By David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly is a play about a relationship between Bernard Boursicot, a French diplomat, and an opera singer by the name Shi Pei Pu. The play was first presented in 1988 on Broadway and even won the best play Tony Award of that year.
An Overview of the Plot
First, we meet Rene Gallimard in China, who is a French embassy associate. He is a mild-mannered man, but he sees himself as a coward. He also believes that he is bad at the seduction of women. He meets Song Liling, an opera star in China and falls for her. He sees her as his perfect woman and the embodiment of Madame Butterfly, a character he adores in the opera. He starts a relationship with him. The relationship resembles the relationship between Butterfly and a man named Pinkerton, which involved a harsh man and a submissive woman. During the affair, Gallimard does not know that Song is a man who is pretending to be a woman. In the real sense, Song was a spy for Communists Chinese, and he intended to acquire sensitive information that would aid their cause. Song is great in his performance, and she uses a demure façade as a way of hiding her true sex to Gallimard. Song submits to Gallimard, and this makes him gain confidence in his masculinity.
The relationship continues for some time, and even Gallimard gets a promotion to become the Vice-Consul. He even gets an apartment to share with his mistress, Song. Later down the road, Gallimard gets discharged and goes back to France accompanied by Helga, his wife. He decides to reveal his affair with Song, and this causes a separation between the two. Song gets punished for the affair where she was forced to work as a laborer for some years. After serving her punishment, Song heads for France. She is dressed like Butterfly and with her is a child whom she claims is Gallimard’s. Gallimard is pleased to see her, and they continue with their relationship.
They live together for 20 years. After this time, Gallimard is charged with committing treason and gets sentenced for conveying secrets to the Chinese. Song is in Court too and then the Court reveals her as a spy. Song dramatically shows his body to confirm his masculinity. Gallimard is horrified. He cannot believe that Song lied to him in that way and for so long. He later Commits suicide, while Song is watching and smoking a cigarette.