A Comedic Quartet

A new play about four very real women who lived boldly 
in France during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror.  

 Playwright Olympe De Gouge, assassin Charlotte Corday, and former queen (and fan of ribbons) Marie Antoinette hang out, murder Marat, loose their heads and try to beat back the extremist insanity in 1793's Paris.

 This grand and dream-tweaked comedy is about violence and legacy,
 feminism and terrorism, 
and how we actually go about changing the world. 

It a true story
Or total fiction
Or a play about a play
Or a raucous resurrection... 
that ends in a song and a scaffold. 


All are French women, All are beautiful, All are about to be beheaded

OLYMPE De Gouges –badass activist playwright and feminist. 
Olympe is a bit righteous for theatre, she loves everything about it, she wields it's magic, she believes it can change the world. She believes words and story and common sense can change France... we'll see if she's right.

CHARLOTTE Corday – badass country girl and assassin. She is very serious, focused on her upcoming assassination, she has never been on a date, never had a good girlfriend to talk to, and has never seen a play.

MARIE Antoinette – less badass but fascinating queen of France. She is treacly sweet and bored and easy to herd. She thinks everything is "hilarious". She has never had a really personal conversation before. She is not stuck up. She has never known anything but being royalty.  

é – A badass black woman in Paris. She is from San Domingue in the Caribbean, and is a free woman of stature and means. She is tough, thoughtful, a very good listener and decoder of intentions. She is the sanest one of them all. She is the real revolutionary. She sings. 

FRATERNITE: The lone male presence in the play. Confident, authoritative, humorless. 


Paris, The Reign of Terror (1793 – 1794)

A safe place

Then the scaffold


Olympe de Gouges died on 3RD NOVEMBER 1793.

Although militant feminism and female agitation were major features of the French Revolution, the woman whose name is most closely associated with this world-shattering event remains the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. But that distinction, by revolutionary rights, belongs in truth to Olympe de Gouges. Two years before she met her grizzly fate with Madame Guillotine at the age of 38, Olympe had written: “A woman has the right to mount the scaffold; she must also have the right to mount the rostrum.” For a slew of similarly bold and visionary statements – radical even within that momentous milieu – Olympe has earned the distinction of “first modern feminist” among historians such as Benoîte Groult. There is strong support for this assertion; in 1791, one year before Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman,Olympe published the very first charter for women’s rights – which remains one of the most powerful and concise expressions of feminism. But Olympe did not limit her vision solely to women’s struggles: in a flurry of political pamphlets, journal articles, and broadsides published between 1789 and 1792, she championed the causes of social justice and civil rights on behalf of all the disenfranchised and underprivileged: children, the poor, the unemployed and, most controversially, slaves. (A proto-abolitionist, Olympe’s play – Slavery of Negroes – caused an uproar when it was first performed by the Comédie Française in 1788; the mayor of Paris condemned it as an incendiary act, fearing it would cause revolt in the French colonies.) Despite a multitude of groundbreaking contributions as playwright, agitator, reformer and author, Olympe’s name has until recent years been conspicuously, disturbingly, absent from historical records. There can be only one reason: she was a woman. Let us therefore rectify such criminal neglect and recall her finest moment, namely: Olympe de Gouge’s authorship of the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen.

“Woman, wake up; the tocsin of reason is being heard throughout the whole universe; discover your rights. The powerful empire of nature is no longer surrounded by prejudice, fanaticism, superstition, and lies. The flame of truth has dispersed all the clouds of folly and usurpation. Enslaved man has multiplied his strength and needs recourse to yours to break his chains. Having become free, he has become unjust to his companion. Oh, women, women! When will you cease to be blind? What advantage have you received from the Revolution?”

Thus wrote an outraged Olympe de Gouges in the summer of 1791 when the exclusion of women from active citizenship in the French Constitution crystallized her ideas and inspired her greatest political pamphlet. In an act of rhetorical genius, de Gouges added or substituted “woman” for “man” in each article of Thomas Paine’s famousDeclaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen – which was to the French revolutionaries what the Declaration of Independence had been to Americans two decades prior. Unimaginably radical at the time, Olympe’s Declaration remains radical even today – insistent, as she was, on exact equality, including combat roles in the military. And it was with characteristic directness that she demanded an explanation for the hypocritical omission of women from the Constitution:

“Man, are you capable of being just? It is a woman who asks you this question. Who has given you the authority to oppress my sex?”

