Charles de Beys is a comic author whose L'Hospital des fous (1636), about an eloping couple who seek refuge in a lunatic asylum, was reworked and published in 1653 as Les Illustres fous. It has long been accepted that the modifications to this play were essentially minor; however, the character of the hospital's director, or concierge, becomes the play's principal figure in the revised version. As well as having a greatly expanded role, the concierge is depicted in a more sinister, and even tyrannical, light in the 1653 comedy. The difference in emphasis between the two versions may be explained by Beys's own experience during the intervening period: in the mid-1630s he was incarcerated in the Bastille for several months by order of Cardinal Richelieu on suspicion of having authored the Miliade, a satirical poem attacking the prelate. The second drama becomes not so much a comedy depicting the folly of lovers through the escapades of outsiders who are temporarily institutionalized as a subtle commentary on the potential misuse of such places to lock away those deemed unsuitable for political reasons. This reading is supported by examining the ironic subtext that underpins Beys's sonnets dedicated to Richelieu, as well as the second play's dedicace.


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pp. 177-190
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