Theater of Ideas: Marie Lenéru

  • Cecilia Beach


Marie Lenéru (1874–1918) was the only author among those studied here who can be identified above all as a playwright rather than an activist. In fact, though her plays are all but forgotten today,1 Marie Lenéru was one of the most admired women playwrights of the first decades of the twentieth century and she received the most consistently glowing reviews. Of her eight known plays, five were performed in mainstream theaters, and all but one were published. Unlike the other authors discussed, Marie Lenéru did not originally intend to write political plays to be used for propaganda. Her preferred genre was the play of ideas, a form of socially conscious drama that developed in the final years of the nineteenth century. Her mentor was François de Curel (1854–1928), a major playwright in the first decades of the twentieth century elected to the Académie française in 1918. The play of ideas is similar to the better-known genre of the social thesis play by dramatists like Eugène Brieux and Paul Hervieu. Thesis plays had become quite mainstream by the turn of the century and both of these authors were elected to the prestigious Académie française: Hervieu in 1900 and Brieux in 1909. In a thesis play, the author exposes a problem and gives the solution. These well-made plays are often pessimistic and generally didactic in the sense that the author imposes his or her views on the audience. A play of ideas is generally more intellectual or philosophical than a thesis play. It exposes a problem or an issue, but rather than give a solution, the author shows all sides of the debate, allowing the members of the audience to form their own conclusions.


Military Family Woman Writer Theater World Daughter Relationship Young Writer 
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  1. 19.
    Frazer Lively, “Introduction,” Rachilde, Madame la Mort and other Plays ( Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP 1998 ), 3–53Google Scholar
  2. Frantisek Deak, Symbolist Theater, The Formation of an Avant-Garde ( Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1993 ).Google Scholar
  3. 21.
    Laure Adler, Secrets d’alcôve. Histoire du couple 1830–1930 ( Paris: Hachette, 1983 ), 196Google Scholar
  4. Theodore Zeldin, Histoire des passions françaises 1848–1945.I.Ambition et amour (Paris: Seuil,1980), 417.Google Scholar

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© Cecilia Beach 2005

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  • Cecilia Beach

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