Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*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.