(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Exit the King is one long, uninterrupted scene. The kingdom has been deteriorating for some time: the heater does not work, the cows do not produce milk, and the sun is late. Queen Marguerite and the Doctor understand what is coming. They believe that they must inform the King and help him prepare for death. Queen Marie, the King’s second and dearest wife, wants to protect him from the truth. Encouraged by Marie, Bérenger first denies that his death is imminent, but he must progressively face the evidence. The physician coldly presents the medical facts.

Marguerite expects the King to live his death as a “ceremony.” Marie comforts and cajoles him. In a progression as precise as the various stages described by modern physicians who study the process of dying, Bérenger denies the possibility of his demise, rebels, bargains, despairs, and finally resigns himself to it. As he weakens and loses control, his entourage vanishes. Only Queen Marguerite remains at his side. Bérenger has ceased his struggle. He looks inside; he is relieved of the metaphorical weights he carried through life. One limb, one finger at a time, he gives himself up to the Divinity of Death represented by Marguerite. She disappears, leaving the King on his throne, as still as a statue. The scenery fades away, a gray light invades the stage, and everything vanishes in a sort of mist.

Why choose a king to describe the dying process? Because to be born and to...

(The entire section is 480 words.)