Mme. Rosselli's THE SOUL

This article was originally published in The Contemporary Drama of Italy. Lander McClintock. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1920. pp. 83-84.

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Mme. Rosselli sprang suddenly into fame when in 1898 her play The Soul (Anima) won first prize in the great national competition. Married to a wealthy husband, Madame Rosselli had cultivated her dramatic gifts unprofessionally, almost secretly -- to what good purpose is revealed by a study of The Soul. She has written one other play, Illusion (Illusione) (1901), not so successful as the first, but possessing genuine merit. The problem of this second play is a harrowing one -- Can a man forgive his wife who has been unfaithful to him, even when he desires to forgive her, and her unfaithfulness is not voluntary? Emma, innocent herself, has been betrayed and seduced; her husband tries to forgive, but his efforts are so fruitless that Emma, though she hates her seducer, cannot endure the tortures her husband inflicts upon her in the process of forgetting and forgiving; and she finally revolts and leaves him.

The Soul might have been written by Björnsen or Ibsen, so logical and clear is its thinking, so opposed its ethical principles to the typical Latin prejudices. Olga, a striking young girl, lives an artist's life in Rome, one of a group of emancipated thinkers. In her studio gather the radicals of all shades. Olga herself is in constant and violent rebellion against the obscurities, the prejudices, the conventional lies of the world. Above all, the education of young girls is the object of her bitter ridicule. She is angered by the indecent care taken to hide from girls the mysteries of sex life, an obscurantism which results all too often in awakening evil curiosities, in producing perversions. Olga is courted by a young man of the world, Silvio; to him she confesses that she had been violated by a brute when she was quite a young girl. She tells of her horror and despair. How little by little, however, she had recovered. She had reasoned with herself, "Poor girl, haven't you a soul left to you? A soul which is a virgin? A second virginity which is still yours? And then I thought of the man who should possess it some day, this spotless soul, who should inscribe his name upon it." Silvio is this man. But he is a conventional and cowardly thing who cannot comprehend this virginity of the soul. He casts Olga off, to marry a snip of a woman who though physically maiden is, as Olga puts it, "a coquette in soul." He regrets too late his irreparable error of choice.

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