A sceptic´s way

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Cembalo (1961) is more subtle than the other dramas. The dilemma is more existential than metaphysical, and its resolution is correspondingly more ambiguous than are those of the other plays. Technically the drama is interesting in that it has two protagonists, each the antagonist of the other. Despite the eloquent defense of human dignity, the integrity of the individual and a purpose in life beyond mere existence made by the young Johannes Gabras, and also the aging Lomellino’s personal sacrifice to duty, Cembalo is the most somber and problematical of Gierow’s dramas. There is no reconciliation, only resignation and a profound sense of the absurdity of human life.8
Gierow’s plays are often mentioned in connection with the verse dramas of T. S. Eliot and Maxwell Anderson. All three playwrights sought to inject a new note into theatre by reviving the verse drama. Yet although there are pronounced similarities in their search for valid esthetic and ethical standards through the medium of drama, the question of influence is moot. Gierow experimented with the verse drama as early as the 1920s, albeit unsuccessfully. He was greatly impressed by the verse and strong moral thrust of Bidermann’s Cenodoxus and Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, both of which he translated in the 1930s. Possibly as a result, an esthetically dubious attraction to the morality play is characteristic of Gierow’s dramas. In his view ”plot” and ”moral” are virtually synonymous, and drama is the genre most suited to the examination of metaphysical and existential issues. As such it is imbued with the solemnity of religious ritual. Blank verse is the most natural dramatic language for such a serious undertaking.9 Of Gierow’s seven dramas, only his comedy is not written in blank verse. Above all, the influence of Shakespeare should not be overlooked in Gierow’s work for the stage. His characters, language and even the structure of his plays have a distinctively Shakespearean aura.


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