Act Two, Scene 5

This is the final scene of my play, A Sword Unsheathed, originally written in French and translated into English for publication on the blog. If you haven’t yet read the first scene, you can find it here. You can find all the scenes published so far on this page. The original French version of this scene is found at the end of the post. (Read in French.) Please read the historical note here.

Voici la scène finale de ma pièce, Un sabre dégainé, écrite à l’origine en français et traduite en anglais pour publication sur ce blog. Si vous n’avez pas encore lu la première scène, vous pouvez la trouver ici. Vous pouvez trouver toutes les scènes déjà publiées sur cette page. La version originale en français de cette scène se trouve à la fin de l’article. (Lire en français.) Veuillez lire ici la note historique.

SCENE 5
(Read the previous scene.)

The Characters

ALICE, now about 65 years old
FRANCIS, her grandson, about 7 years old
GILBERT DU MOTIER, the Marquis de Lafayette, now about 67 years old
ROBERT, the Hugers’ slave, now an elderly man

Thirty years later: the year 1825. Charleston. A spring afternoon. A sitting room with a few chairs, a settee, a few other pieces of furniture in the style of the period : a low table in front of the settee, Benjamin’s desk from the plantation house against the wall between two large windows, another small table stage left close to the door. Alice, now 65 years old, well dressed and coiffed, is seated in one of the chairs reading some letters. Through the windows, we see the roofline, some masts with raised sails. Francis, her grandson, is standing at the windows looking into the distance. Continue reading Act Two, Scene 5

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Act Two, Scene 4

This is the fourth scene of the second act of my play, A Sword Unsheathed, originally written in French and translated into English for publication on the blog. If you haven’t yet read the first scene, you can find it here. You can find all the scenes published so far on this page. The original French version of this scene is found at the end of the post. (Read in French.) Please read the historical note here.

Voici la quatrième scène du second acte de ma pièce, Un sabre dégainé, écrite à l’origine en français et traduite en anglais pour publication sur ce blog. Si vous n’avez pas encore lu la première scène, vous pouvez la trouver ici. Vous pouvez trouver toutes les scènes déjà publiées sur cette page. La version originale en français de cette scène se trouve à la fin de l’article. (Lire en français.) Veuillez lire ici la note historique.

SCENE 4
(Read the previous scene.)

The Characters

FRANCIS HUGER, now about 24 years old
GILBERT DU MOTIER, the Marquis de Lafayette, now about 37 years old
JUSTUS BOLLMANN, a German doctor, about 26 years old
Three Austrian soldiers

The year 1794. A wooded scene, early in the evening. On the horizon, the contours of a fort. Indistinct voices offstage, stage left. Francis, Justus and Gilbert appear, accompanied by a sergeant and two other soldiers wearing Austrian uniforms — dark green coats, white knickers — who follow several yards behind with a single horse. Continue reading Act Two, Scene 4

Act Two, Scene 3

This is the third scene of the second act of my play, A Sword Unsheathed, originally written in French and translated into English for publication on the blog. If you haven’t yet read the first scene, you can find it here. You can find all the scenes published so far on this page. The original French version of this scene is found at the end of the post. (Read in French.) Please read the historical note here.

Voici la troisième scène du second acte de ma pièce, Un sabre dégainé, écrite à l’origine en français et traduite en anglais pour publication sur ce blog. Si vous n’avez pas encore lu la première scène, vous pouvez la trouver ici. Vous pouvez trouver toutes les scènes déjà publiées sur cette page. La version originale en français de cette scène se trouve à la fin de l’article. (Lire en français.) Veuillez lire ici la note historique.

SCENE 3
(Read the previous scene.)

The Characters

FRANCIS HUGER, now about 24 years old
NATHANIEL HUGER, his brother

The austere bed chamber from the previous scene. A lighted candlestick is on the nightstand beside the bed. The saber in its scabbard, still attached to the blue silk sash, lies on on the desk. Francis is sleeping. A soft, golden light illuminates the bed. Continue reading Act Two, Scene 3

Act Two, Scene 2

This is the second scene of the second act of my play, A Sword Unsheathed, originally written in French and translated into English for publication on the blog. If you haven’t yet read the first scene, you can find it here. You can find all the scenes published so far on this page. The original French version of this scene is found at the end of the post. (Read in French.) Please read the historical note here.

Voici la deuxième scène du second acte de ma pièce, Un sabre dégainé, écrite à l’origine en français et traduite en anglais pour publication sur ce blog. Si vous n’avez pas encore lu la première scène, vous pouvez la trouver ici. Vous pouvez trouver toutes les scènes déjà publiées sur cette page. La version originale en français de cette scène se trouve à la fin de l’article. (Lire en français.) Veuillez lire ici la note historique.

