Waltz of the Toreadors

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A: Jean Anouilh Pf: 1952, Paris Pb: 1952 Tr: 1956 G: Com. in 5 acts; French prose S: France, c.1910 C: 4m, 7fGeneral Saint-Pé is constantly interrupted as he dictates his memoirs: his insanely jealous bedridden wife demands to know what woman he is thinking of; his ugly daughters want new dresses; his wife's doctor considers her paralysis hysterical. Only the visit of Ghislaine is a welcome distraction. They have loved each other chastely for 17 years, ever since they danced the ‘Waltz of the Toreadors’ together. When Ghislaine discovers love letters which the General's wife has written to the doctor, the General believes he can now consummate his love. The General confronts the doctor over the affair with his wife, but the doctor points out that the letters were never sent, and urges the General to abandon his wife and marry Ghislaine. His wife overhears this and runs away. When the General goes after her, Ghislaine, convinced that she is no longer loved, throws herself out of a window and lands on the young secretary rocking in his hammock. The secretary falls in love with her, and, encouraged by the disillusioned General, goes to her. Meanwhile the wife admits that she has faked her illness to hold on to the General and taunts him with her past affairs. The secretary, who turns out to be the General's illegitimate son, is going to marry Ghislaine. The General's daughters, who both loved the secretary, run off, leaving a suicide note. As his wife shouts jealous admonitions, the General takes the new serving maid for a walk in the moonlight.

A: Jean Anouilh Pf: 1952, Paris Pb: 1952 Tr: 1956 G: Com. in 5 acts; French prose S: France, c.1910 C: 4m, 7f

In this bitter-sweet comedy, Anouilh explores an unusual area of romantic love: the older man, a serial womanizer, who is unable to commit himself to a real relationship. Despite a lifelong pursuit of love, he watches impotently as the object of his longing is taken off by his son, leaving him with the burnt-out embers of his marriage.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

Reference entries

Jean Anouilh (1910—1987) French dramatist

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