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A: John Whiting Pf: 1961, London Pb: 1961 G: Hist. drama in 3 acts S: Loudun and Paris, 1623–34 C: 19m, 5f, extrasUrbain Grandier is a handsome priest in the town of Loudun. He gives tuition in Latin to Philippe Trincant, the virginal but sensual daughter of a noted burgher. They become lovers and secretly marry. Meanwhile, the hunchbacked Prioress of the local Ursuline convent, Sister Jeanne, invites Grandier to become their spiritual adviser. When Grandier, feeling unworthy, rejects the invitation, Sister Jeanne begins to fantasize about him. Grandier has made enemies of fellow priests, of the town surgeon and chemist, and of the King's Special Commissioner by refusing to support a royal decree that the town walls should be demolished. When Father Mignon tells them of Sister Jeanne's ‘visions’, Grandier's enemies are handed a weapon to defeat him. When three priests attempt to exorcize Sister Jeanne, she is possessed by the devil Asmodeus, and other nuns claim to have been deflowered by the devil. When Philippe becomes pregnant, Grandier has to separate from her for fear of exposure. Although Henri de Condé, a member of the royal family, exposes the nuns' ‘possession’ as hysteria, Grandier's enemies are too powerfully ranged against him. He is shaved and horribly tortured but refuses to confess. He is carried, ‘a ridiculous, hairless, shattered doll’, first to the convent, where Sister Jeanne still yearns for him, then to be burned at the stake.

A: John Whiting Pf: 1961, London Pb: 1961 G: Hist. drama in 3 acts S: Loudun and Paris, 1623–34 C: 19m, 5f, extras

Based on Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudun (1952), this was the last full-length play written by Whiting and his most successful. With affinities to Miller's The Crucible, the play, in tautly written scenes, unfolds an almost cinematic sequence of events, employing ‘cross-cutting’, e.g. between the trial of Grandier and Sister Jeanne in her convent. While Miller focuses on the political issues involved, Whiting explores more personal aspects, especially sexual enjoyment, which can be either degraded and perverse, or joyous and uplifting.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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John Whiting (1917—1963) playwright


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