Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version

April 2002


Published in The French Review, 75:5 (April 2002), 903-912 Copyright 2002 American Association of Teachers of French.
Used by permission.
The French Review is online at JSTOR:


Marivaux's treatment of losing love in one of his favorite plays, La Double Inconstance (1723), is a double tour de force. Not content to show that grieving or offering sympathy for lost love can be intimately tied to the awakening to love that is at the center of his theater, he also turns them to comic advantage. The classic accounts of the role of sensibility in Marivaux, such as Ruth Jamieson's, have pointed out how love strains against pride in his plays as lovers summon amour-propre to resist acknowledging that they are in love (97,105) and noted the comic results of this conflict; yet even commentators who have been especially attentive to the role of sympathy in Marivaux, such as David Marshall, have overlooked the comic potential of this sympathy. My reading of the play proposes that mourning one's own losses and sympathy for the losses of others are not only a considerable factor in the triumph of new loves at the denouement, but figure, along with amour-propre, in the play's troubling brand of comedy where the comic skirts melancholy.