1902 Encyclopedia > Drama > French Drama

(Part 12)

French Drama

The beginnings of the regular drama in FRANCE, which here, without absolutely determining, potently swayed its entire course, sprang directly from the literary movement of the Renaissance. Du Bellay sounded the note of attack which converted that movement in France into an endeavour to transform the national literature; and in Ronsard the classical school of poetry put forward its conquering hero and sovereign lawgiver. Among the disciples who gathered round Ronsard, and with him formed the "Pleiad" of French literature, Stephen Jodelle (1532-1572), the reformer of the French theatre, soon held a distinguished place. The stage of this period left ample room for the enterprise of this youthful writer. The popularity of the old entertainments had reached its height when Louis XII., in his conflict with Pope Julius II., had not scrupled to call in the aid of Pierre Grégoire (Gringore), and when the Mère Sotte, had mockingly masqueraded in the petticoats of Holy church. Under Francis I. the Inquisition had to some extent succeeded in repressing the audacity of the actors, whose follies were at the same time an utter abomination in the eyes of the Huguenots. For a time the very mysteries had been prohibited. Meanwhile, isolated translations of Italian 2 or classical 3 dramas had in literature begun the movement which Jodelle now transferred to the stage itself. His tragedy, Cléopatre Captive, was produced there on the same day as his comedy, L’Eugène, in 1552 his Didon se sacrifiant following in 1558. Thus at a time when a national theatre was perhaps impossible in a country distracted by civil and religious conflicts, whose monarchy had not yet welded together a number of provinces attached each to its own traditions, and whose population, especially in the capital, was enervated by frivolity or enslaved by fanaticism, was born that long-lived artificial growth, the so-called classical tragedy of France. For French comedy, though subjected to the same influences as tragedy, had a national basis upon which to proceed and its history is partly that of a modification of old popular forms.

The history of French tragedy begins with the Clèopatre Captive, in the representation of which the author, together with other members of the "Pleiad," took part. It is a tragedy in the manner of Seneca, devoid of action and provided with a ghost and a chorus. Though mainly written m the five-foot Iambic couplet, it already contains passages in the Alexandrine metre, which soon afterwards La Péruse by his Médée (pr. 1556) established in French tragedy, and which Jodelle employed in his Didon. Numerous tragedies followed in the same style by various authors, among whom Bounyn produced the first French regular tragedy on a subject neither Greek nor Roman 3 and the brothers De la Taille,5 and J. Grevin, 6 distinguished themselves by their style. Though in the reign of Charles IX. a vain attempt was made by Filleul to introduce the pastoral style of the Italians into French tragedy 7 (while the Brotherhood of the Passion was intermingling with pastoral plays its still continued reproductions of the old entertainments, and the religious drama making its expiring efforts), the classical school, in spite of all difficulties, prevailed. Monchrestien exhibited unusual vigour of rhetoric ; 8 and in R. Garnier (1545-1601) French tragedy reached the greatest height in nobility and dignity of style, as well as in the exhibition of dramatic passion, to which it attained before Corneille. In his tragedies 9 choruses are still interspersed among the long Alexandrine tirades of the dialogue.

