Publication Date

Spring 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


World Languages and Literatures


Danielle Trudeau


Beaumarchais, French Revolution, La Révolution Francaise, Le Théatre Classique, Théatre de la Révolution, Women Role in Theater

Subject Areas

Theater History; Language Arts


This thesis explores the role of women in theater and their representation before, during, and after the French Revolution. In the classical theater of the 17th century, women often played strong and domineering roles. They were forceful, and men rarely questioned their authority. However, in the theater of the 19th century immediately following the Revolution, the role and portrayal of women shifted dramatically. This shift began even during the Revolution. Women's roles no longer possessed the power or influence they once had in the theatrical arena. The French Revolution resulted in a complete role reversal. Men now demonstrated their authority and power over women. Instead of fearing or admiring the female characters, the audience felt pity and empathy for them. What was the significant event behind this transformation?

By analyzing theater in the years leading up to the Revolution, we can see the beginning of a shift in the roles of men and women. A study of French heroines who paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives at the guillotine during the Revolution also provides insight into the modification of roles. The Revolution became the ultimate battle of the sexes and the turning point in their inequality. We witness that change in our analysis of revolutionary plays such as the Figaro Trilogy by Beaumarchais, Charles IX by Marie-Joseph Chénier, L'ami des lois by Jean-Louis Laya, and Madame Angot by Maillot.