La mort dAchille (Hors Collection) (French Edition)
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Hardy's importance in the history of the French theatre has been frequently overlooked. Up to the end of the sixteenth century medieval farce and spectacle dominated the popular stage in Paris. Hardy educated the popular taste, and made possible the dramatic activity of the seventeenth century.
He had abundant practical experience of the stage, and modified tragedy accordingly, maintaining five acts in verse, but suppressing the chorus except in his earliest plays , limiting monologues although monologues reappear in his later plays , and providing the action and variety which was denied to the lyrical drama of the Renaissance. He was a popularizer of the tragicomedy.
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It is impossible to know how much the dramatists of the seventeenth century were indebted to him in detail, since only a fraction of his work is preserved, but generally Hardy may be credited with developing a French theater of action. He died in of the plague. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article includes a list of references , related reading or external links , but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations.
July Learn how and when to remove this template message. 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.
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. 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.
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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. 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.
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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. 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. 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.
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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. 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.
The First Half of the Seventeenth Century/Chapter 7
Dryden is our nearest parallel in English, and Corneille strikes a higher note than Dryden: 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. All the dramatists whose names are given on an earlier page turned more and more from tragi-comedy to tragedy. 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. He retired in 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.
Rotrou's best known plays were written after the appearance of Le Cid , and are tragedies with a good many elements of tragi-comedy. There are no subtle cross-currents of feeling, however, and our attention is concentrated on the actor-martyr. 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 in the work of Mairet, Corneille, and Rotrou.