During this period, comedy had likewise been influenced by classical models; but the distance was less between the national farces and Terence, than between the mysteries.; and moralities and Seneca and the Greeks. L’Eugène differs little in style from the more elaborate of the old farces ; and while it satirizes the foibles of the clergy without any appreciable abatement of the old licence, its theme is the favourite burden of the French comic theatre of all times—le cocuage. The examples, however, which directly facilitated the productivity of the French comic dramatists of this period, among whom Jean de la Taille was the first to attempt a regular comedy in prose,10 were those of the Italian stage, which in 1576 established a permanent colony in France, destined to survive there till the close of the 17th century, by which time it had adopted the French language, and was ready to coalesce with French actors, without, however, relinquishing all remembrance of its origin. R. Belleau (1528-1577), a member of the "Pleiad," produced a comedy in which the type (already approached by Jodelle) of the swaggering captain appears ;11 J. Grevin copied Italian intrigue, characters, and manners ;12 O. de Turnèbe (d. 1581) borrowed the title of one Italian play 13 and perhaps parts of the plots of others; the Florentine F. d’Amboise (d. 1558) produced versions of two Italian comedies ;14 and the foremost French comic poet of the century, P. de Larivey (1550-1612), likewise an Italian born (of the name of Pietro Giunto), openly professed to imitate the pouts of his native country. His plays are more or less literal translations of L. Dolce,15 Secchi,16 and other Italian dramatists ; and this lively and witty author, to whom Molière owes much, thus connects two of the most important and successful growths of the modern comic drama.

Before, however, either tragedy or comedy in France entered into the period of their history when genius was to illuminate both with creations of undying merit, they had, together with the general literature of the country, passed through a new phase of the national life. The troubles and terrors of the great civil and religious wars of the 16th century had in certain spheres of society produced a reaction towards culture and refinement, and the seal had been set upon the results of the Renaissance by Malherbe, the father of French style. The people continued to solace or distract its weariness and its sufferings with the shelp of the ministers of that half-cynical gaiety which has always lighted up the darkest hours of French popular life. In the troublous days preceding Richelieu’s definitive accession to power (1624) the Tabarinades—a kind of street dialogue recalling the earliest days of the popular drama—had made the Pont-Neuf the favourite theatre of the Parisian populace. Meanwhile the influence of Spain, which Henry IV. had overcome in politics, had throughout his reign and afterwards been predominant in other spheres, and not the least in that of literature. The stilo culto, of which Gongora was the native Spanish, Marino the Italian, and Lyly the English representative, asserted its dominion over the favourite authors of French society; the pastoral romance of Honoré d’Urfé—the text-book of pseudo-pastoral gallantry—was the parent of the romances of the Scudérys and De la Calprenède; the Hôtel de Rambouillet was in its glory ; the true (not the false) précieuses sat on the heights of intellectual society; and Balzac (ridiculed in the earliest French dramatic parody) 1 and Voiture were the dictators of its literature. Much of the French drama of this age is of the same kind as its romance-literature, like which it fell under the polite castigation of Boileau’s satire. Heroic love (quite a technical passion), "fertile in tender sentiments," seized hold of the theatre as well as of the romances; and Calprenède (1610-1663), G. de Scudéry 2 (1601-1667) and his sister (1607-1701), and others were equally fashionable in both species. Meanwhile Spanish and Italian models continued to influence both branches of the drama. Everybody knew by heart Gongora’s version of the story of "young Pyramus and his love Thisbe" as dramatized by Th. Viaud (1590-1626) ; and the sentiment of Tristan 3 (1601-1655) overpowered Herod on the stage, and drew tears from Cardinal Richelieu in the audience. Even Duryer’s (1609-1659) style, otherwise superior to that of his contemporaries, is stated to have been Italian in its defects. A mixture of the forms of classical comedy with elements of Spanish and of the Italian pastoral was attempted with great temporary success by A. Hardi (1560-1631), a playwright who thanked Heaven that he knew the precepts of his art while preferring to follow the demands of his trade. The mixture of styles begun by him was carried on by Racan (1589-1670), Rotrou (1609-1650), and others; and among these comedies of intrigue in the Spanish manner the earliest efforts of Corneille himself 4 are to be classed. Rotrou’s noteworthier productions 5 are later in date than the event which marks an epoch in the history if the French drama, the appearance of Corneille’s Cid (1636).

