The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The play opens in the comfortable apartment of Chandebise and his wife, Raymonde. Two servants, Étienne and his wife, Antoinette, and Chandebise’s nephew, Camille, live with them. Because Camille has a cleft palate, he can pronounce only vowels; household members sometimes understand him, but others cannot.

Raymonde suspects that Chandebise is having an affair: The title of the play derives from her nagging suspicions. He has not been ardent recently, and a pair of suspenders has been sent to him from Hôtel Minet-Galant (the gallant pussycat hotel), a meeting place for adulterers. Even though she is considering having an affair with Tournel, Raymonde is outraged. The audience soon learns she is wrong. Chandebise is temporarily impotent; the suspenders were left at the hotel by Camille when he went there with Antoinette.

Raymonde devises a plot to trap her husband. She will send him a letter from an unknown admirer inviting him to meet her at the hotel. Because Chandebise would recognize her handwriting, Raymonde gets Lucienne to write the letter. Chandebise is flattered by the letter, but because he is a faithful husband, he forwards the assignation to Tournel. When Lucienne’s husband, the fierce South American Don Carlos Homénidès de Histangua, sees the letter, he recognizes his wife’s handwriting, goes berserk, threatens to shoot everyone, and leaves for the hotel. Camille attempts to warn Tournel but cannot find an artificial palate that makes him understandable. After Tournel leaves, Camille finds the device, inserts it, and speaks comprehensibly.

The second act takes place in the Hôtel Minet-Galant’s central hall. The hotel has several staircases and doors leading to many bedrooms, the most visible of which has a special bed. When a button is pushed, the bed and the wall behind it revolve, and an identical bed appears. If a jealous spouse arrives, the lovers need only push a button and their bed is replaced by another bed containing someone else.

Many “Chandebises” appear throughout the act: Camille (whose family name is...

(The entire section is 861 words.)