This is the front cover of the theatre program – “The Eagle Has Two Heads” ( French: “L’Aigle à Deux Têtes”) by Jean Cocteau. Not only did he illustrate the front cover of this, he was also the playwright. The play was first staged in 1946 and caused endless discussion in Paris, London and New York. In Australia, The Adelaide Theatre Group was the first to present this on March 30, 1949, at the Adelaide Tivoli Theatre. Cocteau directed the film of the same title in 1948.
Cocteau’s inspiration was taken from separate stories of Ludwig II of Bavaria (who was found drowned in Lake Stamberg in circumstances which have never been satisfactorily explained); and of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria (who was stabbed in the heart by an assassin while out walking in Geneva).
This is a play in three acts (is there any other kind?)
- Act 1 takes place in the Queen’s bedroom: (Evening)
- Act 2 is set in the castle library (Next morning)
- Act 3 is again in the library (Following morning)
Synopsis: It’s the 10th anniversary of the King’s assassination, and at night, Stanislas; a young wounded anarchist poet; wishing to assassinate his widowed Queen; enters her room in Castle Krantz. Haunted by his likeness to her dead husband, she shelters him instead of handing him over to the police; seeing him as the welcome embodiment of her own death, and names him Azraël (the Angel of Death). Despite the opposition of this union by the Court politicians, represented by the Comte de Foëhn, the chief of police, and Édith de Berg, the Queen’s companion, she and Stanislas defy the odds and fall in love. Of course it wouldn’t be great theatre if there were not a great tragedy which befalls them; and becomes something that the world will never truly understand.
But telling you the ending would ruin this tragic tale and you will simply have to find out more from somewhere else, if you want to know why the “eagle has two-heads”. From my point of view, don’t lose your head over this – let’s flip a coin!