The Equality of the Two Sexes in La Princesse de Clèves
Michael G. Paulson
Paulson, Michael G., "The Equality of the Two Sexes in La Princesse de Clèves", dans Cahiers du XVIIe siècle, 1988, vol. II, 1.
La Princesse de Clèves, on the surface, scarcely appears a work in which one would expect to find equality of any sort. It is a novel in which kings, various levels of nobility and their ladies machinate for position and power and in which all struggle to maintain themselves above everyone else. Yet, in a sense, there is not only equality among men, but between the two sexes as well. Our problem is to formulate a working definition of "equal" upon which the present study can concentrate. The adjective egal is generally defined as "semblable, le meme en nature, en quantite, en qualite ... qui ne varie pas" and as a noun as "qui est de meme rang." The substantive definition does not seem to suffice, since by nature, a king is higher than a duke and a duke is higher than a count. Even among kings, equality varies according to ability and power. Henri II, who reigns at the novel’s beginning, is a physically stronger, more capable king than his sickly son, Francois II, who reigns, but does not rule at the work’s end. For our definition of equality, we must instead work with the concept of "similar" and "the same in nature" as we strive to establish the equality of the sexes in La Princesse de Clèves.
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