Jérémie Le Louët

Le Roi au masque d’or

A symbolist recital by Marcel Schwob

“Tell me which mask you wear, I’ll tell you what your face is like.” Julio Cortazar

A masterpiece from the collection of the same name written by Marcel Schwob in 1893, Le Roi au masque d’or embraces with extraordinary might all the themes that the symbolists were so fond of: masks, mirrors, the moon, blood, purity and the tragic destiny of men…

A king, who, in accordance with his ancestors, always wears a hieratical golden mask, governs over his palace and its population of priests, buffoons, and women, each of whom wears a mask according to his or her function in society: austere and serious-looking masks for priests, hilarious ones for buffoons, and graceful, seductive ones for women. Along comes a blind, unmasked “pious beggar” who presents himself to the king and then reveals to him, in an insidious way to what extent his whole mask-filled universe covers up a reality that is vastly different from its appearance: “as for you” he says to the monarch, “how do you know that you are not horrible-looking beneath underneath all your finery?”. The king orders him to leave, but from that moment on he is plagued by doubt. Wanting to know what he truly looks like, he leaves his palace, in which the priests have forbidden the presence of all mirrors, and goes down to the river. There he discovers, in his reflection on the surface of the water, that he is a leper…