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Shadow & Claw (The Book of the New Sun #1-2)
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2011 Reads > S&C: The Performance at House Absolute (Spoilers, Claw, Ch24-26)

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terpkristin | 4135 comments So I noticed that in the New Sun as Audiobook thread, some people listening to the audio version found themselves confused during the performance at the House Absolute. I'm reading the dead tree edition and also found myself re-reading the chapter (notably, one of the longest if not the longest in the Shadow & Claw book).

Until now, I hadn't given much thought to Dr. Talos and his giant, Baldanders. We're introduced to them fairly suddenly and briefly in Shadow, and then we meet back up with them in Claw. Actually, I guess that goes for all 4 in the troupe, if you include Dorcas and Jolenta. Who played each role? I presume Dr. Talos was the Autarch and Baldanders was obviously Nod. What role(s) did the women play? Who played the demons?

Are the telling a story of a myth of the coming of the New Sun? Or perhaps they know something of what's to come...

And then, what was up with the weapons described as Nod ran through the audience? So far, we've seen some fairly "normal" weapons, like swords and spears, but this is the first I've heard a pistol mentioned directly. What is this "dream" weapon? And I think we hear another reference to a laser, in Chapter 26: "The doctor nodded. 'Actually, Baldanders was fortunate. The Hierodules dialed down their beams and tried to turn him back instead of killing him...'"

And why oh why would Dr. Talos put on a play that seems to be rather critical of the Autarch at the House Absolute?

I'm intrigued by this section. And I'm guessing it'll make more sense when I look back on it. But like my other "questions" thread about the Botanical Gardens, I'm using this as a place for me to put down my thoughts for future review and also for those that know what's to come to maybe spur some alternate thinking. :)


Colin | 278 comments I understood Jolenta to be the 'tall' woman, and Dorcas to be the 'human' woman who runs off.


message 3: by Ed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments I think it's brilliant. Wolfe jumps into post-modern territory with this chapter, which is rendered as the script of Dr. Talos' play, the same they performed in Chapter 22 of Shadow, right before they left Nessus. As with Hamlet's play-with-a-play, this play echoes Severian's own story, but it's entwined with Genesis mythology and apocrypha, Jolenta as Lilith (Jahi), Dorcas as Eve (Meschiane). The end of the world is the beginning of a new world. The play always ends with Baldanders rampaging through the audience, which makes it easy for the players to pick up a few odds and ends, an extra coin or two, left behind by the fleeing patrons. I don't think Dr. Talos expected the Hierodules to be present, however.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2845 comments I remember a pistol being mentioned one other time, Severian saying it was a shame that the person who had it had to remember it from an earlier time. Wish I coudl remember the context....


message 5: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Yes, as Ed says, I like how the play is kind of a miniature echo-chamber for several aspects and themes of the book.

In the short essay 'Onomastics, the Study of Names' from Castle of Days, Wolfe says, "I have tried to allow enough time between changes of character to permit the actor to change his costume and makeup." He identifies the players as:

Severian - Meschia, second soldier, the prophet, the generalissimo, and the familiar

Dorcas - Meschiane, Contessa's maid, and the second demon

Baldanders - giant Nod, the Statue

Dr Talos - Gabriel, the Autarch, the first soldier, and the Inquisitor

Jolenta - Jahi, the Contessa, and the first demon

Meschia and Meschaiane are the names of "the Persian Adam and Eve; they are also known as Mashya and Mashyoi."


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