*Paris. Already the City of Light at the time Alexandre Dumas wrote this play, France’s capital city is the scene of pleasure, artistic embellishment, and, finally, true love. The courtesan Marguerite Gautier (nicknamed “Camille”) moves about the city in her fine carriage, provided by wealthy patrons, graces a theater box every evening, adorns herself in cashmere, velvet, and jewels, and pays as much as an average man’s wages each day for her signature white camellias. However, Paris, where she plies her scorned trade, is also a city of contagion, jealous lust, gambling, duels, and fatal extravagance that she longs to escape.
*Auteuil (OH-tei). District on the western outskirts of Paris. In a villa at Auteuil, a few miles from the depravities of Paris, Marguerite and her sincere young lover, Armand, enjoy a brief interlude to savor their mutual love. The health of the consumptive Marguerite improves in this idyllic setting, but even here, one may not live without money, and Armand’s humorless and earnest father eventually intrudes to drive Marguerite away from his son. True to the myth of love in the Western world, this ethereal and pastoral existence cannot last. In order not to harm the honor of Armand’s family, Marguerite renounces him and returns to Paris and the love-death that awaits her.
Chandler, Frank Wadleigh. The Contemporary Drama of France. Boston: Little, Brown, 1920. Sees Dumas as an important precursor of early twentieth century French drama and insists that Dumas saw himself primarily as a realist.
Matthews, J. Brander. French Dramatists of the Nineteenth Century. London: Remington, 1882. Presents Dumas in the context of his contemporaries; describes Dumas as not part of any tradition but his own. Sees Camille’s treatment of a scandalous subject as neither poetic nor unpleasantly realistic. Instead, considers Camille to be merely vulgar melodrama, fit only for the opera house.
Maurois, André. The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas. Translated by Gerard Hopkins. New York: Harper, 1957. Lively literary biography of Camille’s playwright, his father, and his grandfather. Gives the flavor of their lives and times. Abundant use of personal letters, illustrations, and notes. Bibliography.
Schwarz, H. Stanley. Alexandre Dumas, fils, Dramatist. New York: New York University Press, 1927. Focuses on Dumas’ place in nineteenth century French literature, comparing his work with that of Eugène Scribe and Honoré de Balzac. Provides descriptions of the plays’ productions and detailed analysis of Dumas’ ideas on social problems.