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M. Butterfly

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  6,121 ratings  ·  203 reviews
In a play inspired by an actual espionage scandal, a French diplomat discovers the startling truth about his Chinese mistress.
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Published January 1st 2009 by LA Theatre Works (first published 1986)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jordan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ivonne Rovira
David Henry Hwang’s masterpiece must be heard to be appreciated — no mere reading of the script can do it justice. Nor can David Cronenburg’s film version provide a substitute. With all of the political overtones stripped away, the film M. Butterfly becomes just another of the freak shows for which Cronenburg is so well known.

At its heart, Hwang’s original play reveals how the hubris and ignorance of the West and its preference for the comforting lies of Orientalism over a reality too harsh for
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Ceilidh
White male privilege will fuck you up!

There are a couple awkward lines and sometimes it feels like Hwang is being far too obvious with the themes of the play, not letting the audience work them out for themselves, but overall, M Butterfly is a fascinating study of racial and gender stereotypes in an East vs West battle of sorts. It's also an interesting puzzle to work out, with both leads providing their subjective view-points of events, distorting the truth to show the fantasies they had create
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Sarah
This one really confounded me. It details a man having an affair with an opera singer. The catch? The singer is really a man posing as a woman. Now I don't care how dark it is in the bedroom, wouldn't you think the dude would notice the bonus appendage?
Jesse Field
Song Liling: Under the robes, beneath everything, it was always me. Tell me you adore me.
Rene Gallimard: How could you, who understood me so well, make such a mistake? You've shown me your true self, and what I love was the lie, perfect lie, that's been destroyed.
Song Liling: You never really loved me.
Rene Gallimard: I'm a man who loved a woman created by a man. Anything else simply falls short.


A. and I made it to the Guthrie's 2010 production of M. Butterfly just one day before it closed, and
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Saxon
French spy falls in love with a Chinese opera singer only to discover over twenty-years later that she is a man? Um. yes.

However, things do get a little more serious than that...kind of. M.Butterfly spends a majority of the time focusing on the Western stereotypical perceptions of "the far east" and how that can have an effect in various levels of society. However, Hwang also touches on a number of issues including Asian perceptions of the West and of course gender biases and the stereotypical i
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Sara
I really loved this play. The structure is interesting and the speeches well written. The plot itself is fascinating, and the relationships between the characters are deep and unusual. To quote the playwright's notes and the New York Times, May 11, 1986: "A former French diplomat and a Chinese opera singer have been sentenced to six years in jail for spying for China after a two-day trial that traced a story of clandestine love and mistaken sexual identity.... Mr. Bouriscot was accused of passin ...more
James
This was hilarious to read as an undergrad freshman in a general requirement english class. A great work which some people apparently can't handle.
Manny
There's this interesting sequence in Stephen Fry's The Liar, when the hero, who I think is about 18, is having a frank discussion about sex with another character. He talks about the stuff he used to do with his girlfriend, and is surprised to discover that the other guy finds it weird. It hadn't occurred to him that anyone might think it was bizarre to spread jam and cooking fat over your lover's body and then chase each other naked through the school's corridors. Though, on reflection, it was ...more
Aubrey
Now here's a play with depth. Here you have your racial stereotypes, your political stereotypes, your gender stereotypes, all coupled in a massive sexual stereotyping for the ages. A misunderstanding so great and maintained for so long requires a massive amount of explanation, an intro to which the playwright has thankfully provided us at the end of his work. The language was a bit coarse for my tastes, so my rating originally wasn't five stars. But the amount of thought and discussion this piec ...more
Derek
An enigmatic and rich retelling of Puccini's Madame Butterfly, David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly twists identity (gender, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, etc.) so thoroughly that the reader/viewer is left with far more questions than answers, but still a quite clear sense of the characters and their individual failings. The play is notable, of course, for the bizarre but true story on which it is based, but it's doing much more than relying on a cheap ripped-from-the-headlines exploitation. Hw ...more
Jolo Manansala
I was doing my usual scanning of used books in this local book store and was about to stop when a copy of M. Butterfly caught my eye.

Now, I know nothing about the play. Just that it starred John Lithgow and bore resemblance to Puccini's Madame Butterfly, which was kind of the basis for Miss Saigon. So, I thought I'd give this a try.

I went into it not really knowing what to expect. I just had this crazy idea that I might want to direct it someday. But then I finished it, and I just wanted nothin
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Mandy
I think that they gave way too much away on the back of this book so I won't do the same to you, though it is a classic so you may have heard of it before.

M. Butterfly is a (somehow supposedly) true story about a diplomat named Rene Gallimard, who is being held prisoner by the French government for giving away military secrets. The story is told in flashbacks as he describes his relationship with his Chinese mistress, who is actually a spy. I say supposedly a true story because the twist (which
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Dree
Yes, based on something that actually happened—a French diplomat who fell in love with a Chinese actress. Who turned out to be both a spy and a man. Hwang fou d his assertion that he had never seen her naked because of Eastern ideas of "modesty" to be most interesting, and what he chose to shape his play around.

Well done, showing how even a diplomat doesn't really understand where he is stationed, and showing how men do not really understand women (let alone a woman of another culture--or rathe
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Trish
"And you wonder, what's wrong with me? Will anyone beautiful want me?"

This spoiler-free review was first published on The Bookshelf at the End. If you've already read M. Butterfly, read the discussion/reaction review here.

I randomly picked this out of my book jar for my honors English book report about relationships. Let me tell you, there was a lot to talk about relationships here.

