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M. Butterfly

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,979 Ratings  ·  253 Reviews
Based on a true story that stunned the world, M. Butterfly opens in the cramped prison cell where diplomat Rene Gallimard is being held captive by the French government - and by his own illusions. In the darkness of his cell he recalls a time when desire seemed to give him wings. A time when Song Liling, the beautiful Chinese diva, touched him with a love as vivid, as sedu ...more
Paperback, Acting Edition, 93 pages
Published June 1st 1995 by Dramatists Play Service, Inc. (first published 1986)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ivonne Rovira
Aug 11, 2014 Ivonne Rovira rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jordan
Dec 04, 2008 Jordan rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Thomas
May 07, 2015 Thomas rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-for-college
A play based on a true story about a French diplomat who falls in love with a Chinese actress, only to realize that his exotic butterfly also identifies as male. Hwang's story highlights the beginning, middle, and end of Gallimard's descent through Song's seduction and how his appetite for dominance blinds him from the truth in front of his own two eyes. Though Gallimard earns little respect in this play, we see how he falls victim to the stereotypes assigned to men and to women, to the East and ...more
Ceilidh
Dec 17, 2011 Ceilidh rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jesse Field
Jun 06, 2010 Jesse Field rated it really liked it
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
...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
Sarah
May 11, 2008 Sarah rated it it was ok
Shelves: plays
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?
James
Jul 07, 2007 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
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.
Saxon
May 19, 2008 Saxon rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Sara
Aug 10, 2007 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
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
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
stuti
so my roommate read this play for class and referenced it a couple times, and as soon as she explained what it was i was intrigued. also, it's my favorite professor's favorite play. so i borrowed my roommates copy and i swear i flew through it so fast. it's a really short play (i'd love to see it performed), but it has so much nuance. the concept itself is fascinating, i can't believe it's somewhat based on real events,, but also how it is handled thematically is really thought-provoking!! there ...more
S. G. R.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
ELIZABETH-ANNE
Jun 29, 2016 ELIZABETH-ANNE rated it it was ok
Most people I talk to when discussing a book/play that has been made into a film, will invariably say to me ' the book was better'. I don't know if people have said this about M Butterfly, but if they said it, I don't agree. Had I read this before I saw the film with Jeremy Irons, I most likely would not have even finished it. I would have preferred it as a novel or a biography, not a play.

The film is wonderful, and the customs fantastic and colorful. The play is a dull gray in comparison.
Derek
Oct 30, 2011 Derek rated it really liked it
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
Jacklyn
May 03, 2015 Jacklyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: college
This play is amazing. I am without words.
Amy Chang
Mar 06, 2016 Amy Chang rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
LucidStyle
Jun 10, 2015 LucidStyle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20th-cent, drama, american
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jolo Manansala
Dec 21, 2014 Jolo Manansala rated it liked it
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
...more
Mandy
Feb 17, 2014 Mandy rated it really liked it
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
...more
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
...more
Diana
Mar 21, 2016 Diana rated it it was amazing
NOTE: I read this for school.

Oh man... where do I even start?
Oh! I know. I'll start with a little background. M. Butterfly is based on two things: the opera musical Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini and a true story that had occurred during the Cold War—a French Diplomat had fallen deeply in love with a Chinese actress, only to find out twenty years later that his beautiful oriental butterfly was actually a communist spy and a man. If that background doesn't already attract your attention, th
...more
Carrie
Apr 01, 2015 Carrie rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cathy Wood
Jan 21, 2016 Cathy Wood rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, drama
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
Jan 02, 2012 Flesheating D-Ray rated it really liked it
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
May 15, 2013 Didem rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 15, 2014 Kaion rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern, play, chromatic
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
...more
Robert
May 06, 2014 Robert rated it it was amazing
Love this.
Bryn
Jan 28, 2008 Bryn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gay-gay-gay
Why do I love plays about gay male butch-femme relationships and socialism? But I do.
Rachel Swords
Jan 22, 2014 Rachel Swords rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
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
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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
...more
More about David Henry Hwang...

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