The Play

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1797

Cock-a-Doodle Dandy unfolds in three long scenes. As scene 1 opens, Michael Marthraun and Sailor Mahan are sitting in Marthraun’s front yard, talking in low tones about mysterious events that have disturbed peace and order in the parish of Nyadnanave. Marthraun regards the occurrences—strange sounds, levitations of objects, and other phenomena of the poltergeist variety—as the result of spells or bewitchments, whereas the less-superstitious Mahan takes a more rational tone. Marthraun insists that the trouble began when his daughter Loreleen returned from London wearing short skirts, nylon stockings, and cosmetics. Marthraun also wonders whether his second wife, Lorna, is partly to blame, and he avers that “there’s evil in that woman.” Against Mahan’s remonstrances, Marthraun insists that Lorna married him only because of his farm and his bank account; moreover, she did not consent until he agreed to give her paralytic sister, Julia, fifty pounds to defray the expenses of a trip to Lourdes.

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Mahan and Marthraun begin to haggle over the price Marthraun is to pay for having Mahan’s trucks transport his peat to market when a mysterious Cock crows in the background and Loreleen enters. Her presence is disturbing to the two men, who have trouble keeping their eyes off her legs, but they continue to wrangle. The argument is finally interrupted by two of Mahan’s burly drivers, who threaten a strike unless he raises their wages. As they leave, they have the impression that Loreleen is being metamorphosed into a mysterious Cock.

Marthraun now insists that this event proves that Loreleen is not his actual daughter but a woman possessed by a demon. Mahan and Marthraun resume the argument over the contract, although Marthraun adds to the supernatural atmosphere by telling a story of a widow who allegedly possessed the “evil eye.” In the rest of the scene, the two are joined by a succession of visitors. The first is Shanaar, an alleged sage and holy man, who arrives with many dire forebodings. Marion the maid, a pretty girl of twenty, then comes dashing onstage with the news that a strange bird is causing a disturbance inside the house. She identifies the bird as possibly a hen or a wild goose; despite her calm demeanor, the story produces fear and confusion. When a loud noise is heard, Marion flees through the gate and into the arms of Robin Adair, the messenger, whose jaunty air suggests an improbable combination of Hermes and Robin Goodfellow. Adair, Marion’s sweetheart, reassures her and identifies the bird as the Cock; after disappearing into the house, he emerges, leading the man-sized rooster with a rope. He explains the bird’s sudden docility by saying that the Cock is “a bit unruly at times, but conthrollable be th’ right persons.” After Adair takes the Cock away, Marion amuses herself at the expense of Marthraun, Mahan, and Shanaar by commenting on their fright.

Indignant, Marthraun and Mahan respond by making suggestive remarks to Marion when she returns. Mahan pinches her bottom, to which Marion reacts angrily. As she leaves, however, they are shocked to see an apparition of pagan horns sprouting from her forehead. Worried that Marion is connected with these supernatural events, they are reassured by the arrival of the priest, Father Domineer. He is accompanying the litter bearing Lorna’s paralytic sister on the beginning of a pilgrimage to Lourdes, where she hopes to be miraculously cured.

Scene 2 opens with Lorna expressing doubts whether Julia will be healed by her pilgrimage. In the actions that follow, a comic paganism erupts. As Marthraun and Mahan are debating reasons for the strange happenings, the messenger enters. Robin announces that he is looking for the Cock, which has escaped and is being pursued around the parish. When...

(The entire section contains 2204 words.)

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