by Scott Miller
There are several important images running through Pippin, the most noteworthy of
which are the metaphorical references to the sun (and "son"). As the first-born son of
Charlemagne, Pippin is connected repeatedly to sunrise, while Charles is sunset. The use of
sunrise and sunset is symbolic of beginning and ending, life and death, an image used in
many cultures throughout history, and this image ties the whole show together. If everything
goes as Leading Players plans, Pippin the musical will encompass Pippin's entire life, from
his birth to his death in a fiery suicide in the finale.
At first, the sun references are made by other players, but later Pippin begins
associating himself with the sun as well. Perhaps the connection comes from Pippin's desire
in his first song to find his "Corner of the Sky." Leading Player knows from the first moment
of the show that Pippin is primed to be led into the flame of the Grand Finale. He knows that
Pippin is considering suicide and needs little help to take the final step. The first reference to
the sun comes in Pippin and Charles' first conversation. Charles tells him that though sunrise
and sunset are similar, they are not identical. Of course, what he means is that Pippin
(sunrise) is like Charles (sunset) is many ways, but would be a very different kind of king, as
we'll see in scene 5.
Fastrada continues the sun metaphor with her song, "Spread a Little Sunshine." She
sings in one verse about lighting a fire, presumably with an eye toward the impending finale.
She reinforces the sun metaphor and even gives us a hint of the nature of the finale by
connecting sunshine and lighting a fire with fulfillment.
Charles' comment about sunrise and sunset in Scene 2 apparently makes quite an
impact on Pippin. When Pippin comes disguised as a monk to kill Charles in his chapel at
Arles, Pippin says he sees in Charles' eyes a sunset. This is a symbol both of Charles and the
old regime. Pippin stabs Charles and becomes the new king. Pippin sees his ascendancy to the
throne as a new beginning -- a sunrise -- as he sings "Morning Glow". Charles, as sunset, is
at the end of his reign. Pippin's discontent is also seen as the phantoms that will fade away in
the light of the sun; but he thinks that sun is his reign as king. He will find later that it's
really his suicide. Charles' death has spawned the birth of a new world under Pippin's reign,
and has simultaneously presaged Pippin's own death. Not surprisingly, like everything else
Pippin tries, he's a dismal failure at being king too, because he has such a superficial view of
what it means to be a leader.
In Scene 7, Catherine makes a surprisingly prescient comment about Pippin in her
song, "I Guess I'll Miss the Man." She sings that though some men can outshine the sun,
Pippin is not one of them, despite what Leading Player will later suggest. Catherine, the only
one in the show who genuinely understands Pippin, knows that he's not supposed to do the
finale. She knows that he's not extraordinary and therefore, not a proper candidate for the
finale. As the rest of the troupe tells Pippin he can be as brilliant as the sun itself, only
Catherine knows that it's not true.
Meanwhile, the company is preparing Pippin to do the Grand Finale. The sun and
sunrise now also represent death and suicide. But by refusing to do the finale, he finally
realizes that he is in fact not the sun, not extraordinary. For the first time, Pippin is actually
taking action, making a decision. People who are suicidal feel out of control of their lives, but
Pippin has finally regained some control over his life.