Largo Desolato Summary
by Vaclav Havel

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Largo Desolato Summary

Largo Desolato is a semi-autobiographical play by the Czech playwright Vaclav Havel about a writer called Leopold Nettles who has come under surveillance from the government due to his political views.

The play begins with Leopold

alone on the stage. He is sitting on the sofa and staring at the front door. After a long pause he gets up and look through the peep-hole. Then he puts his ear to the door and listens intently. After another long pause the curtain drops suddenly and at the same time the music returns.

Leopold continues sitting on the sofa, listening at the door, until Edward enters in scene three and asks,

Has anything happened?

Leopold says no, but from Edward's questions, it is obvious he thinks Leopold is suffering.

How did you sleep?

No diarrhoea

How about dreams?


When Suzanna enters, she is equally worried. As soon as Leopold leaves, she asks Edward,

How is he?

Betram is a little more direct.

What happened to your perspective on things? To your humor? . . . Your capacity for enthusiasm, for emotional involvement. . . . I fear for you Leopold.

When two government agents arrive at the end of scene 4, the reader finds out that Leopold has written an essay criticizing the government. However, the government will, the agents' say, let it go, if Leopold

would sign, here and now, a short statement saying that you are not Professor Leopold Nettles, author of the paper in question, then the whole thing will be considered null and void and all previous decisions rescinded –

Much to Suzanna's disgust, he begins to consider the offer, at one point saying,

I’d rather be there than here like this! Why can’t I get my life clear! It was wonderful when nobody was interested in me—when nobody expected anything from me, nobody urging me to do anything—I just browsed around the second-hand bookshops—studying the modern philosophers at my leisure—spending the nights making notes from their works—taking walks in the parks and meditating.

At the end of the play, the agents come back to tell him that his case has been postponed. Leopold is distraught. Even if it means imprisonment, he just wants the whole saga to end.

I don't want an adjournment! I want to go there! I'm begging you—I beseech you—I can't go on living like this—

The play ends with Leopold again sitting on his sofa alone.


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In scene 1, Professor Leopold Nettles sits on the couch in his living room, watching the front door. After a while he walks to the door, peers through its peephole, and listens at the door as if expecting someone; he appears tense. After a long pause, the curtain drops.

Scene 2 repeats scene 1 exactly. Scene 3 begins in the same way, but it continues until the doorbell rings and Nettles jumps. After he recognizes the man at the door, he opens the door and Edward, his friend and his wife’s companion, enters. The two engage in small talk, mostly about Leopold’s digestion and nerves; Edward expresses concern that Leopold is drinking too much and that he has not gone outside in some time. Suzana, Leopold’s wife, returns from shopping and asks Leopold about his activities of the day. He details his morning’s tidying and fixing of breakfast. Suzana chastises him for eating his eggs with a silver teaspoon. She then leaves, and Leopold and Edward resume their conversation. Leopold appears very anxious and concerned that he will soon be arrested, although he does not reveal where he thinks he will be taken or by whom.

The doorbell rings again, startling Leopold. Two workers from a paper mill, First Sidney and Second Sidney, whom Nettles met two years ago but had forgotten, have come to request that Leopold take some sort of action, described only in the vaguest of terms. The two Sidneys declare themselves fans of Leopold and claim that many people are looking to him for direction. The doorbell rings again, and Lucy, Leopold’s mistress, enters; the ensuing conversation repeats much of what has already been said. The two Sidneys, having overstayed...

(The entire section is 1,339 words.)