Extended captivity causes hallucinations or funny misunderstandings.
We will see the irresistible character of the empress, stolen from Calderòn de la Barca’s La hija del aire, emerging from the underground: the sovereignty will be the new prison, words isolation, incest rebellion.
In a simmetric labirynth where cave and palace are identical and extremely similar to a bathroom without fittings, Semiramis perceives incidental events as replies to soliloquies, carrying on dialogues with countless double interlocutors. It is impossible to distinguish reality from hallucinations, as well as to judge how miserable power is. Who gets caught in its mesh has just one apparent way out: the one upwards. Once trapped, this sacrificial animal will take its personal revenge.
«The world turned me into a whore. I shall turn the world into a brothel».
Notes for the curious
La hija del aire by Calderòn de la Barca draws inspiration from the myth of Semiramis and develops it. Semiramis is the legendary Assyrian queen who is said to have built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and will then merge with the goddess Ishtar.
The best (and the lengthiest) play by Calderòn deals with the adventures of Semiramis right after her release from the cave where she has been confined since her birth, watched by the prophet Tiresias. Semiramis’s captivity is the consequence of the terrible prophecy made by the gods who attend her genesis: the nymph Derceto, Venus’s favourite one, is raped by a hunter, who is devoured by his own dogs after the embrace. Derceto dies in childbirth and the baby is looked after by a flight of doves. Venus entrusts the little girl to the care of Tiresias and warns him not to show Semiramis to anyone since her destiny would be to embody the atrocity of the world bringing tragedy and death.
Twenty years go by and general Menones’s victorious army get to the cave where Semiramis lives. Menones releases the girl despite Tiresias’s veto and the powerless prophet commits suicide. Menones is in love with Semiramis and he is jealous, therefore they go to live in a house in the country, cut off from the rest of the world.
One day, Semiramis meets King Ninus. He falls in love with her as soon as they meet and proposes to her. Semiramis says she will marry him. Then, she disowns Menones who is blinded and exiled.
After twenty years, Ninus dies in mysterious circumstances and the city-state of Babylon, founded by Semiramis, is fighting against Lydia. The meek son of Semiramis and Ninus, Ninyas, is now old enough to reign and the people applaud him. They cannot bear Semiramis’s abuse of power any more and reject a female leader.
Semiramis abdicates taking everybody by surprise, but one night she kidnapps and confines her son. Thanks to their likeness, she takes Ninyas’s place and keeps on leading the kingdom in disguise.
Yet, Semiramis is killed in battle and the trick is revealed. It is the dawn of a new kigndom lead by the sensible King Ninyas.
And all of them lived happily ever after… All but for Semiramis.