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Written by Peter Weiss
Characters Marquis de Sade
Jean-Paul Marat
Simone Évrard
Charlotte Corday
Jacques Roux
The Herald
MuteMme Coulmier
Mlle Coulmier
Male Nurses
Asylum inmates
Date premieredApril 29, 1964 (1964-04-29)
Place premieredSchillertheater, West Berlin, Germany
Original languageGerman
Subject French Revolution, sado-masochism
GenreA play with music
Setting Charenton Asylum, France

The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (German : Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean Paul Marats dargestellt durch die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizes zu Charenton unter Anleitung des Herrn de Sade), usually shortened to Marat/Sade (pronounced  [ma.ʁa.sad] ), is a 1963 play by Peter Weiss. The work was first published in German.


Incorporating dramatic elements characteristic of both Antonin Artaud and Bertolt Brecht, it is a depiction of class struggle and human suffering that asks whether true revolution comes from changing society or changing oneself.


Set in the historical Charenton Asylum, Marat/Sade is almost entirely a "play within a play". The main story takes place on 13 July 1808, after the French Revolution; the play directed by the Marquis de Sade within the story takes place during the Revolution, in the middle of 1793, culminating in the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat (which took place on 13 July 1793), then quickly brings the audience up to date (1808). The actors are the inmates of the asylum; the nurses and supervisors occasionally step in to restore order. The bourgeois director of the hospital, Coulmier, supervises the performance, accompanied by his wife and daughter. He is a supporter of the post-revolutionary government led by Napoleon, in place at the time of the production, and believes the play he has organised to be an endorsement of his patriotic views. His patients, however, have other ideas, and they make a habit of speaking lines he had attempted to suppress, or deviating entirely into personal opinion. They, as people who came out of the revolution no better than they went in, are not entirely pleased with the course of events as they occurred.

The Marquis de Sade, the man after whom sadism is named, did indeed direct performances in Charenton with other inmates there, encouraged by Coulmier. De Sade is a main character in the play, conducting many philosophical dialogues with Marat and observing the proceedings with sardonic amusement. He remains detached and cares little for practical politics and the inmates' talk of right and justice; he simply stands by as an observer and an advocate of his own nihilistic and individualist beliefs.

Musical score

Marat/Sade is a play with music. The use of music follows the approach of Brecht, whereby the songs comment on themes and issues of the play. Unlike a traditional musical format, the songs do not further the plot or expositional development of character in the play. By contrast they often add an alienation effect, interrupting the action of the play and offering historical, social and political commentary. Richard Peaslee composed music for the original English-language production of Marat/Sade directed by Peter Brook. Although there is no official score to the play in any language, the success of the Brook-directed Royal Shakespeare Company production and film made the Peaslee score popular for English-language productions. Sections of the Peaslee score have been included in trade copies of the Geoffrey Skelton/Adrian Mitchell English version (based on the text used for the Royal Shakespeare Company productions). The full score is available from ECS Publishing/Galaxy Music Corporation. The original Royal Shakespeare Company production was so popular that folk singer Judy Collins recorded a medley of songs from the show on her album In My Life .

Marat/Sade production at the University of California, San Diego, 2005, directed by Stefan Novinski Marat Sade at UCSD 2005.jpg
Marat/Sade production at the University of California, San Diego, 2005, directed by Stefan Novinski
Marat/Sade production at the State University of New York at Fredonia, 2008, directed by James Ivey Peter Weiss' Marat Sade at SUNY 2008.jpg
Marat/Sade production at the State University of New York at Fredonia, 2008, directed by James Ivey
Marat/Sade production at the Theatre of NOTE, 2000, directed by Brad Mays Marat-sade-note01.jpg
Marat/Sade production at the Theatre of NOTE, 2000, directed by Brad Mays
Marat/Sade is set at later mental home "Hopital Esquirol" in present-day Saint-Maurice Hopital Esquirol.JPG
Marat/Sade is set at later mental home "Hôpital Esquirol" in present-day Saint-Maurice

Recordings of the songs were made by the cast of the original Royal Shakespeare Company production and film. The first recording of the show was a three-LP set released in 1964 by Caedmon Records. This was a complete audio recording of the original London production. The second release was a single soundtrack album LP of the film score, released by Caedmon/United Artists Records.

