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As someone who admittedly does not read a lot of poetry, I was somewhat confused upon first reading Wislawa Szymborska’s collection. Even upon reading them a second time, there was still a bit of confusion there. Despite that, I was particularly intrigued by “Theater Impressions” from the beginning.

When you ask most people what their favorite part of a play is, they’re probably not going to say “when it was over,” especially if the play was a good one. That makes this poem, especially the first stanza, so interesting to me. Szymborska writes, “For me a tragedy’s most important act is the sixth:/ the resurrecting from the stage’s battlegrounds,/ the adjusting of wigs, of robes,/ the wrenching of knife from breast,/ the removing of noose from neck,/ the lining up among the living to face the audience” (140). She goes on to describe the dead characters coming back to life and acknowledging that their deaths weren’t real. In the last stanza, she describes the lowering of the curtain, leaving us with a lasting image: “Only then does a third, invisible [hand]/ perform its duty:/ it clutches at my throat” (141).

What about the end of a play causes the speaker to feel the way she does? Is the true tragedy having to acknowledge that something is over? Or is it the fact that there was no real tragedy to begin with? Perhaps the speaker has had to face death in her life, and the fact that the dead in the play can “return to life” upsets her. There are so many ways that I feel this poem could be interpreted, and I think I’ll need to read it several more times before I can decide which interpretation I agree with the most.

 

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