Page 1

LE TOOLKIT ENGAGE Lesson Plan 1 The French Revolution, A Primer 4 The Estates-General 8 The Debate 9 Estate Worksheets 10 Discussion Questions 16 EXPERIENCE Lady of the Libelles 17 From Riches to Rags 19 Interview with the Playwright 25 The Royal Retreat 27 Mots de Marie 29 ENRICH The 1%, Then and Now 31 The First Fashionista 35 A Death Device Debuts 37

Bienvenue! Welcome to Marie Antoinette! We are psyched to kick off our 2012-2013 season with an amazing world premiere from rising star playwright David Adjmi. As we enter election season, this chronicle of the rise and fall of history’s most notorious “1%-er” feels particularly immediate, as questions of economic disparity, social stratification and the burdens of democracy continue to persist today. In the official Marie Antoinette Educational Toolkit, you’ll find materials related to and inspired by the production, organized into three sections. ENGAGE contains an arts-integrated lesson plan presented step-by-step, with options to adapt or extend the lesson depending on your classroom needs. The other materials in this section serve to support the lesson plan. EXPERIENCE includes information on the play itself, to help you and your students get the most out of your trip to the A.R.T. Finally, the materials in ENRICH will help you delve deeper into the world of the production, or support extension activities for your students. As always, A.R.T. Teaching Artists are on-hand to help facilitate the Marie Antoinette lesson plan in your classroom. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the A.R.T. Education and Community Programs department to schedule classroom support, or to discuss other ways to collaborate this season. Hope to see you at the theater soon! Cordialement, The A.R.T. Education Staff


Lesson Plan Objectives Students will gain a fundamental knowledge of the events leading up to and of the French Revolution of 1789. Students will engage in guided and respectful oral debate, roleplaying the 1789 convening of the French Estates-General. Students will use this experience to better understand their role as citizens today. Students will gain background knowledge to engage more fully in the theatrical experience of Marie Antoinette at the A.R.T.

Connections to Massachusetts Guiding Principles Guiding Principle 1: An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum develops thinking and language together through interactive learning. Guiding Principle 4: An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum develops students’ oral language and literacy through appropriately challenging learning. Guiding Principle 5: An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum emphasizes writing arguments, explanatory/informative texts, and narratives. Guiding Principle 9: An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum nurtures students’ sense of their common ground as present or future American citizens and prepares them to participate responsibly in our schools and in civic life.

Materials Marie Antoinette Educational Toolkit


Engage Procedure Day One:


Lead a short brainstorming session to activate students’ prior knowledge of the French Revolution, French History, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Discuss actual history vs. perception/representation.


Read “The Estates-General,” “Riches to Rags,” and “Dueling Timelines” from the Marie Antoinette toolkit.


Conduct a discussion based upon the students’ revised understanding of the political climate in the years leading to the French Revolution.

4. Break students into three groups. ¼ of the class will be assigned to First Estate (Clergy), ¼ to the Second Estate (Nobility) and ½ to the Third Estate (Commoners). 5.

Pass out “The First Estate” worksheet to the members of the First Estate; “The Second Estate” to members of the Second Estate; and “The Third Estate” to members of the Third Estate. Have each group review “Getting Ready for the Debate.” Direct each group to discuss the three issues as outlined in their worksheet, and to begin strategizing a proposal to suit their Estate’s needs.

Homework (optional): Read excerpts from Simon Schama’s Citizens (available from the A.R.T. on request).


Engage Procedure Day Two: 6. Ask the class to join their respective groups. Review “Topics and Procedure for Debate.” Do some last minute strategizing and agreeing on a proposal for each topic. 7.

Conduct the debates! The teacher or a teaching artist should moderate the Estates-General as King Louis XVI—try infusing a bias towards the nobility and see how this influences the debate. Does it make the commoners feel even more unrepresented?


Once the debates are concluded, have a discussion on the process and outcome of the Estates-General. Here are some example questions:

a. Was there ever a consensus on the right course of action? Why or why not? b. Was there Revolution? How else did your conclusions alter (or reaffirm) the course of history? c. Did you feel like you, as an individual, had a voice in the debate? Did you feel like your group was being adequately heard? d. Was your group able to achieve a favorable outcome? Why or why not?

Extension Activities • Explore the similarities between the political and economic climate of 18th century France and 21st century America. Why is revolution on everyone’s minds nowadays? • In what ways does this play reflect a modern sensibility about the events presented? In what ways does this represent historical events and characters, and in what ways is it an adaptation/interpretation/re-imagining? What are reasons for taking iconographic figures and re-looking at them? • Look at David Adjmi’s body of work. In what ways is he exploring and experimenting with theatrical construction and convention?



The French Revolution A Primer

The Ancien Régime: The political system in France from the 15th through 18th centuries under the Valois and Bourbon kings. Ranging from absolute monarchy to times of local privilege, the ancien régime officially came to an end during the French Revolution.

The Three Estates at 1789 First Estate The Clergy – The approximately 10,000 members of the Catholic Church (higher clergy) and 120,000 (lower clergy) made up of monks, nuns and parish priests). They owned between 5-10% of the land in the country; the highest per capita of the three Estates, as they were only about 0.5% of the population. All of their property was tax exempt.

Second Estate-Nobility The Nobility – Roughly 400,000 people, including women and children. They virtually had a monopoly on government positions, public office, and honors. This included those who were royal, though not the King, as well as those who became noble through military position, family/given position, or purchased position. Approximately 2% of the population at this time.

Third Estate-Commons The Commons – This estate was comprised of urban bourgeoisie, wage-laborers, artisans and rural agrarians; in sum, anyone who did not fit into the other two estates. The Third Estate was roughly 98% of the population in 1789. Made the least, yet paid the most in taxes.



The Estates-General of 1789 In 1789, due to massive debt, Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates-General, with representation from all three Estates. The Estates-General, which functioned as a consulting body for the King, had not been called since 1614. The Estates-General existed since the 1300s as an advisory group for the King when he saw it fit to have their advice; the Estates-General had no official power in their own right. They were called intermittently from the 1300s – 1614, and then again to meet in 1789. Louis XVI called the meeting in order to discuss the financial situation of France. Originally voted on by the parlement of Paris that the Estates would have as many representatives as they did in 1614. A great political debate ensued, and Jacques Necker, Louis XVI’s Director-General of Finance, persuaded the royals, against the opinion of the Notables’ (i.e. nobility) that the Third Estate would have double the representation; this was announced on December 27, 1788. Saturday, May 2, 1789, King Louis XVI greeted the deputies of the Clergy and Nobility, First and Second Estates, respectively, in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. The representatives of the Third Estate were ushered past Louis XVI and his brothers, the Comte de Provence and Comte d’Artois, in another apartment. The official meetings began on May 5th. Although the Third Estate was granted double representation, they were all informed that voting would be based on Estate, not on “by head,” likely leaving them outnumbered. Debates and meetings lasted through May, with the only outcome being that the Third Estate sought to persuade members of the clergy to join their cause.



