Life at the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette has long captivated readers, drawn by accounts of the intrigues and pageantry that came to such a sudden and unexpected end. Stefan Zweig's Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman is a dramatic account of the guillotine's most famous victim, from the time when as a fourteen-year-old she took Versailles by storm, to her frustrations with her aloof husband, her passionate love affair with the Swedish Count von Fersen, and ultimately to the chaos of the French Revolution and the savagery of the Terror. An impassioned narrative, Zweig's biography focuses on the human emotions of the participants and victims of the French Revolution, making it both an engrossingly compelling read and a sweeping and informative history.
"Certainly no one can arise unmoved from the reading of this powerful work." -- The New Republic
"Excellent biography." -- The New York Times
About the Author
Stefan Zweig (1881—1942) spent his youth studying philosophy and the history of literature in Vienna and belonged to a pan-European cultural circle that included Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss. In 1934, under National Socialism, Zweig fled Austria for England, where he authored several novels, short stories, and biographies. In 1941 Zweig and his second wife traveled to Brazil, where they both committed suicide. NYRB Classics published his novels Chess Story and Beware of Pity.
Table of Contents
|A Child Marriage||3|
|Secret of the Alcove||20|
|Debut at Versailles||32|
|Fight for a Word||42|
|Conquest of Paris||59|
|The King Is Dead, Long Live the King!||68|
|Portrait of a Royal Couple||76|
|Queen of the Rococo||89|
|The New Society||116|
|A Fraternal Visit||125|
|The Queen Becomes Unpopular||144|
|A Thunderclap in the Rococo Theatre||156|
|The Diamond Necklace||170|
|Trial and Sentence||187|
|The People and the Queen Awaken||200|
|The Decisive Summer||208|
|The Friend Appears||226|
|Was He or Was He Not?||237|
|The Last Night in Versailles||248|
|The Hearse of the Monarchy||258|
|Preparations for Escaps||288|
|The Flight to Varennes||298|
|The Night in Varennes||308|
|Return to Paris||314|
|The Friend's Last Appearance||332|
|Flight into War||342|
|The Tenth of August||356|
|Marie Antoinette Alone||381|
|A Last Endeavour||408|
|The Supreme Infamy||416|
|On Trial before the Revolutionary Tribunal||434|
|Drive to the Scaffold||448|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
This is an absolutely great read. What a pleasure to read a biography that is more substance than style. You become immersed in 18th century France and all the events surrounding the French Revolution. Certainly Marie Antoinette had her flaws but is also misunderstood to a great degree. Highly recommended, especially to those who don't know of her beyond "let them eat cake".
This biography is a refreshing and well researched take on Queen Marie Antoinette. Zweig shows us first the woman then the queen. He is objective in his opinion about her, describing a young girl victim of political machinations and a decadent court, but also vain and superficial with no interest in using her position for anything of substance. We see her as a humiliated wife, unable to bear chldren at first because of a phisical defect in her husband. And then as a mother full of love for her children. The story surprises us with a very human display of the family. Zweig narrates well known moments of the french revolution with passion but also so objectibly you almost consider the possibility of a different outcome. The dignity with which the doomed Queen accepts her destiny is a well deserved tribute to this woman who has so often been caricaturised, we finally see her as a plain character in an extraordinay place in history. Zweig´s sense of irony gives the story a perspective that make´s it unique.
Dating from 1933 in its first edition, this book is part biography and part psychological analysis of the great Austrian Empress Maria Theresa's daughter who died a hated Queen of France. While both its writing style and its ideas - particularly its author's assumptions about the fundamental nature of womanhood - may seem quaint to the 21st Century reader, it's still very well worth reading. Zweig refuses to rely upon a number of commonly used sources that he has reason to consider suspect, and he approaches his subject with genuine interest that's refreshingly uncontaminated by awe. The Archduchess Antoinette, the Dauphiness of France, the giddy young Queen to Louis XVI, the maturing mother of the Dauphin who would have become Louis XVII - Zweig captures them all, and then takes us with him through this woman's terrible final transformation into the prematurely white-haired 'Widow Capet' who mounts the scaffold. He writes her life with frankness that's remarkable, truly, considering the era in which his work was originally published.