The Gates of Hell - Edward Gordon Craig


3 pages


The Gates of Hell

An Interlude

Edward Gordon Craig | 1918 | Italy
Genre (as defined by the author)
Tom Fool, Scene-Painter, Six Blue Devils, Six Green Devils, Six Black Devils, Isherwood, Pluto, Slimy-Go-Gurgle-And-Twirl, Blind Boy, Parrot
Number of acts

The Drama for Fools is a large-scale dramatic cycle containing multiple puppet plays. 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.

The story of Cockatrice, the main character of The Drama for Fools, begins in Hell. Before his first appearance, Craig introduces this interlude which asks, with a pitch of humor, how to represent Hell on the puppet stage. He puts on a performance and plays his own role as “Tom Fool”, the pseudonym which he also uses to sign The Drama for Fools and, at the same time, mocks his own dreams in set designing.

Plot summary

An author searches for the right setting for his play

Tom Fool, the author of the play which will be performed, finds out that the set designer chose an engraving showing Craig pointing to the huge entrance to the Macbeth's castle to portray the Gates of Hell. He voices his discontent. The set designer then suggests a “realistic” representation of Hell: the door to a mansion in a rich neighbourhood of London. Still unsatisfied, Tom Fool eventually agrees with the stage designer for a more “traditional” style, as portrayed in mystery plays staged in popular theatres (notably in Christmas pantomimes in Great Britain) – with a Hellmouth, colorful devils, pitchforks, boiling cauldrons, snakes, and so on. The characters in The Drama for Fools, eager to play, come forward one by one on the stage, but Tom Fool has not written their parts yet.

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

Other titles

Scene 1 from the Drama for Fools

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