The Gordian Knot - Edward Gordon Craig


3 pages


The Gordian Knot

A Motion for Marionettes

Edward Gordon Craig | 1916 | Marina di Pisa, Italy
Genre (as defined by the author)
Alexander of Macedonia, The Chief-Priest, Lykiardopopolis, An Old Witch, A Dwarf, An Acolyte, Seven Young Priests, Other Priests, Alexander's General Staff
Number of acts

The Drama for Fools is a large-scale dramatic cycle containing multiple interludes, including The Gordian Knot. This cycle kept Craig exceedingly busy between 1916 and 1918. It was supposed to hold 365 short plays and be performed like a traveling show: each night, from 31 April to 31 March, a new play would be shown in a new location. Craig, who wrote his plays under the pen name Tom Fool, stopped writing before the cycle was finished and gave up on performing the play himself.

Nonetheless, he stored his drafts in three cardboard boxes, as a collection of typewritten notebooks containing many illustrations and whose covers display words written in colourful calligraphy. He cared immensely for these notebooks, as he improved, corrected, and supplemented them until the 1950s. This collection is today held at the Institut International de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mézières.

This interlude, meant to be staged between two episodes of the main plot, is a satirical rewriting of the Gordian Knot legend. Craig plays with anachronisms - Gordias is here called Lord George Gordius, a pun towards Lloyd George who became Prime Minister in 1916.

Plot summary

A simple movement puts an end to an unsolvable problem

Priests from the temple of Jupiter created a yearly contest in order to undo the knot which ties the yoke to the centre-pole of the late Gordias’s cart. The winner will rule over Asia while the ones who fail to untie it will see their goods seized. Many competitors try their luck, but no one succeeds. Alexander the Great cuts the knot with his sword but, judging by the priests’ reactions, he understands that they wanted the knot to remain intact, as it was bringing them wealth.

Related works
The Drama for Fools, Edward Gordon Craig1914-1918
Composition date

Publications and translations


The Marionnette, n°3, May 1918.

Modern edition

Edward Gordon Craig, The Drama for Fools / Le Théâtre des fous. Montpellier: L'Entretemps, 2012.

  • Edward Gordon Craig, The Drama for Fools / Le Théâtre des fous. Montpellier: L'Entretemps, 2012.

  • Marisa Maymone Siniscalchi (dir.), Il trionfo della marionetta. Testi e materiali inediti di Edward Gordon Craig. Roma: Officina Edizioni, 1980.


Conservation place

Institut International de la Marionnette - Charleville-Mézières, France
Literary tones
Comical, Satirical
Animations techniques
String marionette
Not specified
Institut International de la Marionnette & Edward Gordon Craig Estate


Theatrical techniques


Written by

Didier Plassard