Madame Bovary

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Madame Bovary , or Ms. Bovary in older translations , is a novel by Gustave Flaubert . It is considered to be one of the great works of world literature due to the novel, realistic narrative style of the time. The plot is taken from a newspaper report from 1848 from the Journal de Rouen , which reported on the fate of the doctor's wife Delphine Delamare from Ry near Rouen . This prompted Flaubert to develop his social novel , which bears the subtitle A Moral Picture from the Province .

The novel was first published censored in the magazine La Revue de Paris in 1856 ; thereupon Flaubert was charged by the censorship authorities with "offending against common decency"; among other things, he was accused of "glorifying adultery". In a trial, Flaubert was acquitted. In 1857 the complete book of the novel was published by Lévy Frères in Paris.


The main character of the novel is Emma, ​​who after the death of her mother lives alone with her father on his farm. She marries the widowed country doctor Charles Bovary, who adores the beautiful woman. She expects a more socially exciting life from the marriage and is soon bored with everyday life in the village and her rather simply structured husband. Concerns about her deteriorating health and complaints about her place of residence prompt Charles to move to another town; he assumes that a change of air will do his wife good. When they arrived in Yonville, they both quickly became friends with the pharmacist Homais and his family. In Homais' house also lives the lawyer Léon, with whom Emma discovers a kind of soulmate (based on their mutual interest in literature and music ).

Even the birth of their daughter Berthe does not change the fact that Emma is increasingly dissatisfied, suffers from depression and mood swings. When Léon moves to Paris , she mourns him like a lost love and, in order to compensate for the loss, intensifies into a search for luxury . With the dealer Lheureux, she is becoming increasingly indebted.

She meets the landowner Rodolphe, who lets Charles treat his servant. She lets herself be seduced by him during a ride. She climbs into a headless love for Rodolphe, who for his part sees only a nice change in her. With expensive gifts for her lover and luxurious clothes and furnishings, Emma is increasingly indebted to the family (although, ironically, the clothes that Emma Bovary is in debt for are already passé by the time the novel is published). Nor does she shy away from betraying Charles on this matter. She plans to flee with Rodolphe. This leaves her shortly before the planned escape, whereupon Emma becomes seriously ill. She recovers, and Charles takes her to the theater in Rouen for a change , where they meet Léon again. Emma starts an affair with Léon and lies to Charles about taking piano lessons so that he can meet her lover.

In the meantime, the dealer Lheureux, to whom she has signed numerous bills of exchange , has passed them on. The Bovarys are threatened with seizure, but Emma still lies to Charles and asks Léon for the money, but Léon cannot help her. She goes to Rodolphe and offers herself to him; he cannot or does not want to help her out of the financial emergency. In desperation, Emma uses a trick to gain access to the poison room of the pharmacist Homais, where she swallows arsenic . She dies after a terrible agony.

Charles can't get over Emma's death, and the outstanding financial claims and seizures soon mean that he and daughter Berthe live in poverty and misery. When he finds Léon and Rodolphe's letters to Emma, ​​he is broken and dies a short time later. The daughter is first given to the grandmother, who also dies soon, which is why the girl ends up with an impoverished aunt who sends her to a cotton mill to earn money .


  • Emma Bovary (maiden name: Rouault), daughter of Monsieur Théodore Rouault, second wife of Charles Bovary
  • Charles Bovary, husband of Emma Bovary
  • Berthe Bovary, daughter of Emma and Charles Bovary
  • Charles-Denis-Bartholomé Bovary, father of Charles Bovary
  • Madame Bovary, mother of Charles Bovary, married to Charles-Denis-Bartholomé Bovary
  • Madame Héloïse Dubuc, first wife of Charles Bovary
  • Monsieur Homais, pharmacist
  • Lestiboudois, gravedigger and sexton
  • Madame Lefrançois, hostess of the Lion d'Or
  • Monsieur Binet, tax collector
  • Monsieur Léon Dupuis, registrar, second lover of Emma Bovary
  • l'abbé Bournisien, pastor
  • Monsieur Lheureux, cloth merchant
  • Monsieur Guillaumin, notary
  • Rodolphe Boulanger, landlord, first lover of Emma Bovary
  • Monsieur Tuvache, Mayor
  • la mère Rollet, wet nurse


