Critical Context

Les Liaisons Dangereuses fits into and represents the peak of Hampton’s career-long passion for classical French literature. Although his first drama, When Did You Last See My Mother? (pr. 1966, pb. 1967), owed something to John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (pr. 1956, pb. 1957), subsequent projects—original plays, translations and adaptations—testified to the paramount influence of French precedents on his work. Notably, in Total Eclipse he explored Rimbaud’s relationship with French poet Paul Verlaine; conceived the comedy of manners The Philanthropist (pr. 1970, pb. 1971) as a response to Molière’s Le Misanthrope (pr. 1666, pb. 1667; The Misanthrope, 1709); and adapted Molière’s Dom Juan: Ou, Le Festin de Pierre (pr. 1665, pb. 1682; Don Juan, 1755) in his Don Juan (pr. 1972, pb. 1974) and Tartuffe: Ou, L’Imposteur (pr. 1664, pb. 1669; English translation, 1732) in his adaptation of the same play (pr. 1983). In Total Eclipse, Hampton signaled his interest in Les Liaisons Dangereuses by having Verlaine compare his marriage to Valmont’s interactions with Cécile.

The world derived from classical French literature that Hampton redesigned for the play clearly relates to his own society as well. Hampton’s epigraph for the play—from French novelist André Malraux—relays a social-conscience message equally appropriate...

(The entire section is 437 words.)