Danton's Death

Danton was one of the architects of the French Revolution and was instrumental in the execution of the King, his family and other aristocratic leaders. However, he became unhappy with the Reign of Terror, which swept over France and led to widespread and, he felt, unnecessary executions. He largely withdrew from the leadership of the Revolution, which fell instead to Robespierre, a fatal mistake on Danton’s part.

In this production we see Robespierre as a serious man, with no real interests other than the Revolution. He believes that anyone who has servants, good clothes, good food and enjoys himself is potentially a counter-revolutionary. Unfortunately for Danton, although the former leader and a great believer in the Revolution, he also believes in having a good time. Danton is warned of the danger he is in by his friends and supporters Camille and Lacroix. Danton refuses to believe that he could be at risk and is, perhaps, too weary after four years of revolution to try to protect himself until it’s too late. Robespierre is encouraged by Saint-Juste, his right-hand man, to order the arrest of Danton, together with Lacroix and Camille, which Robespierre does, even though Camille has been a life-long friend and was his only friend as a child.

At trial, Danton defends himself brilliantly but to no avail; the decision is pre-determined. All three are executed. The revolution has turned on them. What is not shown in the play, of course, is that Robespierre and Saint-Juste themselves were not to outlast Danton by long and were executed three months later. In killing Danton they removed the only person who could have saved them.

The play was written in 1835, within living memory of the events portrayed in it. It is quite polemical in parts and shows how once started some events become unstoppable and uncontrollable.

Reviews by Alan Chorley

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The Blurb

A government overthrown by revolution. Now its dreams are disintegrating: promises have been broken, ideals betrayed. Those who fought for freedom now care only for power. Danton is the last good man standing; how long can he survive?

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