Short summary - The Chairs - Les Chaises - Eugène Ionesco

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Chairs - Les Chaises
Eugène Ionesco

The play features many invisible characters and three real ones - the Old Man (95 years old), the Old Woman (94 years old) and the Orator (45-50 years old). In the foreground there are two empty chairs, on the right there are three doors and a window, on the left there are also three doors and a window, near which there is a black board and a small dais. Another door is in the back. Water splashes under the windows of the house - the Old Man, leaning over the window sill, is trying to make out the boats with guests sailing up, and the Old Woman begs not to do this, complaining about the putrid smell and mosquitoes.
The old man calls the Old Woman Semiramis, she also gets along with the affectionate words "darling", "honey", "baby". Waiting for guests, the old people talk: before it was always light, but now it is impenetrable darkness all around, and there was once such a city of Paris, but four thousand years ago it faded - only the song from it remained. The old woman admires the Old Man's talents: it's a pity, he lacked ambition, but he could have been the chief emperor, chief editor, chief doctor, chief marshal ... However, he still became a marshal of flights of stairs - in other words, a gatekeeper. When the Old Woman inadvertently adds that there was no need to bury the talent in the ground, the Old Man bursts into tears and calls out loudly for Mom - with great difficulty the Old Woman manages to calm him down with a reminder of the great Mission. Tonight the Old Man must convey the Message to humanity - for this purpose the guests have been called. Absolutely everyone will gather: owners, craftsmen, security guards, priests, presidents, musicians, delegates, speculators, the proletariat, the secretariat, the military, the redneck, intellectuals, monuments, psychiatrists and their clients ... The Universe is waiting for Vesti, and the Old Woman cannot hide proud joy : at last the Old Man decided to speak with Europe and other continents!
The splash of water is heard - the first invitees have appeared. Agitated old men hobble to the door in a niche and escort an invisible guest to the proscenium: judging by the conversation, this is a very amiable lady - the old woman is subdued by her secular manners. Water splashes again, then someone insistently rings the doorbell, and the Old Man freezes on the threshold at attention in front of the invisible Colonel. The old lady hastily brings out two more chairs. All sit down, and a conversation starts between the invisible guests, which more and more shocks the owners of the house - the Old Man even considers it necessary to warn the Colonel that the lovely lady has a spouse. One more call, and a pleasant surprise awaits the Old Man - a "young lady", in other words, a childhood friend with her husband, has come. An invisible, but clearly personable gentleman presents a picture as a gift, and the Old Woman begins to flirt with him like a real whore - lifts her skirts, laughs loudly, makes little eyes. This grotesque scene ends unexpectedly, and the turn of memories begins: the Old Woman tells how an ungrateful son left home, and the Old Man grieves that they have no children - but maybe this is for the best, since he himself was a bad son and left his mother for dead under the fence. The doorbells follow one after the other, and the action speeds up:
The Old Man meets the guests, and the Old Woman, panting, drags out more and more chairs. It is already difficult to push through the crowd of invisible invitees: the Old Woman only has time to ask if the Old Man has put on underpants. Finally the bells cease, but the whole stage is already lined with chairs, and the Old Man asks the belated invisibles to place themselves along the walls so as not to disturb the others. He himself makes his way to the left window, Semiramis freezes near the right - both will remain in these places until the end of the play. Old people conduct small talk with guests and call each other through the crowd.
Suddenly, from behind the curtains, a roar and fanfare is heard - it was granted by the emperor. The old man is beside himself with delight: he orders everyone to get up and laments only that he cannot get closer to His Majesty - court intrigues, what can you do! But he does not give up and, shouting over the crowd, shares with the precious emperor the suffering he has experienced: enemies feasted, friends betrayed, beat him with a club, thrust a knife, substituted a leg, did not give a visa, never in his life did they send an invitation card, destroyed the bridge and destroyed the Pyrenees. .. But then an epiphany descended on him: it was forty years ago, when he came to kiss papa before going to bed. Then they began to laugh at him and got married - they proved that he was great. Now an orator will appear and present the salutary Message, for the Old Man himself - alas! - cannot speak plainly.
The tension is. Door number five opens unbearably slowly, and the Orator appears - a real character in a wide-brimmed hat and cloak, similar to an artist or poet of the last century. Not noticing anyone, the Orator goes to the stage and begins to sign autographs to the invisible. The old man turns to the audience with a farewell word (the old woman echoes him, moving from sobbing to real sobbing): after long labors in the name of progress and for the good of humanity, he will have to disappear along with his faithful friend - they will die, leaving an eternal memory. Both shower the Speaker and empty chairs with confetti and serpentine streamers, and then shout "Long live the emperor!" each jump out into its own window. There are two screams, two bursts. The speaker, dispassionately watching the double suicide, begins to hum and wave his arms - it becomes clear that he is deaf and dumb. Suddenly his face brightens:
grabbing the chalk, he writes on the black board big letters DRR ... SHCHLYM ... PRDRBR ... Looking around the invisible audience with a satisfied smile, he expects an admiring reaction - then he darkens, bows sharply and leaves through the door in the depths ... On an empty stage with chairs and a stage covered with streamers and confetti, for the first time exclamations, laughter, coughing are heard - this invisible audience disperses after the performance.