Cover illustration: "Harlequin and His Lady" by Giovanni Domenico Ferretti (1692–1768)

Slave Island & The Colony

Pierre Carlet de Marivaux, translated from French by Laurence Senelick
Book Item Icon $15.95
PDF ePlay Item Icon
Enter total users


SLAVE ISLAND was first produced on Monday, 5 March 1725 by Lelio Riccoboni’s troupe and the Comédie-Italienne at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, Paris. It was such a success that it ran for an unheard-of twenty performances in a row, and its notoriety made it the talk of the town. On 18 June 1725, Marivaux followed it with a three-act comedy LA NOUVELLE COLONIE (The New Colony) also at the Comédie-Italienne. It met with a cold reception and closed the next day. In December 1750 Marivaux published a revision in one act called THE COLONY in the Mercure de France. It is believed to have been performed once or twice on the private stage of the Comte de Clermont. Both plays have enjoyed frequent revivals, especially in France and the UK, in the last twenty-five years. Their themes have renewed relevance and make Marivaux seem especially prescient in matters of gender and class, slavery, and colonialism.

Plays in This Collection


Press Quotes

“The servants, male and female, in Marivaux are distinctly different from those in earlier comedies. The traditional valets are rogues and ruffians. Marivaux’s are better behaved and more closely resemble their masters, whom they may play on occasion without too much improbability. In SLAVE ISLAND, this becomes a theory of philanthropy, with a reversal of classes, the masters turned servants and vice versa. After a few insolent and vexatious reprisals, good nature soon takes over. Masters and servants are reconciled and embrace. This is the Saturnalia of the Golden Age. This little play of Marivaux is almost a precocious revolutionary pastoral for 1792.” —Charles Sainte-Beuve, 1854

“[In SLAVE ISLAND] If social codes are turned inside-out, will the slave take revenge on the master and will the master know how to obey? Moving from intrigues to false pretenses and ludicrous rebounds, behind Marivaux’s light touch, this political comedy throws a revealing light on society and humanity.” —La Nouvelle République

“SLAVE ISLAND is a hymn to, a celebration of theatre, the comedians casting themselves in starring roles, while the romantic leads sit watching them. The criss-crossing commands and demands for friendship and love make up the action. This is the land of kiss-and-make-up where goodness and virtue are the qualities most prized, where forgiveness has the upper hand and the bottom line is a hug. A happy ending is appropriate to comedy and the characters evolve without a trace of rancor or resentment. Even today this play is an opportunity for reflection on the just use of power, a lesson in humanity and fraternity, but it also offers the educated mass audience a way to reflect on how domination, censorship and humor are related, not a negligible consideration in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the subsequent shoot-outs of both police and assassins.” —Sylvie Fernando

“But what is especially interesting in THE COLONY is that the question of equality between men and women is not summed up in a series of disputes about principle, legitimate, yes, but ultimately trite. Marivaux uses this as a point of departure to lead to a truly original political observation: the proven imperfection of all our current societies resulted from sidelining women at the moment of the societies were conceived. Since the human race is duplex, how can we hope to find a viable political regime if it was conceived only by and for one of the two components?” —Guillaume Grandjean

About the Author


  • Pierre Marivaux

    Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux (2/4/1688 to 2/12/1763) was the most important French playwright of the 18th century. He wrote numerous comedies for La Comédie Française and La Comédie Italienne of Paris, the most famous of which are THE GAME OF LOVE AND CHANCE (1730) and LES FAUSSES CONFIDENCES (1737; FALSE CONFESSIONS). The French word marivaudage signifies the flirtatious bantering tone characteristic of Marivaux's dialogue. He also published a number of essays in the manner of Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele, and two important though unfinished novels, La Vie de Marianne (The Life of Marianne, 1731-41) and Le Paysan parvenu (The Fortunate Peasant, 1735).

  • Laurence Senelick

    Laurence Senelick is Fletcher Professor Emeritus of Drama and Oratory at Tufts University. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard. His expertise is in Russian theatre and drama, history of popular entertainment, gender and performance, history of directing, classical theory. Prof. Senelick is the author or editor of more than twenty-five books, the most recent being, The Final Curtain: The Art of Dying on Stage; The Crooked Mirror: Plays of a Modernist Russian Cabaret; Soviet Theatre: A Documentary History; Stanislavsky: A Life in Letters; The American Stage: Writing on the American Theatre (Library of America) and A Historical Dictionary of Russian Theatre. Others books include: The Chekhov Theatre: A Century of the Plays in Performance and The Changing Room: Sex, Drag, and Theatre, as well as over a hundred articles in learned journals. He is a former Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin. Prof. Senelick was named Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Prof. Senelick has been named a Distinguished Scholar by both the American Society of Theatre Research and the Faculty Research Awards Council of Tufts University. He is the recipient of grants and awards from, among others, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. He has received the Barnard Hewitt Award of the American Society for Theatre Research for The Chekhov Theatre; the George Freedley Award of the Theatre Library Association for The Age and Stage of George L. Fox and The Changing Room; and the George Jean Nathan Award for best dramatic criticism of 2000. He holds the St. George medal of the Russian Ministry of Culture for services to Russian art and scholarship, and is honorary curator of Russian theatre at the Harvard Theatre Collection. He was also awarded a stipend from the TranScript/Mikhail Prokhorov Fund for Translation from the Russian. In 2008 he won the Graduate Teaching award (doctoral level) of the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools and in 2012 the Betty Jean Jones Prize of American Theatre and Drama Society for Distinguished Teaching. He is a widely produced translator of plays from such authors as Chekhov and Feydeau, and director at Tufts of his own translations of The Inspector General, The Bakkhai, and Anything to Declare? He has acted and directed with such organizations as the Poets' Theatre, the Loeb Drama Center, the Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Baroque, the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the revue The Proposition. He recently devised new courses on Cabaret, Theatre and Visual Studies, and Low Comedy and played Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape at the Balch Arena Theatre. His recipes appear in the Bon Appetit cookbooks.

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 12/8/2021
Pages 78
ISBN 9780881459111