Play # 28: The Infanta & The Hummingbird

The play takes place under a bell jar, being based directly upon a construction by American artist Joseph Cornell called Observations of a Satellite 1 (1960).  The Infanta is of course The Infanta Margarita at Age Five, by Diego Velazquez (1559-1661).  The hummingbird in this play is by English bird illustrator John Gould (1804-1881) and is taken from Sacheverell Sitwell’s Fine Bird Books 1700-1900 (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990).

When the play opens, the Infanta is conversing with an enormous hummingbird that hovers directly over her head.

Margarita:  Your wings beat so quickly I can’t see them.

Hummingbird: What do you see instead?

Margarita:  An airy sphere, floating in the air.

Hummingbird:  That is enough to see.

Margarita:  I would like to be as ethereal as you.

Hummingbird:  Would you? [observing her closely]  Yes, you are a bit encumbered by your own dress!  It’s rather solid, isn’t it?

Margarita:  It’s like wearing a building!  I can scarcely move!

Hummingbird:  Well, movement isn’t everything.  Standing still allows you to look about you.  And it gives you time to think.

Margarita:  But you can stand still as well—if you want to.  You can hover.

Hummingbird:  Listen, hovering is a whole world in itself.  Hovering is so demanding it’s all you can do.  You drive yourself mad just to stay in the same place!

Margarita:  Well, I can certainly understand that.

Hummingbird: But you can always step out of that dress, and leap about in the sun like a spring lamb!

Margarita:  It scarcely ever happens.

Hummimgbird:  Meet me here in this meadow tomorrow, early in the morning.  I’m going to begin your
hovering lessons!

Margarita (overjoyed).  Oh, will you??

Hummingbird:  I promise.  Just one more thing, though.

Margarita:  Yes?

Hummingbird:  Wear something light!