Guy de Maupassant is best known as an author of short stories and novels. It is less well known that he also wrote plays. The English Wikipedia article about the author only mentions his early comedy À la feuille de rose, maison turque, which was performed in 1875 but not published until 1945.

The French Wikipedia article lists four other plays by Maupassant:

  • Histoire du vieux temps (1879)
  • Une répétition (1880)
  • Musotte (1891)
  • La Paix du ménage (1893)

According to the French Wikipedia article, Histoire du vieux temps was quite successful. Nevertheless, it appears that Maupassant's plays have essentially gone out of print. (And I don't know if they have even been translated into English.)

Une répétition was published one year after Histoire du vieux temps and followed by a ten-year gap before the publication of his next play in 1891. It is possible that the author lost interest in the genre, for example, because he was so successful at writing short stories. It is also possible that it was so badly received that he avoided the genre for ten years. Hence my question: how did Maupassant's contemporaries respond to his play Une répétition?


1 Answer 1


There was a brief notice in Le Livre of the book Saynètes et Monologues, sixième serie, an anthology of sketches and dramatic monologues by eighteen writers. The anonymous reviewer saves Maupassant for last:

Une Répétition, comédie en un acte, en vers et même en très jolis vers, de M. Guy de Maupassant, vaut mieux que cela, et je ne serais pas étonné de voir quelque jour cette charmante fantasie sur l’affiche d’un théâtre… si elle n’était pas en vers d’une forme parfaite et si je ne connaissais pas l’horreur des impresarii pour la langue des dieux parlée par un vrai poète.

A Rehearsal, comedy in one act, in verse and even in very pretty verse, by Guy de Maupassant, is equal to the best of that, and I would not be astonished to see some day this charming fantasy on the billboard of a theatre… if it were not in perfectly formed verse and if I were not aware of the horror of impressarios for the language of the gods spoken by a true poet.

Le Livre, janvier 1880, p. 224.

The text of the play starts on page 49 of Saynètes et Monologues and was reprinted in Maupassant’s Œuvres complètes. It is indeed written in rhyming Alexandrine couplets. Here’s how it begins:

M. Destournelles

Madame, qu’est-ce donc que cette masquerade?
Je comprends! vous allez jouer quelque charade!

Madame Destournelles

Vous l’avez dit, monsieur.

M. Destournelles

                                            Le costume est charmant.
Vous êtes adorable en cet accoutrement.

Guy de Maupassant (1880). Une Répétition. In Œuvres complètes (1910).

Here’s my translation into English tetrameters:

Mr. Destournelles

My dear, what is this masquerade?
I know! you’re playing some charade!

Mrs. Destournelles

You’ve said it, sir.

Mr. Destournelles

                                Your dress is cute
And you’re adorable, to boot.

So, reading between the lines of the review, it seems that theatres in France were reluctant to stage new plays in verse by 1880, and so however good Maupassant’s verse might be, it had little chance of being performed. In this respect it belongs to the genre of closet drama.

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