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Damaged Goods


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A: Eugène Brieux Pf: 1902, Liège Pb: 1902 Tr: 1911 G: Drama in 3 acts; French prose S: Dupont's home, Paris, 1900s C: 5m, 6fGeorges Dupont is horrified to learn just before his wedding that his one youthful fling has infected him with syphilis. The doctor begs him to postpone his marriage for three years so that he may be fully cured without putting his innocent bride at risk. Dupont, the ‘damaged goods’, ignores the doctor's advice, marries, and has a child, who develops symptoms of syphilis. The wet nurse caring for the sick child soon learns what the problem is, and when Dupont's doting mother tries to prevent her leaving, she blurts out the truth. Dupont's wife collapses in horror and screams at Dupont not to touch her. Her father, a prominent politician, tries to get a statement from the doctor, so that his daughter may divorce Dupont. Instead the enlightened doctor lectures the politician (and the audience) on the need for better education about syphilis and its dangers, and urges that the matter should be debated in Parliament.

A: Eugène Brieux Pf: 1902, Liège Pb: 1902 Tr: 1911 G: Drama in 3 acts; French prose S: Dupont's home, Paris, 1900s C: 5m, 6f

The first two acts of this ‘thesis play’ are melodramatic, and the ending with its lengthy discussion is frankly undramatic. However, it is the topic which is paramount and which made the play a sensation at the turn of the century. While Ibsen had in Ghosts two decades previously referred discreetly to syphilis, this was the first time that a playwright broke the ‘gigantic conspiracy of silence’ and openly debated the topic with the direct intention of legal reform. Though at first banned by the normally adventurous Théâtre Libre, the play was championed by Shaw and was eventually performed before the US Congress and the President.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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