French Without Tears

by Terence Rattigan
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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 600

Kenneth Lake

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Kenneth Lake, one of a number of students attending a summer foreign-language school on the French Riviera, in an idyllic existence upper-class students enjoyed in pre-World War II England. He is about twenty years old and good-looking in a vacuous way. He joins his friends in romantic frolics that involve the “ladies of the town.” The circle of students, of which he seems to be the leader by virtue of his droll wit, is untouched by the domestic or foreign problems looming on the English horizon.

Alan Howard

Alan Howard, another of the students, about twenty-three years old. He is dark, saturnine, and serious. The only student to resist the seductive Diana, he makes it clear that his ideal woman will be able to converse intelligently on various subjects, will possess all the masculine virtues and no feminine vices, should be just attractive enough to be desirable and to remain faithful to him, and will be in love with him. He is interested in becoming a writer despite his parents’ wish that he follow in his father’s footsteps as a diplomat; he thus serves as the author’s surrogate. The play ends with his departure for London, Diana following closely on his heels.

Diana Lake

Diana Lake, Kenneth’s sister, a beautiful seductress about twenty years old who lives up to her mythical name. She joins her brother and his fellow students at the French-language school merely because her parents are in India. She snares males as different as Kit, Commander Rogers, and Brian. Pursuing Alan despite his resistance to her charms, she is a delightful shadow of the Shavian woman who pursues her man until he catches her. Her foil in the romantic intrigue of the play is the more stable and slightly less attractive Jacqueline Maingot, who, in this happy world, finally convinces Kit that he is not in love with Diana.

Jacqueline Maingot

Jacqueline Maingot (zhahk-LEEN mahn-GOH), the attractive daughter of Monsieur Maingot, about twenty years old. She assists her father in his instructional duties and serves as a complicating factor in the romantic interest of the plot. Straightforward and serious, she confronts the wily Diana, who is bent on making victims of the males. Jacqueline resents Diana, whom Kit prefers. Eventually, Kit comes to his senses and admits his real love for Jacqueline.

Monsieur Maingot

Monsieur Maingot, the affable host and instructor of French for English students. His ferocious face and dark beard belie the affable earnestness with which he conducts the instruction of his pupils.

Kit Neilan

Kit Neilan, who is about twenty-two years old, fair, good looking, and easily ensnared by Diana’s charms. He eventually comes to his senses, admitting to loving Jacqueline without having known it.

Brian Curtis

Brian Curtis, a thickset, carelessly dressed Scotsman about twenty-three years old. He is immodest and a zestful participant in the youthful pranks of the students. He takes advantage of “the green light” given him by Diana at one point but receives only a “sharp buffet on the kisser”; he laughs about the experience afterward.

Commander Rogers

Commander Rogers, a sober man of about thirty-five, with a dark complexion. Studying French in preparation for an interpretership, he is a stereotype of the admirable, stiff-upper-lipped Englishman. His ensnarement by Diana ends when she admits her love for Alan.

Lord Heybrook

Lord Heybrook, a bright young schoolboy of fifteen. Awaited by Diana as her next possible conquest, he appears at the very end, only to disappoint her, his age causing her to pursue Alan to London.


Marianne, the requisite maid in a farce.

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