History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/French Romantic

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Victor Hugo[edit]

Victor Hugo wrote two major tragedies of the Romantic period. Drawing of the author by an unknown artist, 1829

French Romantic tragedy is capably represented by Victor Hugo (1802-1885) with "Hernani" (1830) and "Ruy Blas" (1838). Together with many other 19th century dramatists, Hugo was heavily influenced by Shakespeare, including the tendency to mix comic with tragic elements, unlike classical 17th century tragedy. With "Hernani", Hugo broke away from the influence of classicism. "Victor Hugo does use both phrases and thoughts that no writer of French tragedy had dared to use before. And here, rather than anywhere else, do we find what we mean when we say he was a Romanticist. The terms as applied to French literature used to be defined by saying that the essence of Classicism was the seeking of material in the life of Greece and Rome, and that the essence of Romanticism was the seeking of material in the life of the Middle Ages. A broader definition, however, is this, if any be possible: Classicism in literature consists in limiting the choice of a writer within a certain range of special terms and special ideas, these terms and these ideas being such as the best authors of the past have considered beautiful and appropriate. Romanticism is the theory— a more generous one— which would permit and encourage a writer to look for his material and his terms among thoughts and expressions more common in everyday experience, with large freedom of choice. In short, Romanticism is the recognition of the rights of modernity in art" (Harper, 1901 p 192).

In "Hernani", "few effects have ever been produced on the stage which exceed in power and pathos the climax of this great tragedy. No more thrilling catastrophe can be imagined than the swift plunge from the bliss of perfect happiness and security which the newly-wedded pair were entering and enjoying down to the fearful alternative of death or dishonor, forcibly signalled by the startling note of the fatal horn. But the abiding popularity of the play, when the storm of its launching had subsided, was due to its swiftness in action, the lyrical beauty of its poetry and the enchanting pictures of youthful love and fidelity, emphasized rather than destroyed by the heartrending catastrophe" (Bates, 1903 vol 9 French drama pp 22-23). According to Hamilton (1910) "Hernani" "first exhibited a dramatic struggle between an individual and society at large. The hero is a bandit and an outlaw, and he is doomed to failure because of the superior power of organised society arrayed against him" (p 140). "Hernani is a romantic hero, incarnating by his double character and bandit, the emotions, the passions, the aspirations, the contradictions, the doubts and the revolts of the modern man...One of Hernani's most striking characteristics is his melancholy...He is at times gloomy and moody, and his misfortune becomes to him night, into which he plunges...Stronger than Hernani's jealousy are his hatred and desire for revenge. For years he has nursed his hatred, caused first the murder of his father by the father of Carlos, and again by the fact that the king is his rival for the hand of Dona Sol...Among...virtues, which help to form the artistic complexity of Hernani's character, are his chivalry, consideration, and magnanimity... though his rage swells when a king insults him, yet he will not assassinate Carlos whom he has in his power...When in the pardon scene Hernani is placed among those whose lives are spared, he protests and claims that he, too, is a noble and should therefore be included among the unpardoned nobles...When Hernani hears the fatal blast of the horn, he endeavors to keep the truth from Dona Sol and seeks to spare her the agony of seeing him meet his fate" (Bruner 1905a, pp 210-213). In regard to Don Ruy Gomez, “at first his jealousy is the touching jealousy of the discarded old lover, but when he learns that the king is his rival in love, his jealousy turns to hate and a desire for revenge. His passion then becomes epic, for there is no longer any struggle represented. He is first all love, then all hate. As soon as Gomez learns that Dona Sol has been carried off by his royal rival, his hatred becomes furious, and from that time on he thinks only of hate and revenge. He pursues the king until Carlos surrenders Dona Sol to Hernani, and then he relentlessly pursues the bandit until Hernani is dead...While Hernani and Gomez are truly tragic characters, the former meeting his tragic fate on account of an error of judgment, and the latter through a crime, the young king, Don Carlos, is portrayed as a comic character, passing from good to better, and as an imperfect character, passing from vice to goodness...The youthful king is further exhibited as a frivolous libertine, whose love is not really serious but is a distraction...In the progress of the drama Don Carlos is presented to us not only as a humorous king jesting with his courtiers, not only as a frivolous young monarch engaged in schemes of base intrigues, but also as a magnanimous emperor transformed by a worthy am bition and by the contemplation of new and weighty responsibilities...Like Juliet, with whom she has much in common, Dona Sol is an eminently practical woman. She asks Hernani not to blame her strange audacity in proposing to follow him to the mountains, for where he goes she will go. She plans the clandestine meeting and the flight. Frustrated in her first plan, she again proposes flight. She insists on following him even to the scaffold” (Bruner, 1905b pp 445-451). "In a number of the most distinctly Romantic plays of this group, all the emphasis is laid on the hero. The girl- we can hardly call her the heroine- is little more than the charming recipient of the man's affection and the helpless victim of the conflict. In Hernani, for example, Dona Sol, though not at all a doll but a very real character, has no control over the man-made action of the play. Indeed, in many of these plays, we seem to be in a world of men, containing only one woman with whose fate we are at all concerned" (Mann, 1935 p 122).

