The First Half of the Seventeenth Century/Chapter 7
the formation of french tragedy and comedy—sixteenth-century drama—larivey and montchrestien—the popular drama—experiments in the provinces—hardy and valleran lecomte—hardy's tragedies, tragi-comedies, pastorals, and mythological plays—beginning of polite drama—théophile and racan—influence of italian pastoral, and of spanish tragi-comedy—mairet—the unities—'sophonisbe' and the revival of tragedy—corneille—'mélite' and the development of comedy—early plays—the 'cid' and the flowering of tragedy—battle of the 'cid'—triumph of the unities—corneille's great tragedies—'le menteur'—comedy under spanish influence—corneille's last plays—relation of french tragedy of corneille and racine to greek tragedy and to romantic tragi-comedy—rotrou—burlesque comedy—'les visionnaires'
The early decades of the seventeenth century are not less of an epoch in the history of French drama thanSources of
French Tragedy. of French prose and verse. The classical tragedy of Jodelle and Garnier is a very different thing from the classical tragedy of Corneille and Racine, and the explanation of the difference is to be found in the history of the phases through which French drama passed between the opening of the century and the appearance of the Cid. Differently as the elements were ultimately blended, the French drama, like the English, was the outcome of an amalgamation of the classical drama of the Renaissance and plays which were directly descended from the mediæval drama. The man who brought together the different seeds and began the fertilisation of the French stage was Alexandre Hardy.
The older academic drama had not quite come to an end when the sixteenth century closed. Larivey was yet to write the last of his comedies, based on Latin and Italian models. Of those who were still writing classical tragedies, the most interesting was Montchrestien. Antoine de Montchrestien (1575-1621), whose adventures and stirring career closed at Montchrestien. the stake, was the author of six tragedies on classical, historical, and Scriptural themes—Hector, La Reine d'Écosse, La Carthaginoise, Les Lacènes, David, Aman—in the usual Senecan style with long, often eloquent speeches and meditative musical choruses. There is no pretence of action, of developing a story from the interaction of characters
and circumstances. A few situations in a familiar story are presented in a statuesque manner—a long monologue, or a dialogue which is simply an interchange of balanced "sentences," very different from the rapid play of Corneille's dialogue instinct with purpose and passion. At the end of each scene the chorus deploys in grave and harmonious stanzas its reflections on the fleetingness of life, the inexorableness of fate, the beauty and dignity of virtue,—
"Si tu n'aperçois rien d'éternelle durée,
Et si tout ce grand Tout n'attend que le trépas,
Suis toujours la vertu seule au monde assurée
Qui nous fait vivre au Ciel en mourant ici-bas.
O l'honneur immortel des âmes généreuses,
Fort bien considéré vous avez eu raison
De rendre vos esprits en vos mains valeureuses,
Pour sortir par la mort d'une double prison."
These plays, it is clear, were never written for the popular stage at all. Their observance—vague as it often is—of the Unities of place and time implies as much, for the conventions of the popular theatre included a permissible duration of the action from the creation to the Day of Judgment, as well as the simultaneous representation of different places—what Corneille calls "ce horrible derèglement qui mettait Paris, Rome, et Constantinople sur le même théâtre"—and that not successively and ideally, as on the English stage described by Sidney, but at one and the same time with distinct decorations. The Senecan tragedies might be performed at schools and colleges—to add to the sufferings of the much-enduring students of those days, who greatly preferred farce. Often they must have been written only for readers. Their sole merit was as literature. The beautiful choruses—of Garnier especially—were universally admired, and were imitated in England by Daniel, in Holland by Hooft.
The popular stage had still to be content with the moribund mediæval drama. The performance of sacred Popular Drama. mysteries had been forbidden in Paris in 1548, but they seem to have lingered under other names; and there were still the "histoires" and "romans," the "moralités," tending to become more concrete and secular, as well as the ever-popular farces. The general trend of this decaying mediæval drama, wherever it was not displaced by classical tragedy and comedy, was towards simply dramatised stories—drawn from the novelle and other sources—in which the story interest is paramount. In Spain, where classical dramatic influence was most successfully resisted, this interest of story subordinated in the work of Lope de Vega almost every other consideration. In England Marlowe, the other university wits to a less degree, and Shakespeare pre-eminently, in virtue of their genius, but not uninfluenced by Seneca, superinduced upon this interest of story vivid dramatic portrayal of character and poetic beauty. Alexandre Hardy was neither a Lope de Vega nor a Christopher Marlowe, yet the work he did was of the same kind at a much lower level. He disengaged French drama from the last remnants of Mystery and didactic Morality; he taught it to present a story, tragic or romantic, in a condensed and telling form; and he made a beginning, though a crude and imperfect one, with the delineation of character and passion. Or if we look at his work from another point of view, and compare it with the academic instead of the popular drama, we may justly say that, while infinitely inferior to Garnier's as poetry, Hardy's plays have what these elegiac and lyrical performances have not—that action which is the soul of a living drama.
We know, unfortunately, very little of Hardy's life and education. He was certainly not illiterate, as Alexandre
Hardy. Sainte-Beuve seems to suggest. He was probably as well educated as Marlowe, possibly rather better than Shakespeare, if by education we understand academic training. He was acquainted with the classics as well as with the contemporary literature of Spain and Italy, and in his poetic theories and licences of diction shows himself an enthusiastic admirer of Ronsard and his school. All that we know of his career is that about 1593 he became journeyman playwright, or poète à gages, to a wandering troupe of players under a certain Valleran Lecomte. The Confrérie de la Passion had the monopoly of dramatic entertainments in Paris, and by the end of the sixteenth century their performances had sunk to the lowest level of illiteracy. The future of the French stage depended not on them but on the efforts of the wandering troupes of professional actors who made a precarious existence in the provinces, and, like their English contemporaries, sometimes travelled as far as the Low Countries and Denmark. Compelled to interest and amuse, these companies were driven to add to their répertoire something besides the outworn moralities, histories, romances, and farces. Valleran Lecomte seems to have experimented with the academic tragedies of Jodelle, de la Taille, and Garnier. In Hardy, however, Lecomte found some one who supplied exactly what he was feeling his way towards,—a dramatist who could produce tragedies not unlike those of Garnier, but with more of movement, and without wearisome monologues and choral odes; who could, in short, dramatise with the utmost rapidity stories of every and any sort drawn from all the most popular reading of the day. Encouraged by such an acquisition, Lecomte rented the Hôtel de Bourgogne in 1599 from the Confrérie, who were beginning to realise their inability to cope with the superior attractions which Italian and provincial companies brought to Paris from time to time in spite of their protests. After some interruptions, and notwithstanding trouble with the Confrérie, and with occasional rivals, which cannot be detailed here, Valleran's company settled at the Hôtel under the name of the King's comedians, and was until 1629 the only company performing regularly in Paris. During these years Hardy was the mainstay of the company, and almost the sole French dramatist of importance. He poured forth plays with the utmost profusion—the number has been put as high as eight hundred; and the variety of their kinds—tragedies, tragi-comedies, pastorals, and mythological plays—shows clearly what was the chief aim of the author, to provide fresh and novel entertainments for a popular audience.