P. Corneille (1606-1684) is justly revered as the first, and in some respects the unequalled, great master of French tragedy, whatever may have been unsound in his theories, or defective in his practice. The attempts of his predecessors had been without life, because they lacked really tragic characters and the play of really tragic passions; while their style had been either pedantically imitative or a medley of plagiarisms. He conquered tragedy at once for the national theatre and for the national literature, and this not by a long tentative process of production, but by a few master-pieces,—for in his many later tragedies he never again proved fully equal to himself. The French tragedy, of which the great age begins with the Cid, Horace, Cinna, and Polyeucte, was not, whatever it professed to be, a copy of the classical tragedy of Greeks or Romans, or an imitation of the Italian imitations of these ; nor, though in his later tragedies Corneille depended less and less upon characters, and more and more, after the fashion of the Spaniards, upon situations, were the forms of the Spanish drama able to assert their dominion over the French tragic stage. The mould of French tragedy was cast by Corneille; but the creative power of his genius was unable to fill it with more than a few examples. His range of passions and characters was limited; he preferred, he said, the reproach of having made his women too heroic to that of having made his men effeminate. His actions inclined too much to the exhibition of conflicts political rather than broadly ethical in their significance. The defects of his style are of less moment; but in this, as in other respects, he was, with all his strength and brilliancy, not one of those rarest of artists who are at once the example and the despair of their successors.

In comedy also Corneille begins the first great original epoch of French dramatic literature; for it was to him that Molière owed the inspiration of the tone and style which he made those of the higher forms of French comedy. But Le Menteur (the parent of a numerous dramatic progeny 6) was itself derived from a Spanish original,7 which it did not (as was the case with the Cid) transform into something new. French tragi-comedy Corneille can hardly be said to have invented; and of the mongrel growth of sentimental comedy, domestic drama or drame, he rather suggested than exemplified the conditions.

The tragic art of Racine (1639-1699) supplements rather than surpasses that of his older contemporary. His works reflect the serene and settled formality of an age in which the sun of monarchy shone with an effulgence no clouds seemed capable of obscuring, and in which the life of a nation seemed reducible to the surroundings of a court. The tone of the poetic literature of such an age is not necessarily unreal, because the range of its ideas is limited, and because its forms seem to exist by an immutable authority. Madame de Sévigné said of Racine, whose plays so well suit themselves to the successive phases in the life of Louis XIV., that in his later years he loved God as he had formerly loved his mistresses ; and this sally at all events indicates the range of passions which inspired his tragic muse. His heroes are all of one type—that of a gracious gloriousness ; his heroines vary in their fortunes, but they are all the "trophies of love," 8 with the exception of the scriptural figures, which stand apart from the rest. 9

T. Corneille (1625-1709), Campistron, Duché, Lafosse, and Quinault (1637-1688) were mere followers of one or both of the great masters of tragedy, though the last-named achieved a reputation of his own in the bastard species of the opera. The form of French tragedy thus established, like everything else which formed part of the "age of Louis XIV.," proclaimed itself as the definitively settled model of its kind, and was accepted as such by a submissive world. Proud of its self imposed fetters, French tragedy dictatorially denied the liberty of which it had deprived itself to the art of which it claimed to furnish the highest examples. Yet, though calling itself classical, it had not caught the essential spirit of the tragedy of the Greeks. The elevation of tone which characterizes the serious drama of the age of Louis XIV is a real elevation, but its heights do not lose themselves in a sphere peopled by the myths of a national religion. Its personages are conventional like its themes, but the convention is with itself only ; Orestes and Iphigenia have not brought with them the cries of the stern goddesses and the flame on the altar of Artemis ; their passions like their speech are cadenced by a modern measure. In construction, the simplicity and regularity of the ancient models are stereotyped into a rigid etiquette by the exigencies of the court-theatre, which is but an apartment of the palace. The unities of time and place, with the Greeks mere rules of convenience, French tragedy imposes upon itself as a permanent yoke. The Euripidean prologue is judiciously exchanged for the exposition of the first act, and the lyrical element essential to Greek tragedy is easily suppressed in its would-be copy; lyrical passages still occur in some of Corneille’s early master-pieces,1 but the chorus is consistently banished, to reappear only in Racine’s latest works 2 as a scholastic experiment appropriate to a conventual atmosphere. Its uses for explanation and comment are served by the expedient, which in its turn becomes conventional, of the conversations with confidants and confidantes, which more than sufficiently supply the foil of general sentiments. The epical element is allowed full play in narrative passages, more especially in those which relate parts of the catastrophe, 3 and, while preserving the stage intact from realisms, suit themselves to the generally rhetorical character of this species of the tragic drama. This character impresses itself more and more upon the tragic art of a rhetorical nation in an age when the loftiest themes are elsewhere (in the pulpit) receiving the most artistic oratorical treatment, and develops in the style of French tragedy the qualities which cause it to become something between prose and poetry—or to appear (in the phrase of a French critic) like prose in full dress. The force of this description is borne out by the fact that the distinction between the versification of French tragedy and that of French comedy is at times an imperceptible one

