Sgualdrina, vittima, mezzana: il tabù della sessualità femminile in Dumas fils e Georges Ancey

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Trollop, Dupe, Procuress: the women’s sexuality taboo in Dumas fils’ and Georges Ancey’s Theatres Our goal in this essay is to analyse the “dramatic archetype” of women’s sexuality in the realistic French theatre of the late Nineteenth century. To this end, we have compared two apparently opposite dramas: The Lady of Camellias by Dumas fils (1852) and The Dupe by Georges Ancey (1891). The Lady of Camellias is a ‘canonical play’ for European culture, staged everywhere in the world during the last century in many languages. Since 1880, when Sarah Bernhardt first performed the heroine, most spectators interpreted the play as a melodramatic work. Marguerite’s character is normally understood in contemporary staging as the “victim of love”, even though she was created by the author as the guilty persona of the play. Marguerite’s death on the stage was meant by Dumas to admonish women adopting unregulated sexual behaviour: the courtesan could indeed be rehabilitated, but in return for her life. The Dupe by Georges Ancey is the high-water mark reached by the Naturalist avant-garde: the drama exhibits the bourgeois family’s values as a moral falsification, in which everyone searches only his or her own advantage. The main character Adèle is forced by her mother and her sister to marry Albert Bonnet without loving him. Five months after their marriage, she feels intensively attracted by her husband and falls in love with him. Albert betrays her and squanders the family’s patrimony on his mistress. Adèle, nevertheless, keeps carries on loving him and doesn’t want to separate. After having forced her to marry him, her family then forces her to leave her husband. Adèle is alone and by now poor: her sister Marie and her mother have kept the majority of the money and she doesn’t even have the few attentions that Albert gave to her. As she clearly says to her sister, she “needs him” as a physical need. She is, therefore, “sensual”, which is the worst guilt for a woman. The spectators of 1891 derided her as “a head-case, perverted, licentious”: women’s sexual desire is still disquieting and dangerous. The Twentieth Century focus on this topic is based on this theatre, though it was expressed by different aesthetics. Feminine sexuality also permeates Nineteenth Century dramatic production, the Symbolist one included: Berlin’s “Blue Angel” and the cold “men devourer” of Symbolist novels descends from the same sociological archetype.
Titolo tradotto del contributo[Autom. eng. transl.] Slut, victim, midfielder: the taboo of female sexuality in Dumas fils and Georges Ancey
Lingua originaleItalian
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteScena Madre. Donne personaggi e interpreti della realtà. Studi per Annamaria Cascetta,
Numero di pagine11
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2014

Serie di pubblicazioni

NomeRicerche. Media Spettacoli Processi Culturali


  • French bourgeois theater
  • sessualità femminile
  • teatro borghese Francia
  • women sexuality


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