Maurice Barrymore - Nadjezda

Around 1884 and 1885, Barrymore wrote a play titled Nadjezda. During this period he sailed with his wife Georgiana and their children Lionel, Ethel and John, then respectively 6, 5 and 2, to England to visit relatives he hadn't seen since migrating to America. He had previously come into some money left to him by his now deceased aunt Amelia, the woman who raised him. During the trip to Europe in 1885, Barrymore came into contact with the great French actress and star Sarah Bernhardt. Without copyrighting his play, he gave a copy of the manuscript to Bernhardt. Between 1885 and 1887, Bernhardt had the copy in her possession and allegedly had given it to playwright Victorien Sardou to review. Sardou, in 1886, wrote his famous play La Tosca, which later achieved great fame as an opera. Barrymore, upon the creation of Sardou's play, claimed that La Tosca was a plagiarization of his story Nadjezda. a charge of plagiarism was soon brought. Maurice Barrymore claimed that his 1884 play, Nadjezda, had been plagiarised by Sardou and sought an injunction to stop Davenport putting on further performances of La Tosca. According to Barrymore, he had given a copy of his play to Sarah Bernhardt in 1885, and she had then given it to Sardou. In affidavits read out in court Bernhardt said that she had never seen the play and knew nothing about it, and Sardou said that preliminary material for the play had been in his desk for fifteen years. In fact, Nadjezda's only resemblance to La Tosca comes from the unholy bargain the heroine makes to save her husband's life, similar to that of Tosca and Baron Scarpia. As Sardou pointed out in his affidavit, this plot device is a common one and had been notably used by Shakespeare in Measure for Measure.

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