From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Bald Soprano
by Eugene Ionesco
The Bald Soprano The Bald Soprano Summary
Stage directions tell us that we're in a middle-class English living room. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are hanging out being very English. There's "a long moment of English silence" (1). An English clock strikes seventeen times. Mrs. Smith announces that it's nine o'clock, which is weird because the clock just told us that it's seventeen o'clock (which, of course, is even weirder). Mrs. Smith goes to talk about all the lovely English food and English water she and her husband have ingested. The Englishwoman goes on to recognize that they live in the suburbs of London and that she and her husband's name is Smith. Mr. Smith just reads his paper and clicks his tongue. Mrs. Smith continues talking about the food they've eaten and discusses which grocer has the best oil for frying. Her husband continues to read and click his tongue. The Englishwoman babbles about the quality of the soup they've eaten that evening. She says that their son wanted to drink beer that night, but she gave him water instead. Mrs. Smith tells her husband that they have a daughter named Peggy who is two. He continues to read and click his tongue. Mrs. Smith talks about the Romanian grocer from whom she will buy Romanian yogurt. Yogurt is good for the digestive system, she says. Dr. Mackenzie told her that. He is apparently a good doctor who never prescribes medicine that he hasn't tried out himself. The doctor was even kind enough to operate on his own liver before performing an operation on Mr. Parker's liver. Mr. Smith finally looks up from his paper and asks his wife why Mr. Parker died and the doctor didn't. Duh, says Mrs. Smith, because the doctor's operation went well and Mr. Parker's didn't. Mr. Smith concludes that Dr. Mackenzie is not such a great doctor – he should have died with his patient just like all good doctors do. Mrs. Smith thinks her husband may be confusing doctors and patients with captains and ships. No way, says Mr. Smith, it's totally the same thing. Mrs. Smith ponders this for a second and then agrees with her wise husband. Mr. Smith wonders why they always report the age of people that have died in the newspaper but never the age of people that are born. Mrs. Smith thinks this a very good question. The clock strikes seven times, is quiet for a bit, and then strikes three more times. (We're beginning to think the Smiths need a new clock.) How terrible, says Mr. Smith, the paper says that Bobby Watson has died. That's just awful, exclaims Mrs. Smith. Mr. Smith can't understand why she acted so surprised, since they attended his funeral two years ago. They continue to discuss Bobby's death and seem to be generally confused about when he died –was it two, three, or four years ago? Mrs. Smith thinks that Bobby Watson was the best looking dead body in all of England. (Now there's something to be proud of.) She discusses the fact that Bobby Watson's was survived by his wife who was also named Bobby. Everybody always got the Watsons confused because they had the exact same name. Mr. Smith asks what Mrs. Watson looks like. Mrs. Smith says that she is pretty and ugly and fat and thin. The clock strikes five times. Mrs. Smith wonders when the Watsons are getting married. (Wait a minute isn't one of them dead? Weren't they already married?) Mr. Smith says thinks nothing of the question and says that the Watsons will be married in the spring. His wife says that they'll have to be sure and go to the wedding. Mrs. Smith feels sad that Mrs. Watson is such a young widow with no children. (Oh, so now she remembers they're dead again? Huh?) Mr. Smith comments that Mrs. Watson should remarry. Mrs. Smith says that then there'd be no one to take care of the Watson's children. (She seems to have totally forgotten that she's just said the Watsons had no children.) She reminds her husband that the Watsons' son and daughter are both named Bobby as well. (Great a whole family all named Bobby Watson – creative.) Apparently, all of the Watsons – aunts, uncles, everybody – are all named Bobby. The Smiths discuss one of the Bobby Watsons, who happens to be a commercial traveler. Mr. Smith says that you can make a lot of money in that profession as long as there's no competition. His wife wonders when that might be. He tells her, "on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Tuesdays" (66). Ah, three days a week, comments Mrs. Smith. (Umm, didn't Mr. Smith say Tuesday twice?) Mrs. Smith asks her husband what Bobby Watson does on those days. Mr. Smith replies that Mr. Watson sleeps. Mrs Smith asks why Bobby Watson doesn't work on those days if there's no competition. Her husband says he doesn't know and that he can't answer all her stupid questions. (Which is funny, because it's the first reasonable thing Mrs. Smith has asked this whole time.) Mrs. Smith gets offended and says that men are all the same – they hang out all day smoking and putting make-up on. Yo, retorts Mr. Smith, you want us to be like woman and sit around all day smoking and putting on make-up? (Umm, didn't they just say the same thing about both men and women?) Mrs. Smith throws some socks at her husband and shows her teeth. Mr. Smith is very amused by her little temper tantrum. He takes his wife in his arms and suggests that they get it on. Mary, the maid, enters. She tells that Smiths that she is the maid (as if they don't already know). The maid says that she's just come back from a date where she watched a movie and then drank brandy and milk. Mr. Smith replies that he hopes that she's been on a date where she watched a movie and drank brandy and milk. (So, what – he didn't just hear what the maid said?) Mary announces that the Matins are outside the door. They were supposed to come to dinner tonight. However, the guests were afraid to ring the doorbell and have been standing outside all evening. Mrs. Smith comments that they've been waiting for the Martins and haven't eaten dinner at all. (Apparently, she's forgotten the big conversation she had earlier about all the food they ate tonight.) The Smiths tell Mary to let the guests in while they go to change. They exit and Mary opens the door. As the Martins enter, Mary chastises them for being late. Mary