or The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat
as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton
under the Direction of The Marquis de Sade* (1964)
Opening scenes 1-8

Peter Weiss

Author's Note on the Historical Background to the Play
Characters Glossary
Marat/Sade: Opening scenes 1-8
Marat/Sade: Closing scenes
Literal Verse Translation of the Original Text from the Four Singers

* Between 1963 and 1965 Marat/Sade went through many drafts and several versions. Four months after its Premiere in West Berlin the play opened in London an August 20, 1964, in a translation by Geoffrey Skelton. Weiss, however, continued to make changes even after Marat/Sade was published in May 1964. In the aftermath of the staging of the play in the East German city of Rostock (Match 1965) Weiss revised it one final time for what has become the generally accepted version, published in 1965. These last revisions, designed in part to give more weight to Marat, concerned almost exclusively stage directions and changes in the descriptions of the play's characters, Sets, and costumes. While Weiss shifted bits and pieces of dialogue to different scenes and restored an exchange from an earlier version to the final scene, the dialogue itself remained essentially unchanged. Thus the present volume was able to retain most of Geoffrey Skelton's translation. At the same time Weiss's final revisions were incorporated, for the first time providing an English speaking public with a translation of the definitive version of Marat/Sade.

Special thanks to Daniel Theisen for the translation an pp. 110 -11.

A Drama in Two Acts


Sixty-eight years old, extremely corpulent, grey hair, smooth complexion. He moves heavily, breathes at times with difficulty, as if asthmatic. His clothing is of good quality, but worn. He is wearing breeches with bows, a wide sleeved shirt with ornamental front and lace cuffs and buckled shoes.

Forty nine years old, suffering from a skin disease. He is draped in a white cloth and has a white bandage round his temples.

Marat's companion, of indeterminate age. The player of the role is wearing a hospital uniform, with an apron and a headcloth. Her movements are compulsive and constrained. When she has nothing to do, she stands wringing a cloth in her hands. She seizes every opportunity to change Marat's bandage.

Aged twenty-four. Her clothing consists of a thin white blouse of Directoire cut. The blouse does not conceal the bosom, but she wears flimsy white cloth over it. When she is on stage a ribboned hat is tied to her.
She is attended throughout by two sisters, who support her, comb her hair and arrange her clothes. She moves like a somnambulist.

Girondist Deputy.
The player of the role wears, in addition to his hospital shirt, a short waistcoat and the smooth tight trousers of an "Incroyable." He is held in the asylum as an erotomaniac, and takes advantage of his role Corday's lover at every suitable opportunity.

Former priest, a radical Socialist.
He wears a white hospital shirt with an overall shaped like a monk's robe. The sleeves of his shirt are tied together in front of him over his hands, and he can move only in the limits of this straitjacket.

POLPOCH, Baritone
They represent the fourth estate. They have decked out their hospital uniforms with grotesque bits of costume and wear the cap of the revolution. Rossignol, with her tricolor sash and saber, represents the figure of Marianne. They have singing voices and perform in mime.

As extras, voices, mimes and chorus. According to need they appear either in their white hospital uniforms or in primitive costumes. Any not required in the play devote themselves to autistic exercises. Some of them exhibit stereotypic repetitive movements, turn in circles, hop, mutter to themselves, break out in unprovoked laughter or shouting, or remain in a stupor during the entire play. Others let themselves be pushed around indifferently. There are, however, a few who intently follow the action and serve as a reminder that not only the mentally ill were interned at Charenton but also people who fell in disgrace with Napoleonic society for political reasons.

Wears a harlequin smock over his hospital shirt. He is draped with numerous Instruments with which he can make a noise as necessary. He holds a staff in his hand.

Inmates of the asylum. They play harmonium, lute, flute, trumpet and drums.

In uniforms with long white aprons which give them the appearance of butchers. They carry batons in the pockets of their aprons.

With long aprons, starched collars and large white Bonnets. They carry rosaries. The sisters are played by athletic looking men.

Director of the asylum, in elegant clothing with coat and top hat. He carries a cane. He likes to adopt a Napoleonic pose.

They are richly dressed.

Act 1

The asylum bell rings behind the stage. The curtain rises.


The stage shows the bath half of the asylum with the appropriate furnishings and with benches for the actors, sisters, and male nurses. Front stage left MARAT'S bathtub with a writing board placed across it. Front stage right SADE'S chair. Stage right there is also a rostrum for COULMIER and his family. The MUSICIANS also occupy a space on stage. Preparations for the performance are concluded and ALL PARTICIPANTS appear on stage. Music.



