Marie Antoinette as a Victim of the French Society Introduction Marie Antoinette was portrayed in numerous literary and factual accounts as a model of ‘immoral femininity’. Feminist scholars have argued that Marie Antoinette’s public defamation in existing narratives, political vulgarity, and in her trial for sedition were an integral piece of a bigger scheme by the extremists in the National Assembly—the Jacobins—to eliminate and dehumanize femininity in the French society (Craciun 2003). This merciless demonization and removal of women from the public arena was rhetorically explained by Lynn Hunt: “[i]n the eyes of the Jacobin leadership, women were threatening to take Marianne [a feminine symbol of liberty in the European tradition] as a metaphor for their own active participation; in this situation, no female figure, however fierce and radical, could possibly appeal to them” (Craciun 2003, 76).
This essay analyzes the claim that Marie Antoinette was a victim of the French society. Female Victimization in Revolutionary France How British women view Marie Antoinette exposes the fact that they know it was the gender of the Queen that was besieged, and that, as contemporary scholars confirm, her prosecution for treason “was staged virtually as a morality play on the evil impact of women on the body politic” (Craciun 2003, 77).
The portrayal of Marie Antoinette as a victim has an impact akin to her image as sexual behemoth in the obscene propaganda. As argued by Hunt, Marie Antoinette threatens the male-dominated public domain because she is “the emblem (and sacrificial victim) of the feared disintegration of gender boundaries that accompanied the Revolution” (Goodman 2003, 131). This peril to gender differentiation reached the outer boundaries of France and outside political scholarship.
The Queen was the most prominent and remarkable enchantress at the time, likened at the initial phase of her prosecution to several legendary femmes fatales (Craciun 2003, 78): … like Messaline, Brunchant, Fredigonde, and Medicis, who were formerly qualified with the titles of the Queen of France, whose names have ever been odious, and will never be effaced from the pages of history—Marie Antoinette, widow of Louis Capet, has, since here abode in France, been the scourge and the blood sucker of the French… having squandered the finances of France… in a dreadful manner, to satisfy inordinate pleasures, and to pay the agents of her criminal intrigues. The above statement was supported by Pierre Saint-Amand, who stated that “the execution of Marie Antoinette was by no means an affair of state” (Kilgore-Mueller 2008, 74).
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