In his work, Flaubert dispenses with the first-person narrator, as has prevailed since Romanticism , and instead uses a personal narrative style . What is important to him is impartialité , i.e. the impartiality of the narrator. He therefore refrains from making comments, evaluations or conclusions. Despite the choice of the neutral narrative situation, the impression of an inner perspective is created in the representation of his characters in the novel, which is the result of a subtle guidance of the reader achieved through the use of the style indirect libre .

A quote from Flaubert clarifies his views on the relationship between author or narrator and novel: "L'auteur, dans son œuvre, doit être comme Dieu dans l'univers, present partout et visible nulle part." (“In his work, the author must be like God in space, present everywhere and nowhere visible.”) (Letter of December 9, 1852). This view also helped him in his defense in court, before which he had to answer for "offending against common decency" because his work caused too much attention. So you can't blame him for anything, since he only quotes and describes, but doesn't express his own opinion in the book.

Flaubert's narrative realism thrives on his love of detail. His descriptions are so well formulated and linked that the reader seems to draw his own conclusions about the people or objects described. Already in the first scene Flaubert describes the hat of the pupil Charles Bovary in a way that you think you know exactly who is wearing it. It is interesting that Flaubert himself strictly refused to allow his novels to be assigned to realism .

In addition, Flaubert is able to depict scenes in such a way that comments by a narrator are superfluous. The linguist and literary scholar Wolfgang Lehmann also analyzes Flaubert's style in this direction: "Flaubert himself names three principles for his own relationship to the characters and the action: impersonnalité, impassibilité, impartialité."

Autobiographical references

  • Surgery - Gustave Flaubert's father was a well-respected surgeon. Dr. Charles Bovary, as a figure inspired by the orthopedic surgeon Vincent Duval (1796–1876), worked as a doctor, but he lacked reputation.
  • Childhood - Gustave Flaubert was an unwanted child and never experienced much love. Berthe Bovary is also a failure for Emma Bovary because she wanted a boy. Berthe spends a lot of time with a wet nurse and is never really loved by her mother.
  • Law - The author began studying law. Monsieur Léon is also studying law.
  • Nervous disease - Gustave Flaubert had to drop out of studies due to a nervous disease. Emma Bovary also suffers from some kind of nervous disease.
  • Rouen - The place where Gustave Flaubert was born is also a setting in the novel.

In addition to the autobiographical references, the novel contains various references to actual events and places, some of which are encrypted. For example, the name of the village Ry is in the name of the eponymous heroine, where the doctor's wife Delphine Delamare (born Couturier, November 17, 1822 - March 5, 1848) lived, whose tragic life story forms the basis of the novel.

