Vashti On the French Stage


  • Tovi Bibring Bar-Ilan University



This essay offers a preliminary survey of an ongoing research dedicated to Queen Vashti, the dethroned wife from the Book of Esther. It presents three overlooked theatre plays written in France in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, in which the figure of Queen Vashti is featured as a prominent protagonist who rebelled against the political and marital conventions of the time. The plays examined in this paper include an anonymous mystery play and two tragedies by Pierre Matthieu, all of which present Vashti as a self-aware, powerful and reasonable figure on the one hand, but bold and daring on the other. Two main examples are discussed. First, the notion that Vashti’s tragedy was the result of Ahasuerus’ insobriety, which is presented as the comical intermission in the Mystery but is addressed in a more serious manner in Matthieu’s tragedies. Second, the analogies that the king establishes in Matthieu’s plays between his marriage to Vashti and those of Adam and Eve or Jupiter and Juno.

Keywords: Book of Esther; Vashti; Le mystère du viel testament; mystery plays; Pierre Matthieu; Tragédie d’Esther