Like some rare alignment of the stars, the two plays which have captivated this season’s Broadway theatergoers are both British adaptations of great French novels. These two masterpieces are Choderlos de Laclos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1782) and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (1862): each provides an illuminating contrast to the other in its original, if not in its current Broadway incarnation.

In manner, philosophy, scale, and intent, two works could not be more different, so that the eighty years which lie between their publication—in which occurred the French Revolution, the Terror, the rise and fall of Napoleon, the realignment of Europe, and the restoration of Empire—would appear to have brought about a transformation of sensibility and belief every bit as total and irreversible as the technological transformations of our own age.


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