Hardy's earliest efforts were probably "romances" like Théagène et Chariclée on the one hand, and tragedies such as Didon, Mariamne, Panthée, Mort d'Achille, Coriolan on the other. The first, which runs on through several "journées," is closely related to the later mediæval "romans," but shows the influence of the classical school in its less naïve structure and style, and in the introduction of lengthy monologues and colloquies. In the tragedies Hardy's relation to the academic dramatists is very clear. Their works are obviously his inspiration and to some extent his model; but writing for the popular stage, Hardy's main interest is not in "sentences" and rhetoric, but in the conduct of the story. Whatever delays the progress of the action—such as choral odes and lengthy dreams or descriptions—is either dropped or abbreviated. With an art which is by no means subtle or varied, but is effective as far as it goes, Hardy presents the story in its principal moments, in the person of the chief characters, and in speeches and colloquies which are not mere exercises in rhetoric, but portray motive and carry forward the action. The character-drawing is, like the plot-structure, simple and crude, but not ineffective. Decisive resolutions are abruptly formed, and critical actions rapidly developed; but the ruling motives are presented distinctly if without any shading, and are at times dignified and impressive—more impressive in their crude truthfulness than the high-flown gallantry which is the sole motive at work in the tragi-comedies of most of Hardy's successors.
The damning fault of Hardy's tragedies, as of all his work, is the execrable style. He claimed to be Style. a disciple of Ronsard, and permitted himself all the licences which the latter demanded for poetic diction. But Hardy was not, like Ronsard, a poet. He was an improviser without taste. His style is painfully obscure, abounding in ellipses, inversions, archaisms, and coinages. It is ungrammatical and undistinguished, and at the same time affected and bombastic.
Hardy's tragedies were not the most immediately popular and influential part of his work, but they The Classic
Tradition. preserved and handed on to later writers, as Mairet, Tristan, and Corneille, the main features of the tragic tradition established by Jodelle and his followers. These features are the historical subject, the grave and heightened style, and the concentrated action. Though Hardy allows himself the complete liberty, as regards the imaginary place and duration of the action, which was traditional on the popular stage, he dramatises in his tragedies not a whole story but a final crisis. In Coriolan, for example, which, like Shakespeare's play, is based on Plutarch, Hardy begins with the banishment of Coriolanus and his interview with Aufidius. Thereafter Hardy selects for presentation much the same scenes as Shakespeare. He has not succeeded, however, in presenting the crisis—the conflict between outraged pride and filial affection—with the logical precision and eloquent fulness with which Corneille would have handled the theme. The French drama had to travel a long way and through a variety of experiments before it attained the shining summit of the Cid.
The main road through which it was to travel was indicated by Hardy not in the tragedies, but the tragi-comedies Tragi-comedies. based on Spanish and other "novelle," and the closely related pastorals inspired by the Aminta and the Pastor Fido. The former are, as has been said, the characteristic story-plays of the Renaissance in all countries where the romantic or mediæval type of drama was not entirely superseded by the classical. Spain, France, England, and Holland all produced them in abundance. There is no evidence that Hardy's were modelled on the plays of Lope de Vega. They are drawn from the same source as those of the English and Dutch dramatists—contemporary "novelle," or stories of a similar character from classical sources. The universal theme is the adventures of lovers. In Felismène he dramatises the story from Montemayor's Diana, which Shakespeare used for the Two Gentlemen of Verona. La Force du Sang and La Belle Égyptienne are versions of stories by Cervantes, which Middleton has woven together in The Spanish Gypsy.
There is not much to be said critically of Hardy's tragi-comedies. There is less character-drawing than in the tragedies. They have none of the brilliant complication and dialogue of the Spanish, nor of the exquisite poetry of the English. If the serious scenes are not inferior to those of Rodenburg and Brederoo, there are none of the vigorous comic scenes, vivid pictures of popular life in Amsterdam, with which the latter brightened his dull love-stories. Hardy never ventures outside the four corners of the story he is dramatising to draw from real life, polite or vulgar. The pastorals differ from the tragi-comedies only in the conventional setting. They are stories of the cross-wooing of shepherds and shepherdesses, the wantonness of satyrs, the avarice of parents, and the dark oracles of gods. To indicate their more poetic and unreal character, Hardy uses an octosyllabic line instead of Alexandrines; but he was quite unable to give them the charm of sentiment and poetry which distinguished their Italian originals, and alone could give life to these forerunners of opera and its banalities.
Five of Hardy's plays on mythological subjects—Procris, Alceste, Ariadne, Le Ravissement de Proserpine, and La Gigantomachie—stand somewhat by themselves. These mythological subjects attracted dramatists in all countries at the Renaissance, but not generally with much result. The Alceste is a very free adaptation of Euripides, in which the character of Admetus is well sustained. The Ariadne, based on Ovid, is much inferior to Thomas Corneille's later play on the same subject.
To 1617 Hardy reigned without a rival. Indeed, until 1625 there was no sign of any general awakeningHardy's
followers. of interest in the drama in that polite world which had begun to rule the destinies of French literature. The rise of new fashions in poetic style in the "correctness" of Malherbe and the elegant conceits of Marino's admirers; the efflorescence of a new prose in the splendid and polished periods of Balzac; the refinement of conversation; the interest in pastoral and polite romance awakened by d'Urfé's Astrée—these were sufficient to absorb attention. The theatre was neglected as barbarous. It was not till 1634 that Corneille could boast that it had superseded the romances in public interest.
The movement which led to that culmination began in 1617 with the publication of Théophile de Viau's Théophile and
Racan. Amours Tragiques de Pyrame et Thisbé, a tragedy, but in the spirit of Hardy's tragi-comedies, whose high-flown sentiment and Marinistic elegances of style fascinated the polite world. The purer taste of a later age ridiculed the dagger which blushed for its crimes, but Théophile's style is not all "points." The prophetic dream of Thisbe's mother is eloquently and dramatically described. About two years later Racan appealed to the prevalent taste for pastoral kindled by L'Astrée, and the enthusiasm for Italian literature, with his Arthénice, recast later as Les Bergeries. Racan's play has all the dramatic vapidness of the genre, but is the first French play with anything of the poetic beauty of its models, the Aminta and the Pastor Fido. It contains some delicious description in musical and flowing verses—
"Aussitôt qu'il fit jour, j'y menais mes brebis:
À peine du sommet je voyais la première
Descendre dans ces prés qui bornent la rivière,
Que j'entendis au loin sa musette et sa voix,
Qui troublaient doucement le silence des bois;
Quelle timide joie entra dans ma pensée!"