"In "Ruy Blas", "the main plot of vengeance and love, in which Salluste, in order to avenge himself, disguises his romantic lackey as a nobleman and seeks by the resulting love affair to compromise the queen, is apparently derived from a historical event, the marriage of Angelica Kauffmann to the impostor Horn, which was made known to Hugo by his friend Rabbe's article in the Biographie universelle et portative, and by Leon de Wailly's historical romance Angelica Kauffmann" (Carrington Lancaster, 1917 p 129). "There is real pathos in the situation when the lackey, who has really fallen in love with the queen, kills himself to save her from calumny and dies happy in the knowledge of her forgiveness" (Wilson, 1937 pp 142-143).

"Hernani"[edit]

Ruy beholds his rival, Hernani, die along with their mutual love, Dona Sol. Woodcut drawing

Time: 16th century. Place: Spain and France.

Text at http://www.archive.org/details/Hernani

Out on a personal escapade, King Carlos V of Spain forces his way into the apartment of Dona Sol de Silva, soon to be married to her uncle, Ruy de Silva, duke of Pastrana. The king pays a female servant for the chance of hiding inside Sol's wardrobe and spying on her meeting with her lover, Hernani. The lovers meet joyfully, though Hernani bemoans her upcoming marriage with an "icy specter". She agrees to follow Hernani, though an outlaw, the next day at midnight. Hearing this, the king, also in love with Sol, rushes out and dares Hernani to fight. They cross swords until the servant announces the duke's surprise return. The duke rails on finding two young men in Sol's apartment at night when to the astonishment of all, the king reveals himself. He comes to announce to the duke the death of the emperor of Germany, a title he would like to claim for himself. Hernani has two reasons for hating the king: his love of Sol and revenge for a father killed by Carlos' father. The following night, Carlos imitates Hernani's signal to seize Sol, but she takes away his dagger till Hernani's arrival, his men having secured the king's followers. The king refuses to duel with a bandit, so that Hernani is forced to let him go, but now has second thoughts concerning his relation with Sol, having to offer her but "half the gallows". "I'll follow you; I wish for my part of your shroud," Sol assures him. But he must leave her on hearing general alarms, as officers of the law hunt for him and his troops. On their wedding day, Ruy assures Sol that though an old man's forehead has wrinkles, yet "in our heart there is none." A rumor circulates that Hernani is dead, but yet he enters the duke's palace disguised as a pilgrim. After seeing Sol re-enter with her wedding dress, he removes his disguise. None of the duke's servants dares claim the bounty on his head. The duke retires, expecting to marry within an hour. Hernani considers that after all she would be better off rich with the duke than dead like his companions, but despite the dangers, she desires to follow him. "You are my lion, superb and generous," she assures him. When the duke overhears his expected bride say she loves Hernani, he stares and advises his rival to tremble, but, on hearing of the king's arrival, lets Hernani go through a secret passage. The king knows Hernani is hiding in the duke's castle, which the duke admits. The king threatens to take Sol hostage unless his subject delivers the outlaw, but, since he is Hernani's host, whose duty is to protect any guest, he refuses. Yet Sol decides to follow the king, though with a hidden dagger on her person. After the two leave, Rey challenges Hernani to a duel for having affronted his hospitality, but lets him go when the latter reveals his majesty loves Sol and after he swears to yield up his life whenever desired. Rey need only blow his horn. At Aix-La-Chapelle, among a troop of revolting noblemen, Hernani draws the winning lot to kill the king, which Ruy pleads to take away from him in exchange for his life. "Do you render her?" Hernani asks. Ruy declines. Three cannon shots announce Carlos is the new emperor as he emerges out of Charlemagne's tomb. He and his followers disarm the rebels. He orders the execution of dukes and counts but spares the rest. Hernani reveals himself as Juan of Aragon and a duke. Sol reveals herself married to him, begging Carlos for her husband's life, which he grants as well as to all the rebels. Amid fanfare in Saragossa, Hernani and Sol celebrate as newlyweds till the bridegroom hears the fatal sound of the horn. Sol leaves for a moment as Rey, disguised as death, hands Hernani poison. She returns to beg once again for her husband's life, but this time she is refused. In despair, she grabs the poisoned vial, drinks half of it, and hands Hernani the rest, but, after a while, asks him to desist: "That poison is alive..." she cries in pain. Nevertheless, Hernani drinks his fill. After witnessing his loved one's death, Ruy follows the married couple in death.

"Ruy Blas"[edit]

The queen, played by Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), discovers too late her love of her servant, Ruy Blas

Time: 1690s. Place: Spain.

