76 pages
ISBN 0-88754-585-8
DDC C812'.54





Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University.


In 1734, an enslaved woman named Marie-Joseph Angélique set fire to the
city of Montreal as she attempted to escape with her lover; she was
later caught and executed. Lorena Gale fills in this bare historical
outline with a cast of fully realized characters, creating a powerful
play well deserving of the many awards (including the du Maurier
National Playwriting Competition) it has won.

Although Angélique was ostensibly purchased as a present for her
mistress, her real duty is to assuage the sexual hunger of her master,
Franзois Poulin de Francheville, the owner of a prosperous ironworks.
She is also forced into a public coupling with Cesar, a neighbor’s
slave, with the object of producing offspring—and profit. Although she
receives rough sympathy from the lover chosen for her, Angélique turns
to Claude, an indentured Frenchman. When the two attempt to flee,
Claude, himself powerless, abandons Angélique to her fate.

Much of the play’s power comes from Gale’s creation of nuanced
characters: while the Franchevilles are Angélique’s oppressors, they
are also caught in a web of sexual jealousy, need, and loneliness. The
anachronistic instructions regarding vacuuming that Angélique receives
evoke the present-day plight of domestic workers, making her
homesickness all the more visceral. At the same time, her relationship
with Claude and Cesar suggests complex racial and sexual interactions.


Gale, Lorena., “Angélique,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,