The Marquise de Merteuil, from Les liaisons dangereuses, is a book character I’d like to be. She lived in a time (pre-Revolution France) when women were supposed to be prim and proper, not to be (openly) sexually active or independent. The aristocratic Merteuil is the seeming epitome of perfection according to society’s standards. But she had to wear that mask in order to be truly herself behind closed doors.
In college, I’ve read the play version of “Les liaisons dangereuses’ by Christopher Hampton. It was for an acting class. I had to read the whole play and perform a monologue from that play. I did Marquise de Merteuil’s monologue, in which she was talking to Valmont about seducing and conquering. By the way, a few years later I started reading the original novel, but I lost interest halfway.
All throughout that college semester, I was preparing to perform Merteuil’s monologue, which would have been my final exam. During the final exam, I remember standing center stage, and imagine Valmont sitting in a chair to my right on stage. When I finished my monologue, I got a huge round of applause, and cheers. My classmates really liked my performance, and told me so after class. I really liked my performance too.
When I performed Merteuil’s monologue, I felt empowered and bold. Though she’s an evil woman, it’s her independence, cunning, intelligence and fierce determination that attracted me to play her. For up to 10 minutes that one afternoon in college, I got to be the Marquise de Merteuil. And I loved it.