Gabriela Zapolska’s The Morality of Mrs. Dulska (Moralność pani Dulskiej), considered a key work of early modernist Polish drama, was first staged in Krakow in 1906.
The main character – Aniela Dulska – is a wealthy landlady who takes pleasure in harassing everyone around her. She terrorizes her family, and exploits her tenants. She is the ultimate hypocrite, and the queen of duplicity. All her behaviors, choices, and solutions to problems that arise among the occupants of her tenement building are driven by greed, pettiness, and concern for appearances.
Dulska lives by the principle of never airing one’s laundry in public - “that’s what the confines of your own four walls are for”. A perfect embodiment of bourgeois middle class, self-aggrandizing and xenophobic, she is the opposite of likeable. And yet at the same time she seems to stir up viewer’s anxiety, because each of us can find a piece of her in ourselves. She is a clear reminder of all our personality traits we would rather forget about.
There is a Dulska hidden in each and every one of us, and that’s what makes her so frightening. The comedy, with its clearly drawn characters, clever and spot-on psychoanalysis, as well as sharp dialogue, stands up to the test of time, and as the reality around us changes, so does the interpretation of this brilliant text.
This absolutely timeless play entertains and terrifies us at the same time.