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As I mentioned in an earlier question, it is a little-known fact that Maupassant did not only write narrative prose but also plays. The French Wikipedia article lists several plays by Maupassant:

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

After a gap of eleven years, during which he wrote most of his stories and novels, the author returned to the dramatic genre with Musotte, which was followed by La Paix du ménage. (Maupassant was admitted to hospital in January 1892 and stayed there until his death in July 1893, which is why I assume the last play was written before 1892.) Does this quick succession of two plays indicate that Musotte was successful? How did Maupassant's contemporaries respond to this play?

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There was a production of Musotte in March 1891 at the Théâtre du Gymnase Marie-Bell in Paris, which received a brief but glowing review in the Revue illustrée:

Si le rire règne à la Renaissance, l’émotion, l’attendrissement et les larmes dominent au Gymnase. Musotte, la pièce de MM. Guy de Maupassant et Jacques Normand, est un véritable succès que toutes les femmes veulent voir, entendre et applaudir. C’est la première fois que M. de Maupassant aborde le théâtre et c’est par la porte d’or qu’il vient d’y entrer.


If laughter ruled at the Renaissance, emotion, pity, and tears dominate at the Gymnase. Musotte, a play by Guy de Maupassant and Jacques Normand, is a veritable success that all women want to watch, listen and applaud. It’s the first time that Maupassant has approached the theatre and it’s by the golden door that he has entered it.

‘Le Masque de Velours’ (1891). ‘La vie mondaine’. In Revue illustrée 11, p. 266.

A much longer, and also largely positive, review appeared in La Chronique universelle:

Nous avons enregistré avec plaisir, le mois dernier, le succès de l’Obstacle† et nous croyons le Gymnase entré cette fois dans une bonne voie, qu’il contine à suivre avec Musotte, pièce en 4 actes‡ de MM. Guy de Maupassant et Jacques Normand, qui a été représentée le 4 mars. C’est avec des pièces de ce genre qu’une direction s’honore et s’attire un public constant et favorable.

Au point de vue littéraire, cette œuvre est remarquablement traitée avec vérité, conscience, et on reconnaît dans la forme le talent si fin, si exquis de M. Guy de Maupassant. La mise en scène dramatique est particulièrement soignée.

Musotte est un modèle du peintre Jean Martinel avec lequel elle a vécu pendant trois ans et qui va maintenant se marier.

Le soir même des noces, Jean Martinel reçoit une lettre d’un médecin de ses amis qui l’informe que Musotte se meurt et qu’avant de mourir, elle voudrait le voir et lui confier l’enfant qu’elle a de lui. Le peintre n’hésite pas et court au rendez-vous, laissant sa femme et confiant son secret au frère de celle-ci.

Il arrive et trouve en effet Musotte expirante, qui lui fait jurer d’adopter et d’élever leur enfant.

Jean Martinel revient ensuite trouver la famille de sa femme qui l’attendait anxieuse; il raconte tout et fait sa femme juge. Celle-ci, bonne et aimante, adopte l’enfant de la morte, et tout finit par un consentement général de celle famille bonne et honnête.

L’ouvrage est empreint d’une sensibilité qui émeut et ne permet pas de discuter. Néanmoins, il y a quelques défauts qu’il convient de noter.

C’est ainsi que l’on ne comprend pas comment Jean Martinel qui a su apprécier l’attachement, le dévouement et l’honnêteté de Musotte, se soit décidé à l’abandonner.

Et en outre on no voit pas bien comment vivra ce jeune ménage avec cette enfant qui rappellera constamment à son père, celle, si douce, si aimante, qui est partie pour un monde meilleur.

L’interprétation est pour beaucoup dans le succès de l’ouvrage el dans l’émotion qu’il produit. Raphaël Dullos montre beaucoup de talent dans le rôle de Jean Martinel, et à ses côtés, Noblet, Nertann, Léon Noël, Plan, Mmmes Pasca, Sisos et Desclauzas sont à la hauteur de l’œuvre.

Musotte, c’est Mlle Sisos, qui est assez touchante, mais qui n’est toujours pas énormément sympathique, surtout à côté de la gracieuse Mlle Darlaud, qui tient le personnage de Gilberte, la jeune épouse. Mme Pasca est toujours la grande artiste que l’on sait, sympathique au premier chef, respirant la bonté et la générosité: elle fait de Mme de Ronchard une belle-maman bien charmante et comme on en voudrait beaucoup.


We heard with pleasure, last month, of the success of L’Obstacle,† and we believe that the Gymnase struck a good lode this time, which it continues to follow with Musotte, a play in four acts‡ by Guy de Maupassant and Jacques Normand, which was premiered on 4th March. It is with plays of this type that a direction is maintained, attracting a loyal and favourable public.

From the literary point of view, this work is remarkably treated with truth and conscience, and we recognize in it the talent so perceptive and delightful of Guy de Maupassant. The dramatic staging is particularly well done.

Musotte is a model for the painter Jean Martinel, with whom she lived for three years, and who is now going to be married.

On the very evening of the wedding, Jean Martinel receives a letter from a doctor friend of his, telling him that Musotte is dying, and that before dying, she must see him and entrust him with the child she had with him. Without delay, the painter runs to meet her, leaving his wife but confiding his secret to his brother.

He arrives to find that Musotte is indeed dying, and she makes him promise to adopt and raise their child.

Jean Martinel then returns to encounter his wife’s family, who have been anxiously waiting; he reveals all and lets his wife be the judge. She, good and loving, adopts the child of the dead woman, and all ends with the general agreement of this good and honest family.

The work is imbued with a touching sensibility that forbids disagreement. Nevertheless, there are some defects which it is worth noting.

So, I don’t understand why Jean Martinel, who knew the value of Musotte’s attachment, devotion, and honesty, had decided to abandon her.

Next, it’s difficult to see how the young couple will live with this child who will continually remind his father of Musotte, so sweet, so loving, who has gone to a better world.

The acting is vital to the success of the work and to the emotion it produces. Raphaël Dullos shows plenty of talent in the role of Jean Martinel, and beside him, Noblet, Nertann, Léon Noël, Plan, Mrs Pasca, Mrs Sisos and Mrs Desclauzas are at the height of their powers.

Musotte is played by Miss Sisos, who is quite touching, but not completely sympathetic, especially compared to the gracious Miss Darlaud, who plays the part of Gilberte, the young wife. Mrs Pasca is still the great artist we know: very likeable, radiating kindness and generosity. She makes Mrs de Ronchard as charming a mother-in-law as one could wish.

Anon (1891). ‘Chronique théatrale’. In La Chronique universelle, avril 1891, pp. 333–334.

L’Obstacle (1891) by Alphonse Daudet. ‡ The printed version of the play has only three acts.

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