Théâtre de Guerre: The 1793 Siege of Toulon in the Plays and Political Discourse of the French Revolution

Theater has been consistently used for political purposes, and it can be argued that power, and politics, is intrinsically spectacular in nature. The intersections between theater and politics were especially evident during the French Revolution: the newly-established representative democracy was characterized by its theatricality at the same time that new works of theater reflected political questions and were used to promote the Republic’s ideals. In this context, pièces de circonstance – plays based off of recent events – became widespread. The Revolution’s pièces de circonstance offer a unique source for examining how the spheres of politics and theater interacted at this time. To that effect, I will use as a case study the 1793 siege of Toulon, in which Republican forces recaptured the city following a Royalist uprising. The siege and ensuing victory were frequently referenced in political discourse, and also served as the subject matter for a profusion of contemporary plays and operas.

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