The universal genius of Voltaire (1694-1778) found it necessary to shine in all branches of literature, and in tragedy to surpass predecessors whom his own authority declared to have surpassed the efforts of the Attic muse. Hi succeeded in impressing the world with the belief that ins innovations had imparted a fresh vitality to French tragedy ; in truth, however, they represent no essential advance in art, but rather augmented the rhetorical tendency which paralyzes true dramatic life. Such life as his plays possess lies in their political and social sentiments, their invective against tyranny, 4 and their exposure of fanaticism. 5 In other respects his versatility was barren of enduring results. He might take his themes from French history, 6 or from Chinese, 7 or Egyptian, 8 or Syrian, 9 from the days of the Epigoni 10 or from those of the Crusades ; 11 he might appreciate Shakespeare, with a more or less partial comprehension of his strength, and condescendingly borrow from and improve the barbarian.12 But he added nothing to French tragedy where it was weakest in character; and where it was strongest—in diction-he never equalled Corneille in fire or Racine in refinement. While the criticism to which French tragedy in this age at last began to be subjected has left unimpaired the real titles to immortality of its great masters, the French theatre itself has all but buried in respectful oblivion the dramatic works bearing the name of Voltaire—a name second to none in the history of modern progress and of modern civilization.

As it is of relatively little interest to note the ramifications of an art in its decline, the contrasts need not be pursued among the contemporaries of Voltaire, between his imitator Saurin (1706-1781), Saurin’s royalist rival De Belloy (1727-1775), Racine’s imitator Lagrange-Chancel (1676-1768), and Voltaire’s own would-be rival, the "terrible" Crébillon the elder (1674-1762), who professed to vindicate to French tragedy, already mistress of the heavens through Corneille, and of the earth through Racine, Pluto’s supplementary realm, but who, though thus essaying to carry tragedy lower, failed to carry it further. In the latter part of the 18th century French classical tragedy as a literary growth was dying a slow death, however numerous might be the leaves which sprouted from the decaying tree. Its form had been permanently fixed; and even Shakespeare, as manipulated by Ducis 13 (1733-1816)—an author whose tastes were better than his times—failed to bring about a change. "It is a Moor, not a Frenchman, who has written this play," cried a spectator of Ducis’s Othello (1791) ; but though Talma might astonish the theatre, Shakespeare’s influence over the French drama was only gradually preparing itself, by means more especially of Letourneur’s translation (1776-1782), which attracted the sympathy of Diderot and the execrations of the aged Voltaire. The command which classical French tragedy continued to assert over the stage was due in part, no doubt, to the love of Roman drapery which in more than one sense characterized the Revolution, and which was by the Revolution handed down to the Empire. It was likewise, and more signally, due to the great actors who freed the tragic stage from much of its artificiality and animated it by their genius. No great artist has ever more generously estimated the labours of a predecessor than Talma (1763-1826) judged those of Le Kain (1728-1778); but it was Talma himself whose genius was pre-eminently fitted to reproduce the great figures of antiquity in the mimic world, which, like the world outside, both required and possessed its Caesar. He, like Rachel (1821-1858) after him, reconciled French classical tragedy with nature; and it is upon the art of great original actors such as these that the theatrical future of this form of the drama in France depends. Mere whims of fashion—even when inspired by political feeling—will not waft back to it a real popularity; nor will occasional literary aftergrowths, however meritorious, such as the effective Lucrèce of F. Ponsard, and the attempts of even more recent writers, suffice to re-establish a living union between it and the progress of the national literature.

