Spatial Dimensions in The Undivine Comedy by Zygmunt Krasinski

Mila Shevchenko, University of Michigan

Zygmunt Krasinski approaches the personal drama of The Poet/The Man/Count Henryk from different perspectives. Yet each time he uses spatial dimensions as one of the key devices in the portrayal of the hero’s painful journey between high and low, spiritual and secular, divine and undivine. I will attempt to reconstruct the spatial architectonics and to identify its status within the poetics of the play. Krasinski’s work could be interpreted as the drama of an artist who dares to challenge the primacy of God. The Man’s pursuit of poetic inspiration and beauty, his intellectual curiosity and yearning for perfection bring him to the “Gordian knot” of duty and desire. The primary object of this study is the path of transitions within the dramatic space accompanying the development of the conflict. These sweeping amplitudes, both along the vertical and horizontal axes, trace the character’s choices on the levels of private and social relationships as well as his position within his creative endeavors.

The Poet’s domain (Romantic landscape, imagery, stylistics) launches the key concept of the play-- that of “shattered hierarchy.” The ultimate poetic accomplishment is identified with a divine act. Diverse forces observe his vacillation between the world of God and the world of men and each of them competes for him. Guardian Angel and Evil Spirits represent one of the levels of this struggle. The Eagle and the Maiden signify another plane which, later on, is elaborated by the different voices (from above the ceiling and from beneath the floor). The picture of powers involved in the dramatic conflict is gradually enlarged to reach universal dimensions. In his attempt to rearrange the divine order (cross the abyss), the Poet activates chaotic energies, which, once unleashed, are impossible to get back under control.

The next topos is the scene in the madhouse. Mary’s tragedy is not a banal case of adultery. Her real rival is poetry, and she finds out that the only way to reach her husband is by adopting a new persona. Crossing the borders between two dimensions -- the world of sanity and that of insanity -- is Mary’s opportunity to overcome earthly gravitation.

Mary’s new pattern of expression echoes in George who occupies an essential position in the hierarchy of dramatic values. His ability to foresee and his unusual poetic talent represent the union of his parents. George’s gift not only enables him to mediate between his parents but also corresponds to his future mission. He accompanies Count Henryk to the “dark dungeons” of the Holy Trinity Castle. Symbolically this act is very similar to the Count’s visit to the rebels’ camp. The valley evokes the previous image of the abyss both in terms of spatial fluctuations and social shifts.

Finally, I will consider the motif of “play” as another important tool for developing the major dramatic conflict as well as its status within the spatial imagery that reveals Henry’s spiritual and metaphysical crisis.