Madame Sans-Gêne

Definition

Theater

  • A historical play by Victorien Sardou and émileMoreau, first performed in 1893 in Paris. Madame Sans-Gêne ('withoutconstraint' or 'free and easy') was the nickname of the wife of Lefebvre(1755 - 1820), one of Napoleon's marshals. She was originallya washerwoman and followed her husband - then in the ranks - as a victualler. She was kind and pleasant but her rough and readyways and ignorance of etiquette made her the butt of Napoleon's courtand earned her the nickname.

    Réjane created the role and Sarah Bernhardtlater played it with great success. Ellen Terry, however,had great difficulty learning the lines. On opening night, the director,Henry Irving, concealed prompters in every nook and cranny of thestage, including the fireplace. Whenever Terry hesitated, unintelligiblevoices would come at her from all directions. Finally, in utter despair,she clapped her hands and shouted, "Will nobody giveme the word?"

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