Clockfire in History: Vlad III Dracula (1431 – 1476)

A “clockfire” is a play that, due to its mental, physical, or conceptual demands, is impossible or impractical to ever produce. My book Clockfire collects a representative sampling of such plays, but throughout history there have been many other clockfires, and many clockfire practitioners. Perhaps the most infamous of the latter is the Wallachian Prince Vlad III Dracula.

Although he staged and crafted many such plays, Dracula is best-known amongst aficionados as the author of the play Clockfire, from which the genre takes its name. In its modern incarnation, the play is staged in a theatre (amongst other alterations). Dracula’s original version places the action in a dining hall.

During his rule, Dracula declared a feasting day for the poor of Wallachia, stating that no one should go hungry in his land. The day came, and a giant hall in Târgovişte filled with the finest meats, sweetest fruits, and tastiest breads and cheeses, not to mention the strongest drink. Dracula himself sat and feasted with these downtrodden. He denied them nothing. Blissful, they praised the Prince, most wonderful of rulers, most merciful of men.

As the night drew, Dracula posed a toast. “My people, I care for all in this land, rich or poor. Though you feast today, it saddens me that tomorrow the sun will waken you back into your brutal lives. So before I leave you, I ask: What else do you desire? Do you want to be without cares, lacking nothing in this world?”

The people, lulled, cheered in assent. They pleaded with the great Prince to make good on such offers, asking their new god to deliver them from the evils of their stark lives.

And thus, so that no one would be poor in his realm, and because they had begged, Dracula ordered the building shut, the doors barred and nailed. So that all inside might enjoy this joyous feast as the immense hall burned.

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