The Respectful Prostitute

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Meg Mundy won a Theatre World Award for her performance in the play at the Cort Theatre in 1948.[1]

The Respectful Prostitute (French: La Putain respectueuse) is a French play by Jean-Paul Sartre, written in 1946, which observes a woman, a prostitute, caught up in a racially tense period of American history. The audience understands that there has been an incident on a train with said woman involved, but also a black man on whom the blame is laid by the prejudiced law enforcers. What comes to the viewer's realisation is that a white man instigated an attack, but it is in the interests of the law to preserve the perception of the white person at the expense of the black "devil".

The tale takes a brief look at the loss of freedom inside a cruel world, a subject that dominates Sartre's literary career. The play premiered in November 1946 at the Théâtre Antoine-Simone Berriau in Paris. When the play was produced in the United States, Sartre was accused of anti-Americanism.[2]

Sartre's play is believed to have been based on the infamous Scottsboro case, in which two white prostitutes accused nine black teenagers of rape on a train traveling through Alabama in 1931.[3]

The play was adapted in the film La Putain respectueuse (1952).


The play takes place in an American town in the South after the Civil War.[4] There is a room with white walls and a couch.[4] A window is located on the right and a bathroom door is located on the left.[4]


Lizzie — A white woman. She is a prostitute. While she does not wish to testify against the Negro in court, she is manipulated by the Senator into signing a confession. She wears a snake charm bracelet.

The Negro — A black man who is described as "tall" and "strapping" with white hair. He is married and has children. He is on the run because he has been accused of raping Lizzie.

Fred Clarke — A wealthy white man. The Senator's son. He asks Lizzie to testify against the Negro and accuse him of raping her, so that his cousin, Thomas, will not go to jail for shooting the black man who was with the Negro.

The Senator — Fred Clarke's father. He manipulates Lizzie into signing the confession.

Thomas — Fred Clarke's cousin. He killed the black man who was with the Negro.

Mary — Fred Clarke's wealthy aunt and Thomas's mother. She sends Lizzie $100 as a reward for testifying against the Negro.


The Respectful Prostitute explores the theme of racism in the American South in the 1940s.[5]


  1. ^ The Respectful Prostitute at the Internet Broadway Database
  2. ^ Steve Martinot, "Skin For Sale: Race and The Respectful Prostitute", in Jonathan Judaken (ed.), Race after Sartre: Antiracism, Africana Existentialism, Postcolonialism, State University of New York Press, 2008, p. 55.
  3. ^ Julien Murphy, "Sartre on American Racism", in Julie K. Ward, Tommy L. Lott (eds), Philosophers on Race: Critical Essays, Blackwell, 2002, p. 222.
  4. ^ a b c Sartre, Jean-Paul (1989). No Exit and Other Plays.
  5. ^ "Jean-Paul Sartre's The Respectful Prostitute (or The Friendly Whore): The Existentialist Construction or Racism". Literary Ramblings. Retrieved 2016-05-23.


No Exit (Huis Clos)
The Flies (Les Mouches)
Dirty Hands (Les Mains sales)
The Respectful Prostitute (La Putain respectueuse)