The rival influences under which classical tragedy has become a thing of the past in French literature connect themselves with the history of French comedy, which under the co-operation of other influences produced a wide variety of growths. The germs of most of these though not of all—are to be found in the works of the most versatile, and, in some respects, the most consummate comic dramatist the world has known,—Molière (1622-1693). What Molière found in existence was a comedy of intrigues derived from Spanish or Italian examples, and the elements of a comedy of character, in French and more especially in Italian farce and ballet-pantomime. Corneille’s Menteur had pointed the way to a fuller combination of character with intrigue, and in this direction Molière’s genius exercised the height of its creative powers. After beginning with farces, he produced in the earliest of his plays (from 1652), of which more than fragments remain, comedies of intrigue which are at the same time marvellously lively pictures of manners, and then proceeded with the École des Maris (1661) to begin a long series of master-pieces of comedy of character. Yet even these, the chief of which are altogether unrivalled in dramatic literature, do not exhaust the variety of his productions. To define the range of his art is as difficult as to express in words the essence of his genius. For though he has been copied ever since he wrote, neither his spirit nor his manner has descended in full to any of his copyists, whole schools of whom have missed elements of both. A Molière can only be judged in his relations to the history of comedy at large. He was indeed the inheritor of many forms and styles— remaining a stranger to those of Old Attic comedy only, rooted as it was in the political life of a free imperial city; though even the rich extravagance of Aristophanes’s burlesque was not left wholly unreproduced by him. Molière is both a satirist and a humourist ; he displays at times the sentiments of a loyal courtier, at others that gay spirit of opposition which is all but indispensable to a popular French wit. His comedies offer elaborate and subtle—even tender—pictures of human character in its eternal types, lively sketches of social follies and literary extravagances, and broad appeals to the ordinary sources of vulgar merriment. Light and perspicuous in construction, he is master of the delicate play of irony, the penetrating force of wit, and the expansive gaiety of frolicsome fun. Faithful to the canons of artistic taste, and under the safe guidance of true natural humour, his style suits itself to every species attempted by him. His morality is the reverse of rigid, but its aberrations are not those of prurience, nor its laws those of pretence; and wholly free as he was from the didactic aim which is foreign to all true dramatic representation, the services he rendered to his art are not the less services rendered to society, concerning which the laughter of true comedy tells the truth. He raised the comedy of character out of the lower sphere of caricature, and in his greatest creations subordinated to the highest ends of all dramatic composition the plots he so skilfully built, and the pictures of the manners he so faith-fully reproduced.

