Several hours later, Blanche is thoroughly drunk and playing dress-up. She imagines herself addressing her admirers. She catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror and then slams it down violently.
Stanley arrives home, also drunk. The baby won't arrive until morning, so the doctors sent Stanley home for the night. Blanche tells Stanley that she received a telegram from Shep Huntleigh, inviting her to take a cruise of the Caribbean on his yacht. Stanley plays along, for now. He's feeling amiable, and offers Blanche a beer to bury the hatchet, saying it’s a red letter night for them both due to the baby and the oil millionaire.
Stanley changes into his special occasion silk pajamas that he wore on his wedding night. Blanche continues to talk about Shep Huntleigh and how he will be a gentleman, and seeks only her companionship. Beauty fades, she asserts, but intelligence and breeding do not. "How strange I should be called a destitute woman," she cries, "when I have all these treasures locked in my heart." But she has been casting her pearls before swine, she says.
Stanley's amiability begins to fade with this reference to him as swine. Blanche continues to say that Mitch returned after Stanley left, and begged for her forgiveness, but she sent him on his way. Stanley calls her on her bluff, both about Mitch and the telegram. He turns on her, shouting about her lies and tricks. His tone becomes menacing and Blanche runs to the phone to try to call Shep Huntleigh. She is terrified, by Stanley and by shadows.
Stanley comes out of the bathroom and stares at her, grinning. Blanche tries to back away from him, but that just gives him ideas. She smashes a bottle on the table and faces him. He observes that she wants some roughhouse, and he springs at her, forcing her to drop the bottle. She succumbs, and he says that they've "had this date with each other from the beginning," as he carries her to the bed.
The director has several big choices to make in staging this scene. The biggest and most problematic is, of course, "was she asking for it?" Today, one cannot write a play in which a character "deserves" to be raped. But Streetcar was first produced in 1947, a very different time, and any production must take into account the gender politics of the play's era.
Certainly Blanche antagonizes Stanley, both throughout the play and in this fatal scene. Williams gives her plenty of chances to escape her fate here – Stanley comes home genial and happy, perfectly willing to forget his conflict with Blanche for the night. He lets it slide when she starts talking about Shep Huntleigh, though he knows it's a lie. For once in the play, Stanley isn't interested in realism – he is basking in the magic of being a new father.
But Blanche pushes him, and it is up to the director and the actors to decide just how far she pushes him. When Stanley re-enters the scene at the end, is he on the prowl and ready to strike, as Blanche suspects? Or is it only Blanche's fear of rape that puts the thought into his mind, only her defensiveness that puts him on the offense? Williams does not provide us with the answer, only with the question.
The other significant ambiguity in this scene is the extent to which Blanche has already lost her mind. This is a decision that has reverberations throughout the play. Is Blanche in control of this illusion she's presenting to the world, as it would seem when she briefly "breaks character" in Scene 6? Or has that illusion infected her brain, and can she no longer actually tell the difference between what's real and what's fantasy?
Over the course of the play, Blanche transitions from the one side to the other, from Scarlett O'Hara hiding callused hands in a gown sewn from drapery, to Norma Desmond finally ready for her close-up. But at what point does she make the switch (and how thoroughly)? In Scene 10, the director and actress must decide whether Blanche is aware that Shep Huntleigh didn't telegram and Mitch did not beg for forgiveness. Was she actually deluded, whether through liquor or encroaching insanity, into believing these stories? Or was she just desperately trying to stay in character, desperately trying to save face? Was she already losing her mind, or was it her rape by Stanley that finally unhinged her?
Who, in sum, is to blame?