Georges Danton  

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"Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Caussidière for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances of the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire." --"The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon" (1852) by Karl Marx

"In the French Revolution, you had your choice between the cruel Robespierre and the great Danton. You chose cruelty and sent greatness and goodness to the guillotine." --Listen, Little Man! (1945) by Wilhelm Reich

" It is true that Danton had an enormous disadvantage in the eyes of beauty: he was extremely ugly.'.--The Red and the Black (1830) by Stendhal

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Georges Danton (1759 – 1794) was a French lawyer and a leading figure in the French Revolution. He became a deputy to the Paris Commune (1789-1795), presided in the Cordeliers district, and visited the Jacobin club. In August 1792 he became French Minister of Justice and was responsible for inciting the September Massacres. In Spring 1793 he supported the foundation of a Revolutionary Tribunal and became the first president of the Committee of Public Safety. After the Insurrection of 31 May - 2 June 1793 he changed his mind on the use of force and lost his seat in the committee; Danton and Robespierre became rivals. In early October, 1793, he left politics but was urged to return to Paris to plead, as a moderate, for an end to the Terror. Danton's continual criticism of the Committee of Public Safety provoked further counter-attacks. At the end of March 1794, Danton made a speech announcing the end of the Terror. Within a week he became embroiled in a scandal concerning the bankruptcy proceedings of the French East India Company and was guillotined by the advocates of revolutionary terror after accusations of conspiracy, venality and leniency toward the enemies of the Revolution.

Danton's role in the onset of the Revolution has been disputed, especially during French Third Republic; many historians describe him as "the chief force in the overthrow of the French monarchy and the establishment of the First French Republic".

Character disputes

Danton's influence and character during the French Revolution were, and still is, widely disputed among many historians, with the varied perspectives on him ranging from corrupt and violent to generous and patriotic.

One view of Danton, presented by historians like Thiers and Mignet, suggested he was "a gigantic revolutionary" with extravagant passions, a high level of intelligence, and an eagerness for violence in the pursuit of his goals. Another portrait of Danton emerges from the work of Lamartine, who called Danton a man "devoid of honor, principles, and morality" who found only excitement and a chance for distinction during the French Revolution. He was a mere "statesman of materialism" who was bought anew every day. Any revolutionary moments were staged for the prospect of glory and more wealth.

A differing perspective on Danton is presented by Robinet, whose assessment is more positive and portrays him as a figure worthy of admiration. According to Robinet, Danton was a committed, loving, generous citizen, son, father, and husband. He remained loyal to his friends and the country of France by avoiding "personal ambition" and gave himself wholly to the cause of keeping "the government consolidated" for the Republic. He always had a love for his country and the laboring masses, who he felt deserved "dignity, consolation, and happiness".

The 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica wrote that Danton stands out as a master of commanding phrase. One of his fierce sayings has become a proverb. Against the Duke of Brunswick and the invaders, "il nous faut de l'audace, et encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace"—"We need daring, and yet more daring, and always daring!". According to the Georges Lefebvre he was nonchalant and lazy. He is seen as an optimist, a leader full of energy, who liked the pleasures of the life, carefree and indulgent.

Fictionalized accounts

  • Danton, Robespierre, and Marat are characters in Victor Hugo's novel Ninety-Three (Quatrevingt-treize), set during the French Revolution.
  • Danton is a central character in Romanian playwright Camil Petrescu's play of the same name.
  • Danton's last days were made into a play, Dantons Tod (Danton's Death), by Georg Büchner.
  • On the basis of Büchner's play, Gottfried von Einem wrote an opera with the same title, on a libretto by himself and Boris Blacher, which premiered on 6 August 1947 at the Salzburger Festspiele.
  • Danton appears in the Hungarian play The Tragedy of Man and the animated movie of the same name as one of Adam's incarnations throughout Lucifer's illusion.
  • Danton's life from 1791 until his execution was the subject of the 1921 German film Danton.
  • Danton's and Robespierre's quarrels were turned into a 1983 film, Danton, directed by Andrzej Wajda. The film itself is loosely based on Stanisława Przybyszewska's 1929 play Sprawa Dantona ("The Danton Case").
  • Danton's and Robespierre's relations were also the subject of an opera by American composer John Eaton, Danton and Robespierre (1978).
  • Danton is extensively featured in La Révolution française (1989),.
  • In his novel Locus Solus, Raymond Roussel tells a story in which Danton makes an arrangement with his executioner for his head to be smuggled into his friend's possession after his execution. The nerves and musculature of the head ultimately end up on display in the private collection of Martial Canterel, reanimated by special electrical currents and showing a deeply entrenched disposition toward oratory.
  • The Revolution as experienced by Danton, Robespierre, and Desmoulins is the central focus of Hilary Mantel's novel A Place of Greater Safety (1993).
  • Danton and Desmoulins are the main characters of Tanith Lee's The Gods Are Thirsty—A Novel of the French Revolution (1996).
  • Danton and Robespierre are briefly referred to in the book The Scarlet Pimpernel. The two men both applaud a guard for his work in catching aristocrats.
  • In The Tangled Thread, Volume 10 of The Morland Dynasty, a series of historical novels by author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, the character Henri-Marie Fitzjames Stuart, bastard offshoot of the fictional Morland family, allies himself with Danton in an attempt to protect his family as the storm clouds of revolution gather over France.
  • Danton appears briefly in Rafael Sabatini's adventure novel Scaramouche: A tale of romance in the French Revolution.
  • Danton appears in a series of comics entitled "The Last Days of Georges Danton" in Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton.
  • Danton is one of six point-of-view characters in Marge Piercy's novel City of Darkness, City of Light (1996).
  • Danton, along with Marat and Robespierre, is a secondary character in the 1927 epic Napoléon. His portrayal in the film is somewhat cartoonish, as he is depicted as a decadent fop, albeit dedicated to republicanism and revolution, and it is he that allows Rouget de Lisle to premiere "La Marseillaise" at the Club des Cordeliers. (In reality, no such performance by Rouget de Lisle is known to have taken place.)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Georges Danton" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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