Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/44

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.




further his ends, when he had Talma play it at Erfurt before the vanquished kings. Nowadays such plays ring false. As for forcing the people to accept them as art, and not taking into account the ideas set forth in them—well, it is a very dangerous sort of dilettantism.

But there are some few of Corneille's plays that may perhaps be acceptable to the people. There is Horace, in which the sturdy heroism of the principal character is well calculated—maybe too well—to stir the people. Even the trial at the end is not without a certain grandeur, which appeals rather to the people than to the ordinary public. Unfortunately, the language is too often obscure and the action slow and uninteresting. The ardent spirit of youth in Le Cid, its freedom of form, its abounding vitality, arouse irresistible enthusiasm. And yet I am not sure whether the particular problem of chivalry which the dueling gentlemen of the court of Louis XIII are called upon to solve has not become a trifle archaic for the workingmen of the Faubourg-Saint-Antoine. Possibly Nicomède is the play best suited to the people, for the hero belongs to a class dear to their hearts: a good and joyous giant, a Gallic Siegfried, alone among his enemies, frustrating their plots, poking fun at their weaknesses, and all with an air of ironic bravura—and finally triumphant. The figures about him are altogether picturesque: the beautiful savage Laodice, the old king, a liar and a coward, the French knight Attale and the Anglo-Saxon diplomat Fla-