Crude plays to amuse the Paris public, which still formed the bulk of the audience, continued to be The flourishing
of Tragi-comedy. produced for many years; but the movement which Théophile and Racan thus inaugurated gradually developed, bringing the drama more and more within the range of polite interest, and involving it thereby in the general development of French literature. The immediate consequence was not, of course, the emergence of tragedy and comedy of the classical type. The taste of the day was for romance full of high-flown polite sentiment and elegant writing. To this taste the drama had to minister. Tragedy remained for some years where Hardy had left it. Comedy was tentatively experimented in. Up to 1634, when Mairet's Sophonisbe was produced, the popular, almost the universal, type of play produced was the tragi-comedy, abounding in incident, romantic in sentiment, and generally not a little high-flown and super-elegant in style. The pastorals, which were especially admired in cultured circles, and about which literary discussion of the Unities chiefly gathered at first, were only a particular species of the general type. The great sources of inspiration were Italy and especially Spain. The plays of Lope de Vega and other Spanish dramatists were closely translated or freely adapted. The same was done with Italian novella comedies; and the Italian pastorals remained the unapproached models of all French plays of the kind. To give any detailed account of the authors of these plays is impossible in our space. Jean de Mairet, Jean de Rotrou, Balthasar Baro, La Calprenède, Georges de Scudéry, Tristan l'Hermite, Pierre du Ryer, all are at work from 1625 or 1628 onwards, and Corneille himself appears in 1629. We must confine ourselves to tracing the process by which, from tragi-comedy and its unreal world of romance, there emerged tragedy portraying the deepest passions of the human heart, and comedy reflecting the manners of actual life. In this connection the names of first importance are Jean de Mairet, and the great Corneille himself. Rotrou is intrinsically, doubtless, a worthier second to Corneille than Mairet, but Rotrou's genius was romantic. No one followed his Spanish masters with more gusto, or recalls some of the Elizabethans more vividly. It was only under Corneille's influence that Rotrou essayed tragedy. Though he is a less great and less interesting writer, Mairet is the more important historically, because in tragedy his relation to Corneille resembles in some degree that of Marlowe to Shakespeare.
Born in Besançon in 1604, educated in Paris, Mairet was only sixteen when in 1625 he produced Mairet. his first tragi-comedy Chriséïde et Arimande, based on an incident in the Astrée. It is not a good play,—Mairet himself called it "un péché de ma jeunesse,"—but it was successful, and gained him the patronage of the Duc de Montmorency, which he enjoyed till the death of the latter in 1638. Sylvie appeared in 1626, and was an immense success. In 1629 he wrote Silvanire, an essay in more correct Italianate pastoral, which was published in 1631 in elaborate form, and with a preface on the Unities which has generally been taken to mark an epoch in the history of French dramatic theory and practice. Les Galanteries du Duc d'Ossone, a rather coarse experiment in comedy, followed in 1632, and Sophonisbe, the herald of the new tragedy, in 1634. The Cid eclipsed Mairet's star, greatly to his own chagrin. While Corneille effected the triumph of tragedy, Mairet slipped back to tragi-comedies. Alike as a dramatist and a poet he was outshone, and his later plays, though enumerated in histories, are never read. He did not die till 1686.
Of the plays mentioned, those important for the history of the drama are Sylvie, Silvanire, and Sophonisbe.Sylvie. The first is a pastoral tragi-comedy of unusual interest, both of story and character; and the style, though full of affectations,—there is a dagger here too, "qui va rougir de ton ingratitude,"—and, as in all Mairet's work, unequal, is vigorous and poetic. It is the story of a prince wooing a shepherdess, of the scruples of her father and match-making eagerness of her mother, and of the magic employed by the king to punish the lovers and prevent the marriage. The wooing scenes are natural and affecting; and in those between the parents there is just a touch of the homely realism and humour with which the English and Dutch dramatists invest such scenes, but which was alien to the polite spirit that was more and more to dominate French drama. The play, in short, has all the story interest of tragi-comedy, with scenes that border on pure tragedy on the one hand and on comedy on the other. Silvanire is much more conventional, and, in consequence, uninteresting. Its importance centres in the introduction on the Unities.
The Unities of Place and Time as well as of Subject, imported from Italy in the sixteenth century by The Unities. critics and academic dramatists, were unknown to the popular and living drama. They revived about this time as a subject of critical discussion in literary and polite circles where both Italian literature and Italian criticism were in high esteem. The superiority of the Aminta and the Pastor Fido was ascribed to their adoption, just as Sidney found a proof of the barbarity of English plays in their neglect, and Jonson followed suit even in the face of Shakespeare's achievement. The universal learned tradition of the Renaissance identified dramatic "art" with obedience to the principles extracted from Aristotle by the critics, of whom none stood in higher esteem at this time than Scaliger and Heinsius. Mairet was invited by the Comte de Cramail and the Cardinal de la Vallette to write a "correct" pastoral on Italian lines, and the outcome was Silvanire, the recast of a play in blank verse written by d'Urfé at the request of Marie de Médicis. Silvanire was published in elaborate form, with the famous critical preface, but the play was a failure and the question was not decided. François Ogier had, in 1628, attacked the doctrine vigorously in a preface to Tyr et Sidon, a long and irregular play by Jean de Schelandre; and in the years which immediately followed much was written for and against, the opponents having by no means the worst of the argument. There was, in fact, no inner justification for the Unities in either the pastoral or the tragi-comedy. The interest of the latter consists in variety of incident, and the happy emergence of the lovers from a series of trials and mishaps which could only with the utmost improbability be packed into the course of a single day. The dramatic crisis of the pastoral is too slight to make the question of time one of any importance. It was somewhat different with tragedy, in which the French tradition, even as preserved by Hardy, was in favour of a short concentrated action, the dramatisation not of a whole story but a single crisis. To such a type of play, an approximation, at any rate, to a strict unity of time and place might lend intensity and éclat. The rigid enforcement of the rules—to which Corneille bowed his head somewhat unwillingly—was a triumph of pedantry, and of the spirit of social etiquette, which enforces its rules with a rigour compared with which religious, moral, and artistic laws operate uncertainly; but this triumph was possible only because in the Cid and its successors Corneille evolved a type of tragic action to which a rapid evolution is essential.