exits. The Martins sit across from each other for a little bit. Though they are apparently married, they seem to barely remember each other. Mr. Martin wonders where he knows Mrs. Martin from. They discover that they are both from Manchester and moved from there five weeks ago. The Martins then learn that they took the same train from Manchester at the same time. They are amazed at these amazing coincidences. The Martins continue to try and narrow down where they know each other from. They become very excited to discover that they live on the same street, in the same house, and sleep in the same bed. The Martins also learn that they both have a daughter named Alice who has one red eye and one white eye. The clock sounds twenty-nine times. Mr. Martin exclaims that the woman across from him must be his wife Elizabeth. Yes, agrees Mrs. Martin, and you must be my husband Donald. The Martins are very happy to have found/remembered each other and enthusiastically embrace. The clock strikes some more and the Martins fall asleep. Mary reenters and tells the audience that actually the Martins are mistaken. Donald's daughter has red left eye and white right eye, while Elizabeth's daughter has a red right eye and white left eye. Mary says that this proves that they don't have the same daughter and are not married at all. The Maid is very proud her skills of detective skills and says that her "real name is Sherlock Holmes" (139). The clock strikes several more times. The Martins wake up and promise to never forget each other again. The Smiths enter. Even though they've been gone all this time they didn't change their clothes. (They probably forgot.) The Smiths and Martins make awkward conversation about how they all have colds. It comes up that Mr. Smith has wet his pants. Mrs. Martin tells a story about how she watched a man tie his shoelace today. Everyone is amazed at this extraordinary event. Mr. Martin adds that he also saw a guy quietly reading a newspaper. Everyone is flabbergasted. The door bell rings. Mrs. Smith goes to answer. No one is there. Mr. Martin starts to tell another story, but is interrupted when the doorbell rings again. Mrs. Smith goes to answer again, but once again no one is there. Mr. Martin starts his story, but is once more interrupted by the doorbell. Mrs. Smith says she won't open the door. Mr. Smith can't understand why – if the doorbell rang someone must be there. Ahh, says Mrs. Smith, but the last two times it rang there was no one there. Mr. Smith thinks this is crazy. His wife goes to answer the door. No one is there. As soon as she sits, the doorbell rings again. Her husband exclaims that someone must be there. His wife is getting pretty frustrated – she concludes that every time the doorbell rings that means that nobody is there. She absolutely refuses to open the door. Fine, says Mr. Smith. I'll answer it myself. He opens the door. The Fire Chief is outside, wearing a bright shiny helmet. Mrs. Smith is all grumpy about her doorbell theory being proven wrong. The group tells the Fire Chief all about the great doorbell debate. After many deliberations, they decide that sometimes when the doorbell rings someone is there and sometimes there is no one. (Awesome – glad that's resolved.) The Fire Chief asks if the house is on fire. They say no. He's quite disappointed. Things are bad all over, says Mr. Smith – the fields aren't doing well, and there are no fires to put out. They invite the Fire Chief to tell a story. At first he's nervous, but then the ladies kiss him a lot, making him feel better. He tells an "experimental fable" called "The Dog and the Cow" (351). The story is something about a cow asking a dog why he's eaten his own trunk. The dog says it's because he's actually an elephant. Nobody understands the moral of the fable. The Fire Chief says they have to figure it out for themselves. He tells another story about a male calf who gives birth to a full grown cow. Both animals are very confused about the whole thing. The Fire Chief tells another called "The Cock" (362). It has to do with a case of mistaken identity, concerning a rooster and a dog. He continues with his fable marathon and tells one called the "The Snake and the Fox" (364). Basically, a snake tries to bum money off of a fox. The fox won't do it, so the snake messes him up. Mrs. Smith gets in on the story telling action. She spins a tale of a guy who gave his fiancé some flowers and then took them back. (That's about it.) Everyone is thrilled with the "amazing" story. The Fire Chief tells a story called the "Headcold" (392). His "story" is pretty much a long nonsensical list of people who are somehow interrelated. The only real connection is that they all sometimes get colds. Mrs. Smith wants to hear the story again. The Fire Chief isn't sure if he has time. Mrs. Smith replies that there's no time here, because their clock always says the opposite of what time it actually is. Mary enters and asks if she can tell a story too. Everyone is very offended that a lowly maid would want to tell a story. Mary throws herself on the Fire Chief and declares that they were once in love. The Fire Chief confirms it. The Smiths and Martins seem to think the love affair is a little unseemly. Mary is determined to recite a poem. As the Smiths push her offstage, she recites a poem about how everything, even the fire itself, once caught on fire. The Fire Chief says he's got to go, because there's a fire on the other side of town – it's a straw fire accompanied by a little bit of heartburn. Before he goes, he mentions the bald soprano. Mrs. Smith comments that the bald soprano "always wears her hair in the same style" (573). The Fire Chief exits. The two couples begin to say lots of random sentences that really make a lot of sense. The clock strikes more and more as they continue to spout more and more nonsensical things. They get crazier and crazier about it until they're yelling in each other's faces. There's a blackout and we still hear them shouting in the darkness. When the lights come back on, Mr. and Mrs. Martin are sitting in the exact same positions that the Smiths were at the beginning to the play. The play begins all over again with the Martins saying the same lines as the Smiths. The curtain slowly falls.
People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...