The Tennis-Court Oath June 20, 1789

On June 17, 1789, The Third Estate voted, 491 to 89, to rename themselves the National Assembly; some members of the clergy joined at this time. Pressed by the Queen and by his family to make a stand against the revolutionary behaviour of the Third Estate, the King had decided to hold a meeting of all three orders, a séance royale, presided over by himself, and to announce that the actions of the Commons (i.e. Third Estate) were illegal. In the meantime they and the clergy must be prevented from meeting. “But, undeterred by the locked doors of their hall, and at the suggestion of Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotin, one of the Paris deputies, most of the members of the National Assembly hurried off to an indoor tennis-court nearby.” (Hibbert, The Days of the French Revolution, 59). Some historians say that the door to the meeting room was still locked as Louis XVI was not finished mourning the loss of his son, and that tradition dictated that meetings be postponed until the mourning was finished. This was June 20, 1789. Here they vowed to continue meeting until a constitution was created; this is known as the Tennis-Court Oath. They declared that they couldn’t be given orders anymore. On June 27, most of the clergy and 47 members of the nobility joined the National Assembly; they demanded that Louis must agree to meet with all three orders, and if not, a mob of 30,000 would storm the palace. Without another option, Louis XVI had to concede, and ordered that remaining clergy and nobility join the National Assembly. Thus, the very beginnings of the Revolution were accomplished without bloodshed. The National Assembly now went about the business of creating a constitution. The King, afraid of his loss of control, called up 16 regiments of army troops to Paris and Versailles. This increased the atmosphere of tension and riots broke out more frequently in Paris. “There were increasingly frequent outbreaks of violence, a military prison was invaded by the mob, passers-by who declines to declare their support of the Third Estate were attacked in the streets. As the price of bread rose, there were riots in protest against the land-owners, tithe-owners and merchants who were held responsible.” (Hibbert, The Days of the French Revolution, 63).



The Storming of the Bastille July 14, 1789

Rumors circulated throughout the night that thousands of troops were on the march to Paris. Electors at the Hôtel de Ville begin barricading the area. Few people owned guns at this point, so in order to fortify their barricade, a mob of around 60,000 moved to the Invalides and demanded that they be supplied with arms. The Governor of the Invalides refused to arm them without instructions to do so from Versailles. The Governor went out to explain this to the mob, but could not be heard. As he returned inside the crowds rushed the building. The guards at the Invalides refused to open fire, and the 5,000 troops at the Champ de Mars nearby also refused to move. The commanding officers told Baron de Besenval, the Royal Commander, that their troops refused to march and that they were more inclined to join the rioters unless they were withdrawn from Paris. The crowd successfully stormed the Invalides and took 28,000 muskets and 10 cannons. Unfortunately, they did not find enough cartridges and powder, so they turned to the Bastille to obtain these supplies. The Bastille was a state prison that held men arrested for lettres de cachet rather than an offense punishable by common law. Legends abounded about what life and treatment was like in the Bastille. Simon Linguet, a lawyer and journalist who was imprisoned there wrote a particularly notable account with his Memoires sur la Bastille. They were released when he was in 1782. Although rather sensationalized, they told the tale of ‘the man in the iron mask,’ as well as the imprisonment of Voltaire and others. In reality, the Bastille was the least unpleasant of Parisian prisons at this point in its history. The prisoners were fed, it was not overcrowded, and the dreaded dungeons had not been used in years. There were only 7 prisoners there at this moment, none of them political nor important. The Governor of the Bastille, the Marquis de Launay, fortified the Bastille in anticipation of the coming mob as he did indeed have the 250 barrels of powder that the mob was looking for. Members of the garrison agreed to let in a delegation to discuss their demands, but the rest of the mob were ordered to disperse. The garrison, also known as Invalides, was ready to accept the terms. But de Launay insisted it was a trick on the part of the mob and delegates. Cannons were aimed at the mob and a volley of fire killed three members of the delegation. Many members of the garrison joined the mob in storming the Bastille at this point; three of the invalides and three of de Launay’s staff were killed, as was de Launay, whose head was put on a spike. The French Revolution had officially begun. Over the next 5 years, the people of France would fight to topple the Ancien Régime—and succeed, but at the cost of tens of thousands of lives.


Engage Welcome Frenchmen! You have been called to:

The Estates-General

This body will convene to develop a mutually agreeable platform on which to solve France’s deep financial crisis.

A History of the Estates-General: Pope v. King Fight! The first Estates-General was simply a meeting of Frenchmen from provinces and localities throughout France. The monarch at the time, King Philip IV, was embroiled in a conflict with Pope Boniface VIII. Philip wanted to tax the clergy without papal consent. The Pope vehemently disagreed. These meetings with local leaders and lay people served as part political rally, part 14th century megaphone for the king to justify his position, and part fundraiser. Philip eventually won out against the Pope and the Estates-General became a vehicle for consensus building. Too many cooks in the kitchen By the mid 14th century two things happened: firstly the Estates-General became a defined body consisting of the clergy (First Estate), nobility (Second Estate), and common people (Third Estate) -each with their own vote on financial and administrative matters. Secondly, it became clear that the body was too unwieldy and the king’s power too absolute to affect much real change. Rather it remained a body called only during times of crisis to build consensus throughout the country. Remember 175 years ago? About that... The last meeting before Louis XVI called the Estates-General was in 1614. The body met at the behest of King Louis XIII to resolve a tax dispute (surprise!). No action was taken as the deep divisions of the Estates became clear. France’s final estate At the suggestion of the popular finance minister Jacques Necker, King Louis XVI called the Estates-General to convene on May 5, 1789. The Third Estate, while mostly poor, did consist of some wealthy merchants and tradesmen. Initially, this made it difficult to agree on anything, but their mutual mistreatment at the hands of the monarchy brought them together in time for the meeting. To appease the Third Estate, who made up about 98% of France’s population at the time, Louis granted them 600 representatives –double the representation of the First and Second Estates. Despite this, each Estate still only received one vote, allowing the closely allied First and Second Estate to cancel out the will of the Third. While the Estates-General was convened in the name of consensus and peace, the stage was set for outrage and revolt.




