camillo, who...

(The entire section is 526 words.)