A device that we’ve employed several times in ‘Casanova in Paris’ is to have the audience re-evaluate their assessment of a character on the basis of new information. In the case of Marquise d’Urfé, she had previously been described by Madame de Pompadour as an old woman, besotted with Casanova upon whom she had lavished a fortune. Moreover, she noted how she had been duped by Casanova into believing that by using his mastery of the occult he could bring about her rebirth as an immortal being. This, in fact, was historically the case but in the novel we have portrayed it as an elaborate hoax perpetrated by Casanova on d’Urfé’s behalf.
The audience’s direct experience of d’Urfé is thus intended to confound their initial expectations. Her vast wealth is alluded to in the opening panel that depicts a grand chateau nestling amidst extensive grounds but rather than some besotted old woman they find a huntress who has culled a stag. She is also clearly very bright and articulate, comparing Casanova and his fate with that of the stag. Her comments suggest that their relationship is based upon friendship and affection, not passion, and this is reinforced in the second page when we discover how Casanova has helped her out. Clearly d’Urfé challenges eighteenth-century gendered assumptions in that she is assertive, direct, practical and a woman of action. Casanova, in contrast, takes on the role of helper. In the exchanges between the two she is the dominant partner, setting the topics and having the longest turns. She is also the one who offers judgements and opinions.
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