Hell (1916) - Edward Gordon Craig

Printed excerpts

2 pages


Hell (1916)

1st version

Edward Gordon Craig | March - June 1916 | Marina di Pisa, Italy
Marionette, Juno, Jupiter, Mercury, Workmen, Blind-Boy, Columbus, Servant, Many Devils, Pluto, Slimy-Go-Gurgle-And-Twirl, The Egg, Cockatrice, Blind Woman, Cock
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.

is the real beginning of the main plot which the Drama for Fools was supposed to center upon – the story of Cockatrice, who is seen as the allegory of absolute evil and hypocrisy. After multiple false starts with different characters, the cycle takes, in 1916, the form of a voyage in the history of the world, until the present time, and to show the damage Cockatrice caused in each era. Craig is so fascinated and amused by his character that he gives him two friends: Blind Boy and Columbus the Parrot. He has them embark on a series of comical adventures, but they end very soon, as the author prefers writing numerous satirical interludes drawing from different inspirations and featuring other characters.
Just like Pulcinella, Cockatrice was born from an egg, but the egg was laid by Jove, who had turned into a cock to hid away from Juno. Cockatrice looks like a worm, wears a hat, has a cockney accent, and, just like Blind Boy, is from St Mary-le-Bow, a working-class district which the cockney accent originates from.

This part of the Drama for Fools has many unfinished drafts and different versions of the story exist. In this first complete version, written between March and June 1916 and kept at the Institut International de la Marionnette, the play opens on a domestic quarrel between Jove and Juno. It is also the case for another version, today kept at the Osaka Ohtani University Library. In a third version, written in 1918, Craig introduced Hell straight from the beginning.

Plot summary

The birth of the embodiment of evil

After a prologue in which a marionette summarizes the plot, the scene opens in Juno’s bedroom at 3 a.m. Jove and Mercury, drunk and dressed as burglars, break the window to get in. Jove drives Mercury away and tries to sleep but he wakes up Juno, who picks a quarrel with him. She is furious and she decides to go to Hell and fetch two snakes which will kill Hercules and his mother in retaliation for Jove’s unfaithfulness. At the gates of Hell, Juno orders snakes and meets Blind Boy and Columbus the Parrot, who are carrying a bag. They are introduced to Pluto and his favorite snake, Slimy-Go-Gurgle-and-Twirl. They are sentenced to boil in the cauldron of Hell, but Columbus states that he has a present for Pluto in his bag. Pluto asks to see it. The present is an egg containing six other eggs, which are all of different colours and are placed one inside the other. Out of the smallest one hatches the “Worm of Worms,” Cockatrice, who kills all the snakes in Hell and terrifies everybody. Pluto gives his ring to Blind Boy and asks him to take Cockatrice away, but Blind Boy informs him that he is his mother and offers to explain how it happened. They all sit in front of a small theatre, where the story of Cockatrice’s birth is narrated.

In the cockney neighborhood of London, Jove, dressed up as a cock, steps into Blind Woman and Blind Boy’s shop in order to buy pigeon milk. He hands over an egg to Blind Boy, since he is blind and therefore cannot see Cockatrice, who is about to hatch, for a single glance at Cockatrice would prove fatal - it would even kill him to see himself in a mirror. Jove asks Blind Boy to be Cockatrice’s mother and to never reveal to him who his father is. After hatching, Cockatrice befriends Blind Boy, and they decide to travel the different worlds together.

After the performance ends, Blind Boy, Cockatrice, and Parrot leave Hell in order to rescue Hercules from the snakes sent by that Juno sent.

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

Other titles

Jupiter - Parrot - Pluto - Cockatrice & Blind-Boy

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.


Conservation place

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


Theatrical techniques


Written by

Didier Plassard