Learn as much as you can about your Estate. Create a character that you’ll represent in the debate—a profession, a little backstory, perhaps even the geographical region that you represent. Are you a disgruntled dairy farmer from the South of France?


From your perspective, what are the problems with France? How do they affect your livelihood?


What has your Estate, city/town or professional guild done (if anything) to combat these issues?


What do you think the other Estates will propose?


What is most important to you as a member of French society? Safety? Prosperity? A voice in the government?


How do the positions of the members of the other Estates affect you?


Is there any historical evidence or statistics that will help persuade the other Estates to accept your proposal? TOPICS AND PROCEDURE FOR DEBATE

1. First, students will meet in groups based on their Estate and create a proposal to address the economic crisis is France; the proposal must be geared toward benefiting their respective Estate. 2.

All three Estates present their proposals to the class. Choose a spokesperson to represent your Estate.


Structured debate based on proposals presented, with the opportunity for other Estates to suggest amendments. Please raise your hand, citizen. Louis XVI (the moderator) will call on you to speak.


Gather each Estate together and agree to vote YEA or NAY on the three proposals. Vote! Remember, each Estate can only cast ONE VOTE for an entire group of people. In the event of a tie, Louis XVI casts the deciding vote.


Repeat steps 3 – 4 for the other topics of the day.


Once all topics have been sufficiently debated, hold a closing discussion. Use the “Discussion Questions” in the Toolkit as a guide.


Engage Greetings, Citizen! You are a member of:

The Third Estate

You make up about 98% of the entire French population. You are farmers, artisans, tailors, and city laborers. You are the merchants without status, the working people of France, and the skilled tradesmen who keep France’s economy going! Your Situation The First Estate has done a royal job of mismanaging your tax money. France is buried in debt from heavy financial support of the American Revolutionary War and the lavish spending of the Monarchy; especially that of your shameless Queen, Marie Antoinette. To bridge that budget gap, King Louis XVI has levied even more taxes on the Third Estate while continuing to let the First and Second Estates get by tax-free. Widespread drought has caused the price of grain to skyrocket across France. It is time for you to act and make your voices heard! + You have the right to own property, work within your estate, live in France - You have no right to vote, elect representatives of any sort, write or pass laws, official freedom of press and speech, assemble peaceably, bear arms, oppose unreasonable search and seizure of property, speedy and public trial The Issues I. The Economy Objective: Relieve the unsustainably heavy tax burden you pay and push for more representation and civil rights. Come up with a solution to the economic crisis that will satisfy your objective. You might tax the wealthy and lower your own taxes, redistribute all the land owned by nobles and clergy, or even go to war to claim lands that are more fertile. What might these new policies look like? What are the pros and cons of each? Discuss and write your platform below:

II. Marie Antoinette Objective: Completely or partially limit the Queen’s ability to use the French treasury as her own personal checkbook. Get her outlandish behavior in check.


Engage II. Marie Antoinette (continued) You take the libelles filling the streets as truth. They tell the story of a queen out of control (see “Lady of the Libelles” in the toolkit). Think about what restrictions should be put on the Queen. Do you want to relegate her to simply be a figurehead? Will you give her an allowance to impress foreign diplomats? If so how much? Should you cut her service staff or sell off her beloved getaway, Petit Trianon? Should she be forced to hold public court to cut down on rumors and gossip? Think about these restrictions in terms of the economy and the symbolism of constraining the queen.

III. System of Government Objective: Choose a system of government that will grant you the rights you deserve and give you some say in the running of the country. Absolute Monarchy The current system, where the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government. Constitutional Monarchy

A hybrid system where the monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution. The distribution of powers, such as voting rights and the role of Parliament, is determined by the constitution.


Eligible citizens have an equal say in decisions that affect their lives. Citizens can participate equally in the proposal, development and creation of laws.

Is the current system broken? If not, how could it be made to work? If you go for a democracy, what is an “eligible citizen”? Remember, achieving democracy will require revolt, costing thousands of lives and hefty sums of money. But if you can convince members of the other Estates to renounce their wealth and status and join the Third Estate, your Revolution stands a chance. At the end of the debate, if the members of the Third Estate are MORE THAN THE OTHER TWO ESTATES COMBINED, you win...and democracy is born in France.


Engage Welcome good lords, ladies, dukes, and duchesses. You were born into:

The Second Estate

You are the wealthy, the famous, the powerful 2%. You rule France with impunity. You operate a feudal economy and own 70% of land. While the King is not officially a member, you make up his advisers, his patrons, his financiers, and his court. Your Situation Being at the top has its perks. You pay no taxes and you write the law of the land. Almost everyone who is at all educated belongs to your estate. After all, this is a time where simply being able to read is a status symbol. Unfortunately, with great power comes great responsibility, and most of the country doesn’t think you’ve been very responsible. The public is outraged at the excessive spending and showy parties of nobility. The Estates-General is the perfect place to let the public feel heard and subtly remind them who’s really in charge. The Issues I. The Economy Objective: Let the other Estates know that you’re in control and you’re working to fix the economic crisis. Do so without agreeing to new taxes on your estate. How can you maintain power and take action to solve the crisis? Perhaps you nominate a new finance minister. Maybe you risk the first estate’s ire by taking away their special tax exempt status. What actions will make you appear like you’re addressing the problem, without really changing the balance of power? Write these below.

II. Marie Antoinette Objective: Put a stop to the rampant gossip and illicit pamphlets being circulated by the Third Estate. Make it clear that the libelles are lies. Freedom of press, while not explicitly law, has existed in practice since King Louis XVI took the crown.


Engage II. Marie Antoinette (continued) How can you rein in the lies and slander of the Third Estate in without creating outrage? Do you ask nicely? If you do the press probably won’t agree. You might trade new taxes on the First Estate in exchange for new laws limiting the press. Write your ideas at the top of the next page.

III. System of Government Objective: Keep the balance of power as it is. Any shift would mean less control for you and your people. The current system, where the monarch exercises Absolute Monarchy ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government. Constitutional Monarchy

A hybrid system where the monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution. The distribution of powers, such as voting rights and the role of Parliament, is determined by the constitution.


Eligible citizens have an equal say in decisions that affect their lives. Citizens can participate equally in the proposal, development and creation of laws.

The current system is built for your benefit. It’s how things have always been and it’s worked for you thus far. Can you give the Third Estate more rights or privileges while also maintaining your own? How can you assert your power and pacify the people? If things get ugly, do you take a hard line and use the military to enforce your rule or do you try to be more diplomatic? You can choose to give up your fame and fortune to join the Third Estate and fight for the common man. Can you moderate your platform or should you simply join the Third Estate? Write your platform below.