Even among the French comic dramatists of this age there must have been many who "were not aware" that Molière was its greatest poet. For though he had made the true path luminous to them, their efforts were still often of a tentative kind, and one was reviving Patelin while another was translating the Andria. A more unique attempt was made in one of the very few really modern versions of an Aristophanic comedy, which deserves to be called an original copy—Les Plaideurs of Racine. The tragic poets Quinault and Campistron likewise wrote comedies, one 1 or more of which furnished materials to contemporary English dramatists, as did one of the felicitous plays in which Boursault (1638--1701) introduced Mercury and Aesop into the theatrical salon. 2 But if the mantle of Molière can be said to have fallen upon any of his contemporaries or successors, this honour must be ascribed to J. F. Regnard (1655-1709), who imitated the great master in both themes and characters, 3 while the skilfulness of his plots, and his gaiety of the treatment even of subjects tempting into the by-path of sentimental comedy, 4 entitle him to be regarded as a comic poet of original genius. In the next generation (that of Voltaire) this by-path threatened to become the chosen walk of comedy, though Gresset (1709-1777) still attempted comedy of character, 5 and the witty Piron (1689-1778) produced something like a new type in the hero of his epigrammatic, but hardly dramatic, Métromanie. Marivaux (1688-1763), "the French Spectator," whose minute analysis of the tender passion 6 excited the scorn of Voltaire, forms the connecting link between comedy and the mixed species of the sentimental or "tearful" domestic drama, which still retained the name, but no longer pursued the ends, of the comic art. The most effective and professedly didactic dramatic moralists of this school were Destouches 7 (1680-1754) and Nivelle de la Chaussée (1692-1754), in whose hands French comedy became a champion of the sanctity of marriage 8 and reproduced the sentiments—in one instance 9 even the characters—of Richardson.

Melpomene, humbly shod with the sock, and Thalia, dissolved in tears, had now entered in to partnership. The species which varied as comédie larmoyante or as tragédie bourgeoise, and which ruled or was to rule supreme in so many dramatic literatures of Europe, more and more firmly established its hold on that of France. In the hands of Diderot (1713-1784) it sought to proclaim itself as an agent of social reform, and as an apostle of the gospel of philanthropy ; but the execution of these works fell short of their aims ;10 it was, in Mme. de Staël’s words, "the affectation of nature," not nature itself which they exhibited. Their author announced them as examples of a third dramatic form—the genre sérieux—which he declared to be the consummation of the dramatic art. Making war upon the frigid artificiality of classical tragedy, he banished verse from the new species. The effect of these plays was intended to spring from their truth to nature—a truth such as no spectator could mistake, and which should bring home its moral teachings to the business as well as the bosoms of all. The theatre was to become a real and realistic school of the principles of society and of the conduct of life—it was, in other words, to usurp functions with which it has no concern, and to essay the reformation of mankind. The idea was neither new nor just, but its speciousness will probably continue to commend it to many benevolent minds, whensoever and in whatsoever shape it is revived.

From this point the history of the French drama becomes that of a conflict between an enfeebled artistic school and a tendency which is hardly to be dignified by the name of a school at all. Beaumarchais (1732-1799), who for his early sentimental plays, in which he imitated Diderot, invented the appellation drame—so convenient in its vagueness that it became the accepted name of the hybrid species to which they belonged—in two works of a very different kind, the famous Barbier de Séville and the still more famous Mariage de Figaro, boldly carried comedy back into its old Spanish atmosphere of intrigue , but while surpassing all his predecessors in the skill with which he constructed his frivolous plots, he drew his characters with a lightness and sureness of touch peculiar to himself, animated his dialogue with an unparalleled brilliancy of wit, and seasoned action as well as dialogue with a political and social meaning, which caused his epigrams to become proverbs, and which marks his Figaro as a herald of the Revolution. Such plays as these were ill suited to the rule of the despot whose vigilance could not overlook their signifiance. The comedy of the empire is, in the hands of Collin d’Harleville, Picard, A. Duval, Étienne, and others, mainly a harmless comedy of manners ; nor was the attempted innovation of N. Lemercier (1771-1840)—who was fain to invent a new species, that of historical comedy— more than a flattering self-delusion. The theatre had its share in all the movements and changes which ensued in France; but the impulse which gave rise to the revolution the drama itself was to undergo was not one of native origin. Those branches of the drama which belong specifically to the history of the opera, or which associate themselves with it, are here passed by. (See OPERA). Among them was the vaudeville (from Val de Vire in Calvados), which began as an interspersion of pantomime with the airs of popular songs, and which, after the Italian masks had been removed from it, was cultivated by Ponsard (1690-1765) and Marmontel (1723-1799). The latter,1 as well as Rousseau,2 likewise composed opérettes— a smaller kind of opera, at first of the pastoral sort; and these flexible species easily entered into combination. The melodrama proper, of which the invention is also attributed to Rousseau,3 in its latter development became merely a drama accentuated by music, though usually in little need of any accentuation.