Translations into German

  • Dr. Legné, Pest , Hartleben's publishing expedition, Vienna and Leipzig 1858
  • Josef Ettlinger , Dresden / Leipzig 1892
  • C. Feustel, Halle 1896
  • René Schickele , Minden in Westphalia 1907
  • Walter Heichen, Berlin 1911
  • Arthur Schurig, Leipzig 1911/12
  • Hedda Eulenberg , Leipzig 1914
  • Margarete Miltschinsky, Leipzig 1923
  • Ella Bacharach-Friedmann, Berlin 1924
  • Wilhelm Cremer, Berlin 1924
  • Ernst Sander , Berlin 1924
  • A. Winterstein, Berlin around 1925
  • Karl Pfannkuch , Berlin 1925
  • Walter Heichen, Berlin 1928
  • Alfred Wolfenstein , Zurich 1939
  • Georg Carl Lehmann, Berlin 1948
  • Hans W. Hoff, Vienna / Frankfurt am Main 1951
  • Hans Reisiger , Reinbek 1952
  • Gertrud Dahlmann-Stolzenbach, Munich 1952
  • Albert von Jantsch-Streerbach, Vienna 1957
  • Walter Widmer , Hamburg 1959
  • Oswald Richter-Tersik, Berlin 1960
  • Ingrid Kollpacher, Vienna 1965
  • Wolfgang Techtmeier, Berlin 1970
  • Ilse Perker and Ernst Sander, Stuttgart 1972
  • René Schickele and Irene Riesen, Diogenes, Zurich 1979 DNB 955 517 281 .
  • Maria Dessauer, Frankfurt 1996
  • Caroline Vollmann, Zurich 2001 (Cornelia Hasting translated the letters in the appendix)
  • Elisabeth Edl , Hanser, Munich 2012, ISBN 3-446-23994-4 , and Scientific Book Society , Darmstadt 2013; dtv, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-14343-1 .


Madame Bovary was added to the ZEIT library of 100 books . Eberhard Lämmert wrote the essay on the novel .


Film adaptations

year Feature film and television film titles Country of production Director Actress of the Bovary
1934 Madame Bovary France Jean Renoir Valentine Tessier
1937 Madame Bovary Deutsches Reich Gerhard Lamprecht Pola Negri
1947 Madame Bovary Argentina Carlos Schlieper Mecha Ortiz
1949 Madame Bovary and her lovers United States Vincente Minnelli Jennifer Jones
1968 Madame Bovary (TV) Germany Hans Dieter Black Elfriede Irrall
1969 The naked Bovary Germany / Italy Hans Schott-Schöbinger Edwige Fenech
1974 Madame Bovary (TV) France Pierre Cardinal Nicole Courcel
1975 Madame Bovary (TV) United Kingdom Rodney Bennett Francesca Annis
1991 Madame Bovary France Claude Chabrol Isabelle Huppert
1991 Madam Bowari ot Sliven
(Мадам Бовари от Сливен)
Bulgaria Emil Zanew
(transfer of the story to Bulgaria)
Eli Skortschewa (other role
1992 Maya Memsaab India / France Ketan Mehta Shreeram Lagoo
2000 Madame Bovary (TV) United States Tim Fywell Frances O'Connor
2014 Madame Bovary United States Sophie Barthes Mia Wasikowska
2014 Gemma Bovery - A summer with Flaubert France Anne Fontaine Gemma Arterton

Nina Grosses drama In derfallen (2014) places the book in the hotel room setting with allusions.

Stage processing

  • 1936 by Gaston Baty for the Théâtre Montparnasse in Paris, premiere: October 9, 1936
  • 1981 by Jean-Louis Sarthou under the title Morte à Yonville, Seine-Inférieure, premiered at the “Maison des Arts de Créteil” (MAC) in Créteil
  • 2012 by Petra Luisa Meyer for the State Theater Nuremberg under the title Madame Bovary or The Obsessive Reader, premiere: April 14, 2012


