The Maids & Deathwatch

ISBN: 080215056X
ISBN 13: 9780802150561
By: Jean Genet Bernard Frechtman Jean-Paul Sartre

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About this book

The two plays collected in this volume represent Genet’s first attempts to analyze the mores of a bourgeois society he had previously been content simply to vilify. In The Maids, two domestic workers, deeply resentful of their inferior social position, try to revenge themselves against society by destroying their employer. When their attempt to betray their mistress’s lover to the police fails and they are in danger of being found out, they dream of murdering Madame, little aware of the true power behind their darkest fantasy.In Deathwatch, two convicts try to impress a third, who is on the verge of achieving legendary status in criminal circles. But neither realizes the lengths to which they will go to gain respect or that, in the end, nothing they can do—including murder—will get them what they are searching for.

Reader's Thoughts

RK Byers

The Maids was just more French class obsession but Deathwatch was CRAZY.




I don't know why I always subject myself to re-reading "Deathwatch" when I pull this collection off the shelf. It's just awful. It almost feels like a parody of Genet, although he wrote it himself. Meanwhile, "The Maids" is one of my favorite plays of the 20th century. A dizzying ritualization of oppression, Genet's second one-act manages to be both ornate and raw, comedic and cruel. Anyone who's played servant for any length of time will immediately get why the plan to off the mistress is sound, even before we've met her royal highness. Is there a higher accolade than genius? Apply it here.


A very interesting take on gender roles, and how people mirror each other, draw from each other, change on the energy of each other, and have no real one identity of their own. Great identity plays. Sartre's introduction is very insightful.


My deepest regret so far in life is that I haven't sat down in an audience to watch a Genet play. "The Maids" is such a classic work from the 50's (?). Also one can't avoid this book in an used bookstore. Every (decent) used bookstore has this title in their Drama section. Get it! Genet is one of the great voices in literature and everything else.


A classic - looking at it for Madshag over the weekend, so I revisited it this week. Once upon a time it was my most successful POD project ever.


i liked THE MAIDS a lot!


gender roles, gender roles!i have to admit that if i see one more production of The Maids with an all male cast i'm going to barf a bit in my mouth. That being said, i love reading genet more than seeing it produced - however, that is possibly due to seeing so-so versions of it onstage. i heard there's a new production in chicago...


fascinating stuff, but who the hell knows what's going on? i should probably read the sartre essay on genet at the front of the book, but i'm anxious to get to part 2 of the "Death of Captain America," so that might have to wait.


Do you dust, darling? Well, that's not good enough. We're s'posed to be lemmings and praise Genet. Role-playing (The Maids) was hotcha topic in the 50s, how tiresome today. But so is Genet with his queer brawls. Having just seen the $300-a-tic thingie w Blanchett-Huppert, lemme say : see Chabrol's La Ceremonie.


*Disclaimer: I didn't read the edition I'm reviewing, I read The Maids in the Norton Anthology of Drama*I have a mixed reaction to The Maids. It's quite a good play for the type of play that it is, and I can appreciate its metatheatrical qualities and its ideological/philosophical concerns with issues of power, violence, eroticism, and control. But basically it's not the kind of play I particularly enjoy. So while I appreciate the play and Genet's work as important theatrical influences, I wouldn't say I genuinely enjoyed reading this play. Not even in the sense that many people seem to experience Genet's theatre, which seems to be with a kind of stunned awe. For me this play simply is. I understand it and can appreciate it, but I don't particularly enjoy it, I would probably never choose to teach it, and I would probably be fine if I never read it again or saw it performed.I did actually see a teleplay version of The Maids a while back, without really knowing much about Genet, his work, or the characteristics of his theatre. I don't remember caring much for the teleplay at the time either.

Anna P

Les Bonnes is creepy.

Elham Mad

must read again :)

JS Found

My first Genet. The Maids is a very compelling two person play about mad sisters who work as servants for a rich woman. They plan on killing her. This was partially based, if I'm not mistaken, on an actual French case where two sisters gruesomely murdered their masters. But this isn't a straightforward femme fatale thriller. Rather its a disorienting psychological study of love and hate, and how the two really are the same. Also about the degeneracy of being a maid, if you think yourself not in that class. The play opens with the sisters enacting out a role-playing game where one pretends to be their mistress and the other pretends to be the other sister. Then the they do this again at the end. I think Genet is making points about levels of power in master-servant relationships, also in husband-wives relationships, but the play is disturbing and visceral enough that those points get subsumed in a horror film.Deathwatch was a little hard to understand, even though I read it twice. (It's probably me--a diet of pop culture with little reading of poetry and drama will do that to you. I Should rectify that.) There are three characters here, instead of two, all in prison. One of them is on death row and will be executed very shortly. The other two vie for his respect and affections, so they fight each other. There is some latent homoeroticism. Genet was gay, wrote about it, and apparently his work was banned in many countries because of it. Once again, Genet seems to be concerned with the hierarchy of power relationships, but beyond that I have no idea what he's trying to say or why he wrote the play. Which by the way, according to Edmund White's biography, he thought this was his worst work. I plan on reading more of his stuff.


just finished "The Maids" because it was first, but I actually started reading this because of a combination of having just read the Patti Smith bio and "Deathwatch" being the name of a song I like a lot which I am assuming is referencing the second play in this edition. "The Maids" was my first dip into Genet and I'm digging it. update: I don't think Deathwatch the play was what Deathwatch the song was referencing. It also wasn't as good as The Maids. Still, interested to read some of Genet's novels.

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