Engage Good day, clergymen. You are walking the path of:

The First Estate

You are the monks, abbots, and priests who administer France’s massive Catholic majority. You own about 15% of the land, make up about 0.5% of the population, and pay no taxes. Your leadership is routinely plucked from French nobility, forging a powerful alliance. Your situation Your unique position of influence in France as the spiritual leaders of the country puts you in a difficult position. Practically speaking, many of your rank have acquired a great deal of wealth. The Pope in Rome is in frequent contact with the King and the Second Estate has benefitted handily as a result. But you’re split between the idea of equal rights, being championed by the Third Estate, and the stable tradition (and cash flow) of the Monarchy. To further complicate things, public scandal and corruption has marred your recent interactions with the monarchy, making for some embarrassing headlines. The Issues I. The Economy Objective: Preserve your special status as being completely tax exempt and keep the ability to levy taxes on those who occupy your lands. Alleviate tension. Could you suggest nobility pay taxes? If you do, the monarchy may take away your special rights. But if there is a revolution then the third estate may have that power. Is it as simple as who gets taxed and who doesn’t? Decide on a solution that at least maintains your economic privilege and write it below.

II. Marie Antoinette Objective: Distance yourself from the queen as much as possible. While she is part of the allied second estate, she’s also a deeply unpopular figure and is unfortunately associated with corruption in the church.


Engage II. Marie Antoinette (continued) Do you propose specific restrictions such as an allowance for the queen, and risk angering your wealthy patrons? Maybe you sit back and see what the other two sides propose and go from there. Think about the politics of the situation and which side you want to appear supportive of. Write your plan on the top of the next page.

III. System of Government Objective: Choose a system of government that will allow you to maintain your special place in society without tarnishing the church’s good name. Absolute Monarchy The current system, where the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government. Constitutional Monarchy

A hybrid system where the monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution. The distribution of powers, such as voting rights and the role of Parliament, is determined by the constitution.


Eligible citizens have an equal say in decisions that affect their lives. Citizens can participate equally in the proposal, development and creation of laws.

Is the current system working for you? If so, how can it be made to work for everyone? If you pick a Constitutional Monarchy, could you push to mandate your privilege in society? If you go for a democracy, which fits your religious beliefs about equality, how do you define an “eligible citizen”? Keep in mind your deep roots with the Second Estate. You can choose to disagree with your Estate and join the Third Estate, sacrificing privilege for the common man. How can you make your voices heard?



Discussion Questions For those long post-Toolkit talks.

• How does the U.S. Congress resemble the Estates-General? How does Congress strive to represent American citizens fairly? • Divisions based on class persist to this day and religion remains a powerful force around the globe. If the Estates-General were held today, which three segments of society’s stakeholders would be called? Would it still roughly break down to the wealthy, the holy, and everyone else? You can focus on one country or think about the world as a whole. • Wealth wasn’t the only qualifier for membership in the second estate. You had to be born into nobility. Moreover, it was impossible to achieve the rights and status of a noble if you weren’t born into it. Where in the world is this still the case? How does this relate to the idea of social mobility and the American dream? • If you had to pick one person alive today who embodies a modern day Marie Antoinette, who would it be? Why? • In pre-Revolution France, one was almost always stuck in the class and occupation they were born into? How has it stayed the same? • The National Assembly was formed to combat a system that its members believed had failed their nation. Is the Occupy Movement or the Tea Party a modern-day National Assembly? Why or why not? • Driven by fear and instability, the Jacobins of France became an increasingly radical and violent subset of revolutionary forces in France. How and why does revolution often depart from its ideals? • If said today, how would Marie’s misappropriated quote “Let them eat cake” change? Let them get smartphones? Siri, where can I get cake?



Lady of the Libelles

A sampling of “headlines” that a typical 18th century French citizen might be reading in the tabloids of their day.

For much of King Louis XVI’s reign the press was officially censored. Critique of the monarchy was publicly condemned and independent presses were supposed to be suppressed. The reality of the matter was a different story. A huge number of small presses flooded Paris with the latest gossip on the King and Queen – they were the Brangelina of their time, after all. These pamphlets were more often based on titillating assumptions and outright lies than on proven fact. As public outrage mounted, these halfsheets or libelles, spread a potent mix of blame and fear among the French public. This contributed heavily to the unpopularity of the monarchy and the fever of revolution.

Louis gives Ma r ie the mistress ’s mansion. Is tha t all she is to h im Marie won’t even let the King in her private palace. Who does she open her doors for?


Swede on the side? The King is not the Queen’s only lover! (Rumors about the new queen’s sex life made for some of the best headlines. Marie most likely did have an affair with Swedish diplomat Axel von Fersen; the press used their imagination to pen the scandalous details of Marie’s boudoir.)


Engage (Numerous libelles mocked the royal family for taking 8 years to have a child. As misogyny was rampant in 18th century France, most of the blame was laid at the feet of the queen.) Mar

ie Antoinette is barren! The King is impotent! End of Royal line imminent .

The “King” is still a boy. Still no heir to the throne!

(Misinformation pervaded the Diamond Necklace affair. A con woman impersonating a relative of Marie convinced a wealthy cardinal to buy her a supremely expensive necklace. When she forged Marie’s signature while signing for it, the Queen was wrongly implicated and the press went wild.)

Marie spends half of Fren ch treasury on a diamond necklace.

ch in more ur ch e th h it w d be in en ue Q e th Is eep with? sl e sh ’T N O W ho W e? on an th s way

(The libelles circulated during the revolution continued to target the queen while taking on an increasingly paranoid and hostile tone towards the monarchy. When finally put on trial, Marie Antoinette was charged with a number of vile crimes, including molesting her own son and plotting to murder Louis. Most of these accusations were inspired by the baseless reports of the libelles.)

wn o r u O : d e y a r t e b e Franc n to King and Queen pla le destroy their peop Queen violates the dignity of h er own son. Trial imminent. Antoinette conspires with her royal Austrian roots to in vade France and oppress revolu tion! 18


From Riches to Rags The Spectacularly Public Life of Marie Antoinette

First things first: she never said it. “Let them eat cake,” as a phrase, existed long before Marie Antoinette became France’s most celebrated and controversial queen, and throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was attributed to essentially any princess who appeared aloof from the poor – which was every princess. Marie led a decadent and pampered lifestyle, but she was ultimately more clueless than cruel. Her existence was comfortable, controlled, isolated, and carefully managed –until, all of a sudden, it wasn’t anymore.

She never said it. “Let them eat cake.”

The World She Was Born In

Her daughters were tools.