Current issues


  • 1857 Charles Baudelaire : Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • 1947 Francis Steegmuller: Flaubert and Madame Bovary. A double portrait.
  • 1975 Mario Vargas Llosa : The Eternal Orgy. Flaubert and Madame Bovary. Translated by Maralde Meyer-Minnemann, Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1980, ISBN 3-499-25138-8 .
  • 1978 Henning Mehnert : Melancholy and inspiration. Conceptual and historical studies of the poetic “psychology” of Baudelaire, Flauberts and Mallarmé. Winter, Heidelberg 1978, ISBN 3-533-02612-4 (also habilitation thesis at the University of Bonn , Philosophical Faculty).
  • 1978 Jean Améry : Charles Bovary, country doctor. Portrait of a common man. Novel. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart, ISBN 3-12-900131-X .
  • 1980 Vladimir Nabokov : Gustave Flaubert. Madame Bovary. In: The Art of Reading . Translated by Karl A. Klewer and Robert A. Russell, Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1982, ISBN 3-596-10495-5 .
  • 1982 Hans-Martin Gauger : The perfect novel "Madame Bovary". Self-published; again: Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation , Nymphenburg 1983.
  • 1984 Michel Butor : Improvisations sur Flaubert.
  • 1987 Thierry Baudat: Madame Bovary. 10 textes expliqués, 12 subjects corrigés. Series: Profil d'une oeuvre, Littérature, 108. Hatier, Paris ISBN 2218738740 . Also available from the Moritz Diesterweg publishing house , ISBN 3425045075
    • Successor: 1992 Guy Riegert: "Madame Bovary", Flaubert. Résumé, Personnages, Thèmes. Series: Profil d'une oeuvre, Littérature, 19. Hatier, Paris, ISBN 2-21-873769-8 Frequent reprints.
  • 1991 Wolf-Dietrich Albes: Gustave Flaubert, "Madame Bovary." Moeurs de province. Klett reading aids, Stuttgart ISBN 3-12-922401-7 .
  • 1993 Dacia Maraini : Research on Emma B. Translator Sigrid Vagt. Piper, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-492-03872-7 ; again 1998, ISBN 3-492-22649-3 .
  • 1995 Elisabeth Bronfen : Epilogue to the text edition Madame Bovary (with detailed bibliography), Goldmann, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-442-07601-3 .
  • 2007 Edi Zollinger : Arachne's revenge. Flaubert stages a competition in narrative weaving, Madama Bovary, Notre-Dame de Paris and the Arachne myth. Fink, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-7705-4375-5 .
  • 2008 David P. Barash , Nanelle R. Barash: Madame Bovary's Ovaries. A Darwinian Look at Literature. Bantam Dell .
  • 2009 Peter Rogers: The mystery play in "Madame Bovary: Moeurs de Province". Chiasma series, 26. Rodopi, Amsterdam, ISBN 9042027061 .
  • 2014 U. Lindemann: Madame Bovary and modern hedonism. Reflections on the relationship between literature, the globalized world of goods and consumer culture in the 19th century , in: C. Moser / L. Simonis (ed.): Figures of the Global. Relation to the world and creation of the world in literature, art and media. Göttingen 2014. pp. 615–631.
  • 2015 Naomi Lubrich, Addiction and Intoxication. Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary) and Walter Benjamin (Passagen-Werk) in: The writer's pen. Mode in the Roman of French Realism, Bielefeld: Aisthesis 2015, pp. 128–169.
  • 2017 Kathrin Fehringer: Textile & Space. Visual poetologies in Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary . Transcript (machina), Bielefeld 2017, ISBN 3-8376-3930-4 .


  • The Emma Bovary case . Documentary. Directed by Audrey Gordon, Arte, France 2020

See also

Web links

Commons : Gustave Flaubert - Madame Bovary  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Bernd Oei : Flaubert: the disenchantment of feeling.
  2. ( Memento of the original from July 17, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 28 kB) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Naomi Lubrich: The writer's pen. Fashion in the novel of French realism . Aisthesis Verlag, Bielefeld 2015, p. 141 .
  5. Barbara I. Tshisuaka: Duval, Vincent. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 329 f .; here: p. 330.
  6. ^ Antonius Lux (ed.): Great women of world history. A thousand biographies in words and pictures . Sebastian Lux Verlag , Munich 1963, p. 120.
  7. 63 pages
  8. These are: 4 pistes de lecture. 3 commentaires composés. 3 explication de textes
  9. Identical edition, in Frz. Later edition by Riegert, 1992, in the same series. Identical to Diesterweg, ISBN 3425045318
  10. pp. 5–19 Summary in German; otherwise in French. Frequent new editions, most recently in 2004. Also in the series: learning training. bibliography