Dumas père and fils

Definition

Theater

  • The French Romantic playwright and novelist Alexandre Dumas(Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie; 1802 - 70), known as Dumaspère, and his illegitimate son, Alexandre Dumas, knownas Dumas fils (1824 - 95), also a playwright and novelist.

    The son of a Napoleonic general, Dumas pèreadopted the surname of his grandmother, a Black San Domingan. In 1829the Comédie-Française produced his Henri III et sacour, the first triumph of the Romantic movement on the Frenchstage. He followed this with a series of historical melodramas, includingNapoléon Bonaparte (1831) and Antony (1831).The latter was produced at the Porte-Saint-Martin Theatre, as washis most successful play, the drama of terror La Tour de Nesle(1832). This led to a lawsuit and a harmless duel with FrédéricGaillardet, whose manuscript Dumas had rewritten.

    Dumas père also enjoyed success with Kean,ou Desordre et genie (1836), a play about the great English actor thatprovided Frédérick with one of his most memorableroles. The producer Dartois offered Dumas 2,000 francs if it took in 60,000francs by its 30th performance. On the appointed night, Dartois camesmiling to announce the total as 59,993 francs. Dumas, claiming hewas broke, borrowed 20 francs from Dartois; five minutes later threemore playgoers rushed into the orchestra seats and Dumas won the bet.

    He is now mostly remembered for his novels, especially twothat were subsequently adapted for the theater, The Three Musketeers(1844) and The Count of Monte Cristo (1844 - 45). Bothwere produced at Dumas's own Théâtre Historique, whoseeventual failure left him near bankruptcy. His later liaison witha US circus girl created a scandal; he died at Puys in the house ofDumas fils, his son by a Parisian dressmaker.

    Although Dumas fils is sometimes credited with originatingthe realistic-social drama, he remains best known for dramatizinghis own romantic novel The Lady of the Camellias (1852).The character of the consumptive Marguerite Gautier, based in parton Dumas's mistress Marie Duplessis, provided a bravura role for suchactresses as Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse.

    His later moralizing dramas were sometimes known as the usefultheater: Dumas said that if he could persuade people to discussa social problem and achieve a change in the law he had "donehis duty as a man." Le Demi-monde (1855) gave the Frenchand English languages a name for the social group it portrayed. LeFils Naturel (1858) dealt with the stigma of illegitimacy, asdid Un Père Prodigue (1859), which included an accurateportrait of his father.

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