Gabriel Marcel’s leading questions were “Who am I? Is life empty or full?” In other words, what is a person’s authentic potential and what meaningful fulfillment one can hope for? Drama was always the first form of inquiry for Marcel. His dramatic imagination envisioned concrete individuals in particular situations of conflict. As a drama unfolds, the differing fundamental attitudes of various protagonists become evident. Marcel had a distinguished career. An Existential Dramatist and Philosopher, he wrote some thirty plays and a similar number of philosophic works that essentially were his search to find meaning and value in his own life.
Referring to his thought and life’s work Marcel wrote, in “The Secret is in the Isles,” that he saw his dramas as islands. One lands on an island with both feet. Audiences, or readers, of existential drama are moved to enter wholeheartedly into the situation. He then sees his philosophic writings as the continents. They can be mapped out, juxtaposed, and then compared and contrasted to the thought of other philosophers whose boundaries are contiguous to them. In “The Invisible Threshold,” the preface to his first volume of published plays, Marcel points out that his dramas deal with the spiritual level of human experience for without this transcendent dimension our lives would be diminished significantly. In this volume we present two of his plays, A Mystery of Love and The Posthumous Joke.
Dr. Katharine Rose Hanley received her Ph.D. from Louvain University in Belgium. She has lectured extensively in the U.S. and at various national and international philosophical meetings in France, Canada, China and Japan. Her first book, Dramatic Approaches to Creative Fidelity: A Study in the Theater and Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel (1987), announced and illustrated her perspective for appreciating Marcel’s work. She then published translations (and commentaries) of seven Gabriel Marcel plays. Most recently she produced two audio CDs of Marcel plays performed by professional actors, available from Marquette University Press.
Dr. Hanley’s book Gabriel Marcel’s Perspectives on The Broken World, published by Marquette University Press in 1998 comprises the play The Broken World, his essay “Concrete Approaches to Investigating the Ontological Mystery,” and appendices listing Marcel’s biblio-biography, his dramatic and philosophic works in French and their English translations, his books as drama critic, and titles of his musical compositions.
Dr. Hanley first met Gabriel Marcel when he lectured at Louvain University. They met again in 1965 when he came to Le Moyne College to lecture and receive an honorary degree. They had an especially meaningful conversation at Marcel’s home in Paris in September, 1973, just three weeks before his death, when he inscribed his book Five Major Plays to her with these words: “In remembrance of a spiritual bond which once renewed shall not be broken.”