Short summary - The Bald Soprano - Eugène Ionesco

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Bald Soprano
Eugène Ionesco

Bourgeois English interior. English evening. English married couple - Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
The English clock strikes seventeen English strokes. Mrs. Smith says it's already nine o'clock. She lists everything they ate for dinner and makes food plans for the future. She is going to buy Bulgarian yogurt, because it works well on the stomach, kidneys, appendicitis and "apotheosis" - that's what Dr. Mackenzie-King said, and you can trust him, he never prescribes remedies that he has not tried on himself. Before performing an operation on a patient, he first went to the same operation himself, although he was absolutely healthy, and it is not his fault that the patient died: it was just that his operation was successful, and the operation of his patient was unsuccessful.
Mr. Smith, reading an English newspaper, is amazed why the heading of civil status always indicates the age of the deceased and never indicates the age of newborns; it seems absurd to him. The newspaper says Bobby Watson is dead. Mrs. Smith gasps, but her husband reminds her that Bobby died "two years ago," and they were at his funeral a year and a half ago. They discuss all the family members of the deceased - all of them are called Bobby Watson, even his wife, so they were always confused, and it was only when Bobby Watson died that it became finally clear who was who.
The Smith's maid, Mary, appears, who had a pleasant evening with the man: they went to the movies, then drank vodka with milk, and then read the newspaper. Mary reports that the Martins, whom the Smiths were expecting for supper, are standing at the door: they did not dare to enter and were waiting for Mary to return. Mary asks the Martins to wait while the Smiths, who no longer hoped to see them, change their clothes. Sitting opposite each other, the Martins smile embarrassedly: it seems that they have already met somewhere, but they just can't remember where. It turns out that both of them are from Manchester and only left there two months ago. By a strange and surprising coincidence, they were traveling in the same train, in the same carriage and in the same compartment. In London, both of them, oddly enough, live on Bromfield Street, at number 19. And one more coincidence: they both live in apartment number 18 and sleep on a bed with a green feather bed. Mr. Martin suggests that it was in bed that they met, perhaps even that it was last night. And they both have an adorable two-year-old daughter, Alice, who has one white eye and the other red. Mr. Martin assumes that they are the same girl. Mrs. Martin agrees that this is quite possible, although surprising. Donald Martin thinks for a long time and comes to the conclusion that this is his wife Elizabeth. The couple are happy that they have found each other again.
Mary slowly reveals to the audience one secret: Elizabeth is not Elizabeth at all, and Donald is not Donald, because Elizabeth's daughter and Donald's daughter are not the same face: Elizabeth's daughter's right eye is red, and her left eye is white. and for Donald's daughter the opposite is true. So, despite rare coincidences, Donald and Elizabeth, not being the parents of the same child, are not Donald and Elizabeth and are mistaken in imagining themselves to be them. Mary informs viewers that her real name is Sherlock Holmes.
Enter the Smiths, dressed exactly as before. After meaningless (and completely unrelated) phrases, Mrs. Martin says that on the way to the market she saw an extraordinary picture: near a cafe, a man bent down and tied his laces. Mr. Martin saw an even more incredible sight: one man was sitting in the subway and reading a newspaper. Mr. Smith suggests that it may be the same person.
The doorbell rings. Mrs. Smith opens the door, but there is no one behind her. As soon as she sits down again, another bell rings. Mrs. Smith opens the door again, but again there is no one behind her. When the bell rings for the third time, Mrs. Smith does not want to get up, but Mr. Smith is sure that once the doorbell rings, then there is someone outside the door. In order not to quarrel with her husband, Mrs. Smith opens the door and, seeing no one, comes to the conclusion that when the doorbell rings, there is never anyone there. Hearing a new call, Mr. Smith opens it himself. The Captain of the Fire Department is standing outside the door. The Smiths tell him about the controversy that has arisen. Mrs. Smith says that someone was outside the door only the fourth time, and only the first three times are counted. Everyone is trying to find out from the Fireman who called the first three times. The firefighter replies that he stood outside the door for forty-five minutes, did not see anyone and called himself only twice: the first time he hid for a laugh, the second time he entered. The firefighter wants to reconcile the spouses. He believes that both of them are partly right: when the doorbell rings, sometimes there is someone there, and sometimes there is no one.
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Mrs. Smith invites Firefighter to sit with them, but he came on business and is in a hurry. He asks if they have something burning; he was ordered to extinguish all fires in the city. Unfortunately, neither the Smiths nor the Martins burn anything. The firefighter complains that his work is unprofitable: there is almost no profit. Everyone sighs: it's the same everywhere: in commerce and in agriculture. Sugar, however, is, and only because it is imported from abroad. With fires it is more difficult - they have a huge duty. Mr. Martin advises the Firefighter to visit the Vecfield priest, but the Firefighter explains that he has no right to put out fires at the clergy.
Seeing that there is nowhere to rush. The firefighter stays with the Smiths and tells jokes from life. He tells a fable about a dog that did not swallow its trunk because it thought it was an elephant, the story of a calf who gorged on pounded glass and gave birth to a cow that could not call him "mother" because he was a boy and could not call him “Daddy” because he was small, which is why the calf had to marry one person. The others also take turns telling jokes. The Firefighter tells a long, meaningless story, in the middle of which everyone gets confused and asks to repeat, but the Firefighter is afraid that he has no time left. He asks what time it is, but no one knows this: the Smiths have the wrong clock, which, out of a spirit of contradiction, always shows the exact opposite time. Mary asks permission to tell an anecdote too. The Martins and Smiths are outraged: the servant should not interfere in the conversations of the owners. The firefighter, seeing Mary, happily throws himself on her neck: it turns out that they have known each other for a long time. Mary recites poems in honor of the Firefighter until the Smiths push her out of the room. It's time for the fireman to leave: in three quarters of an hour and sixteen minutes, a fire is about to start across town. Before leaving, the Firefighter asks how the bald singer is doing, and hearing from Mrs. Smith that she still has the same hairstyle, he calmly says goodbye to everyone and leaves.
Mrs. Martin says, "I can buy a penknife for my brother, but you cannot buy Ireland for your grandfather." Mr. Smith replies: "We walk with our feet, but we are heated by electricity and coal." Mr. Martin continues: "Whoever took the sword scored the ball." Mrs Smith teaches: "Life should be watched from the window of the carriage." Gradually, the exchange of remarks becomes more and more nervous: "Cockatoo, cockatoo, cockatoo ..." - "As I walk, I walk, as I walk, I walk ..." - "I walk on the carpet, on the carpet ..." - "You go while you lie, while you lie ..." - "Cactus, crocus, cook, cockade, crow!" - "The more saffron milk caps, the fewer stumps!" The remarks are getting shorter, everyone is yelling in each other's ears. The light goes out. In the darkness, faster and faster, one can hear: "E-then-not-there-e-that-to-yes ..." Suddenly everyone is silent, the light comes on again. Mr. and Mrs. Martin sit like the Smiths at the start of the play. The play begins again, with the Martins repeating the Smith lines word for word.
The curtain falls.