Fragment of the Sovereign as Hermaphrodite: Time, History, and the Exception in <i>Le Ballet de Madame</i><sup>1</sup>

Margaret Shewring and J. R. Mulryne

in Dance Research

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780748635849
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671120 | DOI:
Fragment of the Sovereign as Hermaphrodite: Time, History, and the Exception in Le Ballet de Madame1

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On March 19, 1615, Louis XIII (1601–1643), then fourteen years old, danced the role of a Hermaphrodite in Le Ballet de Madame. This article contains a close reading of the ballet’s textual sources and a historical contextualization of its circumstances, putting these in relation to twentieth-century theories of power and representation. Walter Benjamin’s notion of the fragment as well as of allegory will be important touchstones of my analysis. I interpret the Hermaphrodite role as Benjamin’s “highly significant fragment”. The scene that claims my attention is fragmentary by virtue of its uniqueness in the repertory as well as by its appearance in a non-linear, if still sequential, performance. I shall argue that the Hermaphrodite scene — the “Ballet des Androgynes” — is a fragment that should claim a central place in the history of absolutism’s political imaginary.

Keywords: Louis XIII and the dance; the King as hermaphrodite; dialogue with contemporary theory; the ‘Ballet de Madame’ (1615)

Chapter.  8131 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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