Robert Macaire is the name of a historical character as well as the title (or part of the title) of a number of plays, films and books based on the tale.
- 1 Robert Macaire, the historical character
- 2 Dramatised versions of the tale
- 3 The original text: Robert Macaire (1834) by Robert Antier and Frédérick Lemaître
- 4 Performance history of all the "Robert Macaire" plays in South Africa
- 5 Sources
- 6 Return to
Robert Macaire, the historical character
In French culture "Robert Macaire" represents the archetypal villain, an unscrupulous swindler, who appears in a number of French plays, films, and other works of art.
The various dramatized and literary versions of the story of "Robert Macaire" are mostly based on a legend from the 14th century, as recorded in a letter from Julius Caesar Scaliger, who tells of a French courtier who was murdered in the forest of Bondy, north of Paris. The only witness to the murder was his dog, which pursued Robert Macaire, the perpetrator, until he was captured. The king ordered that Macaire, armed with a stick, and the dog should fight a duel, which took place on the Isle de Notre Dame, and the dog won, forcing Macaire to confess and be hanged. (See Tamsin Pickeral, 2012: p.134).
Dramatised versions of the tale
The basic tale has been used as source material, translated and adapted into various languages over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The fictional character Robert Macaire was first used on stage in a play called Le Chien de Montargis, ou la Forêt de Bondy, described as a "mélodrame historique en trois actes et à grand spectacle", that opened at the Parisian Théâtre de la Gaîté on Boulevard du Temple, produced and directed by De Pixérécourt. It ran uninterrupted run in the Théâtre de la Gaîté's repertoire until 1834. The French text was published in Paris as Le Chien de Montargis, ou la Forêt de Bondy by Barba in 1814.
The use of the play title Robert Macaire only appeared later, inspired by the history of the melodrama L'Auberge des Adrets by Benjamin Antier (1787-1870), Saint-Amand (1797-1885) and Frédérick Lemaître, (1800-1876), in which the character is featured. The piece opened at the Théâtre de l'Ambigu-Comique, Paris, on 12 July 1823 and in it the character was portrayed as a ragged tramp and common thief. The piece was played seriously as a melodrama on the opening night, but the premiere evening was a total failure. So the work was rapidly changed for the second night to be played as a burlesque, with Frédérick Lemaitre (1800-1876), the actor playing Macaire, transforming him into a comic figure instead, portraying him as a dapper confidence man and financial schemer, and using the character to lampoon financial speculation and government corruption.
The piece was an immediate a comic success and ran for a hundred performances, making the actor famous. However, for many in Parisian society the transformation of the character violated all the conventions of its genre and contravened social standards that demanded crime be treated with seriousness and expected criminals to be punished appropriately. The play was thus soon banned, and representations of the character of Macaire were banned time and again until the 1880s. Based o0n the success, Lemaître used the character again in a sequel he co-authored titled Robert Macaire, first presented in 1835.
In view of these origins, the pieces tend to be broadly grouped under two main titles: those using the phrases The Dog of Montargis (or The Dog of Montarges), and/or The Forest of Bondy, on the one hand; and - particularly after the 1830s - those using the name Robert Macaire (with or without subtitles) for a title on the other.
For plays using Robert Macaire in their titles, see below
The original text: Robert Macaire (1834) by Robert Antier and Frédérick Lemaître
Also known as Robert-Macaire.
It was first performed at the Folies-Dramatiques on 14 June 1834. It was written as a follow-up piece to the L'Auberge des Adrets (1823) by the same authors, which first introduced their version of the character "Robert Macaire".
Translations and adaptations
First performed and published as Robert Macaire, or The Two Murderers of Lyons in 1842. In 1850 it was published by J. Duncombe & Co, London, as Robert Macaire, or Les Auberge des Adrets! and styled a "melo drama, in two acts". (The erroneous "Les" part of the title as published). Often simply referred to as Robert Macaire.
F.C.L. Bosman (1980, pp. 70 and 99) also mentions a "The well-renowned drama" by Selby, a melodrama in two acts that he refers to variously as Robert Macaire, or Les Auberges des Adrits (a title that occurs in Reginald Clarence's "The Stage" Cyclopaedia. A Bibliography of Plays. London: 1909) and Robert Macaire, or L'Auberge des Adrits, titles provided by Sefton Parry for his productions of Selby's play in Cape Town in 1858 and 1861.
(Bosman actually seems to have had all kinds of trouble with Selby's title: on p. 74 he refers to the play simply as "Robert Cacaire", though this was most probably a typing error.)
The original 1834 French text was translated and adapted into English as Robert Macaire, or The Roadside Inn Turned Inside Out, a burlesque extravaganza, by Henry James Byron (1835-1884). Also known as Robert Macaire, it was first performed in English in the Royal Globe Theatre, London, on 16 April, 1870. The English text published by Thomas Hailes Lacy, 1872 (Lacy's Acting Edition of Plays. vol. 93.)
The French play was later also adapted as Robert-Macaire by Philippe Gille (1831-1901) and William Busnach (1832-1907) and performed in the new version on 1 March, 1889 at the Théâtre Porte Saint-Martin and published by Tresse et Stock (Paris).
Performance history of all the "Robert Macaire" plays in South Africa
1858: Bosman (1980, p. 70) mentions a production by Sefton Parry and his company on 22 September in the Cape Town Theatre of a "well-renowned drama" by Selby, that he refers to as Robert Macaire, or Les Auberges des Adrits, a melodrama in two acts. Also featured, besides Parry and his wife, were Miss Devere and Miss Leclercq. The afterpiece was Used Up (Boucicault) and the evening presented as a benefit for Mr Parry and Mrs Parry.
1862. Produced in English in Selby's version (Robert Macaire or The Two Murderers of Lyons) in the Eastern Cape village of Keiskama Hoek's Garrison Theatre by the Band Amateurs (North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot) on June 19 by the Band Amateurs featuring T. Smith (Germeuil, a wealthy farmer), T. Paterson (Dument, an inn-keeper), W. Dansie (Robert Macaire, under the assumed name of Bertrand), J. M'Kechnie (Jacques Strop), F. Girton (Charles), J. F. Gay (Pierre, head waiter), J. Mann (Sergeant Loupy), J. Grimley (Louis), B. Sheeran (Francoise), J. Davies (Marie), J. Durney (Clementine). Also produced was George Wood's one-act farce, The Irish Doctor, or The Dumb Lady Cured from Moliere's Le Médecin Malgré Lui
1875. Produced in English in Byron's version (Robert Macaire, or The Roadside Inn Turned Inside Out) by Disney Roebuck in the Bijou Theatre on 16 September, with Arrah-na-Pogue, or The Wicklow Wedding (Boucicault). The evening a farewell benefit for Mr Paulton and Mrs Paulton.
1877: Performed in English as Robert Macaire, or The Roadside Inn Turned Inside Out in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town on 29 September by the Disney Roebuck company, with the "grand burlesque" Aladdin, or The Wonderful Woman.
Facsimile version of the 1889 French version, 
Facsimile version of the 1842 text by Selby, Google E-Book
Facsimile version of the 1872 English text by Byron, Google E-Book
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