After Silvanire, Mairet experimented in comedy—which was still represented on the stage only by Sophonisbe. popular farces, the descendants of the mediæval farces modified by the influence of the Italian commedia dell' arte with its stock characters; and in Virginie, which has nothing to do with the daughter of Virginius and victim of Appius Claudius, he produced a melodramatic tragi-comedy in accordance with the rule of twenty-four hours. Then in 1634, realising possibly the need, for the observance of the Unities, of an appropriate crisis, he turned abruptly to tragedy, which had been for many years neglected, and wrote Sophonisbe, the first regular play which in any degree justifies its regularity. The unity of place is not interpreted rigidly, but the time of action is twenty-four hours, beginning one day and ending the next, the bridal night intervening. The action of the first three acts—the defeat of Syphax, followed by the marriage of his wife Sophonisba to the victorious Massanissa—is got into the twenty-four hours only at the expense of improbability, and that of the kind that jars upon our feelings; but the fourth and fifth acts contain just the kind of incident which Corneille was to make the typical plot of tragedy—a rapid, because intense, conflict between the passion of Massanissa and Roman policy embodied in Scipio. Mairet is not capable of the splendid and sustained eloquence with which Corneille, in his best days, would have elaborated the situation; but even Corneille did not disdain, when he wrote Horace, to borrow from the dying speech of Sophonisba.
With Sophonisbe Mairet's work culminated. His later plays need not detain us. The further development of comedy, the final crystallisation of classical French tragedy, and the purification and heightening of dramatic style were the work of a young dramatist who had begun to write some five years earlier, and who, after experiments by no means devoid of interest in the direction of comedy, received from Mairet's Sophonisbe an impetus which, after a little preliminary stumbling, carried him into the path that he and French tragedy were to follow henceforward.
Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) was, like Malherbe, a Norman, the son of an avocat holding an official position in Rouen. He was educated by the Jesuits, showing a taste for Latin verses, adopted the profession of his father, and held and discharged the duties of certain offices until as late as 1650. The labours and ambitions of the poet did not exclude those of the citizen and family man. During the years in which his finest and most original work was done he was a magistrate in Rouen, visiting Paris at intervals to arrange for the production of his plays, and to mingle, a little awkwardly, and not with all the dignity of his own heroes, in the literary and polite circles of Richelieu and the Hôtel de Rambouillet.
Rouen was frequently visited by the travelling companies of actors, of whose importance we have already spoken. For one of these, originally the Comédiens du Prince d' Orange, under Guillaume Desgilberts, Sieur de Mondory, Corneille wrote his first play, Mélite; and with it the company opened in Paris (1629) a career of successful rivalry to the Comédiens du Roi, which after some trouble, due to the privileges of the older company, culminated in the opening, in 1634, of the
Théâtre du Marais, the second theatre in Paris. Whether Corneille's play was, as tradition says, suggested by an incident in his own earliest love affair, is a matter of small importance. What is important is that in it Corneille struck out, almost unaided, a new and interesting line. He knew nothing apparently of the academic comedy of Larivey, for he tells us he had never heard of the Unities: "Je n'avais pour guide qu'un peu de sens commun avec les exemples de feu Hardy." He preserves the conventional plot of the tragi-comedies of pastoral,—Mélite has been called "a pastoral without shepherds,"—but instead of unreal shepherds and romantic princes he endeavoured to draw gentlemen and ladies from real life. It is the first essay in polite realistic comedy,—for the Duc d'Ossone is merely a farcical and indecent extravaganza.
The success of Mélite brought Corneille to Paris, where he heard for the first time of the rule of Comedies. twenty-four hours. It was the only rule talked of at that time, he tells us—a proof that the revived interest in the Unities came mainly from the study of Italian pastoral plays. To fall in with the fashion Corneille wrote Clitandre (1630-32), a crude and thorough-going tragi-comedy, the absurdity of whose incidents is only heightened by their compression into twenty-four hours. He then returned to the kind of comedy he had sketched in Mélite, and La Veuve (1634), La Galerie du Palais (1634), La Suivante (1634?), La Place Royale (1635), and L'Illusion (1636), in themselves, and in the successive changes introduced into the texts, show the steady and determined effort of the author to reproduce the manners and conversation of the polite world. In La Galerie and La Place Royale the scene is laid in a recognisable part of Paris, and we see and hear gentlemen and ladies, valets and lady's-maids, "cheapening" and gossipping at the milliner's and bookseller's. This is the chief merit of the plays. The plots are improbable, the wit not very striking, and the characters shadowy. The two last are the best in virtue of their "humours" and raillery. Alidor in La Place Royale is an original and thoroughly Corneillian figure. He loves and is loved, but rebels against the tyranny of his own passion,—
"Comptes-tu mon esprit entre les ordinaires?
Penses-tu qu'il s'arrête aux sentiments vulgaires?
Les règles que je suis ont un air tout divers;
Je veux la liberté dans le milieu des fers.
Il ne faut point servir d'objet qui nous possède;
Il ne faut point nourrir d'amour qui ne nous cède:
Je le hais s'il me force; et quand j'aime, je veux
Que de ma volonté dépendent tous mes vœux:
Que mon feu m'obéisse, au lieu de me contraindre;
Que je puisse à mon gré l'enflammer et l'éteindre,
Et, toujours en état de disposer de moi
Donner, quand il me plaît, et retirer ma foi."
This combination of arrogance and subtlety reappears in all Corneille's great characters. In L'Illusion Clindor is an excellently drawn type of the Spanish picaresque hero. Matamore, the Gascon captain, is less amusing than interesting as a herald of Corneille's tragic eloquence. Corneille was to do finer work in comedy than any of these early plays, but his first and most signal triumph was to be in tragedy.
Mairet's Sophonisbe made tragedy the fashion immediately. Scudéry's La Mort de César and Didon, Mairet's Marc Antoine, Benserade's Cléopâtre, the Mithridate of La Calprenède, and Corneille's Médée are not all that appeared in 1635. The common features of these tragedies are the historic subject, and the elevated declamatory style. The influence of Seneca and even of the Greek tragedies is obvious; but there is no return to the elegiac and lyrical Senecan tragedy of Montchrestien and Garnier. The interest of plot, of incident, and generally of love—the love of the romances and tragi-comedies—is retained. Corneille's idea of improving upon the Medea of Seneca is to complicate the intrigue. Rotrou, in his version of the same author's Hercules Furens, gives Iolé a lover to whom she is constant. There is more of character-drawing than in the tragi-comedies, attention being more fixed on the central persons. But this dramatic interest proper is still uncertain. There is no clear conception of the nature of a tragic conflict, of an action in which incident and eloquence alike are of interest only as they help to render intelligible and impressive the conflict of the soul. Corneille's Médée is an accumulation of horrors. There is no conflict in the soul of Medea—only a wild fury; and most of the finer touches, including the famous "Moi! et c'est assez," are Seneca's.
