MISS ELSE

ATHUR SCHNITZLER' S NOVEL

2019-01-16

­­Else is a very attractive nineteen-year-old girl who belongs to the Viennese upper middle class at the beginning of the 1920s. Her father, a famous lawyer, has the habit of gambling and often risks to be arrested for debts. During a holiday in the mountains in San Martino di Castrozza he receives a letter from her mother, who informs her that her father is likely to be arrested for misappropriation of money and that Else will have to ask for 30,000 florins (which then become 50,000) to a rich family friend who happens to be in the same hotel as her, making a subtle appeal to the love that Else owes to his parents and fearing the possibility of his father's suicide if he gets arrested.

Lord Mr von Dorsday, Else's father friend who is very attracted to her. He agrees to save her father and send the money on the condition that Else would be totally naked for fifteen minutes. The proposal puts the girl in a serious crisis. At first Else looks like a young swagger, uninhibited, ready for love adventures. They were just fantasies of a teenager. Her interiority is upset by the proposal of this man much older than her, a business man who is used to do something for someone but always receiving something back.

Through the inner monologue the girl is confronted with the need to prostitute herself to save her father from suicide and her family from scandal and bankruptcy, Schnitzler mercilessly criticizes the Viennese society of the time; the feminine condition (Else figure is emblematic: she comes from a good good family who has not been taught anything, is not able to do anything, and therefore finds herself in the position of having to be dependent on a man and having to marry him for convenience, having no means of self-subsistence); when Else can no longer bear the pressure and appears naked in the hotel hall and faints, the superficiality of Viennese upper class does not worry about her health and her motivations but only cares about ' the scandal ' that could even be published on the newspaper - the same society incapable of self-criticism. Curious, intelligent, ironic, honest and pungent in her judgments, vain and exhibitionist, but also incredibly lonely, Else will decide to suicide herself by ingesting a poison, the Veronal to put an end and 3not having to deal with the falsity and malice of the people around her.

This work which is on stage at Piccolo until 20 January, is interesting in many ways. The dramatic point of view with the use of the interior monologue. For the mass scene of Federico Tiezzi and the great acting of Lucrezia Guidone and Martino D'Amico. The ability to represent the society at that time, where everything is commerce and everything is appearance. Finally, it is interesting because at a distance of one hundred years, today, some Italian girls of a small middle-class are ready to prostitute themselves for a new cell phone or a branded purse. They show off undressed or partially dressed on Instagram completely free. Else looked bold and yet had a strong sense of modesty. Would an Else of nowadays reject that proposal? Wont  she ask for money for the family, or some for herself, to buy pretty dresses?

Maximiliano Cattaneo

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