Critical Context (Comprehensive Guide to Drama)
The Blue Bird represents major and unexpected changes in the drama of Maurice Maeterlinck. Early in his career he had seemed obsessed with death and had been called a specialist in terror. The extreme pessimism of his early plays lessened as he began to write in a more realistic style in the late 1890’s and the early twentieth century, but the plays that he wrote just before The Blue Bird are very different from the fantasy of Tyltyl and Mytyl. Monna Vanna (pr., pb. 1902; English translation, 1903) is a political drama set in the fifteenth century; like some of the plays immediately preceding it, the drama is of primary interest for its very strong female title character. Joyzelle (pr., pb. 1903; English translation, 1906) tells the story of Merlin’s love for the beautiful Joyzelle; set on an enchanted medieval island, the play, based on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (pr. 1611, pb. 1623), has a supernatural quality and includes the fairy Arielle as Merlin’s servant. Even so, the play, which was one of Maeterlinck’s most disappointing failures, gave little indication of the charming combination of allegory and fantasy to appear in the children’s dream world of The Blue Bird.
The connections between Maeterlinck’s previous works and The Blue Bird are evident in his essays of the early twentieth century. In many of these he wrote of the world of plants, insects, and animals; the...
(The entire section is 418 words.)