In speaking out on behalf of the rights of women, Olympe violated traditional social boundaries that even revolutionaries held dear. 

As the Revolution progressed, she became more and more vehement in her writings. On 2 June 1793, the Jacobins arrested her allies, the Girondins, imprisoned them, and sent them to the guillotine in October. Finally, her posterLes trois urnes, ou le salut de la Patrie, par un voyageur aérien ("The Three Urns, or the Salvation of the Fatherland, By An Aerial Traveller") of 1793, led to her arrest. That piece demanded a plebiscite for a choice among three potential forms of government: the first, indivisible republic, the second, a federalist government, or the third, a constitutional monarchy.

After she was arrested, the commissioners searched her house for evidence. When they could not find any in her home, she voluntarily led them to the storehouse where she kept her papers. It was there that the commissioners found an unfinished play titled La France Sauvée ou le Tyran Détroné ("France Preserved, or The Tyrant Dethroned"). In the first act (only the first act and a half remain), Marie-Antoinette is planning defence strategies to retain the crumbling monarchy and is confronted by revolutionary forces, including De Gouges herself. The first act ends with De Gouges lecturing the queen for having seditious intentions and on how to lead her people. Both De Gouges and her prosecutor used this play as evidence in her trial. The prosecutor claimed that Olympe's depictions of the queen threatened to stir up sympathy and support for the Royalists, whereas De Gouges stated that the play showed that she had always been a supporter of the revolution.[6]

Through her friends, she managed to publish two texts: Olympe de Gouges au tribunal révolutionnaire ("Olympe de Gouges at the revolutionary tribunal"), where she related her interrogations and her last work, Une patriote persécutée ("A [female] patriot persecuted"), where she condemned the Terror. The Jacobins, who already had executed a King and Queen, were in no mood to tolerate any opposition from the intellectuals. De Gouges was sentenced to death on 2 November 1793, and executed the following day for seditious behaviour and attempting to reinstate the monarchy.[6]

As she ascended the scaffold, she spoke her last words to the assembled crowd: 

“Children of the Fatherland, you will avenge my death!”

Eight months later, Robespierre was guillotined without trial.


Marie Antoinette's execution on 16 October 1793.

Marie Antoinette's last words were "Pardon me sir, I meant not to do it", to Henri Sanson the executioner, whose foot she had accidentally stepped on after climbing the scaffold.

The execution of Olympe de Gouges, 
3 November 1793,

Charlotte Corday heads to her execution, 17 July 1793,


"Viva la Victime - Guillotine Gallery"
The Chapel Perilous

"Editorial Notes to Mary Robinson's Letter to the Women of England"
[discussing Corday and Roland and mentioning de Gouges]
Romantic Circles

"Names Related to the Guillotine" [including Corday and Leclerc]
The Guillotine Headquarters

"Palmarès 1792"

Les Guillotinés de la Révolution Française

Declaration of the Rights of Woman


By Olympe De Gouge, read to the National Assembly

     Man, are you capable of being just? It is a woman who poses the question; you will not deprive her of that right at least. Tell me, what gives you sovereign empire to opress my sex? Your strength? Your talents? Observe the Creator in his wisdom; survey in all her grandeur that nature with whom you seem to want to be in harmony, and give me, if you dare, an example of this tyrannical empire. Go back to animals, consult the elements, study plants, finally glance at all the modifications of organic matter, and surrender to the evidence when I offer you the menas; search, probe, and distinguish, if you can, the sexes in the administration of nature. Everywhere you will find them mingled; everywhere they cooperate in harmonious tpgetherness in this immortal masterpiece.
     Man alone has raised his exceptional circumstances to a principle. Bizarre, blind, bloated with science and degenerated--in a century of enlightenment and wisdom--into the crassest ignorance, he wants to command as a despot a sex which is in full possession of its intellectual faculties; he pretends to enjoy the Revolution and to claim his rights to equality in order to say nothing more about it.

