The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Act 1 of The Police opens in the office of the Chief of Police in an unspecified monarchy. Much to the consternation of the Chief of Police, the Prisoner declares that after ten years in prison he has had a change of heart and will sign an oath of loyalty to the government. Ten years ago he had attempted to assassinate the General by throwing a bomb at him, but the bomb failed to explode. For ten years he has been interrogated and urged to renounce his antagonism toward the Infant King and the Regent. He has steadfastly refused, but now he has suddenly seen the light and will give in to the government’s demands. He is tired of being the last prisoner in the country and eager to join the rest of the population in devoting all of his strength to the support of “the best political system in the world.”ek)}awomir Mro{zdot}ek{/I}[Police]}ek)}

The Chief of Police is less than exhilarated by his last prisoner’s sudden change of heart. He tries his best to trap the Prisoner into revealing that his newly discovered love for the government and the authorities is only a ruse to gain his freedom, but the former revolutionary is steadfast. He has observed the country and the populace from the window of his cell and admires their loyalty and the progress that has been made during the years of his imprisonment. More than that, he has begun to be weary of his adolescent rejection of law and order, which has left him free but aimless. He has become nostalgic for a sense of belonging, for “a joyful and calm conformity, an eager hope in the future, and the peace which flows from full submission to authority.” He no longer wants to be the only remaining dark spot despoiling the otherwise perfect society which the Infant King and the Regent have created. Once he is reformed and released, prisons will no longer be necessary and can be turned into schools.

At this point, the Sergeant, in civilian clothes, enters the office, battered and limping. He has been making the rounds among the population, trying to provoke somebody into making disloyal remarks about the government to allow him to make an arrest, but has been treated roughly by an enthusiastically loyal populace. This is the last straw for the Prisoner: He demands to sign the oath...

(The entire section is 923 words.)