Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Marriage is a play about a social construct that Witold Gombrowicz calls the Formal Imperative. Forms may start as embryos or dreams, as in the case of Henry’s dream, but they insinuate themselves into life and gradually take on an existence of their own. Human beings use forms to dominate others while in turn being subjugated by forms imposed by others. Gombrowicz implies that forms may evolve imperceptibly and insidiously. Something is said, Henry adapts himself, and one word creates another. Since forms invalidate reality, Henry is forever imprisoned by doubts about the existence of reality, and the stage metaphor of a dream existence brings out this deformation, for in a realm of dreams there is no absolute even though the dreamer, dreaming, still lives in the real world.

In Henry’s recognition of his father in the first act, he submits to the forms imposed by the father/son relationship. As a consequence of this submission, Henry also assumes the form of appropriate respect for his former betrothed, Molly, even though she is now a sluttish maid at the shabby inn his father owns. When the Drunkard challenges Molly’s purity as well as the dignity of his father, Henry responds by kneeling before his father. One form creates the next one, and Henry’s father is by this act elevated to the dignity of king. As king, he has the formal authority to declare Henry’s respectable marriage to Molly.

In the second act, the...

(The entire section is 520 words.)