Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version



Australian Journal of French Studies 21 (January 1, 1984), pp. 15-25.

doi: 10.3828/AJFS.21.1.15


Copyright © 1984 Liverpool University Press. Used by permission.


At a crucial point in the third act of Le Jeu de l'amour et du hasard, Silvia declares that she requires a battle in Dorante between love and reason: "je veux un combat entre I'amour et la raison," a struggle her brother Mario suggests will be to the death. In fact, the work's entire action, not just the last act, can playfully be renamed Le Jeu de l'amour et "de la raison," and while it is possible to read Dorante's eventual proposal of marriage as the defeat of reason, In a very real sense such an evaluation must be nuanced, if not reversed.

Both as a moralist and a comic writer - two sides of Marivaux's talent which converge in Le Jeu - reason serves as a foundation of his enterprise, and although critics of his theatre have touched on the role of reason in his comedies, their primary emphasis has usually been his treatment of love. Approaching Le Jeu from the opposite direction by focusing attention of Marivaux's complex notion of reason can serve to highlight his moral preoccupations underlying the play, while elucidating elements of its comic structure common to all his theatre. I will begin by examining how raison is treated in his journals and La Vie de Marianne and then go on to show how its ethical and social implications underpin Le Jeu.