The Politics of Appropriation in French Revolutionary Theatre
Francis, Catrin Mair
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Intend to publish research papers from thesis.
This thesis examines the popularity of plays from the ancien régime in the theatre of the French Revolution. In spite of an influx of new plays, works dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were amongst the most frequently performed of the decade. Appropriation resulted in these tragedies and comedies becoming ‘Revolutionary’ and often overtly political in nature. In this thesis, I will establish how and why relatively obscure, neglected plays became both popular and Revolutionary at this time. I shall draw on eighteenth-century definitions of appropriation to guide my analysis of their success and adaptation, whilst the theoretical framework of pre-history and afterlives (as well as modern scholarship on exemplarity and the politicisation of the stage) will shape my research. To ensure that I investigate a representative selection of appropriated plays, I will look at five very different works, including two tragedies and three comedies, which pre-date the Revolution by at least thirty years. Voltaire’s Brutus enjoyed successive Revolutionary afterlives from 1789-1799, whereas Lemierre’s Guillaume Tell was only truly successful as political propaganda during the Terror. Meanwhile, Molière’s Misanthrope was subjected to censorship and Revolutionary alterations, but could not rival the extraordinary success of one of his lesser known comedies, Le Dépit amoureux, which suddenly became one of the most popular plays in the theatrical repertoire. Finally, Regnard’s Les Folies amoureuses became popular in the highly politicised theatre of the Revolution in spite of the fact that the comedy had no obvious connection to politics or republicanism. The power of appropriation was such that any play could become Revolutionary, as both audiences and the government used appropriation as a method of displaying their power, attacking their enemy, and supporting the progress of the French Revolution.
PhD in French