Di kishefmakherin

[The Sorceress]


Act 1

Outside Avromtsye’s house. The play opens in the garden of the middle-aged merchant Avromtsye at his daughter’s 17th birthday party. As the guests bring her gifts and wish her a happy birthday, Avromtsye’s daughter Mirele mourns for her mother who recently died. Avromtsye does not understand why his daughter is ruining the expensive birthday party he threw for her. He remarried quickly in order to give her a loving stepmother, he tells his daughter. Why won’t she stop sulking? Mirele’s fiancé, Marcus, encourages the guests (including a comedic, bumbling merchant named Hotsmakh) to try to cheer her up with a game of blind man’s bluff, but it is no use. In the middle of the game, a police officer arrives to arrest Avromtsye for an unknown crime, and he is led away.

Act 2

The same house, interior. Mirele sings a song of sorrow. She is completely transformed from the previous act. Her clothes are shabby and ragged and she has become a servant in her own household – her stepmother, Basye’s, doing. In Avromtsye’s absence, Basye has taken over control of the household and has forced Mirele to work as her maid. Basye is verbally and physically abusive towards Mirele because she views the girl as a threat to her power. She calls upon Bobe Yakhne, a local sorceress, and asks for her help “to get rid of the girl just like we got rid of her father.” Bobe Yakhne isn’t a real sorceress – as she tells Basye, she just uses her experience in the world to make things happen. Bobe Yakhne concocts a plan: Basye will send Mirele to the marketplace with money but will steal the money from her pocket without her noticing. Mirele will be terrified to go home without the money, and Bobe Yakhne will sneak up on her and kidnap her.

The marketplace. Merchants compete for customers. One of the merchants is Hotsmakh, who swindles customers into buying his wares. Mirele tries to buy meat from the butcher, but realizes she no longer has the money her stepmother gave her. She begs passersby for help. Instead, she finds Bobe Yakhne, who promises to help her. Mirele follows Bobe Yakhne to her house.

Act 3

Avromtsye’s house, interior, Basye’s room. Marcus, Mirele’s fiancé, visits Basye to discuss his efforts to free Avromtsye. Basye tells Marcus that Mirele ran away with another man. Marcus vows to find Mirele. He decides to visit the sorceress Bobe Yakhne to ask her for advice.

Bobe Yakhne’s house. Her servants cast spells around a cauldron. Hotsmakh knocks on the door and asks the girls to cast a spell to help him swindle more customers. But when he enters and sees a cauldron, spellbooks, and strange paintings, he runs away terrified – but not before they cut off one of his earlocks. The girls open a locked door and bring out Mirele. They are desperate for female friendship and hope that Mirele will become their friend. When Bobe Yakhne approaches, the girls return Mirele to her locked room. Bobe Yakhne and her servant Elyokum scheme. They will sell Mirele to a man from Istanbul tomorrow.

Suddnely, Marcus knocks on the door. Bobe Yakhne pretends to tell his fortune. Marcus is surprised that Bobe Yakhne knows he is looking for Mirele. Bobe Yakhne advises Marcus to travel around the world searching for her. To thank her, Marcus gives Bobe Yakhne his golden locket containing Mirele’s picture. He leaves, and Elyokum brings Mirele out from her locked chamber. He drags her away.

Act 4

A coffeehouse in Istanbul. Marcus sits alone, drinking beer and reading the newspaper. Hotsmakh goes from table to table trying to sell his wares. Marcus is surprised to see him there. We learn from their conversation that Avromtsye has finally been freed. A number of performers perform: a magician, an acrobat, and finally, Mirele, who sings accompanied by an organ-grinder. Marcus does not recognize her at first, taking her for a beggar girl. But when Mirele passes a collection plate and approaches Marcus, they recognize each other and embrace. The organ-grinder is furious and demands that Marcus pay for Mirele, since he just bought her. Marcus gives the organ grinder the money and he and Mirele leave.

Act 5

Avromtsye’s house, Basye’s room. Basye and Bobe Yakhne are fighting. Now that Avromtsye is free, Basye is furious that her plans are crumbling. They concoct a plan to burn Mirele, Marcus, and Avromtsye alive when Avromtsye goes to meet them at a nearby inn. Avromtsye and Basye leave for the inn.

An inn on a dirt road. Mirele and Avromtsye reunite. Marcus and Basye start to fight, but Avromtsye asks everyone to forgive each other and move on. Basye hides in the attic. Bobe Yakhne and Elyokum lock the door to the inn and set it on fire. But the innkeeper’s brother sees the locked door just in time and breaks it down. Everyone runs out of the burning inn, except for Bobe Yakhne, Elyokum, and Basye, who cannot find their ladder to escape the attic. Avromtsye tells the others to let them burn, and everyone sings as the inn burns down with the three villains inside.


Written by




Five Acts

Character Types



Date Published

First Performance