Monday, April 27, 2015
Antonia Pulci's Prodigal Son Play (part 4)
To resume the analysis of the play:
After the elder son leaves the stage (see the last entry), the prodigal son returns home, “exhausted, naked, quite abandoned, poor.” When he reaches his father, he begs for mercy, says that he has repented and that he loves his father, and asks to be kept on as a servant. The father welcomes him back not as a servant but as a beloved son:
Ah, you are welcome back, beloved son;
You have enflamed my heart entirely with
Great joy, you know, for in suspicion, woe
And fear I’ve always been, son, since you left;
Let God be thanked with simple gratitude,
Since to safe harbor you’ve again returned.
I wish to host a solemn, worthy feast,
And clothe you in rich vestments once again.
At this point, another elaboration of the parable appears: The father cautions the younger son that he has to behave himself from now on (cf. the “Go and sin no more” Jesus tells the adulterous woman in John 8:11):
O my beloved son, I pardon you
The injury you’ve done to me in the past.
Your being pardoned is a blessed state,
Be sure; see that no more into such sin
You fall. You see I have been merciful to you,
And I, since I have freely pardoned you,
Wish to make it manifest to God,
Because I cherish you so tenderly.
It is only now, through delayed exposition, that the audience hears an elaboration on the sins of the prodigal: He wasted his inheritance on “women, taverns, banquets, games of chance, horses, falcons, on rich garments new.” His seven companions who drained him of his money were world-renowned for their wickedness; they were his constant companions leading him into every type of sin until his money ran out. Destitute, the son hired himself out as a servant to a cruel master, who forced him to eat acorns with the pigs during a great famine in order to survive (the play thus assumes that that the prodigal, unlike in the parable, actually ate the food the pigs ate and that the food was acorns). It was then, the son told his father, that he came to his senses and decided to beg mercy of his father and to be received back as a servant. The son realizes that he had “done you, father, such a heinous wrong” that he did not “deserve to find such pardon.”
The father instructs his servants to arrange a “splendid banquet” and to invite the family’s relatives and friends. The guests rejoice in the return of the beloved prodigal—once again an aspect not found in the Lukan parable but which reflects the theme of the other “Lost” parables of Luke 15 (the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin) about rejoicing with friends and neighbors when what was lost is found.
Next up: The elder son returns to find his brother’s return being celebrated.
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