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Journal of Continental Philosophy

Volume 1, Issue 2, 2020

Gabriel Marcel, Maria Traub, Brendan Sweetman
Pages 318-344

The Emissary, Act Three

Act Three of Gabriel Marcel’s play, The Emissary, is presented here in English for the first time. The introductory essay introduces Marcel and several of his best known themes, especially the distinctions between problem and mystery, and primary and secondary reflection. Focusing on the relationship between experience and conceptual knowledge, it discusses Marcel’s attempt to argue philosophically for a return to ordinary experience. The role of drama and art in the recovery of the realm of mystery is also highlighted. The play illustrates these themes at the concrete level as it raises many of the challenging situations and moral dilemmas that emerged from the occupation of France by a brutal enemy during World War II. The realities of deceit, betrayal and blackmail are all in the air, as are real worries about reprisals, violence, and irreparable loss. In a moving, gripping drama, Marcel portrays the occupation as an occasion for deep soul-searching among the characters, in the midst of great suffering and loss, and, rather than passing easy judgment, he suggests a journey toward healing, one inspired by compassion, honesty, courage, and faith.