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Theatre / There Shall Be No Night

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There Shall Be No Night is a 1940 play by Robert Sherwood. It is set in Finland, before and during the 1939-1940 Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union.

Nobel Prize-winning Dr. Kaarlo Valkonen and his American wife Miranda believe that Finland, far to Europe's north, isn't threatened by the storm clouds gathering in Europe in the late 1930s. Kaarlo, who served in the army of Tsarist Russia in World War I and admires the Bolsheviks, refuses to believe that the Soviets will attack Finland. When war does come, Kaarlo and Miranda try to prevent their young son Erik from joining up, but he does anyway, joining the elite Finnish ski troops. Kaarlo winds up serving as a medical officer, but when things start getting desperate later in the war, he is pressed into combat.

20-year-old Montgomery Clift, who would go on to be a major movie star, was in the original cast, as Erik.


  • As the Good Book Says...: See Title Drop below.
  • Book Ends: Uncle Waldemar plays the same Finnish folk song during the first scene, in a happy moment, and in the last scene when he and Miranda are planning to make their Last Stand against the Russians.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: The whole nation of Finland, fighting against the overwhelming might of the Red Army. In his last letter to Miranda, Kaarlo specifically rejects the notion that there's something glorious about dying in battle, but he says that Erik's death and all the other deaths are "a symbol...of man's unconquerable aspiration to dignity and freedom..."
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: A panicked Kaatri reacts to her pregnancy by begging Kaarlo to arrange an abortion, the end of 1939 not being a good time to start a family in Finland. Kaarlo and Miranda insist that she keep the baby, and she does.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Kaarlo looks at a painting of one of Miranda's ancestors and observes that "they must have been gayer in those days." "Gay" is used in its original sense several more times after that.
  • Last Stand: At the end of the play, Miranda is preparing for this. She tells Dave the radio journalist that when the Russians show up, she and Uncle Waldemar are going to set fire to the house. Then they're going to take the guns they've scrounged up, go out to the stone wall by the garden, and go down fighting.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Sherwood wrote his play while the war was happening. The 1940 peace settlement happened while the play was in rehearsals.
  • Obi-Wan Moment: Kaarlo, having picked up a gun and about to go into combat against the Russians, takes a moment to write Miranda the letter that closes the play, in which he talks of the brave men dying in the war and how they are a symbol of hope.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: After Erik has gone off to fight, his new wife Kaatri discovers that she's pregnant. After Erik is killed, Kaatri is sent off to safety in America to have the baby.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Dave uses this phrase to describe Miranda, commenting on how her New England heritage is like old England.
  • Tempting Fate: In the first scene, Erik says of the Czechoslovakian crisis that he "thanked heaven for the geography which puts us so far from the scene of action."
  • Time Skip: Over a year between Scenes 1 and 2, as the action jumps from October 1938 and the Munich agreement to November 1939 and the beginning of the Winter War.
  • Title Drop: A character reads from Kaarlo's book, in which Kaarlo quotes Revelation 22:4-5. "And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever." The quote is from the vision of a new Eden in the last chapter of Revelation; Kaarlo means it to reflect his hope for the future of man.