Caligula is a play by French philosopher Camus based on the insane Roman emperor of the same name. In 1957, the author explained the character of Caligula in these words:
‘Caligula, a relatively kind prince so far, realizes on the death of Drusilla, his sister and his mistress, that “men die and they are not happy.” Therefore, obsessed by the quest for the Absolute and poisoned by contempt and horror, he tries to exercise, through murder and systematic perversion of all values, a freedom which he discovers in the end is no good. He rejects friendship and love, simple human solidarity, good and evil. He takes the word of those around him, he forces them to logic, he levels all around him by force of his refusal and by the rage of destruction which drives his passion for life. But if his truth is to rebel against fate, his error is to deny men. One cannot destroy without destroying oneself. This is why Caligula depopulates the world around him and, true to his logic, makes arrangements to arm those who will eventually kill him. Caligula is the story of a superior suicide. It is the story of the most human and the most tragic of errors. Unfaithful to man, loyal to himself, Caligula consents to die for having understood that no one can save himself all alone and that one cannot be free in opposition to other men.”
In the following monologue, Caligula fantasizes that the sheer force of his will could bring his sister and mistress Drusilla back from the dead. Ultimately, however, he realizes that his crimes have left him utterly alone and pushed him to the point of no return…
(Falls to pacing the room. After a while he approaches the mirror). You decided to be logical, didn’t you, poor simpleton? Logic forever! The question is: Where will that take you? (Ironically). Suppose the moon were brought here, everything would be different. That was the idea, wasn’t it? Then the impossible would become possible, in a flash, the Great Change come, and all things be transfigured. After all, why shouldn’t Helicon bring it off? One night, perhaps, he’ll catch her sleeping in a lake, and carry her here, trapped in a glistening net, all slimy with weeds and water, like a pale bloated fish drawn from the depths. Why not, Caligula? Why not, indeed? (he casts a glance round the room.) Fewer and fewer people round me; I wonder why. (Addressing the mirror in a muffled voice.) Too many dead, too many dead – that makes an emptiness…No, even if the moon were mine, I could not retrace my way. Even were those dead men thrilling again under the sun’s caress, the murders wouldn’t go back underground for that. (Angrily.) Logic, Caligula; follow where logic leads. Power to the uttermost; wilfulness without end. Ah, I’m the only man on earth to know the secret – that power can never be complete without a total self-surrender to the dark impulse of one’s destiny. No, there’s no return. I must go on and on, until the consummation.