The term ‘rabia’ in Spanish can mean both ‘rabies’ and ‘anger’.
A rabid man is dying. A priest looks on helplessly as the virus takes its toll. The priest is there to comfort, but needs comforting himself in the face of such a disturbed creature.
In a dark room, a man howls on the floor. He is in the final stages of rabies. A priest has come to give this man, called Rabid, his last rites. Rabid is scared. He does not want to die and fears losing the last shreds of his humanity as he finally succumbs to the disease.
The priest tries to comfort Rabid. He himself, however, is unnerved by the dark surroundings. The country is in turmoil; citizens are panicking outside. We learn that the King has just abandoned the throne. We are left to wonder whether the King himself and the populace in general have also been infected by rabies.
Rabid howls like a dog as his condition deteriorates. Outside, another dog is heard. This prompts Rabid to recall the night he caught his reflection in a well. To his horror, he saw a rabid dog reflected back at him. That was when he realised he had rabies.
Rabid urges the priest to leave him before he becomes worse. But it is too late. Like a man possessed, Rabid laughs manically at the priest’s liturgy. The priest cowers in the corner. Eventually, almost against his own will, the priest approaches Rabid with his crucifix and calms the distressed man. Rabid has now almost lost all traces of his humanity. He still has enough awareness left, however, to pay his respects to the priest. He kisses the priest’s hand, who then makes to leave. But Rabid has a final piece of advice for him. He tells the priest never to hold his hand out to a man with rabies, confessing that he was extremely tempted to bite him. Visibly shaken, the priest thanks Rabid, knowing that he has just been spared a fate similar to that of the dying man.
This play is thematically linked to another of the playwright’s short plays, La carta (The Letter). In that play, a man asks a priest whether he would be prepared to give a rabid man the last rites. He mentions the rabid man’s temptation to bite the priest’s hand.
González Cruz, Luis Miguel. 2007. La rabia. Alicante, Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/obra/la-rabia--0/ [accessed November 2011] (Online Publication)
Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 30 November 2011.