|Cummings' one-act play Santa Claus was first published
in the Cummings Number of the Harvard Wake,
Spring 1946. It was reprinted in Three Plays and A Ballet, ed. George
J. Firmage, (New York: October House, 1967). The play may also be found in The
Theatre of E. E. Cummings (Liveright, 2013). In a letter dated April
12, 1950, Cummings advised a potential director of Santa Claus to
allow "the play to 'express' itself i.e. to be (re)born. And if every
word of Santa Claus is distinctly spoken,by human beings deeply
familiar with the American language,my play's 'meaning' won't even slightly
matter." Then he added: "what,by the way,does life 'mean'?" (Letters
202-203). In addition, Cummings discusses and quotes from the play at length
in nonlecture six. See also EEC's comments on Santa Claus
from the liner notes to the recording
E. E. Cummings Reading His Poetry
(1953). There is also a
French translation in print, with facing-page English text.
The play is an allegory in which Death and Santa Claus exchange masks,
but a child sees through the masks to the true identity of each. Death is
equated with Science, which "can sell people anything--except understanding."
In the end, Santa Claus, who is a young man beneath his mask, reveals himself
to the child and her mother. In the illustration at the right, Cummings portrayed
himself as Santa Claus removing the mask of Death.
Santa Claus Removing the Mask of Death, sketch by E. E. Cummings (1946). Cummings made at least two separate proof sketches of this image, but neither was published.
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