(pseudonym of Marie Francçise Marchand). Born Jan. 2, 1713, in Paris; died there Feb. 20, 1802. French actress.
Dumesnil made her stage debut in the provinces and then from 1737 to 1776 performed in the Comédie-Française in Paris. Her portrayals of “tragic mothers” in Voltaire’s Merope and Semiramis were humanistic. Dumesnil conveyed the conflict between love of power and the laws of humanity in her performances as Cleopatra in Corneille’s Rodogune and Athalie in Racine’s Athalie. She was effective in both high comedies and sentimental comedies; her roles included the Governess in La Chaussée’s The Governess and Madame Vanderk in Sedaine’s The Married Philosopher. An inspired, intuitive, and impulsive actress, Dumesnil attracted large audiences. She was instrumental in preparing the way for enlightened reforms in the French theater. Despite the realistic tendencies of her performances, she did not depart from conventional classical style. Dumesnil’s memoirs, published under her name but written by Coste d’Arnoba, contain a defense against attacks by her stage rival, Clairon.
WORKSMemoires de M.-F. Dumesnil. Hamburg, 1799.
REFERENCEIstoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra. Edited by S. S. Mokul’skii, vol. 2. Moscow, 1957.
E. L. FINKEL’SHTEIN