The Temptation of St Anthony - Edward Gordon Craig


4 pages


The Temptation of St Anthony

Edward Gordon Craig | 1916 | Marina di Pisa, Italy
Genre (as defined by the author)
Anthony Perkins, The Halo, The Clock, The Calendar, Gustave Flaubert, Old Woman, Middle-Aged Woman, Young Woman, The Queen of Sheba, Cleo di Patra, Angels, Blackamoors, White Niggers, Attendants, Eunuchs
Number of acts

The Drama for Fools is a large-scale dramatic cycle containing multiple interludes, including The Temptation of St Anthony. 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.

In this interlude, Craig takes one the main subjects of puppet plays in the 19th century and rewrites it in a burlesque way, also adding references to Flaubert’s work and to Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings (which will also be used in the setting). He also mocks the English community in Florence he kept company with until WWI, and his own “temptations”- his numerous lovers. It was also an opportunity for him to introduce two characters who were intended to be recurrent in the Drama for Fools, that is to say, the Queen of Sheba and Cleo di Patra.

Plot summary

A hermit and his temptress die before they have the chance to meet

Three women – young Janet, her mother, and her grandmother – take refuge in a stable while a storm and the temptations of St. Anthony are raging outside. Janet asks in vain to be explained what these temptations are.

Saint Anthony (called Anthony Perkins) is in a cell and only has his Halo, his Clock, and his Calendar as friends. He prays to Zeus to send him temptations, for they never reach him. Time flies, and he ends up dying of boredom. Shortly after Anthony’s death, the now old Queen of Sheba enters his cell, accompanied by Gustave Flaubert. The Queen of Sheba dies, disappointed that she could not tempt Anthony. Flaubert asks two eunuchs to bury them. Cleo di Patra appears in the sky, surrounded by angels. The play ends with a great ballet and a funeral cortege.

Related works
The Temptation of Saint Anthony1874
The Drama for Fools, Edward Gordon Craig1914-1918
Composition date

Publications and translations


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.

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