This was in 1635. At the end of the following year appeared Le Cid; and French tragedy emerged from The Cid. the confused scaffolding which had concealed and prepared its growth in clear and majestic proportions. Almost as by an accident Corneille had divined the right way, seen whither the centre of the interest must be transferred to produce great serious drama. From a Spanish play crowded with incongruous incident he constructed a tragedy, in which all the interest of suspense that the most skilfully woven tragi-comedy could evoke is sustained and intensified, not by elaborate intrigue and surprising recognitions, but by a moral dilemma, a conflict of the soul. What the élite of Paris crowded Mondory's theatre and waited breathless to see was not what would happen next, but what Rodrigue and Chimène would do. When Rodrigue entered Chimène's chamber to offer himself to her vengeance, "il s'élevait un certain frémissement dans l'assemblée, qui marquait une curiosité merveilleuse, et un redoublement d'attention pour ce qu'ils avaient à se dire dans un état si pitoyable." And the eloquence with which the play shines is subordinated to the same end. It does not deploy itself in irrelevant moral, and political "sentences." The description of Rodrigue's defeat of the Moors is in the approved classical style of the nuntius. The actors were not willing to forgo these oratorical opportunities. But otherwise the finest speeches exist not for their own sake, but to portray with subtlety and animation the war of motives, the conflict in Rodrigue and Chimène—less relevantly in the Infanta—between honour and passion.
It is an intellectual rather than a purely emotional conflict, and this was to be the case in all Corneille's plays. From the first we are conscious of missing the indubitable accents of the heart, the "nature" of Shakespeare or Racine. When Chimène finds herself first alone after her father's death, it is no outcry of filial anguish that we hear, but the subtle dialectic of a case of conscience,—
"Ma passion s'oppose à mon ressentiment;
Dedans mon ennemi je trouve mon amant;
Et je sens qu'en dépit de toute ma colère
Rodrigue dans mon cœur combat encore mon père:
Il l'attaque, il le presse, Il cède, il se defend
Tantôt fort, tantôt faible, et tantôt triomphant;
Mais en ce dûr combat de colère et de flamme,
Il déchire mon cœur sans partager mon âme:
Et quoique mon amour ait sur moi de pouvoir,
Je ne consulte point pour suivre mon devoir.
Je cours sans balancer où mon honneur m'oblige.
Rodrigue m'est bien cher, son intérêt m'afflige;
Mon cœur prend son parti; mais malgré son effort
Je sais ce que je suis, et que mon père est mort."
The will at war with, but triumphant over, every opposition, was, now and henceforth, for Corneille the centre of dramatic interest, the subject of his greatest achievements, and the source of his farthest aberrations from nature and truth. The brilliant success of Le Cid evoked the fierce jealousy of Corneille's fellow-dramatists, and led to The Quarrel
over the Cid. a pamphlet warfare in which Mairet and Georges de Scudéry (1601-1667)—the brother of Madeleine and a prolific writer of high-flown tragi-comedies—took the lead. There were the usual accusations of plagiarism—all the dramatists of the day were in greater or less measure indebted to the Spanish playwrights—but the important question raised was that of the Unities. Corneille had in fact evolved the type of tragedy for which a close approximation to the unities of time and place—in the skilful hands of Racine their complete acceptance—had internal justification. He had adhered, at the expense of some improbability, to the twenty-four hours (Rodrigue's defeat of the Moors occurs in the night between the first and second days), but he had not maintained a pedantic fixity of scene. Scudéry,
in spite of an excellent dissuasive letter from Balzac, appealed to the recently founded Academy. Chapelain had based the Unities, not on Aristotle but on reason, the à priori reason by which Descartes was preparing to explain the universe. Richelieu himself was a disappointed author. Accordingly a committee was appointed, and a report drawn up by Chapelain, almost at the dictation of Richelieu, in which the Cid was condemned on the principles of that "art" which Jonson told Drummond "Shakespeare wanted," and for wanting which Lope de Vega had to defend himself on the ground of popular taste.
Corneille never admitted that he accepted the decision of the Academy, but it was impossible to ignore Corneille accepts
the Unities. the opinion of such a body at a time when cultured and polite circles had become the sole arbiter of letters. The observance of the Unities was not a rule of art—Corneille is never weary of showing the improbabilities they involve—but it had become a convenance, a proof of decency and good tone. He accepted it; he dedicated his next play to Richelieu; and in accordance with the same academic taste he turned from Spanish subjects to classical and historic themes. The result was not entirely a gain. The tradition of the stage under Spanish and Italian influence, as well as that of the romances, had made "l'amour" the supreme dramatic motive. Corneille, who was not, like Racine, a subtle student of emotions, never outgrew the conception of love he had learned from Spanish plays and heroic romances,—a conception in full harmony with the romantic theme and spirit of plays like Le Cid and Don Sanche d'Aragon,—much less so with more essentially tragic themes. But with this qualification it may be admitted that the next three tragedies which Corneille produced—Horace (1640), Cinna (1640), and Polyeucte (1643)—are the flower of his work in interest of situation and character. His heroes or heroines have not yet become monsters of will, following their perverted ideals through labyrinths of subtle and distorted reasoning. If they rise above the normal, it is in virtue of qualities that have their root in what is best in human nature, qualities on whose occasional manifestation the welfare of the race depends.
In Horace he sketches the fierce, almost monstrous, patriotism of a small state conscious of its great Horace. destinies, yet still in the throes of the first struggle for bare existence. The ideal Roman of the seventeenth century is not quite a real person, but in the light of more recent history it is difficult to say that excesses of patriotism, such as the older and younger Horace are guilty of, must be untrue to nature. The criticism which Corneille passes upon his own play, that it lacks unity because the life of the hero is twice exposed, is strangely pedantic. It is not the life or death of Horace which constitutes the crucial interest of the play, but the whole moral situation and its issue in action.
From Rome in the throes of birth he passed to Cinna. the equally idealised period of the early empire. Transcendent virtue shines here in Augustus with a mellower light. The mutual passion of Cinna and Æmilie does not interest. "L'amour" in Corneille's tragedies is merely a conventional pretext for desperate resolutions and subtle casuistry. It is the wisdom and eloquence, combined with dramatic propriety and impressiveness, of the two great scenes between Augustus and Cinna, which lend the play a singular elevation and charm. The Senecan drama had cultivated argument and eloquence on moral and political themes, but never with a dramatic effect. When Corneille himself essayed it again in Sertorius he saved a poor play from complete failure, but was unable to give the scene any real dramatic justification.
In Polyeucte Christian zeal takes the place of moral wisdom. This play and Theodore, with Rotrou's St Polyeucte. Genest, like Vondel's Maeghden, Peter en Pauwel, and Maria Stuart, are a result of the Catholic revival, and the quickened enthusiasm for the martyr and virgin reflected in so much of the poetry and the literature of the day. There is no reason to suppose that Corneille's work has—even so much as Vondel's—any direct relation with the mediæval drama. Each dramatises his saint's legends in the form he uses for other subjects. Neither makes any reference to the Mysteries, but both justify their choice of sacred subjects by the authority of Buchanan, Grotius, and Heinsius. Corneille's saint is almost as outrageous as his Roman patriot, but around him, and coming under the influence of his exalted character and triumphant death, stand three peculiarly interesting figures—Pauline, Sevère, and Félix. In variety of character-interest the play is superior to any of its predecessors. Pompée, which followed Polyeucte immediately, is wanting in distinct, intelligible purpose, but Cornélie is a very characteristic figure.
