[New Orleans, Octoroons, Interracial Relations, Slavery:] L’Article 47, or Breaking the Ban.
“I mock at your rage! You had better have been united to me than linked to a galley-slave!”
“The octoroon despised, spurned, penned up in scornful coolness, liable to public sale and scourge—the colored woman you see yonder, kept a white man for her slave” (p8). So is learned but one of numerous horrors brought about by Cora, a seductress, a future Madam at her own house of prostitution in Paris, and a New Orleans Creole.
Through her womanly arts, Cora leads a good white man, Monsieur George Duhamel, down the path of ruin and temptation—from New Orleans to Paris; to gambling, dueling and murder; to betrayal and infidelity; to court and to imprisonment, where he is banned under Article 47, after his release from prison, from ever returning to Paris.
Duhamel’s past murderous infatuation with the Creole Cora behind him, he assumes his father’s name and lives with his new wife in Paris despite the ban. Cora recognizes him. She is again rebuffed, despite her attempts to blackmail him, so she denounces him to the police. Duhamel’s wife, however, forgives him for his past love of Cora and Duhamel receives a legal pardon. This drives Cora mad and she dies.
Is the play L’Article 47, or Breaking the Ban an object lesson on the hazards of race mixing? Does even the evocation of slavery portend the tragic ending of this play? Reconstruction-era American theatergoers may well have taken such lessons to heart.
Interestingly, in 1913—a time of rising nativist sentiment, L’Article 47 was adapted for the screen as a silent film. This was just two years before the controversial silent film, The Birth of a Nation—a movie which portrayed the Ku Klux Klan as heroes.
Description: [New Orleans, Octoroons, Interracial Relations, Slavery:] L’Article 47, or Breaking the Ban.
New York: R.M. De Witt, 1872. 42, [6 (adverts)]pp., illus. with diagrams for the stage. Printed wraps. First Edition[?] Issued in Chicago in same year by the Dramatic Publishing Company, priority unknown. General wear and handling; old glue residue to spine; good.