Last Updated on May 26, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 405
Georges Danton, in real life the most active and idealistic of the French Revolution leaders, is shown as passive and willing to accept his own doom from the start. He is world-weary, paralyzed, depressed, nihilistic, bored, and lazy. In real life, Danton came from an elite family with no money, relying on a gift from a family friend and his work as a barrister. He is often considered by historians as the architect of the fall of the monarchy of the Bourbon king, and he was willing to allow the excesses and anger of the public against the old order.
Robespierre has come down to the present time as a symbol of fanaticism and repression, a hypocrite seeking personal power and only posing as a revolutionary. His very name was used as an insult by those who considered themselves true revolutionaries. He was Danton’s chief political opponent, though at the start, the two were close allies. He is portrayed as extreme, psychopathic, humorless, dogmatic, fanatic, rigid, zealous, and self-righteous. Once the monarchy and old order were overthrown, he began to target moderate opponents and anyone who disagreed with him as an enemy of the French people.
Camille Desmoulins was Danton’s closest friend and the second highest Dantonist deputy in the National Convention. He was a journalist, siding with Danton against Robespierre’s faction, and he was executed at the same time. He is witty and sympathetic.
Louis Legendre, Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles, Lacroix, and Philippeaux
Louis Legendre, Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles, Lacroix, and Philippeaux were other Dantonist deputies in the National Convention. They are minor characters in the play.
Saint-Just was Robespierre’s leading deputy and confidant, a military commissar and investigator who drew up lists of those to be executed. Even more zealous than Robespierre, he was violent, repressive, unyielding, and later called the Angel of Death by critics. He and Robespierre were finally executed by the same state they helped create.
Bertrand Barère and Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois
Bertrand Barere and Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois were two other members of the Committee of Public Safety. They are minor characters in the play.
Julie is Danton's wife, a minor character in the play since Danton is shown as chasing numerous women in the time leading up to his death.
Marion is the only fictional character in the play. She is a prostitute who is open and generous to Danton.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 463
Georges Danton (zhohrzh dan-TOH[N] ), the first passive protagonist in German drama. The author makes it amply clear that Danton might have avoided imprisonment and subsequent death by escaping the Jacobins in time. In contrast to the traditional tragic hero, who comes to see the world as ominous only when he realizes that his own doom is inevitable, Danton has no illusions about the world from the play’s beginning and quietly wills his doom. Tantalizingly and ambiguously, the author never clarifies whether Danton’s failure to save his life is a consequence of his weary worldview or a rationalization of a psychological paralysis or depression that precludes any meaningful action on his part. It is not clear whether Danton expects his refusal to flee to result in his arrest, or whether he actually believes his statement, thrice made, that the Committee of Public Safety would not dare arrest a prominent revolutionary leader like himself. By leaving these possibilities open, the playwright establishes both Danton’s nihilism and...
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