After Pompée, Corneille turned aside for a moment from tragedy to try his hand once again at comedy. He found his inspiration and model in a Spanish play. Le Menteur (1642) is a clever adaptation to the not always congenial conditions of the classic stage of a comedy of character and intrigue by Juan Ruiz de Alarçón y Mendoza. Viguier's analysis in Marty-Laveaux's edition brings out clearly his main contention, that as an elaborate and yet naturally evolved intrigue the play has suffered from being forced into the rigid Unities, but that as a study of a "humour" Corneille's comedy has preserved, and at times heightened, all that is most piquant and delightful in the original. In the history of French comedy it marks the highest limit attained before Molière. Corneille's earlier plays, though original in design, are somewhat colourless. In Le Menteur we have happy touches of contemporary manners set off by humour of character and situation; while the dialogue, especially between Dorante the liar and his amazed valet Cliton, is sparkling and witty. La Suite du Menteur (1643) is not a "suite" at all. Corneille has merely spoiled a fine romantic comedy of Lope de Vega's by attempting to connect it with the brilliantly successful predecessor. The Dorante of the second play has as little to do with the hero of the first as the Falstaff of the Merry Wives with the hero of Henry IV.
In Rodogune (1644) there is no sign of any abatement Rodogune, &c. of Corneille's power. The brilliance of his oratorical verse is in its zenith; but the elaborateness with which the main situation is constructed, and the characters balanced against one another, marks a recession from the tragedy of character which the Cid had inaugurated towards tragi-comedy or melodrama. Both Cleopatra and Rodogune are monsters, and the virtuous twins a trifle absurd. As thrilling melodrama it would have gained from the more complete catastrophe with which an Elizabethan dramatist would indubitably have closed the fifth act. Théodore (1645), a saint-play on the trying subject of the virgin who, to preserve her vow, will submit to dishonour, rather than to marry the man whom she loves, was deservedly a failure. Heraclius (1646-47), from which Calderon borrowed suggestions for Life is a Dream, with its confusion of persons and consequent perils of incest and death, is frankly melodrama—that is, drama which thrills us not by the vivid and adequate presentation of the chances and sorrows to which life is inevitably exposed, but by the accumulation of improbable horrors. Don Sanche d'Aragon (1650)—which Corneille entitled a "comédie héroïque" because of the exalted rank of the characters—is a delightful romantic play inspired by the same chivalrous and gallant spirit that animates the Cid. It was immediately preceded by Andromède, a mythological piece written merely for elaborate spectacular presentation; and it was followed in 1651 by Nicomède, which, though entitled a tragedy, is almost as romantic in spirit as Don Sanche, though more entirely a play of character. It is a kind of counterpart to Mairet's Sophonisbe. Barbaric virtue here proves victorious over Roman policy. Pertharite (1652), which was apparently intended to magnify the power of marital affection, failed rather ludicrously, and Corneille withdrew for a time from the stage.
When he returned in 1659 a new spirit was beginning to make itself felt. The high ideals of the Change of taste. Hôtel de Rambouillet, of the first age of gallantry and refinement, were yielding to an increasing regard for nature and truth. Corneille's exaltation of the will, the power to choose and follow at all costs ideals lofty or perverted, had conduced to a neglect or conventional treatment of the normal passion of the heart. A reaction set in. In the plays and operas of Philippe Quinault sentiment—"tendresse"—is supreme. From extravagance in this direction the drama was saved by Racine, not by any reversion to the heroic, but by a more truthful and beautiful delineation of the passions of the heart and their power to make, or more often to mar, the destinies of men and women. Corneille, when he was tempted back to the stage by Fouquet in 1659, found himself out of touch with the prevailing taste. His own style had grown harder. In Nicomède he had already shown his tendency to portray an almost passionless strength of will. In his later political plays, such as Sertorius, Sophonisbe, Bérénice, the treatment of the feelings is frigid and unreal to the last degree, with the result that it is impossible to follow with any interest the high and subtle volitions they inspire. Bérénice sacrifices herself in much the same language as Chimène.
"C'est à force d'amour que je m'arrache au vôtre,
Et je serais à vous si j'aimais comme une autre,"
is very like
"Tu t'es, en m'offensant, montré digne de moi,
Je me dois, par ta mort, montrer digne de toi."
But the old ardour is gone, and Bérénice leaves us cold. At the same moment Racine was tracing the movements of the heart with a beauty and force of which Corneille had never at his best been capable. It was not to be wondered that his star declined. But this was the case only as regards the plays he was producing. His masterpieces still held the stage. He still had his champions, who preferred the moral grandeur of his characters to the impassioned frailty of Racine's. In one work of his old age, too, Corneille showed an unexpected capacity for delineating tender feeling. The little ballet play of Psyche, which he finished for Molière, has a freshness and charm hardly to be expected in the work of an old man. It was by deliberate choice, not from want of ability, that Corneille refused to become the rival of Quinault, to make "tendresse" the principal motive of tragedy, but remained faithful to the higher and more romantic traditions of his youth.
Whatever place French classical tragedy holds in the history of the drama, Corneille was undoubtedly French classical
tragedy. its creator. As we have said at the beginning of this chapter, it is only a superficial criticism which could bring under one name the tragedy of the sixteenth century and that of Corneille and Racine. Undoubtedly there was a continuous tradition handed on by Hardy and Mairet which made classical tragedy the model for French tragedy. But in that tragedy as it finally took shape, the influence of tragi-comedy, as it flourished during the early years of the century, is not less apparent than that of classical tragedy.
It was from tragi-comedy that French tragedy inherited the predominance of "l'amour" as a motive.L'Amour." Love had not been the principal moving passion in the sixteenth-century tragedies; it was rather revenge. And in Elizabethan tragedy, which grew up also under Senecan influence, love found its proper place in romance and comedy more often than in tragedy. It was because French tragedy sprang so directly out of plays the spirit of which was derived from Spanish tragi-comedies, Italian pastorals, and the romances of the day, that "l'amour" became its principal motive. In Corneille and his contemporaries the "amour" is still the high-flown conventional passion of the romances. Racine made it at once a more natural and a more essentially tragic passion, influenced doubtless by the study of Virgil and Euripides as well as of the human heart, but he did not depose love from its tragic supremacy.
