The Lady of the Camellias



  • The first play by Alexandre Dumas fils, adapted from his own romantic novel of the same name (1848). Also known as Camille, the play was banned from the French stage for three years because of its sympathetic treatment of its heroine, a courtesan; the character was based on Dumas's mistress, Marie Duplessis. It was first performed in 1852 in Paris and became one of the most successful plays of the late 19th century. The passionate and tragic role of Marguerite Gautier was much coveted by actresses. Eleonora Duse made her first London appearance in the part in 1893 while Edwige Feuillère was acclaimed for her portrayalin 1940. The play was the source of Verdi's opera La Traviata (1853). Film versions include those starring Sarah Bernhardt (1912) and Greta Garbo (1936).

    Set in the Paris of the 1840s, The Lady of the Camelliasis a romantic story about a prostitute who wins the love of the youngArmand Duval and eventually dies pathetically from tuberculosis inhis arms. One of Dumas's reasons for writing it was to appeal againstthe double standards that then existed between the sexual morals expectedof men and those expected of women. Dumas subsequently turned to didacticdramas or 'thesis plays', confronting other contemporary social problems.