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THE OTHER DANGER

a comedy in four acts by Maurice Donnay
First published in 1902

The following biography was originally published in The Continental Drama of Today. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1914. p. 146-9.

The Other Danger belongs to those plays of its author which treat in a serious manner the eternal problem of sex. This time the play is a study in struggle of the mother, with her lover and her daughter. The colors are darker than Donnay as a rule uses, but there is much in the work to recall the charmingly sentimental author of Lovers. It is curious to watch this dramatist, who is as a rule not preoccupied with theses, attacking one of the most tragic of situations. The critic Jules Lemaître once said that what brought Donnay closer to life than most of his contemporaries was his comparative disregard of form. The Other Danger is not a "well-made" play: it is hardly unified, and yet it is effective, and when it was produced, it enjoyed a considerable degree of success.

In what respects is The Other Danger not a well-made play? Take act by act, and indicate where Donnay departs from the precepts of Scribe and Sardou. Are his transgressions in the nature of omissions or has he added material which is from the standpoint of the perfect technician superfluous?

Could the entire first act be left out? If it were, could the material therein contained be placed, without serious prejudice to the author's ideas and the play itself, in the exposition of what is now the second act? Or might the first and second acts be melted into one? What would be lost by that process?

Some critics have urged that Donnay, feeling that his theme was repellent -- which it is -- occupied as much time as possible in leading up to the climax. Is this true? Is Donnay more concerned with the play than the theme? If so, what are the proofs?

In this play, the author has pleased to show us Madeleine first at the age of twelve, then sixteen, then nearly eighteen. Ibsen's method would probably have been to show her only as the young lady who is looking for a husband -- a "jeune fille à marier." Would Ibsen's catastrophic-drama process improve the French play, had Donnay chosen to adopt it? What is gained by his allowing us to see two stages in the girl's development, before the play, for her, really begins?

In the theater we must believe. If an author in a serious play -- that is, anything but a farce, in which he frankly asks us to assume certain impossibilities -- fails to impress us with the fact that what is happening is so, the play will certainly fail to touch us. In the present play, can we believe, in spite of the clever and ingenious arguments brought forward by Freydières, that Madeleine cannot possibly do without him? Note carefully how the author attempts to make this situation credible.

There is a good deal of atmosphere created throughout the play, especially at the beginning of the first of its three acts. Much of this is not pertinent to the plot and does very little toward the development of character, but often there is a clever welding of plot-progress and atmosphere. Note in each instance how the various threads of pertinent interest are woven into the "atmospheric" scenes.

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