Rene Gallimard isn’t a likable character, which I don’t think he’s supposed to be, and thinking that the whole tim
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Cathy Mardiguian
Read for Principles of Literary Criticism course. We first watched a film of the opera Madame Butterfly and then the film M. Butterfly (based on this play). This play was my favorite text from the three of them. The tone made it highly enjoyable to read for me. The differences between cultures is emphasized more than it was in the film. The relationship with Renee was interesting, as she was the male counterpart to Rene's eventual female, which he does not seem to consciously discover in himself ...more
Flesheating D-Ray
If you read this book, and the most insightful thing you can think to add is yet another slack-jawed junkslut "BUT HOW ARE HE NOT KNOW IT MAN?! Peyniss!", then please...

Go fucking die somewhere quiet.

Or go read Twilight with the rest of your age/reading comprehension group.

Or maybe, "How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight" might be more your speed.
Didem
By far one of the most amazing American plays I've read. Not only an observant commentary on the prejudices and presumptions of the West about the East but serves as a story of identity and self-realization as well. His dialogues are alive and sincere. The narrative reminds that of a short story making it no less interesting to read at all.
Kaion
The frequency of the author monologuing would be tiresome enough, even if the discourse went deeper than "the masculine West seeks the image of the submissive feminine East". In general, there's a general literalness in Hwang's writing (SARCASM!) that keeps the potential pathos from registering, but it's likely the execution of the humor and the other performance aspects (singing, staging, etc.) probably contribute a lot to the stage play in a way that is not necessarily evident on the page.

As a
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Bryn
Why do I love plays about gay male butch-femme relationships and socialism? But I do.
Rachel Swords
Ever since I first heard of this play, I've been curious about it. I'd venture to say most people know the opera of a similar title first, then this. I don't know what I was expecting when I checked out a copy of the script from a local library, but I find myself both dumbfounded and awestruck over "M. Butterfly." The material itself is rich and gripping-based on a true incident that was an international scandal (and happened before I was born)-and it really forces everyone to confront their per ...more
Lauren
Here is a fantastically unusual story based on a wildly unusual true story: of a French diplomat who falls in love with a Chinese opera singer, only to find out some 20 years later, when the two stand trial for espionage, that his lover is actually a man. Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly serves as the backdrop for this fictionalized recreation that sets out to examine, through intricate layers, the racial/cultural and gender stereotypes and biases that cloud the lenses through which we perceive ...more
s.m. k.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stuart
A well-paced, fascinating little play about so many things you think Hwang's story would collapse under the weight, but he props up the disparate and controversial themes with deftly drawn characters who keep us invested and ring true despite most of them appearing for only one or two scenes. Everything dances around the central figure of Gallimard, who is as bizarre as his story demands and yet totally believable- even relatable. Not just a CRYING GAME knock off, the ultimate reveal about Song ...more
Ed Pattison
Mar 30, 2008 Ed Pattison rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Smart people
Recommended to Ed by: Mrs. Miska
Reaction:
The play M.Butterfly was well…interestingly strange and not my first choice of books to read. The first couple of scenes really confused me, as I did not take the time to slowly comprehend the dream and flashback parts. However, you can never judge a book by its cover, so in sticking to that cheesy motto, I forged ahead and began to actually become engaged with this twisted story. The play itself was very unique to say the least, and was all winding up to one strange ending (and boy di
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Tim Chang
once won an Ann Arbor News Best Actor Award for portraying the lead (cross-dressing) role in one of the first non-Broadway productions of M.Butterly -- amazing, ground-breaking work for its time (and a once in a lifetime role for any actor!). :)

Killer lines:
“I'm happy. Which often looks like crazy.”

“Why, in the Peking Opera, are women's roles played by men?...Because only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act.”

“As soon as a Western man comes into contact with the East -- he's already conf
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Wida
So I read this for my literary criticism class and since I am kinda expected to be more critical, well, here is a short review:


Basically this play tells about a French diplomat who is assigned in China and falls in love with an opera singer. This love story of him is pretty much inspired by a play he loves, Madame Butterfly. Monsieur Gallimard, the main protagonist, keeps telling himself that he is Pinkerton, who, in Madame Butterfly, married to an Oriental woman only to leave her after finding
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Melanie
Update: I re-read this because we're discussing it in class and I didn't remember it well enough. I liked it a bit more the second time around, and the themes resonated a bit more. If I'm being honest, I think my original review is a bit harsher than my current feelings, but I'm not rewriting it because the general idea still stands.

Disclaimer: I read this play as part of a college literature class, not because I chose it. In fact, I am fairly sure that I would not have chosen it on my own.

Hones
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Anna
This was a weird/interesting play.

It was weird in that it was self aware and Hwang's characters referenced the opera created before it, sometimes the characters even playing characters from the opera. Since the opera and play are different, it was hard keeping track of which story was being talked about. By the end of the play, it was also difficult to wade through the meaning. Some of the politics were lost on me, but I suppose they weren't quite as important as the rest of the aspects of the p
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David Henry Hwang (Chinese: 黃哲倫; pinyin: Huáng Zhélún; born August 11, 1957) is an American playwright who has risen to prominence as the preeminent Asian American dramatist in the U.S.

He was born in Los Angeles, California and was educated at the Yale School of Drama and Stanford University. His first play was produced at the Okada House dormitory at Stanford and he briefly studied playwriting wi
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More about David Henry Hwang...
Yellow Face Chinglish Golden Child F.O.B. and Other Plays Trying to Find Chinatown: The Selected Plays of David Henry Hwang

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“I'm happy. Which often looks like crazy.” 2554 likes
“Sometimes I hate you, sometimes I hate myself, but always I miss you” 37 likes
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