And if we turn from the spirit of French tragedy to its form, we can see equally clearly the influence Suspense. of tragi-comedy with its highly-wrought interest of suspense and surprise. In the sixteenth-century tragedy there was little or no interest of plot. The story is taken as known. The play foreshadows it in dreams, describes it in the speeches of messengers, laments it in passionate and eloquent speeches, and moralises on it in choral odes. With the Cid all this is changed. Henceforward everything is made to help forward the action. All that is lyrical or elegiac in character is eliminated. On nothing does Corneille lay more stress than this in his theoretical writings. In no drama is there really so little idle declamation as in the French. Soliloquies occur in Shakespeare's tragedies which express character, and arise quite naturally from the action, but do not in any way further it. There are none such in French tragedy. Every soliloquy is a deliberation which ends in a choice. Every word from the beginning to the "Hélas!" at the close helps the action forward a step. And to the end the issue of the action remains uncertain. What differentiates this uncertainty from that of the story in a tragi-comedy is that it does not depend on elaborate intrigue and surprising recognitions,—at least, not in the best plays,—but on the evolution of character. We are kept in suspense as to the issue of a tragedy by Corneille because we can never tell to what unexpected resolution subtle moral reasoning may lead a character of unusual strength and elevation. In Racine the same uncertainty attends the fluctuating course of violent and absorbing passion. Such a type of action is not Greek, no more than it is Shakespearean. French tragedy owes it to its evolution through tragi-comedy. And to the same cause it owes the frequent preference—almost universal in Corneille—for the happy close, the peril escaped. The adoption of the Unities was made possible by their suitability for an action of this peculiar character. Corneille, indeed, never escaped from a sense of restraint in their rigid application. The perfecting of tragedy under the limitations they imposed was left to Racine, who saw in them a signal not only for concentration of action, but for simplification, drawing closer thereby to the structure of Greek tragedy.
Corneille not only fixed the mould of French tragedy, he gave it also appropriate vesture. The Corneille's style. language of the drama in the first years of the century had oscillated between the bald and tasteless barbarism of Hardy's plays and high-flown "préciosité." Corneille's poetry is not without a touch of the prevalent taste for conceit,—
"Son sang sur la poussière écrivait mon devoir."
But this is not characteristic. He carried forward the movement inaugurated by Malherbe towards poetry logical in structure, rhetorical in style and verse. Corneille's poetry is not lyrical and it is not picturesque, and in both these respects differs from that of Garnier and Montchrestien. It is in closely-reasoned, eloquent declamation, in sonorously cadenced lines, that he has perhaps no rival. Dryden is our nearest parallel in English, and Corneille strikes a higher note than Dryden: his eloquence is less colloquial, and though his style varies with his inspiration, he was a more careful workman. In spirit Corneille stands closer to Jonson, even to Milton, than to Dryden. He is a characteristically French product of the same epoch, the early seventeenth century, with its high if somewhat narrow, somewhat pedantic, somewhat conventional ideals, religious, civic, and literary. Greatly as they differ from one another, there are links of community between the poet of Paradise Regained and the poet of Polyeucte. Both alike idealise the power and independence of the will. There is nothing of which man's will is not capable, no poetry too elevated and sonorous to portray its sublimity; and for both the highest and purest manifestation of this power and freedom is its consecration to the service of God. With Racine French tragedy draws closer to ordinary human nature with all its passions and frailties.
The movement towards regular tragedy, which was begun by Mairet's Sophonisbe, was accelerated by Le Contemporaries
—Rotrou. Cid. All the dramatists whose names are given on an earlier page turned more and more from tragi-comedy to tragedy. La Calprenède's Mort de Mithridate (1635) and Comte d'Essex (1639), Scudéry's Mort de César (1636) and Didon (1636), Tristan l'Hérmite's Mariamne (1636) and Panthée (1639)—embellished recasts of Hardy's plays,—Pierre du Ryer's Alcinée and Scévole (circ. 1644), are a few of the most notable. They are by no means all regular in the strict French classical sense of the word; and l'amour—the amour of the romances, "postiche, froid et ridicule" in Voltaire's words—is in all, or nearly all, the motive which determines the course of history at the most critical moments. This radical fault is unredeemed in them by Corneille's finer psychology of the will and the splendid eloquence of his verse. One only of Corneille's contemporaries has escaped oblivion, in virtue of a vein of imagination and naturalness which sets his work in pleasing contrast to that of most of his rivals.
Jean de Rotrou (1610-1650), the son of a merchant in Dreux, for some years like Hardy and Théophile a poète à gages, released from this patronage by the generosity of patrons among whom was Richelieu, was traditionally the friend of Corneille, and seems to have tried to play the part of a mediator between him and Scudéry in the quarrel of Le Cid. He retired in 1639 to his native town, though continuing to write for the stage, and died there bravely discharging during a pestilence his duty as a magistrate.
The researches of scholars, French and German, have deprived Rotrou of much claim to originality of invention. His earlier tragi-comedies are translated more or less closely from the Spanish of Lope de Vega or the Italian of Da Porta. But while Corneille was attracted by the chivalrous spirit of the Spanish drama, what Rotrou reproduces most happily is its fancifulness and naturalness. Rotrou's imagination plays round the situations in his stories in a way that occasionally reminds an English reader of the Elizabethans. The feelings his characters express are natural, not merely conventional and stilted, and his style generally simple and flowing. In Laure Persécutée (1638), the feelings of a lover who has cast off his mistress yet cannot forget her, are described in a manner worthy of Dekker when most natural and felicitous; and in L'Heureux Naufrage (1633) are some touches that recall Shakespeare. Floronde, a princess disguised as a boy, attends Cléandre, who for her love has been banished. She is questioned regarding herself by Céphalie, who also loves Cléandre, and replies almost in the words of Julia to Silvia in the Two Gentlemen of Verona—
"Pour vous la peindre mieux, vous savez qu'à la cour On représente en vers des histoires d'amour; La jeunesse nous porte à ces jeux de théâtre Et sur tous autrefois j'en étais idolâtre: Mon visage en ce temps et plus jeune et plus frais,Sous les habits de fille avait quelques attraits;
Je faisais Amarante, on Cloris, ou Sylvie,
Et de mes actions la cour était ravie.
Alors, il me souvient que mille fois le roi
A fait comparaison de Floronde et de moi.
Dieux! disait-il à tous, la ressemblance extrême
Voilà son même geste, et son visage même."
Rotrou's best known plays were written after the appearance of Le Cid, and are tragedies with a good many elements of tragi-comedy. Le Véritable Saint Genest (1645), adapted from Lo fingido verdadero of Lope de Vega, is a martyr-tragedy which catches in a simpler way some of the ardour and elevation of Polyeucte. There are no subtle cross-currents of feeling, however, and our attention is concentrated on the actor-martyr. Venceslas (1647), taken from a Spanish play by Francisco de Rojas, and Cosroès (1648) have more of the characteristically Corneillean conflict of motive managed, if not with the greater poet's strength and eloquence, with very considerable sincerity and dignity. The later contemporaries of Corneille who connect him most closely with his great successor, as his brother Thomas and Quinault, lie outside the range of this essay.
