By Dr Kamal Mirawdeli:
‘Love and Existence: Analytical Study of Ahmadi Khani’s Tragedy of Mem û Zîn’
Part IV, Chapter 1: The dramatic structure of the tragedy (as a play)
The Mem û Zîn drama is divided in terms of content and dramatic progression into three parts:
Part 1: Starts with the introduction of the main characters, the meeting of the four lovers at Newroz and ends with the happy wedding of Stê and Tazhdin. We can call this part, Love and Beauty.
Part II: Starts with Mergewer’s plan to stop the marriage of Mem and Zîn and ends with Mem being put in prison and the start of the Sufist journey of the lovers. We can call this part, Love and Evil.
Part III: Starts with the revolt of Tazhdin’s brothers and ends with the tragic death of Mem and Zîn and the killing of Mergewer. We can call this part, Political power and Sufist love.
Below I will sketch the main scenes and episodes of the dramatic tragedy.
Act I Love and Beauty
Prologue: Introduction of the story and characters by the story-teller with philosophical concepts by Khani incorporated in this introduction on the relationship between beauty and love and the nature of love. (364-470)
Scene 1: Philosophical and cultural introduction to Newroz. People of jezire leave for the mountains and plains to celebrate the New Year. Royal statement announced for the start of celebration. Public scenes of Newroz festival. Mem and Tazhdin wear women’s dresses. Zîn and Stê are in men’s clothes. Scenes of frenzy of emotional expressions of love for the two unknown boys by all sorts of people. The meeting of the disguised lovers and exchange of rings.
Scene 2: The effect of falling in love on Mem and Tazhdin, who speak about their experience and discover through the rings the identity of Zîn and Stê. Mem and Tazhdin’s different ideas about love.
Scene 3: Hasty return of Zîn and Stê to home after their shocking meeting with Mem and Tazhdin. They change their male dress, but remain naked in the room. They meet with the Nanny, talk about the extraordinary Newroz event, discuss about homosexuality and love. Nanny plans to reveal the identity of the lovers through their rings.
Scene 4: The Nanny’s visit to fortune-teller who explains the puzzle of gender mix-up of identities, advises the old woman to go to Jezire and look for two young men who have been afflicted with love.
Scene 5: The Nanny disguised as a psychological physician, looks for the victims of love, finds and meets Mem and Tazhdin, shows them the rings, and takes back Stê’s ring from Tazhdin as proof to the girls. Mem appears more seriously afflicted by love.
Scene 6: Community notables and representatives visit the Mîr to propose Stê for Tazhdin. A mala, religious teacher, speaks on behalf of the visitors. The Mîr happily accepts. A lush engagement party starts immediately, followed by a royal wedding with dance and scenes of national joy everywhere.
Scene 7: Tazhdin and Stê in the wedding haram. Erotic scenes of 7 days and nights of physical love and sex. Khani desctribes Stê’s body and beauty in divine terms. Mem stands at door as personal guard of his spiritual brother Tazhdin. Act 1 ends happily.
Act II Love and Evil
Prologue: This Act introduces the character of Bekir Mergewer as embodiment of the necessity of evil within the overall opposition of terms and phenomena in the world of things. The storyteller (Khani himself here) offers an introductory philosophical discourse on the binary opposition of things as their necessity property for the possibility of both their knowledge and motion or action.
Don’t you see these things are all contrasts?
What is the wisdom? Why are they opposites?
It is because if there is no difference
Differentiation and recognition would be impossible?
Thus in line with the necessity of creation
The Mîr with integrity, pride and compassion
Had employed a servant
Scene 1: Tazhdin visits the Mîr and asks him to sack Mergewer. The Mîr refuses, reasons with him that his existence is necessary for keeping his power. Then Mergewer visits the Mîr. Tells him it was a mistake to let Stê marry Tazhdin. Then alleges that Tazhdin has given Zîn to Mam and has ambition to replace him. The Mîr swears to never let Zîn get married. This starts the sequence of tragic events in the story.