The chief home of the regular drama, however, demanded efforts of another kind. At the Théâtre Français, or Comédie Française, whose history as that of a single company of actors had begun in 1680, the party-strife of the times made itself audible ; and the most prominent tragic poet of the Revolution, M. J. de Chénier (1764-1811), a disciple of Voltaire in dramatic poetry as well as in political philosophy, wrote for the national stage the historical drama—with a political moral4—in which in the memorable year 1789 Talma achieved his first complete triumph. But the victorious Revolution proclaimed among other liberties that of the theatres in Paris, of which soon not less than 50 were open. In 1807 the empire restricted the number to 9, and reinstated the Théâtre Français in sole possession (or nearly such) of the right of performing the n classic drama. No writer of note was, however, tempted or inspired by the rewards and other encouragements offered by Napoleon to produce such a classic tragedy as the emperor would have willingly stamped out of the earth. The tragedies of C. Delavigne (1794-1844) represent the transition from the expiring efforts of the classical to the ambitious beginnings of the romantic school of the French drama. Of this it must suffice to say that it derives some of its characteristics from the general movement of romanticism which in various ways and at various points of time transformed nearly every modern European literature, others from the rhetorical tendency which is a French national feature. Victor Hugo was its conquering founder; A. Dumas the elder (1803-1870) its middleman. The marvellous energy and poetic genius of the former, always in extremes, was nowhere more signally so than in the drama; the latter was a Briareus, working with many hands besides his own. The name of A. de Vigny (1799-1863), "George Sand" (1804-1876), A. de Musset (1810-1857), whose dramatic "proverbes" and other pieces of a similar kind have a delicate flavour all their own, and perhaps that of P. Mérimée (1803-1870), who invented not only Spanish dramas but a Spanish dramatist,5 may be all with more or less precision classed in the romantic school, which in its turn has come to an end as a productive body of writers. It was not, however, the brief classical revival begun by F. Ponsard, and continued, in closer relation to modern ideas, both by him and by E. Augier, which overthrew the Romanticists. While the theatrical ability of E. Scribe (1791-1858) supplied a long series of productions attesting the rapid advance of the playwright’s mastery over the secrets of his craft, and while the name of his competitors, with the aid of some of whom he held his own against the rest, is legion, the latest developments of the French drama possess a social and often a moral interest of greater depth, while they are not inferior in technical skill to anything that has preceded them. After a fashion which would have startled even Diderot, the younger A. Dumas has undertaken to reform society by means of the stage ; O. Feuillet and others have, with perhaps fewer prefaces, applied themselves to the solution of the same "problems;" and whatever style will best succeed with the public is the style of V. Sardou.

That the theatre will lose the hold it possesses over the intellectual and moral sympathies of nearly the whole of the educated, and of a great part of the uneducated y population of France, seems hardly within the range of probability. But this is not tantamount to a prophecy that the creative activity of French dramatic literature is certain to endure. The art of acting is not dependent upon a contemporary literary productivity; Talma and Mdlle. Mars (1779-1847) flourished in one of the most barren ages of the French literary drama ; the authors and actors of the sotties, like those of the Palais Royal farces of our own day, could strike their roots in the lightest of soils. The constantly accumulating experience and the apparently inexhaustible fertility of the art of acting in France may ensure to it a future not less brilliant than its past ; and the judicious policy of not leaving the leading theatres at the mercy of shifting fashion will at all events supply the possibility of maintaining a high histrionic standard. So long as the French nation continues to maintain its ascendency over other nations in much that adorns and brightens social life, the predominant influence of the French theatre over the theatres of other nations is likewise assured. But in the end its own future must be ruled by that progress or decay of French dramatic literature. The history of that literature shows periods of marvellously rapid advance, of hardly less swift decline, and of frequent though fitful recovery. Its future may be equally varied ; but it will not be less dependent on the conditions which in every people, ancient or modern, are indispensable to national vigour and vitality. Should the calamity—for it would be nothing less—befall modern civilization of a hopeless degeneration of the French drama, the fault will lie in the severance of self-consciousness from self-control; and, under other circumstances, but with even deeper regret, the story of the Roman theatre of the later Empire may have to be told again.