The salient features in the history of comedy have been touched in passing. Represented at the beginning of the century by farce, not by the academic comedy of the sixteenth century, it made a fresh departure about 1629 in the work of Mairet, Corneille, and Rotrou. Corneille's experiment was the most interesting—an endeavour to paint the life of Paris, not satirically, but realistically and comically, suggestive of one aspect of Jonson's comedies and of the Tatler. Pierre du Ryer's Les Vendanges de Suresnes (1635) was an experiment in the same direction, a study of the manners of the rich bourgeois class framed in the improbable plot of the pastoral drama. Once revived, however, comedy came under the prevailing influence of the Spanish drama. Corneille himself in Le Menteur and its successor, Rotrou in La Bague d'Oubli and Diane, Scarron in his burlesque Jodelet ou le Maître valet and Don Japhet d'Arménie and others, translate and adapt from the Spanish; and the general trend of this comedy is towards burlesque, the study of humours more extravagant but presented with less accumulation of detail than Jonson's. An excellent example is Les Visionnaires (1640) of Desmarests Saint-Sorlin, the confidant and useful servant in onerous offices of Richelieu. It is a comedy quite in the style of Jonson, from the preface explaining the "humours" of the characters to the interesting discussion of the Unities between the lady whose passion is the stage and the Ronsardising poet. But Saint-Sorlin's boasting captain is more like the captain of the Commedia dell' Arte than Boabadil. The scene of the play would require for probability to be the inside of an asylum. It was not to these burlesque polite comedies that Molière's work is most closely akin, but to the native and older farce, as is set forth in the next volume.
- The sketch given of the rise of the drama is based mainly on the work of Eugène Rigal, who has cleared up many obscurities and corrected errors in his Alexandre Hardy et le théâtre français à la fin du XVIe et au commencement du XVIIe Siècle, Paris, 1889; Le Théâtre au XVIIe Siècle avant Corneille, in Petit de Julleville, tom, iv., 1897; and Le Théâtre français avant la période classique, Paris, 1901. For other histories, see note to previous chapter, and add the Histoire du Théâtre Français, by the Frères Parfaict, Paris, 1745; L. Petit de Julleville, Le Théâtre en France, Paris, 1889.
- Les Tragédies de M., ed. Petit de Julleville, Paris, 1891 (Bibliothèque Elzevirienne). See Lanson's Hommes et Livres, Études Morales et Littéraires, Paris, 1895.
- Le Théâtre d'Alexandre Hardy, Erster Neudruck, &c., von E. Stengel, 5 vols., Marburg, 1883-84. The most exhaustive critical study is that by Rigal cited above.
- Even in Italy, where the influence of classical tragedy and comedy predominated (see The Earlier Renaissance, pp. 323-334), there were composed, besides the imitations of Plautus and Terence, a number of novelle or adventure comedies. Such were the comedies of Araldo, J. Nardi, B. Accolti, &c., most of the comedies of the Accademici Intronati of Siena, and of the more famous Giovanni Battista della Porta. The plots of many of the French tragi-comedies of this period were borrowed from them, as well as from Spanish sources. See A. S. Stiefel, Unbekannte italienische Quellen Jean de Rotrous, 1891, contributed to the Zeitschrift für französische Sprache, 1879, where the same writer has continued his investigations of the debt of French comedy to Italian.
- Œuvres, &c., see notes, pp. 249, 254.
- No modern collected edition. Silvanire, ed. R. Otto, Bamberg, 1890, with a full and interesting preface on the history of the Unities. Sophonisbe, ed. K. Vollmöller, Heilbronn, 1888.
- Œuvres, ed. M. Marty-Laveaux, 12 vols., Paris, 1862-68 (Grands Écrivains de la France). Felix Hémon, Le Théâtre de Corneille, 4 vols., Paris, 1887. Studies in the histories and by the writers mentioned in opening bibliographical notes. A complete bibliography of the editions, translations, and criticisms of Corneille was issued by M. Émile Picot, Bibliographie Cornélienne, 1876. Voltaire's notes on Corneille are piquant and characteristic. Guizot, Corneille et son Temps, Paris, 1842 (first ed. 1813), is a notable work. Since the publication of Petit de Julleville's Histoire Générale, in which the article on Corneille is by M. Jules Lemaitre, has appeared M. Lanson's Corneille, Paris, 1898 (Les Grands Écrivains français).
- Corneille's idealisation of the will—which is also Descartes' in the Traité des Passions—has been traced by M. Lanson and other French critics to the influence on French character of the civil wars. This theory, however, hardly allows for the fact that the phenomenon is not confined to France. Corneille's and Descartes' "volonté" is the Italian virtù; and the hero with indomitable will had already appeared on the Elizabethan stage, and was to reappear in Milton's epics and tragedy. It was an aristocratic ideal heightened by the emancipation of the Renaissance and the study of Seneca, and intensified by religious and political warfare. What was new and striking in Corneille was the union of this will with the argumentative subtlety of a Norman avocat and a pupil of the Jesuits. Characteristically the ideal is not found in the Dutch literature sketched in an earlier chapter. Yet no one could accuse the Dutch of the War of Independence of weakness of will. But the source of that strength was not aristocratic egotism and pride. It was duty; and duty—obedience to God and loyalty to country—is the ideal of Hooft and Vondel, of Huyghens and Cats.
- Like Jouson with his prologues and epilogues, Corneille intensified this ill-will by the arrogant self-laudation of the lines entitled Excuse à Ariste, published shortly after the Cid, where he declares, "Je ne dois qu'à moi seul toute ma renommée." Armande Gaste, La Querelle du Cid, Paris, 1898, reprints all the documents, with introduction.
- In his weaker plays Corneille falls back on the uncertainty and suspense which depend not on character but on intrigue and recognition—e.g., in the Œdipe.
- A comparison of Scudéry's tragedies with those of Hardy will show clearly how tragi-comedy modified in motive, style, and characters the tragedy of the sixteenth century as that was transmitted by Hardy. Scudéry's Æneas is a model of high-flown gallantry, and his speeches of "préciosité."
- Œuvres, &c., ed. Viollet-le-Duc, 5 vols., Paris, 1820-22. Théâtre choisi, &c., ed. L. de Ronchaud, Paris, 1882, and F. Hémon, 1883. Rotrou's indebtedness to Spanish and Italian sources has been very fully worked out by A. Stiefel, op. cit., and Georg Steffens, Rotrou ala Nachahmer Lope de Vegas, 1891.
- Several of the comedies of this period, including Mairet's Duc d'Ossonne, Rotrou's La Sœur, and Saint-Sorlin's Les Visionnaires, have been reprinted, with biographical introductions, in Le Théâtre Français au XVIe et au XVIIe Siècle, ed. M. Édouard Fournier, Paris, n.d.