The play's action takes place primarily in Loudun, France in 1634 and revolves around a secular priest Urbain Grandier, whose adamant public opposition to Cardinal Richelieu's ongoing centralization of the French government makes him a hot political target. When charges of witchcraft are brought against the priest, both church and state move swiftly to destroy him. The investigation, subsequent trial and eventual execution quickly take on a ludicrous carnival-like atmosphere with crazed nuns, dubious medical procedures, ecclesiastical torture and outrageous public exorcisms, all depicted with considerable onstage realism.

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