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This article is about Peter Weiss' play. For Peter Brook and Adrian Mitchell's film based on the play, see Marat/Sade (film).
Written by Peter Weiss
Characters Marquis de Sade
Jean-Paul Marat
Simonne Evrard
Charlotte Corday
Jacques Roux
The Herald
Mute Mme Coulmier
Mlle Coulmier
Male Nurses
Asylum inmates
Date premiered April 29, 1964 (1964-04-29)
Place premiered Schillertheater, West Berlin, Germany
Original language German
Subject French Revolution, sado-masochism
Genre A play with music
Setting Charenton Asylum, France

The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (German: Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean Paul Marats dargestellt durch die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizes zu Charenton unter Anleitung des Herrn de Sade), usually shortened to Marat/Sade (pronounced: [ma.ʁa.sad]), is a 1963 play by Peter Weiss. The work was first published in German.

Incorporating dramatic elements characteristic of both Artaud and Brecht, it is a bloody and unrelenting depiction of class struggle and human suffering which asks whether true revolution comes from changing society or changing oneself.


Marat/Sade in Keith Fowler's inaugural production for the Virginia Museum Theater, October 1969 - design by Sandro La Ferla

Set in the historical Charenton Asylum, Marat/Sade is almost entirely a "play within a play". The main story takes place on July 13, 1808, after the French Revolution; the play directed by Marquis de Sade within the story takes place during the Revolution, in the middle of 1793, culminating in the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat (which took place on July 13, 1793), then quickly brings the audience up to date (1808). The actors are the inmates of the asylum, and the nurses and supervisors occasionally step in to restore order. The bourgeois director of the hospital, Coulmier, supervises the performance, accompanied by his wife and daughter. He is a supporter of the post-revolutionary government led by Napoleon, in place at the time of the production, and believes the play he has organised to be an endorsement of his patriotic views. His patients, however, have other ideas, and they make a habit of speaking lines he had attempted to suppress, or deviating entirely into personal opinion. Suffice it to say that they, as people who came out of the revolution no better than they went in, are not entirely pleased with the course of events as they fell.

The Marquis de Sade, the man after whom sadism is named, did indeed direct performances in Charenton with other inmates there, encouraged by Coulmier. De Sade is a main character in the play, conducting many philosophical dialogues with Marat and observing the proceedings with sardonic amusement. He remains detached and cares little for practical politics and the inmates' talk of right and justice; he simply stands by as an observer and an advocate of his own nihilistic and individualist beliefs. One of the most powerful scenes of the play depicts him being whipped on his own instructions, and such bold scenes are not alone, nor confined to the predilections of the Marquis himself.

Musical score[edit]

Marat/Sade is a play with music. This follows much in the path of Bertolt Brecht where the songs comment on themes and issues of the play. Unlike a traditional musical format, the songs do not further the plot or expositional development of character in the play. In contrast, they often add an alienation effect, interrupting the action of the play and offering historical, social and political commentary. Richard Peaslee composed music for the original English-language production of Marat/Sade directed by Peter Brook. Although there is no official score to the play in any language, the success of the Brook-directed Royal Shakespeare Company production and film caused the Peaslee score to be popular for English-language productions. Sections of the Peaslee score have been included in trade copies of the Geoffrey Skelton/Adrian Mitchell English version (based on the text used for the Royal Shakespeare Company productions). The full score is available from ECS Publishing/Galaxy Music Corporation. The original Royal Shakespeare Company production was so popular that some of the songs from the show were recorded as a medley by Judy Collins on her album In My Life.

Marat/Sade production at the University of California, San Diego, 2005, directed by Stefan Novinski
Marat/Sade production at the State University of New York at Fredonia, 2008, directed by James Ivey
Marat/Sade production at the Theatre of NOTE, 2000, directed by Brad Mays)
Marat/Sade is set at later mental home "Hôpital Esquirol" in present-day Saint-Maurice

Recordings of the songs were made by the cast of the original Royal Shakespeare Company production and film. The first recording of the show was a three LP set released in 1964 by Caedmon Records. This was a complete audio recording of the original Broadway production. The second release was a single soundtrack album LP of the film score, released by Caedmon/United Artists Records.

