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Portrait of a Woman


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A: Michel Vinaver Pf: 1985, Lyons (public reading); 1988, Paris Pb: 1986 Tr: 1989 G: Drama without act divisions; French prose and free verse S: Paris courtroom, Paris apartment, Lille, Dunkirk, Ulm, 1944, 1950–3 C: 12m, 5f (to be performed by 8m, 3f)When Sophie Auzanneau discovers that the man she loves, fellow medical student Xavier Bergeret, has become engaged to another woman, she lies in wait for him, shoots him three times, then tries to gas herself. She is put on trial for murder. In a series of intercut flashbacks we see Sophie and Xavier's early courtship, his meeting with Sophie's parents, Xavier's relationship with his fiancée, and Sophie's purchase of a gun. After Xavier falls desperately in love with Sophie, Sophie has an affair with one of the medical tutors and refuses to marry Xavier. She goes to Vienna and has an affair with a French engineer. In a further flashback to the war, Sophie is seen at 17 having an affair with a German doctor in the army of occupation. In 1950, she visits him in Ulm, now acknowledging her love for Xavier, and is confused about where she is heading. When Xavier rejects her, Sophie threatens to poison herself (just as later in prison she tries to commit suicide by cutting a vein). Finally, Sophie is given a life sentence.

A: Michel Vinaver Pf: 1985, Lyons (public reading); 1988, Paris Pb: 1986 Tr: 1989 G: Drama without act divisions; French prose and free verse S: Paris courtroom, Paris apartment, Lille, Dunkirk, Ulm, 1944, 1950–3 C: 12m, 5f (to be performed by 8m, 3f)

Vinaver is the major dramatist of the théâtre du quotidien (‘theatre of the everyday’), and Portrait of a Woman is based on an actual murder case, that of Pauline Dubuisson, convicted in 1951 of murdering her lover. Vinaver does not use the elements of Sophie's past (the deaths of her brothers in the war, her exploitation by an older German officer, her parents' lack of warmth) to justify her crime. Rather, he shows in a collage of voices from present and past, many taken verbatim from court reports, that no one, perhaps not even Sophie herself, understands this murderess who is represented only in a ‘portrait’.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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