FOOTNOTES (page 423)

(1) El Si de las Niñas (The Young Maidens’ Consent).

(2) Trissino, Sofinisba.

(3) Sophocles, Antigone; Electra,; Euripides, Hecuba; Terence, Andria: Aristophanes, Plutus (by Ronsard, 1549).

(4) La Soltane (1561).

(5) Daïre (Darius).

(6) La Mort de César.

(7) Achille (1563).

(8) Les Lacènes; Marie Stuart or L’Ecossaise.

(9) La Juive, &c.

(10) Les Corivaux (1573).

(11) La Reconnue (Le Capitaine Rodomont).

(12) Les Esbahis.

(13) Les Contens (S. Parabosco, I Contenti).

(14) Les Néapolitaines; Les Désespérades de l’Amour).

(15) Les Laquais (Ragazzi).

(16) Les Tromperies (Gli Inganni).

FOOTNOTES (page 424)

(1) "L. du Peschier" (de Barry), La Comédie des Comédies.

(2) L’Amour Tyrannique.

(3) Marianne.

(4) Mélite; Clitandre, &c.

(5) Le Véritable Saint Genais; Venceslas.

(6) Steele, The Lying Lover; Foote, The Liar; Goldoni, Il Bugiardo.

(7) Ruiz de Alarcon, La Verdad Sospechosa.

(8) Andromaque, Phèdre; Bérénice, &c.

(9) Esther; Athalic.

FOOTNOTES (page 425)

(1) Le Cid; Polyeucte.

(2) Esther; Athalie.

(3) Corneille, Rodogune; Racine, Phèdre.

(4) Brutus; La Mort de César; Sémiramis.

(5) Aedipe; Le Fanatisme (Mahomet).

(6) Adélaïde du Guesclin.

(7) L’Orphelin de la Chine.

(8) Tanis et Zeiide.

(9) Les Guebres.

(10) Olimpie.

(11) Tancrede.

(12) La Mort de César; Zaïre (Othello).

(13) Hamlet; Le Roi Léar, &c.

FOOTNOTES (page 426)

(1) Quinault, L’Amour Indiscret (Newcastle and Dryden’s Sir Martin Marall).

(2) Le Mercure Galant; Éscope á la Ville; Éscope á la Cour (Vanbrugh, Aesop).

(3) Le Bal (M. de Pourceaugnac); Geronte in Le Légataire Universel (Argan in Le Malade Imaginaire); La Critique du L. (La C. de. l’École des Femmes).

(4) Le Joueur; Le Légataire Universel.

(5) Le Méchant.

(6) Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard; Le Legs; La Surprise de l’Amour; Les Fausses Confidences; L’Épreuve.

(7) Le Dissipateur; Le Glorieux, &c.

(8) La Fausse Antipathie; Le Préjugé à la Mode; Méluside.

(9) Pamèla.

(10) Le Fils Naturel ou les Épreuvres de la Vertu; Le Père de Famille

FOOTNOTES (page 427)

(1) Zèmire et Azor; Jeannot et Jeannette.

(2) Les Muses Galantes; Le Devin du Village.

(3) Pygmalion.

(4) Charles IX. ou l’École des Rovs.

(5) Théâtre de Clara Gazul.

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