Madame X (original title La Femme X) is a 1908 play by French playwright Alexandre Bisson (1848–1912). It was novelized in English and adapted for the American stage; it was also adapted for the screen ten times over sixty-five years, including versions in Tagalog, Greek, and Spanish as well as English. The play has been cited as an example of the literary tradition of portraying the mother figure as being "excessively punished for slight deviation from her maternal role".
The protagonist is a woman who has been thrown out into the street without any money by her jealous husband, when he discovers she has been carrying on an affair. She is not even allowed to see their young son. She sinks into depravity.
Twenty years later, she has become the mistress of a criminal. When he finds out that her husband is now the attorney general, her lover decides to blackmail him. Desperate to shield her son from her disgrace, she shoots and kills her lover.
By chance, the lawyer assigned to her turns out to be her own son, on his first case. He is puzzled and frustrated when she refuses to defend herself in court, or even to provide her name (which forces the tribunal to identify her as "Madame X"). During the trial, her husband shows up in support of his son. When the defendant sees that her husband recognizes her and is about to speak out, she makes an impassioned plea, not for mercy but for understanding of what drove her to murder. As she had intended, the hidden message silences her husband. When she faints from the strain, she is carried into a private chamber. There, she kisses her still-unaware son and dies.
- Madame X, 1910 play, translated to English by John Raphael
- Madame X: A Story of Mother Love, 1910 novelization by J.W. McConaughy
- Madame X, 1916 film starring Dorothy Donnelly
- Madame X, 1920 film starring Pauline Frederick
- Madame X, 1929 film starring Ruth Chatterton
- Madame X, 1937 film starring Gladys George
- The Trial of Madame X, 1948 film starring Mara Russell-Tavernan
- Madame X, 1952 film starring Gloria Romero
- Madame X, 1954 Greek film
- Madame X, 1955 Mexican film
- Madame X, 1966 film starring Lana Turner
- Madame X, 1966 novelization by Michael Avallone of the 1966 film’s screenplay
- Madame X, 1981 film starring Tuesday Weld
- Madame X, 2019 studio album by Madonna
- Madame X, 2020 song by Allie X
- Madame X, 2021 film starring Madonna
- Gibbons, William (2013). Building the Operatic Museum: Eighteenth-Century Opera in Fin-de-siècle Paris. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press ISBN 9781580468152. p. 211.
- Kaplan, E. Ann (2013). Motherhood and Representation: The Mother in Popular Culture and Melodrama. Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9781138169760. p. 77.
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