Octave Mirbeau: Two Plays

Richard Hand

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Octave Mirbeau (1848-1917), the acclaimed Decadent novelist, was also a successful dramatist whose controversial plays have been shamefully overlooked in English cultures. These first translations of Mirbeau's drama redress this neglect and present for the first time in English one of the towering achievements of twentieth-century European theatre. The volume features Business is Business (Les Affaires sont les affaires, 1903), an extraordinarily dark comedy showing the life of the diabolical millionaire Isidore Lechat. Ruthless and unethical, he has never known failure as he pitilessly tyrannises all around him. However, Mirbeau charts what happens when fate conspires against Lechat in the space of one day. It is a meticulously crafted play of exquisitely drawn characters that journeys between hilarity and genuine pathos. The companion piece is Charity (Le Foyer, 1908), Mirbeau's eviscerating satire on charity organisations. Baron Courtin is the very image of liberal integrity, but his charity home for girls holds appalling secrets. Another masterpiece of satire, Mirbeau's Charity succeeds in taking the audience on a journey that can be hilarious one moment and horrifying the next. Together, these two masterpieces provide a fascinating insight into Belle Époque France and its wider European theatre context, but they also continue to have a powerful social resonance in our own time. In addition, they are both wonderful scripts for practical exploration with an array of rich characters, brilliant dialogue and theatrical potential. The preparation of this critical edition was supported by a grant from the AHRC.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBristol
Number of pages194
ISBN (Print)9781841504865
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2012


  • octave mirbeau
  • grand guignol and french theatre
  • adaptation/translation


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