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Crows


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AT: The Vultures; The Scavengers; The Ravens A: Henry Becque W:c.1872–3 Pf: 1882, Paris Pb: 1882 Tr: 1912 G: Drama in 4 acts; French prose S: The Vignerons' homes, Paris, 1870s C: 12m, 6fVigneron, a hard-working manufacturer, is devoted to his wife, son, and three daughters. His sudden death from a stroke has terrible consequences. The son is sent to the army. The youngest daughter Blanche is engaged to a greedy widower, who abandons her when it is clear that the large dowry he was promised will not be forthcoming. Eventually, Blanche goes insane. The second daughter Judith is encouraged to take up a career in music by her music teacher, but is then cruelly rejected by him, and she considers turning to prostitution to survive. Vigneron's partner Teissier, ugly in looks and behaviour, claims that Vigneron died burdened by debt, and that only by selling their share of the factory can the family survive. Madame Vigneron refuses, but there seems no way out, especially when Marie, the eldest daughter, declines to become Teissier's mistress to save herself. Finally, forced to live in much-reduced circumstances by the ‘crows’ that have picked at their flesh, the Vignerons are offered some hope. Teissier now offers Marie his hand in marriage, and the Vignerons' lawyer will use this bargaining point to assure the family's financial future.

AT: The Vultures; The Scavengers; The Ravens A: Henry Becque W:c.1872–3 Pf: 1882, Paris Pb: 1882 Tr: 1912 G: Drama in 4 acts; French prose S: The Vignerons' homes, Paris, 1870s C: 12m, 6f

It took over five years for The Crows to reach the stage, since managers were disturbed both by its content (the merciless depiction of four vulnerable women hounded by seemingly respectable creditors until one of the daughters is sacrificed to the most unscrupulous) and its format (an epic structure like that of the novel rather than the preferred ‘well-made play’ which used a tight narrative to drive the complications of the plot towards a rapid resolution). Its premiere at the Comédie-Française, however, made Becque famous and assured him a place in the developing taste for naturalist drama. Ayckbourn adapted it in 1989.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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