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The Green Goddess

Dreamed 1919/9/1 by William Archer, with a follow-up on 1920/12/18

London, 1-2 September, 1919

... I thought I was with the Galsworthys somewhere--probably India--where the population and the authorities were (I thought) very hostile, but on the surface polite. We heard a sudden sharp volley of musketry and were convinced that this meant the shooting of some Europeans, but the people around us gave us no information, and we lived under the sense of an unseen but imminent peril. Weighed down by this sense, we visited, I remember, some underground vaults or catacombs famed for their wonderful architecture, and their marble carvings and traceries.

In another dream (or part of the same) I conceived a number of Europeans somehow captured by Indians (or dark people) of very high culture who played a sort of cat-and-mouse game with them--treating them very well, but letting them know that at a certain time (or at an indefinite time), they were to be murdered, in revenge for some political action of the Government.


I recognized in this the germ of a play and have since been developing it in my mind, so that I cannot be sure how much actually came to me in sleep, and how much belongs to waking rationalization. But that the general idea of cultured barbarians applying a sort of torture by courtesy to Europeans came in the dream I am quite sure. I have a vague notion that the leading spirit on the barbarian side was a woman, whom I conceived as a singularly able personality.

I can trace no part of this dream to any recent event or incident. Of course Indian unrest has been in my mind for months or years; but I am not aware of anything that should bring it to the surface of my mind on this particular night. If I am right in thinking that a woman was prominent and part of the dream, the idea was probably suggested by Sarojini Naidu; but in the dream I had no conscious recollection of her existence.

[Over the next couple of months Archer wrote and successfully negotiated a Broadway production of The Green Goddess]

New York, December 18-19, 1920

I went to sleep thinking hard of possible alterations in the business at the very end of The Green Goddess (after a night rehearsal) and dreamt that someone--I thought his name was Dr Kent--conceived the brilliant idea that the proper end for the play would be to kill me. I seemed to awaken lying on the floor somewhere, and to find my arms held down while this vague man prepared to make an end of me. At first I expected every moment to be stabbed, then gathered, from something that he said, that he proposed to shoot me. It was a rather painful nightmare, but all the time it was somehow associated with the end of The Green Goddess...

--William Archer


No one shot Archer. But his old life did end on opening night! For years he'd been supporting himself as a drama critic, only playwriting in his limited spare time. The Green Goddess was such a success it made him financially independent, freeing him to write plays as he'd always wished.

--Chris Wayan

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