The third release was a CD compilation of two 1966 Brook/Peaslee Royal Shakespeare Company productions: Marat/Sade and US, released by Premier Recordings. The songs, as included on the CD released by Premier Recordings in 1992:

  1. Homage to Marat
  2. The Corday Waltz
  3. Song and Mime of Corday's Arrival in Paris
  4. The People's Reaction
  5. Those Fat Monkeys
  6. Poor Old Marat
  7. One Day It Will Come to Pass
  8. Poor Marat in Your Bathtub Seat
  9. Poor Old Marat (Reprise)
  10. Copulation Round
  11. Fifteen Glorious Years (interpolating the "Marseillaise")
  12. Finale

This track list omits Royal Anthem (which appears on all other recordings) and does not specifically mention The Tumbrel Song either individually or as a part of Song and Mime of Corday's Arrival in Paris. The cast of this recording includes Patrick Magee, Glenda Jackson, and Freddie Jones. (The accompanying production, US, is about an American soldier "zappin' the [Viet] Cong" in the Vietnam War.)


In 1964, the play was translated by Geoffrey Skelton with lyric adaptation by Adrian Mitchell and staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Peter Brook directed a cast that included Ian Richardson as the herald, Clive Revill as Marat, Patrick Magee as de Sade, and Glenda Jackson as Charlotte Corday.

After two previews, the Broadway production opened on December 27, 1965 at the Martin Beck Theatre and ran for 145 performances. Richardson took over the role of Marat, while Magee and Jackson reprised the roles they had originated in London.

The play won the Tony Award for Best Play, and Brook was named Best Director. Additional awards went to Magee for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play and Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss for her Costume Design. Jackson lost the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play to Zoe Caldwell. It also won the 1966 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play.

In Australia, the play was directed by Edgar Metcalfe in 1966 at the Playhouse Theatre in Perth. It played for six weeks. The cast included Alan Lander as Marat, Eileen Colocott as Charlotte Corday. Other cast members included Peter Collingwood as the Marquis de Sade, James Beattie, Rosemary Barr, Peter Morris, Chris Johnson, Ken Gregory and Roland Rocchiccioli. The set was designed by Ted Dombowski.

Other notable productions[edit]

  • In October 1969, the Virginia Museum Theater (VMT) opened its season with the play under the direction of Keith Fowler, thus inaugurating Fowler's artistic directorship which established the first LORT company in Richmond and led to the period of VMT's national and international acclaim.[1] Marat/Sade was the first racially integrated company in VMT's history, and the community's response to the production expressed the controversy that Peter Weiss' script often generated in America's regional theaters: the two major Richmond newspapers published "rave reviews" in favor of the show, and at the same time the editor of the afternoon paper, the News Leader, attacked the production fiercely for evincing "latitudinarianism."[2]
  • In November 2000, Theatre of NOTE presented the play in Los Angeles, under the direction of Brad Mays, and utilizing a painstakingly reconstructed version of the original verse text[3][4] used by Peter Brook and the RSC in their legendary production.[5]
  • An all-male 2007 production of the play was presented at the Classical Theatre of Harlem in New York, under the direction of Christopher McElroen.[6]
  • In 2011, the Royal Shakespeare Company staged a revival of the play as part of the company's 50th anniversary celebrations. The revival was directed by Anthony Neilson and ran from the 14th October to the 11th November.[7]
  • In 2010, PK Productions staged a UK revival of the show at the AE Harris Warehouse in Birmingham. It was directed by Patrick Kennedy and ran throughout March.[8]

Film adaptation[edit]

Main article: Marat/Sade (film)

The 1967 film adaptation featured many of the original players, and utilized the long version of the play's name in its opening credits, although this was frequently shortened to Marat/Sade in publicity materials. The screenplay was written by Adrian Mitchell. Brook directed a cast that included Richardson, Magee, Jackson, Clifford Rose, and Freddie Jones.[9]

In the same year, the play was produced for West German ARD television, becoming the first German television play to be produced in colour [10]



  1. ^ Kass, Carole, "Play Prompts Praise..." in Richmond Times-Dispatch, Feb. 9, 1975
  2. ^ "The Thing at the Museum," Editorial Page Richmond News Leader, October 10, 1969
  3. ^
  4. ^ Los Angeles Magazine mention of the fully restored text & full orchestration - very few online reviews of this production remain. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  5. ^ Foley, F. Kathleen (November 24, 2000). "NOTE Troupe Takes On Challenge of 'Marat' (Review)". Los Angeles Times. 
  6. ^ Midgette, Anne (February 21, 2007). "Testing the Limits and Cost of Revolution". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ "Marat / Sade". RSC. 2011-11-05. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Variety review of the film". 2007-02-20. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  10. ^ 50 Jahre ARD, (accessed 30. December 2008).

Further reading

  • Weiss, Peter (1964). The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis De Sade (First ed.). London: John Calder. OCLC 229125614. 

External links[edit]