“But the new ones are stupid and horrible. Those plays, where there’s nothing but helicopters flying about and you ‘feel’ the people kissing.” He made a grimace...
“Nice tame animals, anyhow”, the Controller murmured parenthetically.
“Why don’t you let them see ‘Othello’ instead?”
“I’ve told you; it’s old. Besides, they couldn’t understand it”.
Yes, that was true. He remembered how Helmholtz had laughed at ‘Romeo and Juliet’. “Well, then”, he said, after a pause, “something new that’s like ‘Othello’, and that they could understand.”
“That’s what we’ve all been wanting to write,” said Helmholtz, breaking a long silence.
“And it’s what you never will write,” said the Controller. “Because, if it were really like ‘Othello’ nobody could understand it, however new it might be. And if it were new, it couldn’t possibly be like ‘Othello’.”
“Yes, why not?” Helmholtz repeated. He too was forgetting the unpleasant realities of the situation. Green with anxiety and apprehension, only Bernard remembered them; the others ignored him. “Why not?”
“Because our world is not the same as Othello’s world. You can’t make flivvers without steel – and you can’t make tragedies without social instability. The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s ‘soma’. Which you go and chuck out of the window in the name of liberty, Mr Savage. ‘Libery!’ He laughed. “Expecting Deltas to know what liberty is! And now expecting them to understand ‘Othello’! My good boy!”
The Savage was silent for a little. “All the same,” he insisted obstinately, “‘Othello’s’ good, ‘Othello’s’ better than those feelies.”
“Of course it is,” the Controller agreed. “But that’s the price we have to pay for stability. You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We’ve sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead.”
“But they don’t mean anything.”
“They mean themselves, they mean a lot of agreeable sensations to the audience.”