SCENE 2
(Read the previous scene.)

The Characters

FRANCIS HUGER, now about 24 years old
ALICE, his cousin, now about 33 years old

Seventeen years later: the year 1794. The stage is divided. Stage left, an austere bedchamber, stone walls, a small bed against the wall. There is a desk in front of a window, through which we see a cityscape. The lighting is rather cool and blue. The sword in its scabbard, still attached to the blue silk sash, lies on the desk. Stage right is a salon, with a few chairs, a settee, a few other small items of furniture. Benjamin’s desk from the plantation house is in front of two windows through which we see a pastel-painted cityscape, a ship’s mast with folded sails. The lighting is rather warm, pink and orange.

When the curtain rises, Alice enters stage right and sits at the desk, looks out the window a long while, picks up a quill, and begins to write. Francis — now a young man — enters stage left, goes to the window and looks out for a short while, finally sits at his desk. He opens a letter. Continue reading Act Two, Scene 2

Enter Stage Left

Molière in the role of Caesar in Corneille’s “The Death of Pompey,”
by Nicolas Mignard

If you’re a fan of je parle américain, you’ve probably noticed a recent decline in the frequency of my posts. That’s primarily because I’ve been so busy with what has to be my final semester of French language classes. Instead of writing for je parle américain, I’ve been summarizing French news articles, drafting letters to imaginary newspaper editors about the controversies of the day, outlining arguments for oral presentations, synthesizing multipage French documents into concise 100-word summaries without omitting anything essential … oh, and writing a play in French. Continue reading Enter Stage Left

The Hero of Two Worlds

It’s appropriate that I’m publishing today’s post from the United States, because September 6 is the birthday of one of the greatest heroes of the American Revolution: the Marquis de Lafayette. It’s also appropriate that I’m publishing from South Carolina, because Lafayette not only was a Franco-American hero, but he had a special connection to my home state.

Joseph-Désiré Court’s portrait of Gilbert du Motier marquis de Lafayette, 1791

You should know by now that I’m a big history nerd. I’ve been one all my life, and the older I get, the more convinced I am that somewhere along the way I got sidetracked from my destiny to become a history professor. The people in my life closest to me can attest to that fact. Just Sunday night, at dinner with Michel and our friends Leigh and Dwight in Columbia, I was heard correcting a Frenchman’s account of the role of the French Revolution in the birth of French laicity. What can I say? It’s a passion. So it came as no surprise when, during my first semester of French classes at the Sorbonne, I chose to do my 15-minute oral report on the life of the Marquis de Lafayette. It also came as no surprise that my 15-minute report ended up lasting half an hour! I’m pretty sure that most of my classmates’ eyes start to glaze over after about 20 minutes because … well, not everyone can be as into Franco-American history as I am. In any case, je parle américain‘s homage to the Marquis on this, the 255th anniversary of his birth, is based on that long oral report … but today, at least, I’ll be telling it in English and not broken French. So, hopefully your eyes won’t glaze over before you get to the bottom of the page.

Ready? Here we go … Continue reading The Hero of Two Worlds

The Bastille Might be the Symbol, but it Wasn’t the Beginning … or the End

Today is July 14, the French national holiday. Here in France, it’s officially called La Fête Nationale (“The National Celebration”) or more commonly, Le Quatorze Juillet (“The Fourteenth of July”). In English-speaking countries we call it Bastille Day. We think of it as the start of the French Revolution but, as usual with the beginnings of revolutions, it wasn’t as clean-cut as that …

The Back Story

The First and Second Estates on the back of the Third

Like the American Revolution that preceded it by 14 years, there was a long fuse leading to the powder keg of the French Revolution. Every historian will tell you that the French Revolution was the product of a number of factors: malnutrition and hunger from a series of bad harvests and the resulting spike in the price of bread, the country’s financial crisis arising from France’s loss in the Seven Years’ War and its foray into the American Revolution and, crucially, the unwillingness of France’s Ancien Régime to address these problems effectively. King Louis XVI’s series of finance ministers had repeatedly attempted to address the crisis by calling for reform of France’s regressive tax structure that placed an inordinate burden on the poor to the benefit of the aristocracy and clergy. Not surprisingly, this progressive idea was adamantly opposed by the country’s parlements (regional bodies representing the aristocracy that exercised limited veto power on such matters). Continue reading The Bastille Might be the Symbol, but it Wasn’t the Beginning … or the End