Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Architect and the Emperor of Assyria is about the struggle between two complementary aspects of human nature: The intellectual and spiritual is represented by the character of the Emperor, and the sensual and emotional is portrayed by the Architect. The Architect is the “noble savage”—the person living in harmony with, and having control over, nature. The Emperor represents civilization, and his knowledge gives him control over his mind and the minds of others. These opposing characteristics exist in every individual and in humanity as a whole. Neither set can exist without the other, yet they war constantly for dominance. Their struggles do not lead to any conclusions, but only to new beginnings; thus they create and sustain the chaos and confusion that is characteristic of the human situation.

The characters dramatize this dialectic by engaging in one role-playing game after another. The Emperor, as the dominant, verbal half of the couple, teaches the Architect how to speak and decides what games they shall play—he also cuts the games off when they threaten to touch his emotions. The Architect does the feeling for the pair. When the lonely Emperor calls out for his mother, the Architect assumes the role, speaking soothingly to the Emperor and caressing him. When the Emperor launches into his speeches about the wonders of civilized life, the Architect listens patiently and asks interested questions. The Architect fulfills the Emperor’s final request to consume his body: Literally...

(The entire section is 621 words.)