Thursday, 11 November 2010

Madame de Sade by Yukio Mishima

In his afterword Mishima explains that after reading The Life of the Marquis de Sade by Tatsuhiko Shibusawa the riddle of why the Marquis's wife Renee stayed devoted to him right up until he was released from prison would be at the heart of his play, only after her husband's release did she decide to leave him. This edition is the first in a series of International Plays published by Peter Owen from 1968, translated by Donald Keene, the play (Sado koshaku fujin),was first performed in Japan at the Kinokuniya Hall in Tokyo in November 1965 and directed by Takeo Matsuura, the book also contains photographs from the performance taken by Koichi Yamada. Mishima also states that he wanted to see de Sade from the view point of the women around him. It's a play in three parts, the first opens in 1772 with Madame de Montreuil discussing with Baroness de Simiane and Comtesse de Saint-Fond about the recent crimes and scandals involving de Sade, talking about a recent episode after which de Sade is a wanted man, Saint-Fond talks of de Sade's 'miracles' of evil -

'The miracles of the Marquis de Sade occur only after certainties have been piled on certainties, and all that human beings may learn through the senses has been exhausted. His miracles have nothing in common with the miracles lazy people merely wait for. That day in Marseilles he drove himself to greater and greater efforts. He, Mariette and the man servant joined in a fellowship of pain like galley slaves rowing their banks of oars in a trireme across the sea. The sunrise glowed like blood for I neglected to say it was morning.'.

Saint-Fond goes on to suggest that immorality is a privilege of the aristocracy, Simiane and Saint-Fond vow to help Madame de Montreuil to clear her son in-law's scandal and seek a pardon for his crimes, de Sade has since disappeared, gone on the run. Renee, (the Marquis's wife), arrives and after the two ladies leave Madame de Montreuil pleads with Renee to leave her husband, but Renee replies that 'God does not permit divorce', thus beginning the argument that runs throughout the play between the mother and daughter, Renee reasons that her mother doesn't understand Alphonse's true nature, 'If my husband is a monster of immorality, I must become a monster of devotion', she reasons. It could be said that like Mishima's earlier play Primary Colours/Sangenshoku from 1955, there are similar dialogues that are testing the social morality of the day, although in this play he's examining these themes by examining an episode from the past, in his afterword Mishima reminds us that this is not strictly a historical play, de Sade's nihilistic philosophy acts as the catalyst in which the dialogues between the women revolves around. Montreuil thinks that Alphonse (de Sade) is deceiving her daughter, 'No woman has ever been deceived by a man,' replies Renee.

Renee's sister Anne arrives and divulges that she has been in Italy with Alphonse after he had forced himself on her, and reveals that he is hiding out in a farmhouse in Sardinia. As the play progresses it jumps forward in years, the third part, set in 1790, sees de Sade incarcerated and two of the main characters revealing that they have been involved in de Sade's strange masses. With the ruminations of the beginning of the revolution, Madame de Montreuil observes that maybe Sade's crimes are minuscule in comparison to what they have begun to hear about what is happening. Mishima's exploration of what might have made Renee decide to leave her husband ends the play, with de Sade himself appearing at the end of the play.   

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