The salon and the stage : women and theatre in seventeenth-century France
This thesis is a study of the links between female emancipation and the theatre in seventeenth century France. Since both were considered problematical by some religious moralists, the discussion is situated in the context of religious criticism. The approach is broadly chronological and focuses in particular on the work of women playwrights. The religious background is summarized in the Introduction. Part One surveys the cultural climate, discussing links between salon society and the theatre including women's involvement as patrons; their presence in the auditorium and on stage; and the concept of 'bienséance', examined here in the context of the 'querelle du Cid'. Part Two considers the function of the stage as a place where women could literally try out different roles. It examines ways in which women were portrayed in a selection of plays from the 1630s to the 1670s (including works by Mairet, Rotrou, Corneille and Molière), discussing the images of 'la femme forte' and 'la precieuse', and the contribution made by playwrights to the contemporary debate on female emancipation. Part Three is devoted to the work of six women playwrights who had their work published or performed in France between 1650 and 1691 (Madame de Saint-Balmon, Marthe Cosnard, Françoise Pascal, Marie-Catherine Desjardins, Madame Deshoulieres and Catherine Bernard) and one whose only play was performed in England (Anne de La Roche-Guilhen). The discussion focuses not only on the plays themselves and their inspiration, but on what is known of each author's background and literary career, her contacts in literary society and the reception of her work. The involvement of women in the theatre proved of mutual benefit, contributing to its popularity and providing opportunities for their greater freedom and intellectual development.