Marie was born in 1755, a daughter of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa – the fifteenth of sixteen children, eleven of them girls. The empress, probably the most powerful woman in Europe, spun a series of complex political alliances and cemented those alliances with promises of marriage. Her daughters were tools, sharpened by governesses and teachers of courtly arts so that they could be shipped to Europe’s various kings and dukes as living links between the Austrian Empire and its allies.

Thus, from her very early childhood Marie’s persona and behavior were carefully crafted – she took well to dancing and singing especially, but was resistant to reading and writing, and her governesses tended to finish her homework for her. She was, in fact, notoriously poor at French, at that time the language of European politics and aristocracy. She was by no means stupid; rather, she could easily get by without doing very much, and so that was the path she followed.



The Royal Wedding Throughout the 1760s Marie’s sisters either died of smallpox or were married off, and she became, essentially by default, her mother’s choice to marry the French dauphin, Louis Auguste. Painstaking negotiations preceded the marriage agreement; the two sides settled on a dowry of 200,000 florins (roughly $3.5 million today), but the French court notably insisted that Marie undergo oral surgeries to correct her unacceptably crooked teeth. The very idea of the future French king marrying an Austrian aroused considerable suspicions in France, where Austria was considered a natural enemy;. the two countries shared little more than a mutual enmity towards Prussia. Maria Teresa wore down the opposition eventually, and in May 1770, her youngest daughter was handed over to the French court on a neutral island in the middle of the Rhine River, symbolically removing her Austrian clothing and donning the elaborate dress of Versailles.

From Austria with Love Marie was fifteen years old, and would never see her mother again. Maria Theresa’s influence over her daughter’s behavior did not diminish with distance. Marie arrived to court with a set of highly specific instructions from the Empress, including a detailed breakdown of her morning routine:

When you wake up, you will immediately upon arising go through your morning prayers on your knees and read some religious text, even if it is only for six or seven minutes, without concerning yourself about anything else or speaking to anyone. […] You must be very strict about this, for it depends on you alone, and your temporal and spiritual happiness may depend upon it. The Empress informed the new dauphine that the whole set of instructions (known as the reglements, or “rules”) were to be reread once a month. Maria Theresa supplemented the information she received from Marie’s regular letters with secret reports about her behavior that were sent by the Austrian minister to France.



Life at Versailles

Life at Versailles was unimaginably public.

Courtly life at Versailles was spectacularly, almost unimaginably, public. Anybody appropriately dressed was welcome to watch the royals eat dinner; men required swords for entry, but these could be borrowed at the palace gates by anyone who forgot his at home. Even more ostensibly private routines, like the daily toilette (morning preparations), were elaborate rituals necessitating a vast array of servants. Marie could not put on her underwear without an audience; indeed, she could not put it on at all without a courtier first presenting it to her. “I put on my rouge and wash my hands in front of the whole world,” she wrote to her mother in 1773. Marie was officially presented to the French public three years after her marriage to Louis, in a festive ceremony in Paris.

Everybody Loves(?) Marie She immediately entranced the crowds; when it was time to return to Versailles, the crush of nearly 200,000 onlookers paralyzed her for an hour. “What touched me the most,” she wrote her mother, was “the tenderness and eagerness of the poor people, who, in spite of the taxes which oppress them, were carried away with joy on seeing us […] How lucky we are, in our position, to win the friendship of an entire people so cheaply.” The friendship she described would soon turn, shockingly and inexorably, into virulent mistrust.

“How lucky we are to win the friendship of an entire people so cheaply.” -Marie 21


A not-so-Petit Trianon The death of Louis XV, in 1774, elevated the Dauphin to the throne; he became Louis XVI, and Marie fully assumed the role of the queen. She was not initially interested in political power, and contentedly planned and carried out endless decorations and redecorations of her personal palace, the Petit Trianon. A relatively small chateau on the grounds of Versailles built in the reign of Louis’ father, Trianon became Marie’s intimate escape from the taxing formalities of courtly life – although she never went quite so far as to transform it into an ersatz pastoral landscape, as we see in Adjmi’s play. She became a fashion icon, starting the trend of the “pouf” – a towering mass of hair extravagantly decorated with miniature objects. Her chief pleasure was gambling, on one occasion playing for three straight days leading up to her 21st birthday.

Trianon became Marie’s intimate escape.

Queen of the Tabloids

She became a fashion icon

Her behavior did not cause the enormous French debt which was itself the principal factor in revolution – the costs of various wars, including the support of the American rebellion in the late 1770s, must shoulder the majority of the blame for that – but nonetheless the French public began to sour on her. Largely due to the royal couple’s difficulty conceiving an heir, libelous and pornographic pamphlets began to appear in the streets of Paris.


Experience The Marie of the pamphlets possessed a voracious sexual appetite which her husband could not satisfy, driving her to seek pleasure from hundreds of male and female courtiers and attendants. Throughout the 1780s, as the French financial situation deteriorated and increasingly exorbitant taxes were levied, public opinion towards the monarchy and towards Marie in particular continued to degenerate. Upon her arrival in France, she had been called with some affection L’Autrichienne, “The Austrian woman”; now the nickname devolved into L’autre-chienne, “the other b@#$*,” as her foreign status and supposed promiscuity trumped her elegance.

A crowd attacked.

The French public began to sour on her. When things finally fell apart, they fell apart quickly.

The End of the Monarchy When things finally fell apart, they fell apart quickly. Parisian mobs stormed the Bastille in July 1789; in August the National Assembly introduced a constitution; in October a crowd attacked Versailles and forced the royal family to move to Paris, where they were placed under house arrest in the palace of the Tuileries. The King, the Queen, and their children would remain there for two years, until a hopelessly botched escape attempt in 1791 allowed the revolutionaries to begin the process of dismantling the monarchy in earnest.


Experience Louis clung to his title until September 1792, and in December of that year was put on trial for treason. He was beheaded in January 1793. Throughout this terrifying, vertiginous four-year period, Marie was essentially helpless; she never seemed to completely grasp the gravity of the situation, writing to a friend after the failed escape that “We are in view of our guards day and night; I’m indifferent to it…Be calm, nothing will happen to me.”

Mobs stormed the Bastille in July 1789.

But once Louis had been disposed of, there was no hope for her. She was given a two-day trial, at which she was accused, among much else, of secretly funneling money to Austria and of having an incestuous relationship with her son – behaviors directly lifted from the defamatory pamphlets which had been circulating for a decade. In October 1793, the crowds which had met her with adoration twenty years earlier now gathered to witness her public beheading. Her last words were “I did not do it on purpose.” She was not speaking of her role, however large or small it was, in the downfall of the extraordinarily privileged monarchical system in which she had participated essentially since birth. Rather, she was speaking to her executioner; upon mounting the guillotine platform, she’d accidentally stepped on his foot.

