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Marat/Sade


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AT: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade A: Peter Weiss Pf: 1964, Berlin Pb: 1964 Tr: 1965 G: Hist. drama in 2 acts; German verse and songs S: Bathhouse of the Charenton Asylum, France, 1808 C: 15m, 7f, extrasThe Director of the Charenton Asylum welcomes his audience of Parisian bourgeoisie to the play being presented by one of the inmates, the Marquis de Sade. The Herald introduces the main characters: Jean-Paul Marat, leader of the French Revolution, whose skin condition forces him to spend much of his life in the bath, played by a paranoiac; the idealistic Charlotte Corday, played by a narcoleptic; and her lover Duperret, played by an erotomaniac. It is 1793, and the Revolution has still not brought the promised prosperity to the poor. A rebellious priest, Jacques Roux, incites the patients to revolt and has to be violently suppressed. Corday, persuaded that Marat must be killed to end the bloodbath of the Terror, comes to his door but is reminded by Sade that she has to come three times before gaining admittance. After a re-enactment of guillotinings, Sade and Marat conduct a debate, Marat still believing that change can be achieved only through political revolution, Sade insisting that meaning can only be found within the individual. He emphasizes this by getting Corday to whip him, while he talks about the Revolution, which has led only to a dull uniformity. Despite Duperret's efforts to detain her, Corday goes to Marat a second time, again being turned away. Marat in a delirium sees his parents, schoolmaster, Voltaire, and Lavoisier, all of whom cruelly denounce him. After the interval, Marat addresses the National Assembly, and the Director protests at Marat's attacks on authority. Corday visits Marat a third time, and just as she is poised to stab him, the Herald interrupts to recount the course of the Revolution: how Napoleon has come to power and led the French into one war after another. Corday delivers her final blow, and the patients continue to chant and march on, while Roux tries to stop them. The patients lose all control, while Sade laughs triumphantly, and they have to be suppressed violently.

AT: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade A: Peter Weiss Pf: 1964, Berlin Pb: 1964 Tr: 1965 G: Hist. drama in 2 acts; German verse and songs S: Bathhouse of the Charenton Asylum, France, 1808 C: 15m, 7f, extras

This stunningly theatrical and complex play is arguably the best play in German since Brecht. On one level it deals with the historical fact: Marat's death in the bath, immortalized in David's picture, and Sade's theatricals at Charenton. On another, it opposes the revolutionary ideals of Marat to the cynical individualism of Sade. On yet another, it confronts a contemporary audience with their own complacency about supposed progress. In terms of presentation, it contains many of the elements of Brecht's epic theatre (episodic scenes, awareness that we are watching a play) with Artaudian ‘theatre of cruelty’ (scenes of violence, deafening music, anarchy that threatens to spill out into the audience). While the Berlin premiere was quite Brechtian, focusing on the philosophical debate, Peter Brook's spectacular 1964 production placed the emphasis on the mental asylum setting.

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Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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