Essential Passage 1: Act 1, Scene 1
GALLIMARD: …But, to be honest, I’m not treated like an ordinary prisoner. Why? Because I’m a celebrity. You see, I make people laugh.
I never dreamed this day would arrive. I’ve never been considered witty or clever. In fact, as a young boy, in an informal poll among my grammar school classmates, I was voted “least likely to be invited to a party.” It’s a title I managed to hold onto for many years. Despite some stiff competition.
But now, how the tables turn! Look at me: the life of every social function in Paris. Paris? Why be modest? My fame has spread to Amsterdam, London, New York. Listen to them! In the world’s smartest parlors. I’m the one who lifts their spirits!
Rene Gallimard, a French diplomat to Communist China, has been charged with treason. The play opens with Gallimard in his prison cell, explaining (and justifying) himself to the audience. With ironic cheer about his surroundings, he extols the “luxury” of French prisons. Yet he himself, he states, is more than just a prisoner as are the other inmates. He claims he is a “celebrity.” The fact that his crime involves complicity with a Communist agent who was his lover for more than twenty years, without his knowing either that the agent was a spy and not a woman, has made him a laughingstock. It is this that has made him a “celebrity.” He pretends to glory in it. As a school boy he had been unpopular and shunned. He now sees that, if he is not famous, at least he is infamous and the subject of much attention. He tries to convince the audience that he is happy with the “fame” he has earned. Yet it is all bluff.
Essential Passage 2: Act 1, Scene 9
GALLIMARD: You embarrass me. She…there’s no reason to think she likes me.
MARC: “Sometimes, it is mutual”?
MARC: “Mutual”? “Mutual”? What does that mean?
GALLIMARD: You heard!
MARC: It means the money is in the bank, you only have to write the check!
GALLIMARD: I am a married man!
MARCH: And an excellent one too. I cheated after…six months. Then again and again, until now—three hundred girls in twelve years.
GALLIMARD: I don’t think we should hold that up as a model.
MARC: Of course not! My life—it is disgusting! Phooey! Phooey! But, you—you are a model husband.
Gallimard has met Song Liling, a Chinese opera singer at a performance. Song has approached Gallimard and seemingly expresses an interest in him. Gallimard has paradoxical reactions to this situation. First of all, as a married man, he needs to resist the attentions of another woman, but he finds Song fascinating. Secondly, he has never felt comfortable around the opposite sex, nor has been especially attracting of them, so he is flattered that this beautiful woman is interested in him. His school friend, Marc, appears, who functions almost like the devil on his shoulder. Marc has known of Gallimard’s discomfort around women, so he almost taunts him with this potential conquest. He encourages Gallimard to realize that yes indeed this woman is interested in him. Marc blatantly goads him into proceeding into a relationship with Song, despite his being married. Marc...
(The entire section is 1448 words.)