Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 8-19-2006

Journal / Book Title

European Romantic Review


This essay examines Elizabeth Inchbald’s treatment of French Revolutionary women and relationship to European drama in order to appreciate the implications of tragic writing for British women playwrights. Focusing on Inchbald’s connections to French culture and English theater in late 1792 and early 1793 elucidates the self‐censoring and generic conventions of her only tragedy, The Massacre. Events in France like the September Massacres unsettled Burkean notions of femininity and raised the possibility of female violence. This mixing of traditional gender characteristics resembles discourse about Inchbald’s dramas as neither tragic, comic, nor tragicomic. The genre of tragic farce describes Inchbald’s revisions of French sentimental comedy (comédie larmoyante) and experimentations with the evolving form of drama (drame). Inchbald’s adaptation of Gresset’s The Villain (Le Méchant) into a farce, Young Men and Old Women, demonstrates techniques applied to The Massacre and Every One Has His Fault. The paper concludes with a comparison of The Massacre to its source, Louis‐Sébastien Mercier’s drama, Jean Hennuyer, or the Bishop of Lizieux (1773), the first documentation of this once‐uncertain genealogy. This comparative analysis shows that Inchbald’s tragedy critiques the comic improbability that women stand to lose their femininity if they involve themselves in public issues.


Book Publisher

Taylor and Francis

Journal ISSN / Book ISBN


Published Citation

“A Tragic Farce: Revolutionary Women in Elizabeth Inchbald’s The Massacre and European Drama.” European Romantic Review 17.3 (Summer 2006): 275-88.