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From: "Roy C. Lackey" <rclackey@stic.net>
Subject: (urth) Re: The Contessa
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 20:01:27 

Tony Ellis wrote:

>>Either you two are missing the point or I am <g>. She isn't "in the role
of" the Contessa, she -is- the Contessa. She's being arrested for
whatever reason the Contessa was being arrested in the play (although I
seem to recall she wasn't being arrested at all, but escorted). There's
no suggestion that she and Severian have met before at court or
anything: Severian specifically says that her face wasn't known to him.
He "recognizes" her and she him because this moment has happened before
- in the sub-reality of Dr Talos's play. That's why Severian sees in the
Contessa's eyes the recognition that they are both in "a drama that had
been played out before", or words to that effect.<<

    You're right; escorted, not arrested, is better. Remember: Nessus is
already underwater, the Urth is coming to an end very quickly, and people
know it. So why would anyone be wasting time bothering with this woman for
any Urthly reason? How about an Ushasly (sic?) reason?

    The events of the play are a parody of Urth's last day, parts of which
Sev witnesses and relates. I say parody because the play only approximates
what actually happens and some of the player's roles are conflated. That the
woman Sev sees in the Path of Air is the play's Contessa is undoubted. But
is that the only drama being reprised? BTW, some of the arguments made here
were first advanced by Robert Borski. See his 4-8-99 post. mantis has argued
that Catherine and Katharine are the same person.

    Compare the "Contessa's" description:

"At first I could not see her eyes, which were bent toward the floor and
lost in her raven-dark hair.
    Then (I could not tell by what chance) she glanced up at me. Hers was a
lovely face of that complexion called olive and as smoothly oval as an
olive, too, with something in it that tore my heart; and though it was
strange to me, I had the sensation of return once again."

    With that of "Katharine" at the Feast:

"She was tall and slender, though not so tall nor so slender as Thecla, dark
of complexion, dark of eye, raven of hair. Hers was such a face as I have
never seen elsewhere, like a pool of pure water found in the midst of a

    Note the mirror imagery of the water (I believe this has been pointed
out before). Could Sev be seeing his own image in her face and not realize
it? He couldn't see his similarity to Ouen, though others could. He didn't
recognize his own image on coins. Also, many mirrors are oval-shaped. Dark
complexion, dark eyes, raven hair; from Wolfe what more can you expect? See
also where Sev meets Ouen in _Citadel_.

    And the Contessa's line from the play (spoken to Meschia):

"If my body held a part of yours--liquescent tissue locked in my loins..."

    Echoes of the conception of the White Fountain? Aka New Sun, aka


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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