The Maids – 5

Oct 23rd, 2015

  • Watched a trailer of the Crucible
  • Shared individual (contextual) research on the Maids

The research was helpful enough to shape my initial idea on my own ‘the Maids’. I was introduced to lots of unknown concepts related to the Maids and the director through my peers.  Based on what my classmates researched, I was able to have a comprehensive analysis on the Maids.

Jean Genet, Fabrice Plas (The portrait of young Jean Genet by a Belgian artist Fabrice Plas well reflects Genet’s harsh reality and his dark adolescence.)

The author’s life

Genet’s dark childhood was the overriding factor that changed his entire life. He was a unwanted kid who were abandoned by his biological parents. He had to spend his adolescence at a reform school because of his morbidly habitual theft.  When Jean Genet started writing,  he was accused of theft again and incarcerated. His debut novel ‘Our Lady of the Flowers’ caught the attention of Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Satre, French revolutionists who had a significance impact on him.

Jean Genet - Le'nfant Criminel
Jean Genet – Le’nfant Criminel ( Jean Genet was a versatile artist. His prison-themed drawing may be the result of his self-experience as a prisoner.)

” Genet began to experiment with drama. His early attempts, by their compact, neoclassical, one-act structure, reveal the strong influence of Sartre. Les Bonnes(1947;The Maids), however, begins to explore the complex problems of identity that were soon to preoccupy other avant-garde dramatists such as Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco. With this play Genet was established as an outstanding figure in the Theatre of the Absurd.” – Britannica Dictionary

I was curious of the term ‘the Theatre of the Absurd‘, from Irene’s research on the theatre of Absurd I was able to know what it means to be the Theatre of the Absurd.


  • Irrational and illogical speech, repetitive or meaningless actions
  • often intended to outrage the audience
  • tragicomedy” : a combination of tragedy and comedy
  • Characters are situated in hopeless situations
  • In the denouement, the story is silenced. The ultimate conclusion is silence (Or “death” in the case of ‘The Maids,’ specifically)

Genet is said to be a pioneer in the theatre of absurd. On the other hand, Genet’s style was often defined as the Theatre of perverse.

” [As I was] . . . already affected by the sad gloom of a theatre which reflects too exactly the visible world; the actions of men and not of Gods, I strove to attain a shift which, permitting a declamatory tone, would carry the theatre towards the theatre, I would thus hope to attain the abolition of characters- which only remain as a custom of psychological convention-and the advancement of symbols as far removed as possible from those symbols which are primarily indicative, but which all the same ultimately re-unite the author and the spectator by this one bond. In brief, to attain that by which the characters become on stage no more than the metaphors of what they would represent.”

Jean Genet, Les Bonnes & L’Atelier d’Al- berto Giacometti (Paris, 1958), p. 144-

Political Conditions

Influenced by the French Revolution and two supporters (Cocteau and Satre) who actively engaged in the revolution, Jean Genet used theatre as politics. His plays often shocked the audience and raised skepticism regarding life, through actors’  meaningless action and story line.

Specific Social Conditions – the Papin Case

The Papin Case : The Maids has its basis on the famous Papin case: in 1933, two sisters, employed as maids, murdered their madame and daughter.

How are the conditions related to the production of the Maids?

One of Genet’s mental supporters, Jean-Paul Satre wrote that Genet wished male actors to act two maids. This was due to his philosophy that actors should be capable of acting , transcending all elements of the character (especially gender). In the Maids, he didn’t demand actresses to act maids, he wanted actors to act female maids. This also led him to place a massive emphasis on heightened language. He was a playwright who sought to employ French Rationalism [regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge] onstage .

My thoughts

I have realized that personal background and social conditions led him to resist the existing style of theatre and become an avant-garde dramatist.


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