Oblivious Until Oblivion Indeed, France’s last queen continues to entrance us, in large part of her ambiguous and poignant place in history – her extravagance appears cruel with the benefit of historical hindsight, but it might be more accurately thought of as oblivious, and in many ways, obliviousness is far more pitiable than true malice.

Eli Keehn was the A.R.T. Literary/Dramaturgy intern during the 2011-2012 season. He now teaches at The Cambridge School of Weston in Weston, MA.



Interview with the Playwright A.R.T. Dramaturg Ryan McKittrick interviews Marie Antoinette playwright David Adjmi on the upbringing, excesses, and demise of the Queen.

“Adjmi is clearly a writer with a distinct voice, style and amibtion.” -Variety “3C by David Adjmi is the best play I’ve seen all year... It’s absolutely outstanding Theatre.” -New York Theatre Review “Nearly everything about David Adjmi’s Stunning has an original ring to it, from the setting... to the brassy bleat of dialogue.” -Time Out New York Ryan McKittrick: I had always thought this play was a response to the recession, so I was surprised to learn that you wrote it in 2006. David Adjmi: It’s pathetically more relevant now that it was when I wrote it during the Bush Administration. RM: What drew you to Marie Antoinette? DA: I think of her as someone who is striving for a kind of integrity, but she doesn’t necessarily have the tools or the compass to know what the criteria are for that integrity. And I think that idea very much fits into my body of work. I remember showing the play to my agent at the time, and she said, “Oh my God, that’s Richard II.” And I remember looking at Richard II and seeing the parallels. Marie learns to become a queen when it’s already too late. RM: So Marie Antoinette learns something by the end of your play? DA: She’s beginning to understand that she doesn’t know anything, and she’s beginning to understand the vastness of this domain of the unknown. DA (continued): Or maybe there are things that she knew, but wasn’t sensitized to. She says, “Countess Brandeiss always let me skip my homework.” They were very lax with her.

She was misunderstood 25

Experience DA (continued): She was kind of sold off and married very young, which was part of these political machinations. And she just went along with it, like we all do sometimes in life. What she went through was horrible. It’s sort of like if Paris Hilton were imbued with tremendous subjectivity all of a sudden and could see what she’s doing. RM: Do you feel sorry for Marie Antoinette? DA: I do. I feel like she was misunderstood. I don’t know how much of it I invented, but when I was writing the play I felt that I communed with Marie Antoinette. I know that sounds crazy, but it really was a strange experience writing it. I have a lot of empathy for her, and a lot of love for her. I don’t think she knew what the hell was going on. She was part of this vast machinery that she didn’t create.

There’s something that needs to tumble, and I think it’s going to happen. I do believe there is a certain historical progress. It’s slow, but I think we’re seeing it. RM: What has it been like to work on this play during the Occupy Wall Street movement? DA: It’s been surreal. Absolutely crazy. The tremors of this earthquake started a long time ago. There’s something that needs to tumble, and I think it’s going to happen. I do believe there is a certain kind of historical progress. It’s slow, but I think we’re seeing it. David Adjmi is a reciplient of the 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Kesselring Prize for Drama, the Steinberg Playwright Award, and the Bush Artists Fellowship. Marie Antoinette was developed at Sundance, the Public, and the Goodman Theatre. The World Premier of the play will open the American Repertory Theater’s 2012-2013 season.



The Royal Retreat

Petit Trianon -Marie’s palace away from (her other) palace. When Marie Antoinette wasn’t attending to her usual queenly duties of entertaining royal guests or holding court, she enjoyed the privacy of her home away from home, The Petit Trianon. The retreat sported extensive gardens, a pond, and even a small theater for amateur productions conceived by the queen and her friends.

Le Hameau de la Reine Marie had part of the grounds converted into a fantastical rustic village called Le Hameau de la Reine in 1783. It was complete with dairy cows, a poultry yard, and a lavish farm house. She would visit Hameau with her cotarie and where they pretended to be farmers for the day. Of course Marie was more concerned with perfuming the sheep and tying ribbons on the cows than actually tending to the livestock. She had actual farmers to do the caretaking.



Architecure in Transit Constructed between 17621768, the building itself was designed by the most famous architect of his generation Ange-Jacques Gabriel. It stands as a fine example of the transition between the typically ornate Rococo style of the early 18th century and the more refined Neoclassical style emerging towards the later half. Marie hired Richard Mique to redesign the gardens to fit the “English” style endorsed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose other writings would ironically inspire the French Revolution.

From Mistress to Marie Inspired by his own private getaway, Grand Trianon, King Louis XV had this miniature palace built for his mistress Madame de Pompadour. When Louis XVI claimed the throne in 1775 he regifted it to his newly minted Queen who immediately commissioned extensive renovations of the grounds and the Chateau. Her ownership of the property was absolute: even the King had to be invited to dinner. That control came at a cost however; Marie’s expensive pet projects at the estate came to infuriate the public, and the seclusion of the Petit Trianon allowed nasty rumors to gain traction.



Mots de Marie

“Mots” is French for “Words”. Below is a comprehensive glossary of the verbiage in Adjmi’s play Marie Antoinette abattoir- n. french for slaughterhouse. i.e. what France becomes after the play. apostate- n. a person who forsakes his religion, cause, party. Louis refuses to give up his crown... until he loses his mind. Literally. apotheosis- n. the elevation or exaltation of a person to the rank of a god; the epitome; quintessence. arrondissement- n. an administrative district of certain large cities in France. comportment- n. personal bearing or conduct; demeanor; behavior. Example: “When I see a show at the A.R.T. I have a quiet and polite comportment.” cosset- n. a pet lamb. This was pre-Poodles. dauphin- n. the eldest son of the king of France. Also means dolphin. Hmm... delectation- n. delight; enjoyment. effigy- n. a representative image, especially sculptured, as on a monument. Example: The Assembly burned most of King Louis’ effigys during the revolution. ersatz- adj. serving as a substitute; synthetic; artificial. Like Marie’s make-believe farm at Le Hameau. expiate- v. to atone for; make amends or reparation for. ganache- n. a whipped frosting or filling made with semisweet chocolate and cream, used for cakes, pastries, and candies. Yum. ignominious- adj. discreditable; humiliating; contemptible. For shame! inguinal- adj. of, pertaining to, or situated in the groin. Sex ed was more complicated back then. insensate- adj. not endowed with sensation; inanimate; without human feeling.


