Aurore!  The Mystery of the Martyred Child

A Popular Stage Play

The play Aurore l’enfant martyre (Aurore the Child Martyr), written by the actors Léon Petitjean and Henri Rollin, enjoyed an incomparable success in the history of Quebec theatre. Between January 1921 and the 1950s, over 5000 performances were put on; some even claim there were more than 6000. Petitjean and Rollin's troupe, which saw a continuous parade of actors grow too old to play certain roles, performed not only in Quebec but also in Ontario, the western provinces, the Maritimes, and New England.

Other theatre troupes, which no doubt wanted to take advantage of the momentum, also put on the play. In order to compete, an interpretation of Marie-Anne Houde's trial was added to the play in 1927. Originally performed in two acts, the play was thus expanded to five. The number of actors on stage varied greatly according to the place where the play was performed. On tour, there were far fewer actors than when the play was put on in Montreal or Quebec City.

Not everyone agreed with this play being performed. Certain parish priests refused to have it staged in their parishes. Authors protested against unwholesome shows, and this one in particular. Readers wrote anonymous letters to newspapers to denounce a Bureau of Censorship that didn't censor.


The play begins at a time when Aurore is already being mistreated by her stepmother. She is beaten and poisoned. A neighbour has certain misgivings about the situation in the family. She questions Aurore and plans to go talk to the parish priest about it. The priest goes to visit the family in order to see the situation himself. Aurore is dying, surrounded by her family, the neighbour, the parish priest and the doctor. Catherine (the neighbour) accuses the parents of being the cause of Aurore's state and recounts what the little girl had confided to her. In the end, Aurore dies. We then witness the stepmother's trial and hear the damning testimony brought against her. The play ends with the sentencing to death of Aurore's stepmother.


Aurore: Aurore is sick from the start of the play.

The father: Télesphore has some property. He is bossed around by his wife.

The mother: She is dead and absent from the story, but she is mentioned by the cruel stepmother.

The stepmother: She has no name, is referred to as the mother or the cruel stepmother, and has children.

The neighbour: Catherine Sirois, a spinster described as a thrifty housekeeper, is on the point of marrying a widower who has four children.

Excerpts from the play reconstructed by Alonzo Le Blanc are available in this section. Thanks to this reconstruction, the play was performed once again in 1984 at the Théâtre de Quat’Sous in Montréal, with Adèle Reinhardt in the role of Aurore. You can read the reviews published in newspapers when this play was performed.

Newspaper or Magazine Articles


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