The Madwoman of Chaillot

by Jean Giraudoux

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Countess Aurelia

Countess Aurelia (oh-ray-LYAH), the Madwoman of Chaillot (shah-YOH). Living eternally in the moment when her life was loveliest, and as champion of beauty and of the gentle people of Paris, she is confronted, at a sidewalk café, with the brutal forces of materialism in the form of a syndicate preparing to drill for oil beneath the streets. Realizing that justice, as it is ordinarily understood, will be powerless against the destroyers of beauty, she forms and carries out, with the help of her gentle friends, a plan to annihilate the financiers. With the materialists gone, all the manifestations of spring return to the world. The Madwoman is thanked by all for saving humanity from its exploiters.

Mme Constance

Mme Constance (koh[n]-STAHNS), the Madwoman of Passy (pah-SEE),

Mlle Gabrielle

Mlle Gabrielle (gay-BRYEHL), the Madwoman of St. Sulpice, and

Mme Josephine

Mme Josephine (zhoh-zay-FEEN), the Madwoman of la Concorde (koh[n]-KOHRD), Countess Aurelia’s gentle compatriots, who form a tribunal for a fair trial of the materialists, whom they find guilty on all charges.

The Ragpicker

The Ragpicker, one of the gentle people. He agrees to speak for the defense at the trial of the materialists.

The President

The President,

the Baron

the Baron,

the Broker

the Broker, and

the Prospector

the Prospector, the representatives of the forces of materialism, the destroyers of beauty and the enemies of humanity. Armed with a plan for drilling for oil beneath the streets of Paris, they oppose Countess Aurelia and her gentle friends, the champions of beauty and humanity. The financiers eventually are tried by a court of gentle ones, found guilty, and condemned to extermination. Lured to Countess Aurelia’s by the promise of oil, they follow one another like sheep through a door that they are led to believe opens the way to the treasure. In reality, they are headed for the sewers of Paris, never to return.


Pierre (pyehr), a young assassin hired by the materialists to bomb the city architect, who is opposed to the drilling of oil beneath the streets. When the young man finds himself unable to carry out his task, he plans to jump in the river but is rescued and convinced by Countess Aurelia that life is worth living.

The Sewer Man

The Sewer Man, Countess Aurelia’s gentle friend who shows her a secret door to the sewers of Paris through which the materialists are led, never to return.

The Waiter

The Waiter,

the Little Man

the Little Man,

the Street Singer

the Street Singer,

the Flower Girl

the Flower Girl, and

the Shoe Lace Peddlar

the Shoe Lace Peddlar, free, gentle people of Paris.

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Critical Essays