Exiles is a play written by James Joyce and published in 1918; it consists of three acts. It is the only play of Joyce’s works and rarely mentioned and discussed in academic studies. It is about the themes of betrayal, spiritual exile and doubts. Characters in this play are very limited in number. Richard Rowan is the husband whose wife betrays him with another; Beatrice is the Archie’s teacher of music and whom Richard loves; Bertha is Richard’s wife who loves Robert; the last character is Robert Hand. Robert is a journalist who is eager to destroy the spouse’s relation.
In the first act, the events happen in Richard’s house. The main incident is when Bertha allows Robert to kiss her on her lips. Moreover, she accepts his proposal of visiting him at his house. Bertha is not annoyed by being kissed by another person even though she has a husband and a son. She considers it a normal action because he has asked for the kiss. Richard also reveals his love to Beatrice. The latter does not allow the conversation to be out of its friendship limits. The play looks as if all the persons are betraying each other, or they gave up their feelings and love for the sake of social and religious conventions. The outrageous moment was when Bertha tells her husband that she allowed Robert to kiss her. Robert was deeply irritated but patient not to show that; he intended to express his modernity and openness by permitting her to do what she pleases with her body. Her body according to him is not a slave for him.
In the second act, Bertha goes to see Robert at his house. She finds her husband there talking to Robert. Richard divulges that he knows about his plan of wooing his wife against his well. Robert, on the other hand, makes it clear that he loves Bertha and plans on stealing her from him. The moment Bertha enters the house, Robert withdraws to the garden. It is an occasion for Bertha to ask her husband to trust her and to let her do what she pleases. Richard leaves the house. According to him he has done what he could to stop a mistake or sin. Robert takes advantage of being alone with Bertha to make love with her. Bertha is satisfied and asks whether Roberts is satisfied, too, or not.
The last act is significant in terms of explaining the reasons behind Bertha’s deeds. She loves both men, and she wants to see them together. She uses her body to make them close to her and to make them friends. Robert with bitterness failed in breaking up Bertha and Richard’s relationship, and Richard, on the other hand, becomes doubtful about all of his surroundings. He feels that they mock and betray him. Richard senses the end of friendship and pure love. The play expresses the death of morals and the spreading of ignoble, hate and loneliness.