Death and the Maiden

Death and the Maiden Summary and Analysis of Act 2, Scene 2


Later, Gerardo and Roberto, who is still tied up, sit at the table for lunch. As Paulina watches from the terrace, Gerardo feeds Roberto soup. Roberto, meanwhile, appeals to Gerardo for help, claiming that Paulina is insane and is going to kill him. Gerardo explains that Paulina is convinced that Roberto is responsible for her torture, and that the only way for Roberto to save his own life is to confess. 

An indignant Roberto refuses, maintaining that he is an innocent man and has nothing to confess. He angrily accuses Gerardo of not being able to control his wife and "impose order" on his own house. Hearing the commotion, Paulina enters and taunts Roberto, but Gerardo insists that she give him some time alone with the captive. 

Gerardo once again reasons with Roberto, asking him to confess to being Paulina's torturer in order to save his own life. Roberto continues to refuse, accusing Gerardo of playing "good cop" in order to force a confession. He speculates that Gerardo plans to kill him should he confess to the unspeakable crimes against Gerardo's wife.

Gerardo suddenly loses his temper and threatens Roberto with this exact fate, promising that Roberto will suffer violence and torture as punishment for his actions. Terrified, Roberto begs for forgiveness, and when Gerardo muses that he might as well get Paulina so she can kill Roberto herself, the doctor panics and implores Gerardo not to call Paulina. 

Suddenly weary, Gerardo drops the violent act, admitting that he, too, is scared. Roberto begs Gerardo to help him, explaining that since he is innocent, he doesn't know exactly what he is supposed to confess to and Gerardo must help him find out. In this way, Roberto insists that Gerardo must deceive his wife to save the life of an innocent man. Roberto asks Gerardo if he truly believes in the doctor's innocence. 

Gerardo counters by asking Roberto why his opinion on the matter is important. Roberto explains that Gerardo's opinion is everything; as a member of the Investigating Commission, he is the "voice of civilization." Gerardo sadly agrees before leaving the room in frustration.


Without Paulina present, Gerardo attempts to appeal to Roberto's practical side by convincing him that the only way to save his life is to confess, whether or not he is actually guilty. In his dealings with both Roberto and Paulina, Gerardo begins by introducing reason into the conversation. He tries to use logic and verbal persuasion to resolve the conflict without violence. 

However, Roberto is indignant, refusing to admit to something he claims is untrue, and his insistence frustrates Gerardo so much that he finally loses his temper. In this moment, Gerardo is "trying on" the persona of enraged husband who will commit all manner of violent acts against a man his wife has accused of torturing and raping her. 

Gerardo admits that he's tired of "being in the middle" of Paulina and Roberto, a position he occupies not only in this trio, but in the new government, as well. He will be serving on a commission that must strike a balance between finding some kind of justice for the slain without over-antagonizing the guilty, who still hold important roles in the government and society. Ironically, Gerardo has not even started his work with the commission, but he is already weary of playing his appointed role in his home.

Gerardo's rage, an easy outlet for his frustration with the situation, serves to subdue Roberto, who quickly realizes how much worse things will be for him if Gerardo is not on his side. For the first time, Roberto begins to consider confessing to Paulina to save his own life. In his insistence that he is innocent, though, Roberto explains to Gerardo that he needs to know the details of the crime he's supposed to "confess" to in order to successfully convince Paulina. 

In the last moments of the scene, Roberto admits that Gerardo's opinion of his innocence or guilt is important to him. Whereas he considers Paulina's accusations to be the ravings of a lunatic, it is critical that Gerardo, the public face of the new democracy and a potentially high-ranking future member of government, believe in his innocence. Instead of flattering Gerardo, Roberto's respect only seems to sadden him, as he suddenly understands that Paulina is powerless and insignificant, both in their society at large and within the constructs of the new government.