Charlotte Corday was a figure of the French Revolution. In 1793, she was executed under the guillotine for the assassination of Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat, who was in part responsible, through his role as a politician and journalist, for the more radical course the Revolution had taken. More specifically, he played a substantial role in the political purge of theGirondins, with whom Corday sympathized. His murder was memorialized in a celebrated painting byJacques-Louis David which shows Marat after Corday had stabbed him to death in his bathtub. In 1847, writer Alphonse de Lamartine gave Corday the posthumous nickname l'ange de l'assassinat (the Angel of Assassination).

Born in Saint-Saturnin-des-Ligneries, a hamlet in thecommune of Écorches (Orne), in Normandy, France, Charlotte Corday was a member of a minor aristocratic family. She was a fifth-generation matrilineal descendant of the dramatist Pierre Corneille. Her parents were cousins.[1]

While Charlotte was a young girl, her mother, Charlotte Marie Jacqueline Gaultier de Mesnival and her older sister died. Her father, Jacques François de Corday, seigneur d'Armont (1737–1798), unable to cope with his grief over their death, sent Charlotte and her younger sister to the Abbaye-aux-Dames convent in Caen, where she had access to the abbey's library and first encountered the writings of PlutarchRousseau and Voltaire.[2]:154–5 After 1791, she lived in Caen with her cousin, Madame Le Coustellier de Bretteville-Gouville. The two developed a close relationship and Corday was the sole heir to her cousin's estate.[2]:157

Marat's assassination

Baudry, Paul Jaques Aimé (1860): under the Second Empire, Marat was seen as a revolutionary monster and Corday as a heroine of France, represented in the wall-map.

Jean-Paul Marat was a member of the radical Jacobinfaction which had a leading role during the Reign of Terror. As a journalist, he exerted power and influence through his newspaper, L'Ami du peuple ("The Friend of the People").

Corday's decision to kill Marat was stimulated not only by her revulsion at the September Massacres, for which she held Marat responsible, but for her fear of an all-out civil war.[2]:161 She believed that Marat was threatening the Republic, and that his death would end violence throughout the nation. She also believed that King Louis XVI should not have been executed.[2]:160

David (1793), The Death of Marat

On 9 July 1793, Corday left her cousin, carrying a copy of Plutarch'sParallel Lives, and went to Paris, where she took a room at the Hôtel de Providence. She bought a kitchen knife with a six-inch blade. She then wrote herAddresse aux Français amis des lois et de la paix("Address to the French people, friends of Law and Peace") to explain her motives for assassinating Marat.

She went first to the National Assembly to carry out her plan, but discovered that Marat no longer attended meetings. She went to Marat's home before noon on 13 July, claiming to have knowledge of a planned Girondist uprising in Caen; she was turned away. On her return that evening, Marat admitted her. At the time, he conducted most of his affairs from a bathtub because of a debilitating skin condition. Marat wrote down the names of the Girondists that she gave to him, then she pulled out the knife and plunged it into his chest, piercing his lungaorta and left ventricle.[citation needed] He called out, Aidez-moi, ma chère amie! ("Help me, my dear friend!") and died.

This is the moment memorialised by Jacques-Louis David's painting (illustration, right). The iconic pose of Marat dead in his bath has been reviewed from a different angle in Baudry's posthumous painting of 1860, both literally and interpretatively: Corday, rather than Marat, has been made the hero of the action.

Trial and execution

Gillray, James (1793) (Caricature),Corday's trial

At her trial, when Corday testified that she had carried out the assassination alone, saying "I killed one man to save 100,000," she was likely alluding to Maximilien Robespierre's words before the execution of King Louis XVI. On 17 July 1793, four days after Marat was killed, Corday was executed under the guillotine and her corpse was disposed of in the Madeleine Cemetery.

After her decapitation, a man named Legros lifted her head from the basket and slapped it on the cheek. Charles-Henri Sanson, the executioner, indignantly rejected published reports that Legros was one of his assistants. However, Sanson stated in his diary that Legros was in fact a carpenter who had been hired to make repairs to the guillotine.[5] Witnesses report an expression of "unequivocal indignation" on her face when her cheek was slapped. This slap was considered unacceptable and Legros was imprisoned for three months because of his outburst.[6]

Michelena, Arturo (1889), Charlotte Corday being conducted to her execution

Jacobin leaders had her body autopsied immediately after her death to see if she was a virgin. They believed there was a man sharing her bed and the assassination plans. To their dismay, she was found to be virgo intacta (a virgin), a condition that focused more attention on women throughout France—laundresses, housewives, domestic servants—who were also rising up against authority after having been controlled by men for so long.[7]

The assassination did not stop the Jacobins or the Terror: Marat became a martyr, and busts of him replaced crucifixes and religious statues that had been banished under the new regime.

