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Paul and Virginia

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Paul and Virginia

by Michel Carr

Genre: Operetta
Format of Original Source: Plot summary
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


The story of “Paul and Virginia,” Massé’s masterpiece, follows the lines of Bernardin St. Pierre’s beautiful romance of the same name. The first act opens with the recital of the history of Madame de la Tour, mother of Virginia, and Margaret, the mother of Paul, and reveals the love of the two children for each other. While they are discussing the advisability of sending Paul to India for a time, against which his slave Domingo piteously protests, islanders come rushing towards the cabin announcing the arrival of a vessel from France. In hopes that she will have a letter announcing that she has been forgiven by the relatives who have renounced her, Madame de la Tour goes to the port. A love scene between the children follows, which is interrupted by the hurried entrance of the slave Meala, who is flying from punishment by her master, St. Croix. The two offer to go back with her and to intercede for her forgiveness, in which they are successful. St. Croix, who has designs upon Virginia, begs them to remain until night; but Meala warns them of their danger in a song, and they leave while St. Croix wreaks his revenge upon Meala.


NMI staff keeps coming back to this storyline, wanting to recommend it, because there are some unusually powerful elements in it (a runaway slave, a very villianous master, and a heroic young couple), but the story elements don’t quite hang together, and there isn’t a sturdy story structure upon which to hang a retelling.  Plus, there’s a death near the end of the story which is head-scratchingly arbitrary.  (A shipwreck.)  Flirt with this source material; it might yield to you…but you might need to steal some of its elements and borrow an entirely different storyline from elsewhere.


A word of caution: This plot summary was written by 19th-century literary critic George Upton, who often mixes personal opinion with summation. You would be advised to consult the original source material, if the general plot appeals to you.


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