On excess, waste and Marie Antoinette

There is no one person to blame in the downfall of Gleason but we can point to certain “strategies” in management that certainly didn’t help. Many times throughout the play there is mention of excess, that leads to waste, that we can assume then leads to a deficit for the school the ultimately causes it to close. The baccarat crystal, alpacas and lobster are some examples of this. 

Marie Antoinette was an Austrian queen who was married to the French King Louis XVI. She is famously known for the quote “let them eat cake” and she is used as a symbol for excess, indulgence, and a doomed bourgeoisie. She was executed during the French revolution for the crime of “treason”. 

We see her directly referenced twice in the play when Isa is talking to Kyle about their raise. Isa brings up Marie Antoinette to tell Kyle to embody the spirit of excess – she wants Kyle believe that they are worthy of “riches”. 

ISA:
At your summer review.
Gordon should have offered.
KYLE:
I think I’d actually’d love a burger.
ISA:
You should just ask him.
If they are gonna act like this is the Palace of Versailles…
Then Marie Antoinette your inner self—

pg 91

KYLE:
It’s fine, it’s totally fine. They keep—
ISA:
Nodon’ttaketheirscrapsYouareMarieAntoinettewhatiswrongwithyou?
Kyle.
KYLE:
It’s just bread.
It’s just bread.
Shift and KYLE seems isolated and ISA does not seem to hear Their.
AlthoughIameyeingrottingfoodlikeit’sbeingservedtomeonasilverplatter.
AlthoughIameyeingrottingfoodwhenitistimeIgotupfromthetable.
Shift and KYLE and ISA are back on the same plane.
It is just bread.
It is just bread.
It is just bread—

pg 96

Kyle’s line of “it is just bread” is a meaningful (maybe intentional) reference to the quote “let them eat cake” that is attributed to Marie Antoinette but in French does translate more directly to “let them eat bread”

From wikipedia: ” ‘Let them eat cake’ is the traditional translation of the French phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“, supposedly spoken by “a great princess” upon learning that the peasants had no bread. Since brioche was a luxury bread enriched with butter and eggs, the quotation would reflect the princess’s disregard for the peasants, or her poor understanding of their situation.”

With each “It is just bread” that Kyle says, the gap between the extravagance of Gleason and Kyle widens.

Marie Antoinette as played by Kirsten Dunst

In the same scene the Palace of Versailles is referenced to. The Palace of Versailles is where Marie Antoinette lived and is the ultimate symbol of waste. “As the most imitated building of 17th century, Versailles stood for power, wealth, sex and scandal….” [Five ways Versailles has influenced pop culture today]. Versailles started off as a simple hunting lodge for King Louis XIII

Versailles, which is capable of holding up to 20,000 people, has 700 rooms, more than 2,000 windows, 1,250 chimneys, and 67 staircases… Up to 3,000 princes, courtesans, ministers, and servants lived there at any given time. Palace inhabitants coveted spaces nearest the king’s apartments, as this proximity offered status. ….

While Versailles’ extravagance is dreamlike, keeping it running was a financial nightmare. Some estimates say that maintaining the palace, including caring for and feeding the Royal Family and their massive staff, consumed anywhere from 6-25% of the entire French government income.

Actual building costs for Versailles are debated by modern historians, because currency values are uncertain. However, Versailles’ price tag ranges anywhere from two billion dollars (in 1994 USD) all the way up to a maximum cost of $299,520,000,000! The palace represented an extravagance that presented a stark contrast to the working class in France. (Source)

The extravagance of Versailles caused tension amongst the different classes in France – much like the extravagance of the Gleason Street School gala leads to tension between the teachers, rich parents, poor parents, parents of color. Ultimately the french revolt and kill Marie Antoinette but they continue to pay for the upkeep of Versailles.

Gardens of Versailles
Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

sources:
https://www.historycrunch.com/palace-of-versailles.html#/
https://www.pbs.org/marieantoinette/life/index.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_depictions_of_Marie_Antoinette
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marie-Antoinette-queen-of-France

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