Scene 2: Zîn’s loneliness and suffering. Zîn in her room feeling lonely and missing her sister Stê. Now she has no one apart from her Nanny to express her feelings to. She cries and abstains from eating for 40 days. Nanny meets her and tries to console her. Zîn’s conversation with Nanny. Zîn’s lyrical monologue with Sadness. Zîn’s lyrical monologue with Stê. Zîn’s monologue with candle.
Scene 3: Mem’s loneliness and suffering. Mam’s lyrical monologue with the Tigris River. Mem’s lyrical monologue with wind. Mam’s monologue with his heart. The progress of his Sufist experience and Gnosticism.
Scene 4: Mîr’s national day of hunting. Description of the Mîr’s gardens. Zîn goes to the gardens for a walk alone to see and share the secret pains of the nightingale. Zîn speaks to a yellow flower (lyrical monologue). Mem goes to the gardens. Mem and Zîn meet. Scene of passion and pain of the lovers. Mem stays with Zîn in the Mîr’s palace.
Scene 5: Mîr and his men return from hunting. They release the live hunted animals in the gardens. The Mîr finds out someone was in his gardens and palace. They meet Mem in the evening darkness with Zîn hiding in the bed. Tazhdin realises Zîn is with him. Tazhdin burns his house to divert attention from them and saves them.
Scene 6: People know of Mem and Zîn’s love. Mergewer plans a chess game between the Mîr and Mem. Zîn appears in the window. Mem loses the game and tells the Mîr of his love to Zîn. Mîr’s guards attack Mem. Tazhdin and his brothers protect him. Mem is put in a solitary jail. Mem and Zîn undergo spiritual transformation and commit themselves to Platonic Sufist love.
Act III Political power and Sufist love
In this Act Khani justifies social revolution against injustice and fighting evil in the world. Yet, as life is transitory and worldly power is insignificant, empty and ephemeral, it is only spiritual love that can ensure eternal happiness.
Scene 1: Mem in his solitary prison. Mem’s lyrical monologue with Zîn. Zîn isolated in her room. Zîn’s monologue with cruel Fortune. Zîn’s lyrical monologue with Mem. Tazhdin’s argument with his brothers and their increasing worries about Mem. Arif asks for violent revolution.
Scene 2: Revolution. Early morning scenes of fighting horsemen surrounding the Mîr’s castle. Tazhdin sends an old messenger asking the Mir for the release of Mem. Mîr consults Mergewer. Mîr pacifies Tazhdin and his force promises immediate release of Mem. Mergewer plans the death of Mem and Zîn. Mergewer meets the Mîr and explains his plan to him.
Scene 3: Recognition and reversal. The Mîr meets his sister. Scene of remorse, repentance and crying. The Mîr asks Zîn to go to the prison and take Mem for herself. Zîn bleeds and faints. The Mîr cries all night. Zîn visits Mem in a vision and their souls dissolve in each other. News of Mem’s death. Zîn restores her senses and talks to her brother about her spiritual journey and inner happiness and asks to be buried with Mem when she dies. The Mîr pledges that they will never be separate again in life and death.
Scene 4: Mem’s prison. Prisoner’s talk of a supernatural event, they see a light striking his head and two rays of light mixing together, lightening the whole prison. Mem and Zîn meet in prison. Mem refuses to go and see the Mîr. Mem dies in prison.
Scene 5: Tazhdin meets Mergewer and kills him. Public mourning for Mem. Zîn justifies Mergewer’s evil and asks for him to be buried between her and Mem. Zîn’s last monologue to Mem in his grave. She dies while embracing his tomb. Their tomb becomes a public shrine of love. Bekir is buried between them. Two green trees with a thorn-bush separating them grow on their grave.
Epilogue: An old pious man relates a vision in which he has seen Mergewer in paradise. Bekir says that God has forgiven him and given him his own spot in paradise, near Mem û Zîn’s palace.
* ‘Love and Existence: Analytical Study of Ahmadi Khani’s Tragedy of Mem û Zîn’ by Dr Kamal Mirawdeli is published by the Khani Academy in association with authorhouse, uk. The hard cover, soft cover, or the electronic edition of the book can be ordered from:http://www.authorhouse.co.uk/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=419087
- See all the extracts to date