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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1714

Act I
The Verge opens on a setting that is not easily recognizable. The place is dark except for a bright shaft of light that emanates from a trap door in the middle of the floor. The shaft illuminates a strange, twisting plant. A violent wind can be heard swirling outside. It is clear that this is a strange, and perhaps threatening, space. Suddenly, a buzzer sounds, and Anthony emerges from the trap door. He picks up a telephone and is instructed by Miss Claire to check the temperature in the room. He does so and reports back to her that the temperature is dropping and that the plants are in danger. She says something on the telephone that eases his concern, and he retires back down into the trap door. The curtain is briefly drawn upon this scene. A moment later, it opens to reveal the setting as a greenhouse. It is now a winter morning, filled with sunshine, but the snow is blowing and piling up outside. The frost has made abstract patterns upon the greenhouse glass giving the room a somewhat creative atmosphere. Inside, there are strange plants filling the shelves and lining the walls. Of particular interest is a plant that creeps along the low back wall of the greenhouse. Its leaves are described as ‘‘at once repellent and signifi- cant.’’ It is clear that this room is not a typical greenhouse but is a botanical laboratory, used for experimentation in creating new plant forms. Anthony is at work preparing soil, but he stops briefly to check the thermometer. Pleased with the current temperature, he returns to his work. The buzzer sounds, but Anthony ignores it.

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Harry Archer enters from outside the greenhouse, snow blowing in violently, and Anthony requests that he immediately close the door so as not to harm the plants. Harry inquires why Anthony did not answer the buzzer and discovers that Claire has told him not to so he will not be disturbed in his work. Harry inquires why the house is freezing cold, and Anthony explains that Claire has had all of the heat diverted to the greenhouse so that the plants will not be harmed. Anthony mentions that it is very important to have heat for the plants at present because the Breath of Life is about to flower. Harry opens the door once again and is propelled back out into the snow by Anthony, who promptly returns to his work.

Hattie, the maid, enters with breakfast food and informs Anthony that Mr. Archer has ordered breakfast to be served in the greenhouse because it has heat. Harry returns, and he and Hattie begin to set up breakfast. Claire enters and chastises Harry for inviting their houseguests, Tom and Dick, to eat breakfast in the greenhouse. Claire and Anthony then discuss the Edge Vine. They are both upset because the plant is not doing well. Anthony tries to cheer Claire up by reminding her that the Breath of Life will open soon. It is clear from the way Claire and Anthony talk about the Edge Vine and the Breath of Life that these mean much more to them than ordinary plants. Dick arrives, and a brief farcical exchange takes place about the lack of salt for the eggs. Dick then inquires about Claire’s work with the plants. She tries to explain the importance of her experiments, but there are no words that can truly convey her feelings. Instead, she speaks in fits and starts, ‘‘I want to give fragrance to Breath of Life—the flower I’ve created that is outside of what flowers have been. What has gone out should bring fragrance from what it has left. But no definite fragrance, no limiting enclosing thing.’’ The men continue to question Claire about her motives, and she becomes increasingly agitated. In her frustration and desire to explain, she smashes one of the eggs. She finally retires to the inner room. Harry and Dick discuss Claire’s strange behavior, and Harry confides that he is considering having a...

(The entire section contains 1714 words.)

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