The Tragedy of King Lewis The Sixteenth: David Lane
King Lewis XVI is a uniquely present play written by author David Lane in blank verse and classic style. Defined by free dictionary.com as “Unrhymed verse having a regular meter, usually of iambic pentameter,” blank verse poems tell a story without the use of rhyme. Blank verse is often used in English dramatic epic and reflective verse. As author whose work is considered high ranking or excellent is often referred to as classic or recognized in a specific field.
The Tragedy of King Lewis XVI tells the story of King Louis the sixteenth to readers in order to understand his downfall, his relationship with France, his financial problems and how he dealt with the three “estates” of the French people. These estates as described in detail in the play are the nobles, the clergy and the commons. These States-General has not assembled since 1614 and the third estate- the commons used the opportunity to declare itself the National Assembly when Louis in 1789 in an effort to alleviate his financial problems decided to assemble them. But, this would cause the start of the French Revolution. As the reader hears the voice of the Duke of Orleans we begin to understand just who is behind stirring up the people, how the National Assembly was given the purse of France by the King and why as the author writes the king “ Took mad adieu of plain reality.” He then goes on to describe what they have planned, what they feel about the King, his reign and creating their revolution. The King is not without his loyal subjects as a Gentleman of the Hunting Party approaches the Sentry and explains to him what he fears for the King, what Orleans plans: To Torch both home and manufactory, of worthy Revellion, who late had pled.” Greedy reigns within these men, the assembly he warns as they secretly plan to destroy the King.
On July 14th, 1789, what is so graphically described begins as the violence in Paris starts when the citizens storm the Bastille, a state prison where they think the ammunition is stored. When we read more of Scene One Act 3 we hear the voice of the King speaking to baron De Bensenval believing that he would not have to go to war with Frenchman, children or even reaching any blows. Warned but why didn’t he listen? Reminding everyone about Charles, the past his fate.
Even though Lewis/Louis seems to accept the inevitable or the revolution, he does resist the advice of the constitutional monarchist who hoped to seek reform to restore the monarchy and save it. Casting aside the advice, not listening and hearing how they felt about Marie Antoinette, an allowing some to plot against her, the revolution began and the end was close at hand. The King and Queen moved to Tuileries in June of 1791. The opposition was so strong that they eventually went to Austria and then back to Paris.
We once again here the voice of the King as he speaks to Count De Saint-Priest as they discuss Orleans and the revolution. It is in this scene that the King is warned and told to leave. If he remains the goal is to shackle him and take away his power and treat him as a child. We then hear the voice of Necker as he talks to Prince De Beauveau about the Revolution, the words of the King and his goals for France. Public opinion was going against the King. Leaving Paris, then returning under guard. Louis then has no choice but to call the Estates General but first let’s get to know the queen and hear her words and thoughts in Act 4. Hearing her words, what she though she saw, the panic, what they both realize is about to happen and what he things need to be done. As Marie states: W’are King and Queen of little worth.” She even states that there are idle regiments standing by to protect them and France from dissolution. Hearing her thoughts about her countrymen, what she equates as royal sufferance and telling him of the punishments that are needed to for those who go against them. “ with enemies, as th’heedless shoulders of the main as she continues with her thoughts on page 71. But, it is at this point the calls the Estates where the Queen responds with her thoughts related to the death of Catholic France as a mob forms, they want them both and what they proclaim as the Marquis De Lafayette proclaims that he is there to take them both safely to Paris which is a surprise to both the King and Queen as they expected someone else. The Queen senses that something is wrong. But, at this point Lewis/Louis has no choice but to reconvene the Estates General and give the third estate more power. Doing this as a token gesture you might say which increased their number but still only one third of the voting power. An angry mob, a crowd and the royal family is taken to the Palace of the Tuileries. But, we then hear a different side of Lewis as he talks about Paris, refers to it as a narrow prison, talks about being despondent, the government, the execution of his plan, his feelings bout Versailles and leaving and then finally the sadness or melancholia he is feeling. The plots of émigré circles, which were ruined when the royal family went to flee France in disguise, compromised the King’s position. Remembering the Queens words as she states” the nemesis of Kings is Lafayette! Himself he streams the evil ensign of Revolution and the end of which is France.” Act Five is quite revealing, enlightening as you hear many voices for the King and Queen and those against. But, the King is taken in at Varennes, and their flight looked at as treason and dealing with foreign powers. The King is then forced to accept the constitution and his powers are greatly reduced but the royal veto and his power to appoint ministers remained in place. But, the worst did not happen as the harsh realizations are brought to light In Act 5 scene five. We hear the king’s voice as he realizes his days are numbered an Maleshebes talks about his enemies, the justice that needs to be invoked and Scene 6 the Hall of the Convention. The King is imprisoned in the Temple with his family in 1792 and in September with the defeat of the Prussians at Valmy, the Convention declared a Republic. The king was found guilty by the Convention by a unanimous vote. But, let’s not forget that the King did send troops to Paris when he thought as we read in this play that the French Guards were becoming too sympathetic to the assembly and the King it was said was going to try and stop the assembly by dismissing Necker. But, his dismissal provoked the storming of the Bastille and the King had no choice but to reinstate him and accept the new national red, white and blue rosette or knot of ribbons worn in a hat as a badge of office or party. He also as we heard before allowed plotting of the queen and court refusing to abolish feudal rights. The third estate as we learn when the play opens, the relationship to the Catholic church and the warnings, we find that the third estate does not take their seat with the Tennis Court Oath until they voted as a common assembly. As stated before he had no choice but to accept the three estates as one National Assembly. As you hear the charges brought against the King on page 122 you hear the end result of what happened on August 10, 1792. On this day the royal couple would be arrested by the sans-cullotes followed by the monarch being abolished in September. Those in charge stated the king remained in jail at the time, not charged as you hear the defense speak for the King. However, the end result was evidence of the king’s actions and intrigues with Austria and other nations. He was put on trial for treason and the end result you decide if justice was fairly served. The final words of his son before the King is led off to meet his fate and the final words of the King to those present. Standing tall and quite stalwart the king meets his maker and nine months later, not included in this play the queen meets hers.
Hear the voices of the Marquis de Lafayette the nobleman who sided with the National Assembly. Hear the outcome of the Tennis Court Oath and then the end result of the Estates General were themselves locked out of the usual meeting hall and had to convene at the Tennis court. Finally, the formation of the National Assembly, what the king did in order to intimidate the Third Estate, their ever-growing power and more. Relive it all when you read The Tragedy of King Lewis the Sixteenth and remember the link to the Catholic Church, the pope and initial warning: God or the Revolution. One interesting play. One play that will allow you, the reader to decide whether the King received what he deserved after you hear it straight from him. Allow author David Lane to take you back in time to where it all began, how the revolution began, what caused Lewis/Louis to be arrested and have to flee and the end result. One interesting play that will keep you glued to the page from start to finish.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
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