About MARIE...

There is so much.

Initially charmed by her personality and beauty, the French people generally came to dislike her, accusing "L'Autre-chienne" (a pun in French playing with the words "Autrichienne" meaning Austrian (woman) and "Autre-chienne" meaning Other bitch) of beingprofligate and promiscuous,[2] and of harboring sympathies for France's enemies, particularly Austria, her country of origin.[3]

After the royal family's flight to Varennes, Louis XVI was deposed and the monarchy abolished on 21 September 1792; the royal family was subsequently imprisoned at the Temple Prison. Nine months afterher husband's execution, Marie Antoinette was herself tried, convicted of treason, and executed byguillotine on 16 October 1793.

Portrait from 1780s

more here.



Free Women of Color in 18th C. Caribbean

Haitian Rev!

The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) was aslave revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which culminated in the elimination of slavery there and the founding of theHaitian republic. The Haitian Revolution was the only slave revolt which led to the founding of a state. The revolution was one of the two successful attempts, along with the American Revolution, to achieve permanent independence from a European colonial power for an American state before the 19th century.

François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture
, also Toussaint Bréda,Toussaint-Louverture (20 May 1743 – 7 April 1803), was the leader of theHaitian Revolution. His military genius and political acumen led to the establishment of the independent black state of Haiti, transforming an entire society of slaves into a free, self-governing people.[1] The success of the Haitian Revolution shook the institution of slavery throughout the New World.[2]

Saint-Domingue's free people of color, most notably Julien Raimond, had been actively appealing to France for full civil equality with whites since the 1780s. Raimond used the French Revolution to make this the major colonial issue before the National Assembly of France. In October 1790, Vincent Ogé, another wealthy free man of color from the colony, returned home from Paris, where he had been working with Raimond.[citation needed] Convinced that a law passed by the French Constituent Assembly gave full civil rights to wealthy men of color, Ogé demanded the right to vote. When the colonial governor refused, Ogé led a brief insurgency in the area around Cap Français. He was captured in early 1791, and brutally executed by being "broken on the wheel" before being beheaded.[7] Ogé was not fighting against slavery, but his treatment was cited by later slave rebels as one of the factors in their decision to rise up in August 1791 and resist treaties with the colonists. The conflict up to this point was between factions of whites, and between whites and free coloreds. Enslaved blacks watched from the sidelines.[4]

On the 4th of February 1794 under the leadership of Maximilien Robespierre, the French Convention voted for the abolition of slavery [...] Robespierre is still revered by the poor of Haiti today.


"There are no Slaves in France": 

A Re-Examination of Slave Laws in Eighteenth Century France

Samuel L. Chatman
The Journal of Negro History
Vol. 85, No. 3 (Summer, 2000), pp. 144-153

Published by: 

Blacks in French culture in the late-18th and early 19th centuries
William Alexander

The theoretical underpinnings of abolition, the humanitarianism and belief in natural rights, were offset by the simultaneous derogation of Blacks by philosophers, belles-lettrists, and naturalists.

Black skin color was identified with servitude and was considered reflective of the very soul of Black people. Even those Enlightenment figures who criticized the slave trade and slavery rarely accorded Blacks the full measure of humanity. A decade before the French Revolution, Blacks from the colonies were forbidden to enter France. The rationales advanced included fears of the consequences of race mixing and the growing nervousness that Blacks visiting France would return to the colonies and infect the slaves with their sense of independence and mobility. In my research on the place of Blacks in emerging racial theory I am trying to bring more clarity to the issue of the transition from cultural ethnocentrism to outright biological racism.

At the same time, the actual situation of Blacks in France was more nuanced. While the actual numbers of Blacks in France during the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries were relatively small, some Blacks and “people of color” experienced assimilation in port cities and Paris. Obviously there were examples of race mixing who were not physically identifiable; but there are several examples of people of color who were recognized as such and were able to thrive in Enlightenment society. (more)


French Rev !

French Rev 2!

Reign of Terror!