Death and the Maiden

“Death and the Maiden” is a play by Ariel Dorfman, first performed in 1990. The play is set in an unnamed country, which is recovering from the aftermath of a dictatorship. The story revolves around a former political prisoner, Paulina, who is married to a successful lawyer, Gerardo. One evening, Gerardo brings home a stranger, Dr. Miranda, whom he has given a ride home. Upon hearing Dr. Miranda’s voice, Paulina becomes convinced that he is the same man who brutally tortured and raped her years earlier when she was a political prisoner.

As Paulina confronts Dr. Miranda, the play explores themes of trauma, revenge, justice, and morality. Paulina takes Dr. Miranda hostage and demands that he confess to his crimes. Gerardo, who is caught in the middle of the conflict, attempts to mediate between the two. However, as the night progresses, tensions escalate, and the power dynamics between the characters shift.

The play’s title refers to the Schubert quartet, “Death and the Maiden,” which Paulina obsessively listens to throughout the play. The music is a metaphor for the themes of death, trauma, and the possibility of redemption.

“Death and the Maiden” has been widely interpreted as a commentary on the human rights abuses that occurred during Latin America’s military dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the play’s themes of trauma, revenge, and morality are universal and continue to resonate with audiences around the world.

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