As Director of the Clinic of Charenton
I would like to welcome you to this salon
To one of our residents a vote
of thanks is due Monsieur de Sade who wrote
and has produced this play for your delectation
and for our patients' rehabilitation
We ask your kindly indulgence for
a cast never on stage before
coming to Charenton But each inmate
I can assure you will try to pull his weight
We're modern enlightened and we don't agree
with locking up patients We prefer therapy
through education and especially art
so that our hospital may play its part
faithfully following according to our lights
the Declaration of Human Rights
I agree with our author Monsieur de Sade
that his play set in our modern bath house won't be marred
by all these Instruments for mental and physical hygiene
Quite an the contrary they set the scene
For in Monsieur de Sade's play he has tried
to show how Jean Paul Marat died
and how he waited in his bath before
Charlotte Corday came knocking at his door


HERALD signals the orchestra with his staff. Ceremonious music begins. COULMIER and his family move to the rostrum. SADE goes to his chair. MARAT is placed in his bath tub. SIMONNE places headband and white cloth. The NURSES arrange CORDAY'S costume. The TROUPE assumes the pose of a heroic tableau. The music stops.


[Herald knocks three times with his staff]


Already seated in his place
here is Marat observe his face
[points his staff at MARAT)
Fifty years old and not yet dead
he wears a bandage around his head

[points staff at bandage]

His flesh burns it is yellow as cheese

[points at his neck]

because disfigured by a skin disease
And only water cooling every limb

[points to bath]

prevents his fever from consuming him

[MARAT takes his pen and begins to write]

To act this most important role we chose
a lucky paranoic one of those
who've made unprecedented strides since we
introduced them to hydrotherapy
The Lady who is acting as his nurse

[points at SIMONNE. She loosens MARAT's bandage and puts on a new one]

whose touch certainly makes him no worse
is Simonne Evrard not Charlotte Corday
Marat and Evrard united one day
They shared one vision of the just and true
and furthermore they shared her money too
Here's Charlotte Corday waiting for her entry

[points to CORDAY who smoothes her clothes and ties her neckcloth ]

She comes from Caen her family landed gentry
Her dress is pretty shoes chic and you'll note
she readjusts the cloth around her throat

[points at it. CORDAY adjusts it]

Historians agree so it's not lewd in us
to say that she's phenomenally pulchritudinous

[She draws herself up]

Unfortunately the girl who plays the role here
has sleeping sickness also melancholia
Our hope must be for this afflicted soul

[With closed eyes, she inclines her head far backward]

that she does not forget her rote

[with emphasis, turning to CORDAY]

Ah here comes Monsieur Duperret

[indicates DUPERRET]

with silken hose and fresh toupee
To the Revolution's murderous insanity
he brings a touch of high urbanity
Though as a well known Girondist
his name's upon Marat's black list
he's handsome cheerful full of zest
and needs more watching than the rest

[DUPERRET approaches CORDAY, pawing her furtively. The HERALD raps him an the hand with his staff. A SISTER pulls back DUPERRET.]

Jailed for taking a radical view
of anything you can name the former priest
Jacques Roux

[indicates Roux who pushes out his elbows and raises his head]

Ally of Marat's revolution but
unfortunately the censor's cut
most of his rabble rousing theme
Our moral guardians found it too extreme



[opens his mouth and pushes his elbows out vigorously. COULMIER raises his forefinger threateningly.]


Ladies and gentlemen our players
are drawn from many social layers

[He waves his staff over the audience and the group of actors.]

Our singers for example of these four
each must be classified as bottom drawer
But now they've left the alcoholic mists
of slums and gin cellars our vocalists

[points at each of the FOUR SINGERS]

Cucurucu Polpoch Kokol
And on the streets no longer Rossignol

[Each named changes his pose with a studied bow, ROSSIGNOL curtsies.]

Now meet this gentleman from high society

[points at SADE who turns his back an the public in a bored way]

who under the lurid star of notoriety
came to live with us just five years ago
It's to his genius that we owe this show
The former Marquis Monsieur de Sade
whose books were banned his essays barred
while he's been persecuted and reviled
thrown into jail and for some years exiled
The introduction's over now the play
of Jean-Paul Marat can get under way
Tonight the date is the thirteenth of July eighteen-o-eight
And an this night our cast intend
showing how fifteen years ago night without end
fell on that man that invalid

[points at MARAT]

And you are going to see him bleed

[points at MARAT'S breast]

and see this woman after careful thought

[points at CORDAY]

take up the dagger and cut him short
Homage to Marat

[Music starts. CORDAY is led by the SISTERS from the arena to a bench in the background. SIMONNE seats herself behind MARAT'S bath SADE goes to his chair and sits down. ROUX and DUPERRET withdraw to a bench.]
[The FOUR SINGERS take their position for the homage to MARAT]



Four years after the Revolution
and the old king's execution
four years after remember how
those courtiers took their final bow


[singing in the Background]
String up every aristocrat
Out with the priests and let them live on their fat


Four years after we started fighting
Marat keeps on with his writing
Four years after the beginning of our great revolution
Later completed by the emperor Napoleon


[singing in the Background]
Down with all of the ruling class
Throw all the generals out an their arse


Long live the Revolution

[The FOUR SINGERS and other PATIENTS form an adoring group around the bathtub. A wreath of leaves is held up.]


[in Background]
Marat we won't dig our own bloody graves


[in Background]
Marat we've got to be clothed and fed


[in Background]
Marat we're sick of working like slaves


[in Background]
Marat we've got to have cheaper bread


[indicating wreath]
We crown you with these leaves Marat
because of the laurel shortage
The laurels all went to decorate
academics generals and heads of state
And their heads are enormous

[The wreath is placed an MARAT'S head, he is lifted from the bath and carried an the shoulders of two patients.]


