The Bald Soprano
by Eugene Ionesco
The Bald Soprano Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue. We used Donald M. Allen's translation.
Mrs. Smith: "We've drunk the soup, and eaten the […] English salad. The children have drunk English water. We've eaten well this evening. That's because we live in the suburbs of London and because our name is Smith." (2)
So, why is Mrs. Smith telling her husband these things? What is she trying to communicate? Mr. Smith was around all evening. He ought to know what they've eaten. Well, it's widely recorded that Ionesco based The Bald Soprano on a language primer from which he was trying to learn English. He copied down lots of sentences like these in his studies. The book was filled with one obvious fact after another. Ionesco said that, "The very simple, luminously clear statements I had copied so diligently into my notebook, left to themselves, fermented after a while, lost their original identity, expanded and overflowed" (source). Perhaps, when these seemingly simple statements were repeated over and over again they began to take on new meanings. Perhaps, they began to mean nothing at all. Perhaps, it's both of these things at the same time.
Stage Direction: Mr. Smith [continues to read, clicks his tongue] (3)
This stage direction is repeated over and over again throughout the first couple pages of the play. All the time Mrs. Smith is babbling about the things that have happened earlier that evening, Mr. Smith only reads and makes noises with his mouth. Is he really listening to her? Does he ever? Could this opening scene be suggesting that nobody ever really listens to anybody else?
Mr. Smith: "Hm." [Silence.]
Mrs. Smith: "Hm, hm." [Silence.]
Mrs. Martin: "Hm, hm, hm." [Silence.]
Mr. Martin: "Hm, hm, hm, hm." [Silence.] _THOUGHT_END_ _QUOTE_START_ The dinner party definitely gets off to an awkward start. These old "friends" can't even find the words to communicate with each other at first. Though the dialogue above may seem a little exaggerated, we have to say that we've been in social situations almost as awkward. Maybe, it's not as absurd as it first appears. Also, make sure to notice the use of "silence" above as well. Sometimes people communicate more with what they don't say than with what they do. _THOUGHT_END_ _QUOTE_START_ Mr. Smith: "It's the same this year with business and agriculture as it is with fires, nothing is prospering." […]
Mrs. Martin: "It's harder in the case of fires. The tariffs are too high!" (315-320)
It some ways this is a pretty common day-to-day conversation. We've got two solid middle class couples and a friend, sitting around complaining about the bad economy and high taxes. Of course, in this case their friend is a Fire Chief, who is depressed because his business is doing poorly – there just aren't enough fires to put out. The whole situation is rendered totally absurd as the characters lump putting out fires into the same category as growing wheat and playing the stock market. We find the idea of "tariffs," or import taxes, on fire to be highly amusing. In any case, you see this kind of thing all through the play. Ionesco takes what would be a normal pretty cliché conversation and messes with our heads by giving it an Absurdist twist.