Last Updated on May 26, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1110
Danton's Death by Georg Büchner is a play divided into four acts that traces the story of the titular protagonist, Georges Danton, who is a leader in the French Revolution.
The story occurs between the first and second Terrors of the Revolution. Danton was instrumental in the establishment of the Revolutionary Tribunal, the penal organization that executed individuals accused of crimes without any evidence whatsoever. After witnessing the terror and violence that the Revolution has devolved into at the hands of the infamous radical Robespierre, Danton has become disillusioned with the ideals he fought so ardently to establish in the new Republic.
As a result, he has become cynical and disinterested in political life. This is demonstrated in the first scene of the play, where Danton and his wife, Julie, play cards with a group of acquaintances and friends. Danton says that he loves Julie like a "grave," a quote that disturbs her, but he explains his association between death and peace. After Camille and Phillipeau begin talking about the needed changes in the Revolution, Danton becomes disgusted and wishes to leave.
In the next scene, the audience gets a glimpse of what life has become for commoners during this period. A group of citizens is roaming the streets in search of perceived traitors of the common people when Robespierre appears and invites them to join him in the Jacobin Club, where they will find allies.
In act 1, scene 3, Robespierre delivers an impassioned speech about the necessity of violence to achieve the goals of the Republic. In scene 4, Lacroix and Legendre discuss Robespierre's speech. Lacroix insists that Robespierre intends to enact vengeance on any perceived enemy, including Danton, and that the Revolution has not actually helped the common people.
At the beginning of the next scene, Danton is in a private room with a prostitute named Marion who waxes poetic about her ability to please him with her body. Suddenly, Lacroix bursts in to discuss what he believes about Robespierre's intentions. Danton dismisses Lacroix's suspicions, insisting that the Revolution isn't finished and that Robespierre will spare him so that he can use Danton's talents later on.
After a brief discussion with Robespierre, Danton leaves, completely unaware that his former friend plans to have him executed because Danton is no longer active in the Revolution. At the end of this scene, Robespierre learns that several of his followers have begun to desert him due to his increasingly radical tactics.
In the first scene of act 2, Danton still denies that Robespierre will move against him, despite his clear suspicions that people have been treating him differently as of late. A mere two scenes later (scene 3), Danton has been arrested by the Committee of Public Safety and offered asylum, yet Danton seems resigned to death, lamenting that it would be much easier than to continue fighting to live in a world that doesn't seem worth living for anymore. In scenes 4 and 5, Danton seems to be losing his senses, asking why he is still breathing and shouting dark thoughts aloud in the middle of the night. Julie is awoken by her husband's cries and expresses worry over his state of mind.
The next scene describes the militia members who invade Danton's house in the middle of the night. In scene 7, Legendre argues before the National Convention that Danton and the other members of the group who were arrested the night before should be given a hearing before the entire Convention. There is some disagreement about whether Danton should be granted this, but Robespierre interjects with a speech, declaring that the Convention should not fear bloodshed when it is necessary.
Act 3 begins with the four arrested members being led into a prisoners' holding area; these new prisoners are Danton, Lacroix,...
(The entire section contains 1110 words.)
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