Good old Marat
By your side we'll stand or fall
You're the only one that we can trust at all

[MARAT is carried around the arena. SIMONNE walks beside bim looking up to him anxiously. The PATIENTS in the procession carry out studied gestures of homage.]

ROSSIGNOL: [naively, taking the play seriously]

Don't scratch your scabs, Marat, wait 'till you're well
For without you the revolution will go to hell


Four years he fought and he fought unafraid
sniffing down traitors by traitors betrayed
Marat in the courtroom Marat underground
sometimes the otter and sometimes the hound

Fighting all the gentry and fighting every priest
businessman the bourgeois the military beast
Marat always ready to stifle every scheme
of the sons of the arse-licking dying regime

We've got new generals our leaders are new
They sit and they argue and all that they do
is sell their own colleagues and ride on their backs
and jail them and break them or give them all the axe

Screaming in language no man understands
of rights that we grabbed with our own bleeding hands
when we wiped out the bosses and stormed through the wall
of the prison they told us would outlast us all


Marat we're poor and the poor stay poor
Marat don't make us wait any more


We want our rights and we don't care how
We want our revolution NOW

[MARAT is ceremoniously placed back in the bath. The wreath is taken from his head. SIMONNE busily changes his bandages and rearranges the cloth about his shoulders. Music ends. SADE sits unmoving, looking across the stage with a mocking expression an his face.]



And now our lovely new leaders come
they give us bank notes which we're told
are money just as good as gold


We've got Human Rights we've got the right to starve


We've got jobs waiting for work


We've got Brotherhood we're all covered with lice


We've got Equality we're equal to die like dogs

[COULMIER jumps up from his seat]
[in the middle of the stage]


Who controls the markets
Who locks up the granaries
Who got the loot from the palaces
Who sits tight on the estates
that were going to be divided between the poor

[COULMIER Looks around. A SISTER pulls Roux back]

PATIENTS: [in the Background, and beating out the rhythm emphatically]

Who keeps us prisoner
Who locks us in
We're all normal and we want our freedom

COULMIER: [knocking with his cane on the railing]

Monsieur de Sade

[SADE takes no notice]

It appears I must act as the voice of reason
What's going to happen when right at the start of the play
the patients are so disturbed
Please keep your production under control
Times have changed times are different
and these days we should take a subtler view of old grievances

[The PATIENTS are pushed back by the NURSES. Some SISTERS place themselves in front of the PATIENTS and sing a tranquilizing litany]


[Midstage, CORDAY, who is sitting slumped down an the bench, is being prepared by the SISTERS for her entrance.]


Here sits Marat the people's choice
dreaming and listening to his fever's voice
You see his hand curled round his pen
and the screams from the street are all forgotten
He stares at the map of France eyes marching from
town to town

[Points to the map, which MARAT rolls up]
while you wait
[Turns round. In the Background a whispering begins and spreads.]

CHORUS: [whispers]

Corday Corday


while you wait for this woman to cut him down

[Points with his staff to CORDAY. Orchestra plays the Corday theme.]

HERALD: [waiting for the SISTERS to complete their preparations]

And none of us
And none of us

[CORDAY is led forward by the SISTERS]

And none of us can alter the fact do what we will
that she stands outside his door ready and poised to

[he taps the floor three times with his staff. CORDAY is put in position. This all resembles a ritual act. The music ends. The SISTERS stand back.]

CORDAY: [sleepily and hesitantly]

Poor Marat in your bathtub
your body soaked saturated with poison

[waking up]

Poison spurting from your hiding place
poisoning the people
arousing them to looting and murder
I have come
Charlotte Corday from Caen
where a huge army of liberation is massing
and Marat I come as the first of them Marat

[CORDAY stands with her head bowed. The SISTERS lead her back.]


MARAT: [tyrannically]

Simonne Simonne
More cold water
Change my bandage
O this itching is unbearable

[SIMONNE stands ready behind him and carries out her rehearsed tasks. She changes his bandage, fans him with the shoulder cloth and tip jug over the bath.]


Jean-Paul don't scratch yourself
you'll tear your skin to shreds
give up writing Jean-Paul
it won't do any good


My call
My fourteenth of July call
to the people of France


Jean-Paul please be more careful
look how red the water's getting


And what's a bath full of blood
compared to the bloodbaths still to come
Once we thought a few hundred corpses would be enough
then we saw thousands were still too few
and today we can't even count all the dead
Everywhere you look

[MARAT raises himself up in the bath. The FOUR SINGERS stretch out an the floor play cards, taking no notice of MARAT.]

There they are
Behind the walk
Up an the rooftops
Down in the cellars
They wear the people's cap on their heads
but their underwear's embroidered with crowns
and if so much as a shop gets looted
they squeal
Beggars villains gutter rats
Simonne Simonne
my head's an fire
I can't breathe

* * *

The screaming is inside me
I   a m   t h e   R e v o l u t i o n

[Corday is led forward by the SISTERS. DUPERRET follows her.]