Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1214
The Balcony begins in Madame Irma’s house of illusions. It is an elaborate brothel which enables men of little stature to live out their most decadent fantasies.
In the first scene, a man masquerades as a bishop obsessed with the power to forgive sins. Irma tells him that it is time to pay her and go home. In scene 2, a man poses as a judge infatuated with the power of punishing a beautiful girl. Also in his control is the executioner, who, at his command, will whip a confession out of the girl. Authority is transferred, and the Judge is ordered to crawl on his belly and lick the girl’s feet. Throughout these escapades a threat of danger looms over the brothel. The streets are besieged by rebels, desiring to purge the city of its pomp and decay. The house of illusions is solely dependent upon the Chief of Police for its protection.
Scene 3 introduces a third impostor, a general. The General’s fantasy involves war, culminating in his own funeral. His brothel companion is an impertinent horse played by a stunning girl in a black corset and high heels. The fourth scene brings yet another pretender, a little man dressed as a beggar who has employed a woman in a leather corselet and boots to degrade him. He is ecstatic when handed a lice-infested wig.
Scene 5 opens with Carmen in Irma’s office, saddened that she no longer works as a whore but as a bookkeeper. A buzzer sounds and Irma pulls a switch, allowing her to peep through a viewfinder into any room she desires. As she watches the lewd proceedings, Irma offers Carmen the chance to work again. The executioner, Arthur, enters Irma’s office. Although he is having an affair with her, he seems more interested in the bookkeeping. He requires a substantial amount of money because he likes to buy women’s silk blouses.
The Chief of Police arrives and tells them that the Royal Palace is surrounded. He is certain that the rebellion will end today, leaving him either dead or a hero. His only hope of fulfillment would be for someone to enter the brothel and impersonate him. He discusses with Irma how Chantal, one of her prostitutes, was removed from the brothel by a rebel who came there posing as a plumber. (Prior to Irma’s affair with Arthur, she was romantically involved with the Chief of Police. In fact, it was he who forced Arthur upon her when he felt himself aging.) Arthur reenters the room and is fatally struck in the forehead by a bullet from the outside. Irma receives the Envoy, and Carmen prepares to slip into her Saint Theresa costume one last time.
Scene 6 takes place in a public square. Roger (the man who delivered Chantal from the brothel), a few rebels, and Chantal are arguing. Chantal wants to sing, not bandage the wounded. Most of the rebels already view her as their mascot; they believe that her singing and consequent fame would add to the men’s morale. Roger vehemently opposes this, wanting to keep Chantal for himself. Finally, he agrees to trade Chantal for “a hundred female diggers” from another section of the Revolution’s army. So it is decided that Chantal will embody the rebellion; she will sing and inspire the men. When news arrives that the palace has been blown up, Chantal is whisked away to address the people.
In scene 7, Irma, Carmen, and the Chief of Police are in the brothel room called the Funeral Studio. The Queen’s Envoy is there and proceeds to unveil a bold plan. Since the palace and its dignitaries have been blown up, he wants Irma to pretend to be the queen and her clients the real Bishop, Judge, and General. It is the only way they can squelch the rebellion. The people need the image of the Queen and state figureheads to keep fighting. He warns them, however, that the revolution also has a figurehead in Chantal. The plan calls for the fake Queen and the other puppets to...
(The entire section contains 3627 words.)
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