|French Revolution Role Play
For the next two days, you will re-enact parts of the French Revolution. You will
act as members of the Estates General of 1789 or the Legislative Assembly of 1791. If you
have a speaking part, you will write a speech for the day that you are assigned addressing
the question of the day.
For your speech you should:
1) Do research on what your character’s views would be (you could even find real quotes
to use, especially for a historical figure)
2) Write a creative speech arguing your position
For Day One : Write an individual speech with your position on:
1. How should the Estates General vote?
2. What should be done to raise money?
For Day Two: Write an individual speech with your position on:
1. What should be done with Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette after they are caught trying to flee from France and plotting with the Austrians to invade and overthrow the revolution.
3) All speeches should be one page and must be historically accurate. All speeches will
be collected and scored at the end of the role play.
4) Practice giving the speech. You will be graded on the appropriateness of your speech,
your impersonation of the role and the drama that you put into your part.
Non Speaker Roles:
If you do not have a speaking part, you need to write a letter (due the day after the
reenactment is over) from the perspective of an old man or woman who lived through
the revolution, explaining it (including the meetings of the Estates General and
Convention) to your grandchildren. This should be one page, typed.
Please try to find some way of dressing up as your part (both days). For members of the
first estate, red robes, a cardinal’s red hat, a bishop’s mitre (tall conical hat) or a large
crucifix would be appropriate. The King and Queen would of course have crowns and the
finest clothes imaginable. Members of the second estate would wear bright colors, a long
jacket, a white lace collar or neckerchief, breeches (pants that stop at the knee) and white
stockings and a large hat with a feather. Members of the third estate had to wear black
and white, but the wealthy could still wear a neckerchief and silk stockings and a white
powdered wig. But the poorer members might wear long pants (how embarrassing!), a
cloth cap and a short jacket.
Introduction: Estates General May 1789
Greetings representatives of the three Estates of France. Welcome to the palace
of Versailles. Our noble King Louis XVI has called you to appear here to solve the
desperate fiscal problems that our government faces. Due to necessary expenses and our
generosity toward our allies, the Americans, in the recent successful war against Britain,
the government is greatly in debt. The Assembly of Notables called recently advised the
King that in order to tax the nobility and church (who have until now been exempt from
most taxes), it would be necessary to gain the approval of the Estates General. The King
has graciously agreed to do so. But this representative institution has not met for 175 years, so its procedures are uncertain. You are to meet and discuss both the procedures for making decisions and make a decision on how to raise revenue. The King has advised that the Estates meet in the traditional manner, but on the advice of his advisor Monsieur Necker, the King has agreed to double the number of representatives from the Third Estate. You must decide:
• Whether to meet in separate estates (as was done when the estates met before) or all
• Whether voting is to be done by estate (each estate having one vote to be determined by
its majority) or by head (each person has one vote).
• How to raise money for the government. If there are to be new taxes who is to pay
Speeches: Students present their speeches on the matter to be decided. (Some are in
favor and some are against.) Then vote.
Order of speakers:
1. King Louis XVI 6. Pere Trespauvre
2. Jacques Necker 7. Baron de Montesquieu
3. Cardinal Mondieu 8. Voltaire
4. Duke of Condé 9. Jacques Paysan
5. Monsieur Bourgeois 10. Abbe Sieyes
Introduction: Flash Forward November, 1791
Members of the Legislative Assembly
As you all know the Revolution started over two years ago and the Estates-
General became the National Assembly and has written a constitution to guarantee
“Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité” for all Frenchmen. The constitution describes how a
new government should be formed, with several branches, as advised by Montesquieu.
The King retains power as head of the executive branch, but his power is checked by the
legislative branch of the Legislative Assembly, which is elected by the people. Over the
past few months, the people of France have elected you as representatives. The first issue at hand is what to do about the King. Several months ago, (June 1791) the King and his family tried to leave France. Fortunately they were stopped at the border and brought back to Paris. But it is clear that the King no longer supports the revolution. Some suspect that he was hoping to gain the support of Austria and other nations and to use their armies to invade our country, overthrow the revolutionary government and reinstate himself as an absolute monarch or tyrant! Today you must decide:
• Should the king retain his position as head of the executive branch of the government,
with the power to veto acts of this assembly? Should he keep all the lands, palaces and
privileges of King? If not who will head the executive branch and how should the
government be reorganized?
• Should the king be punished for his recent actions and if so how?
Speeches: Students present their speeches on the matter to be decided, and then vote.
Order of Speakers:
1. Count Mirabeau (President of the Legislative Assembly) 5. Marquis de Lafayette
2. Georges Danton 6. Jean Paul Marat
3. Marie Antoinette 7. Olympe de Gouges
4. Pierre Sansculottes 8. Maximillian Robespierre
Defense: King and Queen will be allowed to defend themselves.
Debate among the Representatives.
Vote to Deal with the King!
Assignment Pts. 100 pts. Total
Costume (both days) 30pts
Letter or Speech 30 pts.
Participation (both days) 40pts.
(Engaged, listening and in character)
Censer, J.R., & Hunt, L. (2001). Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution. University Park, PA (The Pennsylvania State University Press).