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M. Butterfly

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  9,602 Ratings  ·  326 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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Ivonne Rovira
Aug 06, 2014 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
Thomas
May 07, 2015 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
Jordan
Dec 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ceilidh
Dec 17, 2011 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 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
Saxon
May 19, 2008 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
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
Mercutio
Oct 27, 2011 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.
Sarah
May 11, 2008 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 06, 2007 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.
Ariya
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-reads
The twists are so delightful.
Matthew
To check out my reviews: https://dancinginth3dark.wordpress.co...

Have you ever seen the infamous Madame Butterfly opera by Puccini? If that is the case then you do not really need to read this play unless you want to read a modern queer version of the opera. Remarkably this story that David Henry Hwang is based on a true story but it is not autobiographical because he wanted to create his own original story by using these people to enhance the narrative. So the audience is left wondering what ac
...more
Sara
Aug 10, 2007 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
Farheen
Sep 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Poignant and full of unexpected twists. Very beautifully written but just not my cup of tea. I did however, become very attached to the characters and felt their trauma. Would definitely recommend!
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
William
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star
When I first heard of this play, I initially confused it with Madame Butterfly by Puccini (which I had read), and dismissed it as another reprise of the racist, misogynistic play that is Madame Butterfly. I could not have been more wrong.

I read this text thanks in part to my Asian American Theater and Performance class, and I am so grateful that I picked up this incredible play as a result.

The play reads as an incisive, intersectional critique along the lines of race, gender, gender presentation
...more
Dan
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
The State’s Stage Directions (A Marxist reading of the play M. Butterfly)

The opening stage directions of the play M. Butterfly are a microcosm of the Marxist power-dynamic. In just these few opening paragraphs we are not only presented with the individual’s powerlessness within the State as a being coerced by the repressive state apparatus, but also as an interpolated subject of the ideological state apparatus. In this essay I will examine only the initial stage directions on page 1 of the play
...more
Maraeli
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it
It was entertaining - certainly juicy. Funny isn't quite the right word to use, so I'll settle for amusing. I read this for an English assignment, and while I enjoyed it all the way through, it was too short for you to fully understand what happened between Song and Gallimard and their governments. I do, however, want to see this on Broadway.
Scott
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A well-defined account of character development set against the backdrop of actual events and attitudes.
J
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
What's sad is that this play is nearly thirty years old, and yet much of what it has to say about Western perception of the East still holds true.
Elisa
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story of M. Butterfly is a convoluted one. It acts as a political satire, a commentary on racial stereotypes, and also offers insight on gender identity in modern society. Unfortunately, the author, David Henry Hwang, never fully succeeds in giving the reader a real sense of any of these issues. The most developed topic is that of the racial and cultural roles his characters are expected to play, but even in this, Hwang barely scratches the surface. It seems though, that perhaps it was never ...more
S. G. R.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ana Mardoll
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ana-reviewed
M. Butterfly / 0-822-20712-5

No doubt you've heard the story of the man who was married to another man, but claimed to have mistakenly thought that his "wife" was a woman. In this incredible drama, Hwang takes this real life story, often distilled into a joke or a bit of trivia, and creates a compelling drama. He refuses easy answers here, noting that the thing people *really* want to ask is "Did he or didn't he know?" The novelty of the situation shocks us, and we want to hear the details - part
...more
Derek
Oct 25, 2011 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
Kaion
Jul 13, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: play, chromatic, modern
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
tomwrote
Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
A bizarre but simple question; 'How could he not know?' with a simple but complex answer; he didn't want to and he didn't want him to. And for so long? Well what they did on one night they might have done for a thousand nights, with only skilful variations. The play also makes much more of the question of illusion, assumption, desire and deceit than mechanics in any case.

The sex, for all the scandal it brought, was only a part of it. The playwright frequently makes the link between sex as power
...more
ELIZABETH-ANNE
Jun 20, 2016 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.
Didem
May 15, 2013 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.
Molly
Sep 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have difficulty believing that this is, more or less, a true story, but everything I've been able to find seems to corroborate that claim. That being said, this is hilarious and a very entertaining read.
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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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“I'm happy. Which often looks like crazy.” 2645 likes
“Sometimes I hate you, sometimes I hate myself, but always I miss you” 43 likes
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