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Best known for her prose fiction, Marie-Catherine Desjardins de Villedieu was also a successful playwright. Her three tragi-comedies (Manlius, Nitétis, and Le Favori), while significantly dissimilar in many respects, share an unusual feature. All three plays foreground the figure of the second woman, second because her role is clearly less central to the play's action than that of another woman character. In each case, the relationships between this second woman and the other characters of the play defy the traditional categories of the seventeenth-century stage. Furthermore, the second woman is not an object of desire. The differences between the first and second women are reflected and reinforced by a curious tendency in the structure of all three plays to split. Both on the level of plot and that of scenic representation, the three tragi-comedies resist unity. An examination of each of the plays reveals the links between the presence of the second woman and this structural split. The second woman, as a departure from the norms of the classical stage, becomes a significant locus for Villedieu's inscription of a personal, and distinctly female, authorial voice.




Kluwer Academic Publishers

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