The Odéon Theater

Odéon, Circa 1780
Odéon, Circa 1780

In 1789, it was the Théâtre-Français, now known as the Comédie-Française that was in residence here. Immediately, it played a part in the Revolution: performed in the fall, the play Charles IX by Marie-Joseph Chénier was seen as a disguised critique of Louis XVI. From then on, this institution kept its radical image. In 1794, it was renamed the Theater of Equality. A place of protest throughout the 19th century, the Odéon was the headquarters for the artists’ movement during the May 1968 strikes. Unobstructed, opening out towards the city and facilitating traffic, this square’s architecture was a reflection of the theater during the Enlightenment: it must no longer be a place reserved only for the privileged few.

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The scandal caused by the play <em>Charles IX </em>by Marie-Joseph Chénier

Portrait of Marie-Joseph de Chénier (1764-1811), Poet
Portrait of Marie-Joseph de Chénier (1764-1811), Poet

Written in November 1789, the play Charles IX or the School of Kings suggests that a king who does not represent his people is a tyrant:

Act V
Scène IV, v. 645-648
The King of France:
Cruel men taught me how to be a true imposture;
Their voices have, in my soul, stifled my nature;
I betrayed the nation, and honor, and the laws:
Heaven, strike me down, and exemplify my flaws.”

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