Marat/Sade online

"The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade" is a play written by Peter Weiss, whose conceit is that a group of inmates in a post-revolutionary French insane asylum are talked into acting out a subversive denunciation of the revolution's betrayal by the Marquis de Sade, who is a co-inmate. And it's a musical.

My parents loved this one, and we sang the songs in the car. I've seen several productions, including the 1967 film of a live performance. It turns out that this whole film is online on YouTube, all two hours' worth. It's quite an amazing work, and the YouTube version is subtitled in English, Portuguese (Brazilian), French, Spanish and Turkish.

The Marquis de Sade is locked in the Charenton mental hospital and decides to put on a play. His overseers agree as long as he follows certain conditions. He writes and directs the other mental patients in a play based on the life of the Jean-Paul Marat. As the play progresses, the inmates become more and more possessed by the violence of the play and become extremely difficult to control. Finally, all chaos breaks loose.

Marat/Sade (1967) (via MeFi)


  1. This film has a really amazing cast — it’s almost like an unofficial production by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

  2. Awesome, I’ll have to watch it as I’ve not seen it since my university days when the student drama club put it on.

  3. My parents loved this one, and we sang the songs in the car.

    As grateful as I am to my parents for playing Peter, Paul, & Mary I can’t help wishing my parents had been a little more like yours.

  4. My daring high-school drama teacher staged a production of this. I played the Marquis de Sade. I was “whipped” on stage each night by the very pretty actress playing Charlotte Corday using a soft set of braided cords that had a special theater makeup on it that, when exposed to skin, left red marks. Every time she whipped me, it left what looked like welts. The audience loved it.

    She stepped too close one night, however, and the whips cords swung around to my front, with the extra centripetal force leaving actual marks! All in the name of art.

    We thought we staged it awfully well, and the school administration didn’t even blink. My co-star, Marat, went on to become a Barnum & Bailey clown.

  5. Incredible play.  I’ve seen it twice — once as a very good high school production and once as a local community theater production.  About ten years separated the two performances — and each time, the play was *totally* relevant to what was going on in the political news of the time.  Really amazingly intelligent show.

  6. I shared this with my other half, who has theatre in her blood  Apparently it has a rep based somewhat on the title, something like that Fairport Convention song.

    I was relieved to discover that during a production the cast tend to just refer to it as “The  Persecution”…

  7. Marat, we’re poor…and the poor stay poor….Marat, don’t make us wait anymore….we want our rights, and we don’t care how….we want a revolution, NOW.

    Sung in Judy Collins’ honey dulcet tones.  Talk about a study in contrasts.

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