M Butterfly by David Henry Hwang

4 April 2015
Analyzes memory play’s plot, structure, characters, themes of love & deception.

In the play M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang, the action derives from a true story about a French diplomat who had a long-term affair with a Chinese singer, presumably thinking this was a woman when in fact it was a man. The story was also a spy story as the woman acquires secrets from her diplomat-lover for her government. The title of the play intentionally evokes images both of Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly and what in French would be seen as Monsieur Butterfly. The opera embodies a certain Western attitude toward Asian women and toward Asians in general, and Hwang’s play uses those ideas as something against which to balance his own drama as he deconstructs certain ideas from the opera and creates a different sense of operatic reality. Within this operatic universe, Gallimard’s complacent Western stereotyping of Asians..

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