Themes and Meanings
Ivona, Princess of Burgundia is about the social natures of human beings. Prince Philip would like to believe that he can act on his own, that he can defy the expectations of his male companions, his parents, and the whole court. However, in order to do so, he must act perversely—act, that is, contrary to what he admits are his inclinations. He is really attracted to beautiful women, but he fights against his attraction to prove that he is his own man.
Ivona’s fate reveals the consequence of being truly individual: isolation from society. There is no way to have a simple conversation without taking into consideration and to a great extent incorporating other people’s points of view. The play begins, for example, with a talk about the sunset similar to the conversations about weather that all people find it necessary to engage in. Such conversations ratify the need for human intercourse, for one person to listen and respond to another, no matter how trivial the matter might be. When Ivona does speak, it is usually to say what she does not feel, to make clear that she is not the sum of what people say about her. She is unwilling, however, to define what she is. She refuses to help others place her in some kind of communal context. She is no help to those who want her at least to acknowledge their questions or to take part in a dialogue they have initiated. By refusing to do so, Ivona attacks the very nature of society.
(The entire section is 510 words.)