top of page
  • Writer's pictureBalkan Art Scene

Messrs. Glembay — a family downfall

Lucien Adrion "The Dinner of Artista", Paul Petrides (1937)

Bigotry and false morality is unwinding through the three-part drama of Lord Glembay, so that we gradually learn the past and the true anatomy of the spirit of this Zagreb family. This work is the first segment of Krleža's cycle about the Glembays, which still consists of the dramas In Agony and Leda.

Messrs. Glembay are a dramatic, Central European Karamazov-like whose curse has its roots in the past when the ancestral sin was committed by the ancient ancestor of this family, and the fruit of the tree of knowledge is the treasure of a goldsmith who was robbed and killed.


The acceleration of the decline is influenced by the arrival of Leone Glembay, an artist, traveler, a character who is a true rara avis of the Glembay family.

The cathartic moment begins at the end of the first act when, after the discussion, Leone's father Ignjat hears a conversation between Leone and Zilberbrant, which directly reveals the inner family intrigues, metaphorically speaking:

GLEMBAY: Hörst du, Fabriczy? Es donnert! Hörst du?

Those were my crosses this morning. Es donnert!

I felt something was brewing!

He goes to the open terrace and listens to the thunder.

Es donnert (German: thunder) did not only mean thunder in the sky, but also psychological thunder, which will take place that night in the home of the Glembay. With this thunder, the purification begins with truths that have been suppressed for years and emerge to the surface by removing the mask from people's faces.

As the catalyst of the catharsis of this drama, Leone himself is an unbalanced, tense character (within the framework of the play, this feature of his gets a determinant in German - überspannt). On the other hand, he is without disguise, he publicly declares his love for his brother's widow, Angelica, he openly reveals the darkest secrets, thus removing the false glow from the family name.

The complexity of the characters' relationships and the intertwining of individual stories stands in contrast to Leone's simplicity and openness in depicting these complicated elements.

Father-son relationship

The archetypal conflict between father and son that runs through the second act is an illustration of the Oedipus complex.

A smoldering, unresolved conflict culminating in a father's heart attack when he learns that his second wife had a love affair with Leone - guilt that, after eating, paves the way for the tragedy that is inevitable, behind which there is a deep psychological background.

Naturalistic elements

An eruption of low passions erupts from the cloak of civic decency, illuminating the dark corners of the human soul in which they have been hidden for years. Atavistic allusions to the ancestor-killer warn not only of the origin, but also of dark instincts as a family, psychological stamp.

Snimalistic part of the personality dominates people even though they hide behind reason, humanism and socially acceptable norms of behavior. Behind the façade of all the benefactors they exhaustively cite is a niche filled with misdeeds. Other people's, ruined lives enter that space as a ladder to the fulfillment of their materialistic ambitions and other immoral goals.

Uranium and chthonic

Intertwining of the uranium and the chthonic, i.e. the dualism of human nature is best reflected in the character of Leone, when his dark side prevails over the spiritual. By killing Baroness Castelli, his father's second wife and his former mistress, he again connects with the chthonic, Glembayian in himself.

Leone is a painter, turned to other values ​​in relation to his family, but in contact with them, he unstoppably emerges bestially, thus adding his imprint to the dark, familiar line of crime.

The inevitability of a tragic end

Krleža plays with different motives, composing a complex psychological drama through a saga about a family behind whose starched, tidy overcoat all sorts of human desires arise.

A parallel can be drawn with Fyodor and Dmitry Karamazov, due to the specific relationship between father and son, which is the focus of the drama, around which the central motives of the story revolve.

Krleža tried to interpret something that is undefined, that acts independently, and yet it is in us, a force that irresistibly pulls us towards destiny, giving it a tone of inevitability.

Recent Posts

See All

Balkan Art Scene // Publications VOLUME 1

Volume 1 ISSUE 1 2022/2023 As Balkan Art Scene approaches a different era, it is an honour for me to share with you several issues of Volume 1 of Balkan Art Scene digital publication. This is the firs


bottom of page