- The Architecture of Revision:Fowles and the Agora
In the Foreword to the new edition of The Magus, John Fowles indicates that he considers the revised ending a major change (7).1 Yet from the standpoint of dramatic structure, the two endings appear the same: the lovers, Urfe and Alison, are reunited in London's Regent's Park, the scene reaches its dramatic climax with Urfe's violent slap of Alison's face, and it ends ambiguously with Alison's bowed head and her silence. Moreover, immediately noticeable changes, such as the addition of an allusion to L'Astrée and the interpolation of the word "hazard" in the penultimate sentence, appear minor. Upon closer inspection, however, it can be seen that Fowles reinforces these seemingly superficial changes with others that greatly increase the aesthetic distance between himself as author and his two major characters, Conchis and Urfe. The original ending blurs this distinction by having Urfe assume Conchis' role as director of the godgame; it suggests that there is little or no difference between the theatrical ideas of Conchis and those of Fowles. The revised ending makes it clear that, although he has validated the therapeutic benefits of Conchis' psychodrama, Fowles takes the dramatic experiment a step further. Conchis dispenses with an audience, and to some degree allows his performers to depart from his prepared scripts, but retains the traditional director's godlike control over the total scene. In the [End Page 57] revised ending, Fowles emphasizes his rejection of the godgame as theatrical model by clearly dissociating Conchis from Urfe; then he substitutes a more radical theatrical model of his own. Greatly expanding the physical dimensions of the performance site from that of the conventional stage, or those of any on Bourani, Fowles sets the scene in the agora of Regent's Park, dispenses with a script, eliminates the director, and gives his actors complete freedom to improvise.
In the revision Fowles further distinguishes his theater from that of Conchis through a reemphasis of the performance site as the nontheological space postulated by Artaud2; Conchis, on the other hand, as controlling presence at the center of the godgame, consistently evokes what Artaud identifies as the theological space of the traditional theater. Although this agora is an unconventional performance site in accord with Fowles's notions of a radical theater, it is not unprepared for from the standpoint of structure; rather it is part of a core architectural trope. In both versions Fowles employs the theatrical architecture of Bourani as spatial model for the final scene. Bourani, with its open performance site on which the ravishment masque is enacted and its terrace functioning as the dress circle from which Urfe watches, is symbolic theater; and it is around this architectural trope that Fowles structures both versions of The Magus. In the original, Fowles complements this architectural model with painterly ones drawn from Bonnard and Goya. In the revision he strengthens the architectural trope by substituting the theatrical model for Bonnard in the scene presenting the sexual consummation of Urfe's affair with Julie. Finally, the revision greatly amplifies the satyr figure who first appears in the agora of Bourani and whose role Urfe assumes in Conchis' series of psychodramas. The aim of this psychodrama, the self-awareness of psychological maturity, is originally achieved during the trial scene when Urfe suddenly realizes that if he lets the whip fall he will be acting the role of the sadistic Wimmel (446). However, in the original ending, Fowles largely negates the effect of this psychological transformation by allowing Urfe to revert to the satyr's role; the revised ending affirms rather than denies the psychodrama's beneficial effects by completely erasing this figure.
In the original, Urfe and Alison confront one another in the agora of Regent's Park after an enforced separation during which Urfe has attempted to make himself worthy of her love. Urfe believes Conchis is once again behind the scenes pulling the strings that manipulate them as actors in his metatheater. Specifically, Urfe locates the Magus behind the windows of the not-too-distant Cumberland Terrace, an architectural [End Page 58] repetition of...