Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Aria da Capo In music, an “aria da capo” (or “song of the head” in English) is a piece that is divided into three parts. The first part is set in one mood or key, the second is set in a completely different one, and the third is simply a repeat (perhaps slightly altered) of the first section.
Early in the twentieth century it was considered fashionable for playwrights to write stories and plays around musical structures. This habit gave even political theater an uncommon kind of grace.This is the method which Edna St. Vincent Millay chose to use when she constructed her comedic satire “Aria da Capo” after the First World War.
Three appears to the magic number in this play because, not only is the play phrased in three parts, it also represents three worlds and uses three levels to communicate its message. Satirical, symbolic, and superficial levels are all employed by St. Vincent Millay in order to clearly scroll out her message. St.Vincent Millay bluntly whacks the viewer over the head with the superficial layer of the play. Pierrot and Columbine live in an upscale apartment and engage in idle chat and enjoying the pleasures of life. This little shining moment of absurd happiness and pastoral ideas is grimly interrupted when the loud Dionysis insists that the play be turned over to him and his actors. Pierrot and Columbine reluctantly agree.
Thyris and Cory then take over the stage in which they act out the story of two shepherds playing a game. Each shepherd gets half of the field and a wall separates the two halves.The two actors have no props to call their own, so they must make due with what is available on stage. During the play of the shepherds Columbine and Pierrot repeatedly interrupt, ignoring the shepherds.
Eventually, Cory and Thyris kill each other out of greed and their bodies lie in the middle of the stage. Pierrot and Columbine then reclaim the stage to continue their play, only hiding the hideous remains of the previous play behind a paper sheet. In the simple meaning of the play, two people kill each other and no one cares. *That, in it self, makes a statement.
St.Vincent Millay uses this layer of the play’s depth to simply give a glimpse of what the play holds within its other layers. Satire drips off of every inch of the play.
In a complex way, St. Vincent Millay gently mocks other ideas in writing in order to boost her satiric efforts. An example of Millay’s use of subtle mocking of other great writers is her spoof on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with Pierrot declaring that one should swear on mutton rather than the moon because he can sink his tooth into mutton. Also with the character Pierrot, she takes the idea of “every man” used by such playwrights as Ingmar Bergman and nails it to the wall for all to plainly see.Pierrot often announces “I am become,” each time finishing the phrase with a different occupation.
He also claims that he is a philanthropist, student, socialist, and a master actor. Through Pierrot’s “every man,” St. Vincent Millay takes the opportunity to satirize each person he becomes.
Being a socialist, he claims that he loves humanity, but hates people.As a philanthropist he claims that he is one because he “feels restless,” or is very promiscuous. In the matter of acting he claims that all one needs to become a great actor is blonde hair and to be lacking of an education. Further playing on Pierrot, St.
Vincent Millay uses his tendency to be so swift about changing his mind combined with his inane, inconsistent conversations with Columbine to satirize how shallow, self centered, and uncaringly blind to the rest of the world the upper class can be. This is further shown after the characters of Cory and Thyris murder each other on stage and Columbine and Pierrot continue their play as though nothing has happened.This is St. Vincent Millay’s response to the World War I. She states, through her satire, that the upper class did nothing while their lower class counterparts were off killing and being killed over something that she saw as petty. She also takes attack on human greed with the two shepherds’ preoccupation with the colored stones. To even further the point, St.
Vincent Millay has pieces of paper represent stones instead of using actual stones to show how petty the fight really is. St.Vincent Millay heavily uses symbolism to show off her point, especially with characters. Each character represents one of three worlds, or at least a piece of one. Pierrot, who has been established as distorted “every man,” represents the world of the rich and careless.
He spends the play engaging in pointless conversation with Columbine, drinking wine, and trying to lure Columbine into the bedroom. Columbine, a symbol of how St. Vincent Millay viewed women of the time as flighty, impressionable, and loose, also represents part of the world of the wealthy.She spends the play asking empty questions such as “don’t you love me, Pierrot?” and “is this your artichoke?” Both these answers do not concern her at all because she will do the same, regardless the answer. Both Pierrot and Columbine incessantly interrupt the shepherds’ play and take no notice that they are slaying each other.
They are too busy in their own affairs to take notice or even care that their fellow humans are slaughtering one another. Cory and Thyris represent the world of the middle and lower classes. They also show the pettiness of war and its causes.The two shepherds, who begin the play as best of friends, play a game in which they build a wall between them.
They end up murdering each other because they each realize the other has something they want on his side of the wall. This is symbolic of how nations build walls between each other for petty reasons and end up in war because each wants everything on its own “side of the wall.” Dionysis, the least noticed, yet most symbolic character in the play, represents a third and rather mystical world. St. Vincent Millay, who wrote during the time of such authors as F.
Scott Fitzgerald, used him to represent a sort of moral decay. As the shepherds, Cory and Thyris, occasionally drift off from their game and become friends again, Dionysis, sometimes angrily, sets them back on the path of destruction. He, being the “director” of the shepherds’ tragic play, is the cause of their deaths. He initiated their fight and also provided the elements of their eradication: the “stones” and the poison weed. At the same time as using Dionysis as a symbol of moral decay, St.Vincent Millay wields him as a weapon to take a stab at God, Fate, Destiny, or whatever she may have felt controlled the universe.
Dionysis ruled over the shepherds’ play and intentionally created its downfall. He purposely caused the shepherds to turn to cold blood, while at the same time attempting constantly to withdraw attention from what really is occurring on stage. Habitually during the argument of Thyris and Cory, Dionysis walks around the stage, pours wine, makes gestures off stage, or attempts to woo Columbine. Just the fact that he is more interested in Columbine shows that he cares little for the two busy killing each other and is out, rather, to service his own needs.That is what St. Vincent Millay is conveying what she thinks about “the almighty power.
” The wall is by far the most symbolic element of the play, though. It represents all that separates people: greed, selfishness, fear, and hate. It is in bright color and the rest of the play is black and white, helping bring its contrast to its environment. This color contrast helps convey the message, in addition to its other messages, that “color” separates people. It comes up between two brothers and they kill each other because a silly paper wall is keeping one from stones and the other from water. St.Vincent Millay uses this to simply say war, borders, greed, selfishness, and color are just as petty mediators as a paper wall.
In music, an “aria da capo” (or “song of the head” in English) is a piece that is divided into three parts. The first part is set in one mood or key, the second is set in a completely different one, and the third is simply a repeat (perhaps slightly altered) of the first section. This is the same structure Edna St. Vincent Millay used when she wrote he comedic satire “Aria da Capo.
” Not only is the play phrased in three parts, but St. Vincent Millay also used three different layers in which to convey her message.Although this is true, the play is so cleverly orchestrated that it doesn’t rant or polemicize in that it doesn’t really hand out any argument to disagree with. It just shows, in skillful symbolism and satire, a rich society ignoring the carnage of its lower classes in a distant war.