Experience kibbitz- v. make unwanted or intrusive comments. Just try and get a word in edgewise on Marie’s schedule. Impossible. lassitude- n. weariness of body or mind from strain, oppressive climate; a condition of indolent indifference. i.e. Boston after Super Bowl XLVI. meretricious- adj. alluring by a show of flashy or vulgar attractions; tawdy; characteristic of a prostitute. “Have you heard the things they’ve been writing about Marie? Scandalous!” obloquy- n. censure or abusive language aimed at a person or thing; disgrace resulting from public blame. organdy- n. a fine, thin cotton fabric usually having a durable crisp finish. Great for scarves, socks, royal swim wear, etc. panegyrics- n. a lofty oration or writing in praise of a person or thing; eulogy. pouf- n. decadent hairstyle worn by the Queen; consisted of a wig up to 3 feet tall with objects referencing current events. Neck pain anyone? propound- v. to put forward acceptance, or adoption; set forth; propose. Watch Marie at the end of the play. Does she do this? quadrille- n. a square dance for four couples, consisting of five parts or movements, each complete in itself. quotidian- adj. daily; usual or customary; everyday; commonplace. Like drinking water, or going to the bathroom, or failing to suppress a revolution. recalcitrant- adj. resisting authority or control; not obedient or compliant; refractory. remise- n. the morning ritual of dressing the Queen and 18th century spectator sport. sans-culottes- n. literally translates to “without knee britches”; refers to the urban laborers and revolutionaries who sported pantaloons or trousers to distinguish themselves from the bourgeoisies scurrilous- adj. grossly or obscenely abusive; coarsely jocular or derisive. Depends on the point of view. The Parisian mobs probably looked pretty scurrilous from the top. vernissage- n. a reception at a gallery for an artist whose show is about to open to the public.



The 1 and 99 Then and Now By comparing the French Revolution with modern democratic movements, the world’s unexpected changes and stubborn similarities become strikingly apparent

The concept of revolution is timeless. In the first decade of the 21st century we’ve seen a number of extraordinary democratic uprisings led by the masses. At home the dueling populism of the Tea Party and Occupy movements have changed the course of campaigns, inspired courageous protests, and organized a new generation of activists. Across the globe entire governments are being replaced by people calling for the same kind of individual rights that sparked the American and French Revolutions. It seems obvious then that this constant battle for equilibrium between rich and poor, government and people, those who have and those who have nothing, can be poetically reduced to the paradigm 99% and 1%. The modern Occupy movement arms us with these apt bits of vocabulary, but it is painfully obvious as we place the most notorious Queen in history back into the spotlight, that Marie Antoinette is the embodiment of the 1% Here we shift back and forth between the circumstances of the French Revolution and current state of our modern 100%, both abroad and at home, to tease out those common threads.


France Then The nobility owned the vast majority of land, paid relatively few taxes, wrote laws, and declared the country’s wars. Since one was born into (or married into) a handful of noble families, the wealthy elite were precious few in number, about 5% of the total population. When King Louis XVI called the EstateGeneral, nobility was represented as the Second, and therefore the most important, Estate. The similarly powerful clergy constituted the First Estate.

Us Now In the U.S., an annual income of $343,927 qualifies you for a spot in the top 1% of wage earners. This group pays 37% of the country’s taxes. More globally, “the 1%” also includes oppressive dictators and multinational corporations who act in their own best interests.


The Conflict


Enrich The Third Estate was made up of rural farmers and laborers who fueled the agricultural communities outside the major urban centers. Under the feudal system of land ownership, these peasants were often denied direct ownership of the land they worked on. They carried the majority of the tax burden and were denied representation under King Louis XVI’s absolute monarchy, until the Estate-General was called. The so-called Third Estate, though the largest in number, only had one of three votes to cast in the EstateGeneral.

Today’s 99% include students, young people, and public sector employees around the world negatively affected by an increasingly unbalanced economic climate. During the past 5 years, a financial crisis brought about by (among other things) the failings of powerful banks and investment firms took its toll on many “99%-ers,” who lost their jobs and were unable to find new ones. The disparity in power between the super-rich and the rest of the population became clearer, as well.

By the mid 1780’s France was in dire economic straits and many blamed the perceived irresponsibility of King Louis XVI’s government. The monarchy spent massive sums of the French treasury on all manner of projects from support of the U.S. in the American Revolutionary war, to the simple maintenance of Versailles (rumored to cost 6-25% of all government income), to the remodeling of Marie Antoinette’s summer getaway Petit Trianon. With France on the brink of bankruptcy, and several poor harvests forcing the price of grain to skyrocket, the continued fumbling of France’s finances could not be tolerated. Because the people most affected by this crisis -the Third Estate- had little say in matters of policy or representation, it became clear that the solution would have to be both political and financial.

For much of the last decade banks engaged in a practice of granting mortgages to people who had little ability to pay these obligations back. This, in addition to other questionable lending practices, left the financial industry in ruins and translated to over 10% of Americans being unemployed. Because citizens outside the top 1% of wage earners make up a slim minority of the U.S. Congress, the problem was as political as it was economic. Financial mismanagement also plagued financial and political institutions around the world. From Spain to the Middle East people found they could not get jobs even if they had gone to school. This proved to be the final straw for many -especially those who remained oppressed and unable to participate in politics.


The Spark

Enrich Jacques Necker, the man in charge of France’s financial affairs and one of the few respected members of King Louis’ Government, was dismissed on July 11, 1789. It was rumored that Louis expelled him in order to clear way for a royal coup that would do away with the young democratic National Assembly. Two days later this rumor collided with the news that royal troops were gathering outside of Paris. Parisians responded by storming the Bastille. The revolution had begun.

Mohammed Bouazizi was just another vendor on the streets of Sidi Bouzid. At only 26 and without a college degree, he was the breadwinner for his family of 8. On Dec 17th, 2010, a policewoman confiscated his unlicensed vegetable cart. Unable to pay the fine, he appealed to the local provincial headquarters but was refused. He returned less than an hour later and lit himself on fire. On Jan 14th, a revolution inspired by Bouazizi’s act of desperation overthrew the Tunisian government.

Vive La Revolution Long live the revolution

Si se puede Viva la Revolucion We are the 99%

World Response

Ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam The allied Austrian and Prussian armies sought to save King Louis XVI and end the revolution with the Brunswick Manifesto. In it, the commander of the combined Austrian-Prussian armies called for the protection of King Louis XVI while also declaring their intention of making Louis king of France again. Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II of Austria had the dual motive of protecting his sister, Marie Antoinette, and making an example of the forces opposed to Monarchy. This notice only served to reinforce the popular notion that the royal family was working with foreign forces. It gave the more radical revolutionaries an excuse to the execution of the King and Queen.

