Article Title

W. H. Auden's First Dramatization of Jung: The Charade of the Loving and Terrible Mothers


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The first of Auden's longer works, Paid on Both Sides: A Charade-still placed first in Collected Poems, 1976-is ostensibly an episode in a continuing feud between two families who live some fifteen miles apart in the Lead Dales of the English north country on opposite sides of the Pennine watershed.1 The conflicting parties are the Shaws of Nattrass House, Garrigill, near Alston, Northumberland, and the Nowers of Linzgarth House, near Rookhope, in Durham. The central character in this episode, John N ower of Linzgarth, was botll prematurely during his mother's state of shock on hearing that her husband, George, had been ambushed and killed by Red Shaw of Nattrass. John Nower grows up to ambush and kill his father's murderer and several followers, and to have another Shaw executed as a spy; but,. eventually, influenced by unconscious forces--and the unconscious is the stage on which the significant action in this drama occurs-he attempts to end the feud and bring about reconciliation by marrying Anne Shaw. During the wedding feast at Nattrass the Shaw matriarch instigates a renewal of the feud. John Nower is killed, and the charade ends as it began with a wife mourning the death of a husband. During the action of the charade, therefore, John Nower plays the role of an archetypal Everyman: he is given life by the mother who loves and nourishes him; he journeys from birth to death in the realm of conscious life governed by the sun; and he returns at the end of conscious life to the womb of Mother Earth. A final chorus recalls the final chorus in Oedipus Rex with its warning to call no man happy:

Though he believe it, no man is strong.

He thinks to be called fortunate,

To bring home a wife, to live along.

But he is defeated; let the son

Sell the farm lest the mountain fall;

His mother and her mother won. (CP, 35)

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