The Maids  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Maids is a 1947 play by the French writer Jean Genet.

Genet based his play on the infamous Papin sisters, Lea and Christine, who brutally murdered their employer and her daughter in Le Mans, France, in 1933. The story can be read as an absurdist exposition on the intricate power dynamic that exists between unequals. Solange and Claire are two housemaids who construct elaborate sadomasochistic rituals when their mistress (Madame) is away.

The focus of their Theatre is the murder of Madame and they take turns portraying either side of the power divide. The deliberate pace and devotion to detail guarantees that they always fail to actualize their fantasies by ceremoniously "killing" Madame at the ritual's denouement.

Before it was filmed for the American Film Theatre, it ran at the Greenwich Theatre, London, with the same principal cast later used for the film version.

In 1974 the play was made into a eponymous film directed by Christopher Miles, and starring Glenda Jackson as Solange, Susannah York as Claire, Vivien Merchant as Madame, and Mark Burns as Monsieur. The cinematographer Douglas Slocombe deliberately implemented many of Genet's theatrical devices for the film. The camera was often static, the settings lush and extravagant.

The story was filmed again in 1995 as Sister My Sister, starring British actresses Joely Richardson, Jodhi May and Julie Walters. The film was directed by Nancy Meckler and written by Wendy Kesselman.

The case was also the subject of Murderous Maids, a French film starring Sylvie Testud and Julie-Marie Parmentier and directed by Jean-Pierre Denis.


The play "Les Bonnes", by French writer Jean Genet, is based on the murders. Although several details have been changed, the play does highlight the dissatisfaction of the maids in their jobs, which manifests itself in a hatred for their mistress.

Happiness in crime

Genet's fascination with the crime stemmed from his contempt for the middle classes, along with his understanding of how a murderer could glory in the infamy that came from the crime, cfr happiness in crime.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Maids" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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