The third release was a CD compilation of two 1966 Brook/Peaslee Royal Shakespeare Company productions: Marat/Sade and US , released by Premier Recordings. The songs included on this 1992 CD were:

  1. Homage to Marat
  2. The Corday Waltz
  3. Song and Mime of Corday's Arrival in Paris
  4. The People's Reaction
  5. Those Fat Monkeys
  6. Poor Old Marat
  7. One Day It Will Come to Pass
  8. Poor Marat in Your Bathtub Seat
  9. Poor Old Marat (Reprise)
  10. Copulation Round
  11. Fifteen Glorious Years (interpolating the "Marseillaise")
  12. Finale

This track listing omits Royal Anthem (which appears on all other recordings) and does not specifically mention The Tumbrel Song either individually or as a part of Song and Mime of Corday's Arrival in Paris. The cast of this recording includes Patrick Magee, Glenda Jackson and Freddie Jones. (The accompanying production, US, is about an American soldier "zappin' the [Viet] Cong" in the Vietnam War.)


In 1964 the play was translated by Geoffrey Skelton with lyric adaptation by Adrian Mitchell and staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Peter Brook directed a cast that included Ian Richardson as the herald, Clive Revill as Marat, Patrick Magee as de Sade and Glenda Jackson as Charlotte Corday.

After two previews, the Broadway production opened on 27 December 1965 at the Martin Beck Theatre and ran for 145 performances. Richardson took over the role of Marat, while Magee and Jackson reprised the roles they had originated in London.

The play won the Tony Award for Best Play, and Brook was named Best Director. Additional awards went to Magee for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play and Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss for her Costume Design. Jackson lost the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play to Zoe Caldwell. It also won the 1966 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play.

In Australia, the play was directed by Edgar Metcalfe in 1966 at the Playhouse Theatre in Perth. It played for six weeks. The cast included Alan Lander as Marat and Eileen Colocott as Charlotte Corday. Other cast members included Peter Collingwood as the Marquis de Sade, James Beattie, Rosemary Barr, Peter Morris, Chris Johnson, Ken Gregory and Roland Rocchiccioli. The set was designed by Ted Dombowski.

Other notable productions

Film adaptation

The 1967 film adaptation featured many of the original players from the American production. The long version of the play's title is shown in the film's opening credits, although this was frequently shortened to Marat/Sade in publicity materials. The screenplay was written by Adrian Mitchell and directed by Peter Brook. The cast included Richardson, Magee, Jackson, Jones, and Clifford Rose. [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

Royal Shakespeare Company British theatre company

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs over 1,000 staff and produces around 20 productions a year. The RSC plays regularly in London, Stratford-upon-Avon, and on tour across the UK and internationally.


Quills is a 2000 period film directed by Philip Kaufman and adapted from the Obie award-winning 1995 play by Doug Wright, who also wrote the original screenplay. Inspired by the life and work of the Marquis de Sade, Quills re-imagines the last years of the Marquis's incarceration in the insane asylum at Charenton. It stars Geoffrey Rush as de Sade, Joaquin Phoenix as the Abbé du Coulmier, Michael Caine as Dr. Royer-Collard, and Kate Winslet as laundress Madeleine "Maddie" LeClerc.

Peter Brook English theatre and film director and innovator

Peter Stephen Paul Brook, CH, CBE is an English theatre and film director who has been based in France since the early 1970s. He has won multiple Tony and Emmy Awards, a Laurence Olivier Award, the Praemium Imperiale, and the Prix Italia. He has been called "our greatest living theatre director".

Charlotte Corday

Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d'Armont, known as Charlotte Corday, was a figure of the French Revolution. In 1793, she was executed by guillotine for the assassination of Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat, who was in part responsible for the more radical course the Revolution had taken through his role as a politician and journalist. Marat had played a substantial role in the political purge of the Girondins, with whom Corday sympathized. His murder was depicted in the painting The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David, which shows Marat's dead body after Corday had stabbed him in his medicinal bath. In 1847, writer Alphonse de Lamartine gave Corday the posthumous nickname l'ange de l'assassinat.

Peter Weiss Swedish-German playwright and author

Peter Ulrich Weiss was a German writer, painter, graphic artist, and experimental filmmaker of adopted Swedish nationality. He is particularly known for his plays Marat/Sade and The Investigation and his novel The Aesthetics of Resistance.

Charenton was a lunatic asylum, founded in 1645 by the Frères de la Charité or Brothers of Charity in Charenton-Saint-Maurice, now Saint-Maurice, Val-de-Marne, France.

Abbé de Coulmier

François Simonet de Coulmier was a French Catholic priest, originally a member of the Premonstratensian canons regular, and an active member of the French legislature at the start of the French Revolution and again during the First French Empire.

Patrick Magee (actor) Irish actor from Northern Ireland and director of stage and screen

Patrick George McGee, known professionally as Patrick Magee, was an Irish actor from County Armagh and director of stage and screen. He was known for his collaborations with Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, as well as creating the role of the Marquis de Sade in the original stage and screen productions of Marat/Sade. He also appeared in numerous horror films and in two Stanley Kubrick films, A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon.

