Just as the shower scene in « Psycho », the painting of Jean-Paul Marat stabbed in his bathtub on July 13 1793, by the painter David, is iconic. In the Hitchcock's movie, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who stole money from her employer thinks that she is safe in her small motel, and indulges in a well deserved shower. Exactly as the leader of the radical revolutionaries who suffers from debilitating skin problems, is enjoying his bath.
The journalist by « L'ami du peuple »(the Friend of the People) who happens to be a doctor as well, works from his bathtub. Marat's wife does not allow the young Charlotte Corday to enter the master's bathroom in the morning. (I would not either). But when the young woman comes back in the evening and mentions a possible uprising by the Girondists, (the liberal branch of the revolutionaries) whom Marat, Robespierre, the radicals are fighting, he hears the conversation and lets her in.
A deadly mistake. Charlotte insists on being alone with him in order to give him names and suddenly she brandishes a butcher's knife from her blouse and stabs him to death, just as in the Hitchcock's movie. Except Charlotte Corday is not crazy. She has come all the way from Caen to kill him. The 25 year old girl comes from a family of poor aristocrats in Normandy, who joined the Revolution but hates the extreme violence that has been the result. After the September massacre in 1792, whom she holds Marat and his friends, the « Jacobins » responsible for, and fearing civil war, she hopes her gesture will put an end to violence. « I killed one man to save a hundred thousand », she says, quoting ironically Robespierre argument to execute Louis XVI under the guillotine.
She was going to die in the same fashion, except the guillotine needed to be serviced and her cheek was slapped first.
Unfortunately, her gesture did not stop violence, quite the contrary. Marat became a martyr and terror became even more normal.
If you want to know who Charlotte Corday, a descendent of the dramatist Pierre Corneille, was, I recommend that you attend on 13 June at 3pm a conference by a good friend of mine, Liesel Couvreur Schiffer,
a historian and a writer, in Normandy, in the Chapel, near Falaise where the young girl used to pray.
It is also possible to stay at the manor house for the night.