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Madame de Sade


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A: Mishima Yukio Pf: 1965, Tokyo Pb: 1965 Tr: 1968 G: Drama in 3 acts; Japanese prose S: Madame de Montreuil's house, 1772, 1778, 1790 C: 6fWhen Alphonse Marquis de Sade is imprisoned for administering aphrodisiacs to, and whipping and sodomizing, four prostitutes, his mother-in-law Madame de Montreuil attempts to free him, for the sake of her daughter Renée and for the family name. She summons two influential women, Comtesse de Saint-Fond, herself a libertine, and the saintly Baronesse de Simian, to intercede on Alphonse's behalf. Renée surprises everyone, including her sister Anne, by declaring her unswerving loyalty to Alphonse. In 1778 Alphonse is freed from prison, and his record is wiped clean. Saint-Fond describes how she took part in a black mass where her naked body was used as an altar, and declares that she can now identify with the extreme sexual longings of the Marquis de Sade: ‘Alphonse is obsessed with seeing, I with being seen.’ Renée admits that she allowed Alphonse to beat her until she bled, revealing her utter devotion to her husband: ‘Alphonse is myself!’ Twelve years later, in the wake of the French Revolution, Alphonse is once again about to be freed from jail, where he was regularly visited by Renée. Saint-Fond, disguised as a Marseilles prostitute, is accidentally trampled to death by a revolutionary mob, and even Simian admits she was excited by Alphonse's exploits. Alphonse has given word that he will help his aristocratic friends in the revolutionary purges. Renée declares her undying love and respect for Alphonse, but when he comes to the door, she refuses to see him.

A: Mishima Yukio Pf: 1965, Tokyo Pb: 1965 Tr: 1968 G: Drama in 3 acts; Japanese prose S: Madame de Montreuil's house, 1772, 1778, 1790 C: 6f

Mishima's novels, his unfashionable embracing of traditional Japanese values, and his spectacular suicide, are all better known than his plays, but he was responsible for a large and significant dramatic output. Madame de Sade, the best known of his plays, was staged by Ingmar Bergman in 1989, and reflects Mishima's familiar theme of enlightenment through extreme experience. The puzzle which drew him to the topic, why Renée after a lifetime's devotion refuses to see Alphonse when he is freed, remains an enigma.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Yukio Mishima (1925—1970) Japanese writer


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