CARMEN ESS, Fordham University


This thesis studies the Women in the Comedies of Voltaire. Forty female characters are analyzed in the following comedies: L'Indiscret (1725), Les Originaux ou Mr. du Cap-Vert (1732), L'Echange ou Le Comte de Boursoufle (1734), L'Enfant prodigue (1736), L'Envieux (1738), La Prude (1740), Le Fragment de Therese (1743), La Princesse de Navarre (1745), La Femme qui a raison (1749), Nanine (1749), L'Ecossaise ou Le Cafe (1760), Le Droit du Seigneur ou L'Ecueil du Sage (1762) et Le Depositaire (1767). The introduction reveals the sources of Voltaire's comedies, his theories on comedy, and the place and role of women in eighteenth century society. The types of women depicted are young girls, wives, mothers and widows. The body of the thesis consists of five chapters. Chapter I discusses Voltaire's two types of young girls: the frivolous type and the models of virtue and reason. It studies how both types attain their place in society either through someone's help or by the natural power of their goodness. Chapter II studies two young wives, who are models of virtue and reason, but different from each other. La Comtesse des Apprets of Les Originaux reflects Voltaire's ideas on marriage as it exists in the society of his time, while Hortense of L'Envieux treats the subject close to Voltaire's heart, his long lasting friendship with La Marquise du Chatelet. Chapter III analyzes seven mothers ranging from the traditional role to the contemporary one. The latter being Voltaire's spokesman on family and education. Chapter IV deals with unmarried, mature and financially independent women. Three different groups are discussed: traditional widows; women of the world, one hypocritical and one epicurean; and lastly a woman-philosopher, Ninon de Lenclos, Voltaire's ideal woman. The last chapter discusses the secondary female characters whose principal function is to play a supportive role to the main heroines. The conclusion of the thesis summarizes Voltaire's concept of comedy. It follows in chronological order the development of all forty heroines, discussing their value or lack of value as well as Voltaire's parallel evolution towards the concept of the ideal woman.

Subject Area

Romance literature

Recommended Citation

ESS, CARMEN, "LES FEMMES DANS LES COMEDIES DE VOLTAIRE. (FRENCH TEXT)" (1984). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8506325.