The Revolution of the Comédie-Française

It was not until 1799 that the Comédie-Française definitively moved to the rue de Richelieu after a tumultuous journey! In 1791, the troupe still performed in the Théâtre de l’Odéon. However, the Revolution caused division among everyone: due to political discord with their colleagues, the Republican actors moved to the Palais-Royal. Still loyal to the monarchy, the others first stayed put, but were soon arrested. On the rue de Richelieu, then called the rue de la Loi, the brand new theater changed its name: it was now called the French Theater of the Republic. After an overall reconciliation, the reunited troupe finally took the name Comédie-Française in 1799 as well as the specificity that has distinguished it since the 17th century: its members are paid by the State.

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An actor during the Revolution: Talma

Portrait of the Actor Talma (1763-1826) in the Role of Sylla
Portrait of the Actor Talma (1763-1826) in the Role of Sylla

Or how to become famous while living through the Revolution! Before 1789, François-Joseph Talma was a King’s Performer, like the other members of the Comédie-Française. In this profession, it was a privilege. However, in 1789, he played the king in Charles IX by Marie-Joseph Chénier, a play considered to be a critique of Louis XVI. Talma defended a political conception of the theater. However, he would go even further: several years later, he was one of the actors excluded from the troupe due to their Republican convictions. At the end of the Revolution, the public adored him. His political convictions also evolved: he became a close friend of Napoléon Bonaparte. Known for his spontaneous and spirited acting, Talma was one of the first celebrities from the theater world.

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