Verna Frances Bloom was an American actress.

<i>The Doughnut in Grannys Greenhouse</i> 1968 studio album by Bonzo Dog Band

The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse is the second album by the British comedy rock group Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. In the United States, it was released as Urban Spaceman and added their U.K. hit single "I'm the Urban Spaceman" to the track listing.

Mark Jones was an English actor, who appeared frequently in various films and television series.

Helen Christine Blatch was a British actress on stage and screen, best remembered on screen for her roles in Doctor Who and The Practice, and on stage for her casting as "Cerimon, a lord of Ephesus", in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1989–1990 performance of Pericles.

Elizabeth Ann Crowther is an English theatre actress. Her father was the actor, comedian and presenter Leslie Crowther and her mother was Jean Crowther, actress and dancer.

<i>The Skull</i>

The Skull is a 1965 British horror film directed by Freddie Francis for Amicus Productions, and starring the frequently paired horror actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, alongside Patrick Wymark, Jill Bennett, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee and Peter Woodthorpe.

Marquis de Sade in popular culture

There have been many and varied references to the Marquis de Sade in popular culture, including fictional works, biographies and more minor references. The namesake of the psychological and subcultural term sadism, his name is used variously to evoke sexual violence, licentiousness and freedom of speech. In modern culture his works are simultaneously viewed as masterful analyses of how power and economics work, and as erotica. Sade's sexually explicit works were a medium for the articulation of the corrupt and hypocritical values of the elite in his society, which caused him to become imprisoned. He thus became a symbol of the artist's struggle with the censor. Sade's use of pornographic devices to create provocative works that subvert the prevailing moral values of his time inspired many other artists in a variety of media. The cruelties depicted in his works gave rise to the concept of sadism. Sade's works have to this day been kept alive by artists and intellectuals because they espouse a philosophy of extreme individualism that became reality in the economic liberalism of the following centuries.

<i>Marat/Sade</i> (film)

The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, usually shortened to Marat/Sade, is a 1967 British film adaptation of Peter Weiss' play Marat/Sade. The screen adaptation is directed by Peter Brook, and originated in his theatre production for the Royal Shakespeare Company. The English version was written by Adrian Mitchell from a translation by Geoffrey Skelton.

Richard Peaslee was a composer who worked in a variety of idioms, including chorus, orchestra, dance, and soundtracks for film and television, but he was most active as a composer for the theatre.

Marquis de Sade French nobleman, revolutionary politician, philosopher and writer of erotic works (1740-1814)

Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade, was a French nobleman, revolutionary politician, philosopher and writer famous for his libertine sexuality. His works include novels, short stories, plays, dialogues, and political tracts. In his lifetime some of these were published under his own name while others, which de Sade denied having written, appeared anonymously. De Sade is best known for his erotic works, which combined philosophical discourse with pornography, depicting sexual fantasies with an emphasis on violence, suffering, anal sex, crime, and blasphemy against Christianity. He was a proponent of absolute freedom, unrestrained by morality, religion, or law. The words sadism and sadist are derived in reference to the works of fiction he wrote which portrayed numerous acts of sexual cruelty. While de Sade mentally explored a wide range of sexual deviations, his known behavior includes "only the beating of a housemaid and an orgy with several prostitutes—behavior significantly departing from the clinical definition of sadism". De Sade was a proponent of free public brothels provided by the state: In order both to prevent crimes in society that are motivated by lust and to reduce the desire to oppress others using one’s own power, de Sade recommended public brothels where people can satisfy their wishes to command and be obeyed.

French history in the English-speaking theatre

French history has been the basis of plays in the English-speaking theatre since the English Renaissance theatre.

Geoffrey David Skelton (1916–1998) was a British author and translator. He specialized in German music, writing biographies of Richard Wagner, Cosima Wagner, Wieland Wagner and Paul Hindemith. He also translated numerous plays by leading German-language writers such as Bertolt Brecht, Max Frisch and Peter Weiss.


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  2. "The Thing at the Museum", Richmond News Leader, October 10, 1969.
  3. "Theatre Awards Listings". Archived from the original on 2016-08-04. Retrieved 2016-06-01.
  4. Miller, David C. Nichols; Daryl H. (2006-09-01). "'Corpus Christi' makes its point". Los Angeles Times. ISSN   0458-3035 . Retrieved 2016-06-01.
  5. Midgette, Anne (February 21, 2007). "Testing the Limits and Cost of Revolution". The New York Times.
  6. "Marat / Sade". RSC. 2011-11-05. Archived from the original on 2011-12-28. Retrieved 2012-02-01.
  7. "Variety review of the film". 2007-02-20. Retrieved 2012-02-01.