Much of the economic global response to the Great Recession has been limited to the European Union clamping down on spending among its member countries in exchange for bailouts and loans. Response to the Arab Spring has seen a cautious United Nations, slow to side with revolutionary groups in order to maintain relationships with entrenched regimes (if the revolution fails, for example, that would sour relations between the U.N. and the country in question). The aid that has trickled out has taken the form of sanctions, withdrawal of diplomats, military aid to rebels, air strikes, and criminal court charges.


The Change

Revolution Spreads

Enrich The principles of the revolution were laid out in The Declaration of the Rights of Man written in 1789 by the National Assembly. It stated, “Men are born and remain free in equal rights... Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else.” These ideals represented a threat to the entrenched monarchies of the time. The radical Jacobins in particular had hopes of spreading the revolution beyond French borders, but their violent Reign of Terror drowned out the more noble concepts of democracy and personal liberty.

The fire of revolution that burns across the Arab world and outside of our most colossal financial institutions represents an almost perfect realization of the ideas present in The Declaration of the Rights of Man. Peace and democracy have proven effective in causing real governmental change. Tunisia was the first domino to fall to peaceful protest. Egypt soon followed. Inspired by the striking examples of the people’s power, the Occupy Movement sprung up in opposition to a financial industry many considered to be irresponsible and opaque.

The French Revolution did away with special rights for those born into royalty, granted religious freedom to all, and began governmental regulation of grain and wages.

The changes are still rippling across the globe, but so far the tide has seen a huge boost in those engaging the democratic process here in the U.S. It’s resulted in the election of Senators, Governors, and a President (or possibly two). It’s led to increased oversight of Wall Street practices and a reinvigorated the banking and auto industries. The events of the 2010s sparked a discussion of democracy and citizenship unlike any since the French Revolution.

But the cost of these changes was severe. Tens of thousands of innocent people died over the course of this 10 year revolt. The people of France would come to favor the knowable stability of Napoleon’s dictatorship over the terrifying chaos of revolution. The country’s political turmoil would last another 50 years before a functioning democracy would emerge from the rubble.

Much of the world has seen a complete re-imagining of government and economic systems. Millions are starting to take part (in some cases, for the first time in history) in the governance of their countries.



The First Fashionista

Marie Antoinette is known for her trendsetting fashion habits to this day. Here’s how she did it.

Introducing: The Department of Fasion Marie Antoinette was attended by her very own dedicated fashion designer and she certainly didn’t make her selection without controversy. Rose Bertin, while widely considered the best designer in France, was not of noble birth and many of Marie’s court were outraged that a lowborn woman would be allowed to dress there queen. Regardless, the popularity of Bertin’s clothing led many to call her “The Minister of Fashion.”

Trendsetter Extraordinaire Here are just some of Marie’s news worthy, cutting edge, and controversial dressing decisions.

Queen’s spotted wearing the cloths of a prostitute. Here ankles are showing! In Versailles! See for yourself! There actually was a time when women were harshly judged for wearing clothing that revealed their legs. Full dresses were a symbol of modesty and Marie was anything but.

Queen blends the line between mistress and marriage: She dresses fashionably! Ultra-chic (aka current) fashion choices were traditionally left for the King’s mistress to wear. Because King Louis XVI had no royal mistress, Marie was free to flaunt her style.



Pouf! Bertin and Marie also popularized the “pouf” –a lavish concoction of wigs, hair extensions, and physical objects that could reach as high as 3 feet from the Queen’s forehead. The objects included were often patriotic references to current events. The famous pouf pictured to the right was called “La Pouf a la Belle Poule”. It featured a model of a ship called the Belle Poule (surprise). The boat and its crew were famous for winning a key battle in 1778 against the British in the American Revolutionary War.

Antoinette dismisses her coterie in favor of lowborn scum. Court outraged, public shocked! Traditionally the Queen started out her day with a flock of women dressing her called her remise. It was a status symbol to be a member, so when she dismissed her flock in favor of private dressing by Bertin, it caused quite the stir. Everyday Bertin would present the Queen with a swatchbook, like the one from the right, to choose her clothing. It is said she never wore the same thing twice.



A Death Device Debuts

The French Revolution saw the introduction of the most famous “humane” death machine. Is that an oxymoron?

The Guillotine was considered a humane and efficient means of execution at the time. Previously the primary method of capital punishment was “manual” beheading. That is, a guy with a scary hood and a weapon. If you were lucky, he had a sharp axe and lots of experience. This method was inconsistent, time consuming, and frankly, tiring. It could take a number of blows to fully separate the accused’s head from his or her body. Enter Dr. Joseph Guillotin, an advocate for the humane treatment of the imprisoned. He championed a bill calling for a standard decapitation machine developed by Dr. Antoin Louis. The Assembly passed his proposal in 1791 and the device was first used on the thief Nicholas-Jacques Pelletier on April 25, 1792. The machine was fashioned after the Scottish Maiden and Halifax Gibbet before it but innovated with an angled weighted blade and a half-moon neck cozy. Some historians with affinities for the poetic claim King Louis XVI himself called for that iconic angled blade design.

Above: Marie Antoinette on the way to the scaffold. Drawn in the last few hours of her life.



Assembly Line of Terror 14 foot side posts 88 inch blade drop

888lb per sq inch on impact

Guillotine by the Numbers


Number of people executed by guillotine in Paris alone during the Terror:

Proportion of “counter revolutionaries� put before the Revolutionary Tribunal who were found guilty and executed. # of seconds scientists believe consciouness continues after the head has been separated from the body.




Seconds it takes the average guillotine to remove the head of the average King.


Weight in pounds of the typical guillotine blade.


Thank you for participating in the

A.R.T. Education Experience! For any questions on how to implement the information and activities in this Toolkit, or to schedule an A.R.T. teaching artist to visit your classroom and assist in administering the enclosed lesson, please email the A.R.T. Education and Community Programs department at: Marie Antoinette Educational Toolkit Supervising Editor Brendan Shea Designer Andy Short Contributers Brendan Shea, Andy Short, Marissa Friedman, Ryan McKittrick, Eli Keehn, Jenna Spencer

Check out more videos, articles, interviews, and other cool Marie Antoinette stuff online at:

Profile for American Repertory Theater

Marie Antoinette Educational Toolkit  

Let them eat cake! Or rather, let them learn about the French Revolution with this innovative arts-integrated lesson plan inspired by the A...

Marie Antoinette Educational Toolkit  

Let them eat cake! Or rather, let them learn about the French Revolution with this innovative arts-integrated lesson plan inspired by the A...