In Dangerous Liaisons, Madame de Tourvel is actively pursued by Vicomte de Valmont. Madame de Tourvel is married, chaste and devoutly religious. Vicomte de Valmont is a well-known philanderer.

Madame de Tourvel finally succumbs to Valmont's advances and they both reluctantly fall in love with one another. Tourvel proclaims to Valmont her love and affection towards him, which Valmont responds extremely cold-heartedly and turns her away. After Valmont brashly breaks ties with her, she asks him if he wants to kill her:

VALMONT: I'm so bored, you see. It's beyond my control.

TOURVEL: What do you mean?

VALMONT: Well, after all, it has been four months. So, what I said: It's beyond my control.

TOURVEL: Do you mean you don't love me anymore?

VALMONT: My love had great difficulty outlasting your virtue. It's beyond my control.

TOURVEL: Why are you doing this?

VALMONT: There's a woman. Not Emilie, another woman. A woman I adore. And I am afraid she is insisting that I give you up. It's beyond my control.

TOURVEL: Liar! Liar!

VALMONT: You are quite right, I am a liar. And it's like your fidelity, a fact of life. No more nor less irritating. Certainly beyond my control.

TOURVEL: Don't keep saying that!

VALMONT: It's beyond my control.

TOURVEL: Do you want to kill me?

VALMONT: Listen. Listen to me. You have given me great pleasure. But I simply cannot bring myself to regret leaving you. It is the way of the world. Quite beyond my control.

The next time that we see Tourvel, she is in some sort of a hospital and is gravely ill. Throughout the film, Tourvel always looked extremely healthy and never had any illnesses that I recall.

Due to the brazenness of Valmont's termination of their relationship, are we supposed to believe that Madame de Tourvel died of shame or died of a broken heart? Tourvel did ask Valmont if he wanted to kill her by how cruel he was being. Is there ever any explanation given on what actually caused Madame de Tourvel's death?

2 Answers 2


In the book Les Liaisons Dangereuses She 'succumbs to a fever and dies':

These letters are sufficient to ruin her [Merteuils] reputation so she flees to the countryside, where she contracts smallpox. Her face is left permanently scarred and she is rendered blind in one eye, so she loses her greatest asset: her beauty. But the innocent also suffer from the protagonist's schemes: desperate with guilt and grief, Madame de Tourvel succumbs to a fever and dies, while dishonoured Cécile returns to the convent.

I'd suggest that the whole affair was so draining on her that it somehow compromised her immune system to such a degree that she was more likely to be struck down by the fever that eventually killed her.

So, although her death was by a fever, it is likely that the combination of shame, broken heart and all the other grief she suffered contributed to her death.

  • So, the "contracts smallpox" comes much earlier, chronologically, than the fever she eventually succumbs to? In other words, she doesn't die from smallpox, specifically, if I'm reading that correctly, right? Feb 15, 2017 at 16:07
  • @PoloHoleSet - Like me originally, you read it wrong hence my clarification. The Marquise de Merteuil contracts smallpox not Madame de Tourvel...
    – Pat Dobson
    Feb 15, 2017 at 18:37

I think everyone has missed the picture here.

Firstly, Valmont IS the protagonist. The two women Tourvel and Glen close or whatever her darn name, the antagonists. Antagonists are not always evil or bad. They simply produce the Anti in the story ..Tourvel is anti vice, you see, therefore hinders the main character's goal in the story.

But like all good stories, he comes to an arch in the story. Wherein he is no longer sure vice is his aim. That maybe love, or lust how he used to only see it, can indeed coincide with virtue.

One anti is vice the other is virtue.

The protagonist is therefore, attempting a struggle aka a story on which the most human character, Valmont, should choose.

His choice is both in the end. Which, is even more protagonist and human.

This is why she continues to say are you trying to kill me??

The smallpox and the deformation at the end is a symbol of her untainted virtue being ravaged and taken away from her, thru her vanity. Yet it kills her completely in the end. Since she was indeed a saintly woman, in love. Her death symbolizes her happiness or life, is only possible by maintaining her virtue.

His death is the symbolism of his newfound virtue demanding his death, as well. Since he was ravaged with far too much vice.

It's all very beautiful. I think it all means, we are only human. We all have sin in our hearts. It's a matter of balance. Hence the other lady simply going to the nunary. simply attempting at virtue once more, and almost certainly failing again. Yet she's not evil for it. However Glen?? She's ostracized and her persona is killed by the virtue in society.

  • 3
    Welcome to Movies.SE! While this is a pretty in-depth analysis, I'm not sure how it actually relates to the question. What illness did Madame de Tourvel die of? You mention smallpox - is that what killed her? Can you elaborate?
    – F1Krazy
    Aug 17, 2019 at 19:56

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