L.-S. Mercier, Two Shakespeare Adaptations: ‘Le Vieillard et ses trois filles’ and ‘Timon d’Athènes’

Research output: Book/ReportScholarly edition


Over the course of his prolific life, the playwright Louis-Sébastien Mercier (1740-1814) wrote four plays based on works by Shakespeare. This volume brings together two very different adaptations of Shakespearean tragedies, written within two years of each other. Le Vieillard et ses trois filles (1792), in line with eighteenth-century French aesthetic and political tastes, strips the masterpiece King Lear of all its regal trappings and complex subplots to produce a pared-down three-act bourgeois ‘drame’ about a father who foolishly surrenders his fortune to his mercenary daughters, before an unexpected (and un-Shakespearean) happy ending. Timon d’Athènes (1794), conversely, follows the plot of Shakespeare and Middleton’s Timon of Athens rather more closely, tracing its protagonist’s shift from profligate socialite to bitter, misanthropic outcast; Mercier, however, accentuates the political dimension of Timon’s exploitation, exile, and eventual suicide as an implicit critique of the violence and abuses of the post-Revolutionary Reign of Terror. What both plays have in common is a narrative arc leading from generosity exploited, via disillusionment and despair, to a misanthropic attempt to escape from civilisation altogether. This edition offers explanatory footnotes comparing the texts with the original, and an introduction outlining Mercier’s complex contributions to eighteenth-century Shakespeare reception in France.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherModern Humanities Research Association
Number of pages156
ISBN (Print)9781839542336
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Shakespeare
  • Shakespeare adaptation
  • King Lear
  • Timon of Athens
  • Mercier

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