The Objects

29th Jun 1815

Source: ©Coll. Comédie-Française

The Comédie-Française Reacts to the Siege of Paris

Contributed by: Katherine Astbury

The registers of the Comédie-Française do not just record which plays are performed each night but also provide snippets of information about the political context in which those plays were put on. This page from the registers for the end of June 1815 is a good example of that.

Napoleon’s arrival back in Paris in March 1815 at the start of the 100 days had led to the Comédie-Française closing for 2 nights. The administration had blamed the tiredness and indisposition of the actors but few in Paris would have been fooled. The company had been deeply divided politically during the Revolutionary decade and Napoleon’s return revealed that those wounds had still not entirely healed. The theatre preferred to close and see how the political situation would play out.

With the Allies approaching Paris after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Comédie-Française once again considered it prudent to batten down the hatches and wait out the storm. The state of siege under which Paris had been placed was the explanation given for cancelling performances at the end of June. The doors were closed from 29th June until 9th July. The theatre only reopened once Louis XVIII had returned to Paris.

On 9th July, the register indicates that the troupe had originally intended to perform Molière’s ‘Tartuffe’, a play where the King ensures that the eponymous imposter is unmasked and all ends well. The actors perhaps felt that this would be seen as too political a gesture because they postponed the performance of ‘Tartuffe’ and offered Colin D’Harleville’s less controversial comedy ‘Le Vieux Célebataire’ and Beaumarchais’ ‘Barbier de Séville’ instead.

The Opéra-Comique also closed its doors, but the popular boulevard theatres continued to perform during the siege of Paris.

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