Margherita (Camille) and Armando

Dumas' autobiographical play about a Parisian courtesan and her lover

by David Johnson
 

When his largely autobiographical play, Camille, Alexandre Dumas, Jr., was first performed in 1852, it caused a sensation. Dumas depicted the disreputable side of Parisian society and a offered sympathetic portrayal of a sophisticated courtesan, Margherita Gauthier.

Although she had been mistress to various men, Margherita had never known true love. One night she met Armando Duval, son of a prominent official. Armando and Margherita began to live together in a country house. They were deliriously happy.

When Armando was out of the house, his father appeared and begged Margherita to give up Armando, convinced she was ruining the young man's career. Finally Margherita agreed and returned to her disreputable friends. When Armando came looking for her, Margherita pretended to be another man's mistress. Hurt and furious, Armando insulted her and stormed out.

Margherita meanwhile became seriously ill. Armando's father visited her and realized that she really loved his son. He promised to send Armando to Margherita. But, when Armando appeared, Margherita was dying.

One of literature's saddest love stories, Camille became the basis for Giuseppe Verdi's opera, La Traviata.

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