A Florentine Tragedy; La Sainte Courtisane

Oscar Wilde

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  • EAN: 9788832564587
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La Sainte Courtisane, French for "The Holy Courtesan") is an unfinished play by Oscar Wilde written in 1894. The original draft was left in a taxi cab by the author, and was never completed. It was first published in 1908 by Wilde's literary executor, Robert Ross. It has never been performed, and has been little studied.

The play is incomplete. The plot of the existing segment is as follows: Myrrhina is an Alexandrian noblewoman who travels to the mountains to tempt Honorius, a Christian hermit, away from goodness with her beauty and wealth. After they talk, he decides to return to sin in Alexandria while she discovers religion and chooses to remain in the desert.

Robbie Ross summarises the complete plot in his introduction to Miscellanies:

"Honorius the hermit, so far as I recollect the story, falls in love with the courtesan who has come to tempt him, and he reveals to her the secret of the Love of God. She immediately becomes a Christian, and is murdered by robbers; Honorius the hermit goes back to Alexandria to pursue a life of pleasure."

Oscar Wilde began work on the play in 1894, between writing Salome and The Importance of Being Earnest, but did not complete it before his trial and imprisonment. The fragments were first published in 1908 in Methuen's Collected Works, along with an introduction by Robbie Ross which explained its intervening history:

"At the time of Wilde’s trial the nearly completed drama was entrusted to Mrs. Leverson, who in 1897 went to Paris on purpose to restore it to the author. Wilde immediately left the manuscript in a cab...All my attempts to recover the lost work failed. The passages here reprinted are from some odd leaves of a first draft. The play is of course not unlike Salome, though it was written in English. It expanded Wilde’s favourite theory that when you convert some one to an idea, you lose your faith in it; the same motive runs through Mr. W. H."

Wilde considered revisiting the play in 1897 after his release from prison, but he lacked motivation for literary work in this period.