Les Frères Corses

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Les Frères Corses ("The Corsican brothers") is a French play in three acts and five tableaux by Eugène Grangé (1810-1887)[1] and Xavier de Montépin (1823–1902)[2]

The name "Montépin" is written "Montépinthe" in some sources.

The original text

The play, called a "drame fantastique en trois actes et cinq tableaux", is a dramatization of the French novella Les Frères Corses by Alexandre Dumas, père (1802–1870)[3], first published in 1844 by Souverain. The work tells the adventurous and melodramatic story of two conjoined brothers who, though separated at birth, can still feel each other's pains and fears and seek to aid each other. First performed at the Théâtre-Historique in Paris on 10 July, 1850.

Translations and adaptations

Translated and adapted into English as The Corsican Brothers by Dion Boucicault (1820-1890)[4]. Boucicault's version was written for the actor-manager Charles Kean and it was first performed at the Princess's Theatre on 24 February 1852, directed by Kean, who also played both of the brothers. It went on to become a hugely popular melodrama, much performed in the late 19th century.

The original French work has also been translated directly by a number of other playwrights, including Frank J. Morlock.

Performance history in South Africa

1858: Performed as The Corsican Brothers by J.E.H. English and his company in the Harrington Street Theatre, Cape Town, on 21 September, with J.E.H. English, Mr Beverly, Mr Walter, Mr Dell, Mr Dillon, Mr Welson, Mr Harton, Mr Seaton, Mr Rennox, Mr Loeber, Mr Morly, Mrs Delmaine, Miss Delmaine and Miss Belmont. Remarkably, the role of "Griffo" was billed as being played by "A Domestic". The evening also included a "comic scene in one act" called A Conjugal Lesson (Danvers).

1858: The Corsican Brothers repeated by J.E.H. English and his company on 1 October, this time with Othello (Shakespeare).

1860: Performed as The Corsican Brothers on the Eastern Cape border by the Band Amateurs of the North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot on July 9 and 16, with a cast consisting of W. Dansie (Twin brothers), J. C. Wools (M. de Chaserd Rensud), M. Rafferty (M. Alfred Meynard), T. Brooker (Le Baron de Montgiron), J. Mann (Gaetano Orlando), T. Brooker (Marie Colonna), T. Patterson (Grifio), W. Allen (Boissee, a Wood cutter), T. Patterson (A Surgeon), J. F. Gay (Madame Sevillia dei Franchi), J. Grennan (Emilie de Lasparre), J. Durney (Marie, a domestic), A. Vogado (Estelle, lady of the ballet), W. Foster (Celestine, lady of the ballet). The Wandering Minstrel (Mayhew) was played as the afterpiece, and the evening included W. Allen on the violin ("in seven different positions") after which J. M. M'Kechnie sang a comic song, "Solomon Lob".

1861: Advertised as a play "to be performed" by Sefton Parry in the Cape Argus of 1 June, but no record of such a performance by Parry has been found yet.

1875: Acts 1 and 3 of The Corsican Brothers performed in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and company on 19 June, with The Happy Pair (Smith) and Boots at the Swan (Selby).

1876: Performed in the Athenaeum Hall, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and company on 26 September, with Little Don Giovanni (Byron).

1876: Performed in the Athenaeum Hall, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and company on 12 October, with Nemesis, or Not Wisely but Too Well (Farnie).

1877: The Corsican Brothers performed in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and company on 8 September (apparently a two-act version), with Lost in London (Phillips).

1906 Performed as The Corsican Brothers (credited to Dumas/Boucicault) at the Opera House, Cape Town, by the Leonard Rayne company, with Rayne and Joseph Ashman playing the two brothers.


Facsimile version of the French stage text, BnF Gallica[5]






D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik, pp. 105, 121-2, 324, 342-7, 360, 406, 425.

North Lincoln Sphinx Vol 1, No 1. January 1, 1860.

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