Text at http://www.archive.org/details/victorhugosdram00hugogoog https://archive.org/stream/greatplaysfrench00corn#page/n23/mode/2up

Don Sallusto, a marquis, has been exiled by the queen for refusing to marry one of her servants he seduced. Sallusto asks his cousin, Cesare, a count, to help him take revenge on her, but he refuses. Angry, Sallusto commands alguazils to seize Cesare and then arranges to have corsairs take him away to slavery. Still for purposes of revenge, he engages the faith of his servant, Ruy Blas, an old boon companion of Cesare. Since Ruy Blas’ face is unknown at court, Ruy takes over Cesare’s identity. Struck by the queen's demeanor, Ruy sends love-letters to her anonymously. Her husband, King Charles II, is often absent, loving above all to hunt. Being most often neglected, she enjoys reading these letters. When Ruy in the shape of Cesare presents himself before her, Don Guritan, a courtier, notices his infatuation and, out of jealousy, challenges him to a duel. On learning about this, the queen sends Guritan away. When several nobles meet to exchange mutual favors at the expense of Spain's interest, Ruy interrupts their conversation by commenting sarcastically: "A pleasant appetite, gentlemen," as if they were carving up their own country. He goes on to enumerate a long list of abuses they have been guilty of, for which her majesty, emerging from hiding, thanks him. Ruy is so moved by her compliments that he at last declares openly his love for her. The queen is pleased but fearful. "To all I am the queen, to you only a woman," she confesses. As she leaves, Sallusto suddenly appears in the form of a servant. Knowing Ruy's love for the queen, he hopes to compromise her. Ruy begins to fear for her safety at the hands of Sallusto, who threatens to reveal Ruy's true identity to the queen. Ruy is thus forced to say nothing. Unexpectedly, Cesare returns, having gained his freedom from the pirates. He is surprised to receive a sum of money from Sallusto, meant for Ruy. He also receives the visit of Guritan, returned from the queen's mission, looking to renew his purposed duel with Cesare. They quarrel and, in the ensuing duel, Cesare kills him. On seeing the unexpected return of Cesare, Sallusto becomes petrified. He commands alguazils to lead him away again, this time pretending he is a well-known thief. Meanwhile, Ruy begins to have qualms about his deceiving the queen for so long. Still fearing for her safety, he sends her a note to warn her not to leave the palace, but she does not receive it in time. The two are surprised by Sallusto, who proposes that she relinquish her title as queen and leave the kingdom in company of Ruy. But, tired of deceiving her, Ruy reveals at last his true identity and kills Sallusto. When he asks her pardon for deceiving her so long, she retorts: "never" . In despair, Ruy drinks a vial of poison. Taken unawares, the queen cries out her true feelings of deep love: "Ruy Blas!" For only crying out his name he thanks her as he dies.

Alfred de Musset[edit]

Alfred de Musset wrote two other major tragedies of the Romantic period. Portrait of the author by Charles Landelle (1812-1908), 1854

Alfred de Musset (1810-1857) also reached heights of Romantic tragedy with "Lorenzaccio" (1833), based on the life of Lorenzo De Medici (1449-1492), and "On ne badine pas avec l'amour" (No trifling with love, 1834). Like Hugo, Musset mixed comic with tragic elements, especially in the latter play.

"Lorenzaccio" is based on "The history of Florence" by Benedetto Varchi (1502-1565). The political situation was described by Fischer-Lichte (2002): "Florence is an occupied city. The Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor have imposed the pope’s illegitimate son, Alexander de Medici as ruler, against the will of the people, and have strengthened his position with German troops who reside in the citadel and control the city. Although the population grumbles about the wild ways of the depraved duke and the foreign occupation, they do not openly oppose it. Criticism is repeatedly voiced by the bourgeoisie, craftsmen and traders (I, 2; I, 5), and patriotic feeling and a mood in favour of a republic is gradually growing amongst the other powerful families in the city such as the Strozzis,the Pazzis and others. However, good business skills (I, 2; II, 4) and greed for influence and power (II, 4) maintain the upper hand and suffocate any subversive movement in its seed. After Lorenzo’s deed has created the conditions for a republican uprising, it is the students who allow themselves to be shot down for citizens’ rights, while the great families and bourgeois middle classes do nothing. They willingly allow themselves to be manipulated by the secret agent of the pope, Cardinal Cibo, and vote unanimously for the candidate chosen by the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, Como de Medici. The murder of a tyrant and the change of power has altered nothing" (p 234). Lorenzo’s identity seems to slip constantly between the masculine and the feminine. This is shown both in his changing name as well as in his changing physical appearance." He faints at a drawn dagger, sinks exhausted in sword-play, showing at the least a 'tender constitution'" (p 235-236).

“Lorenzaccio at first believes that the assassination of the Duke of Florence will free the city from the tyranny and oppression of the cruel Medici family. But Lorenzaccio's self imposed debauchery in order to achieve his aim destroys both his virtue and faith in humanity...The would-be republican reformers show themselves just as callous and h critical as the Medici family which they seek to overthrow...In the light of such a discovery, he is compelled to make an agonizing reappraisal of his own predicament. Shall he carry out his plan to murder the duke or shall he attempt withdraw into the background and retrieve whatever virtue and honesty he can? Like the Lorenzo de' Medici of history, Musset's Lorenzo décides to continue in his rôle as apparent informer to Alessandro that he may assassinate him more readily when the time comes for action...The inspired action, the assassination of Alessandro, is in the end the only consolation which Lorenzaccio hopes to receive in payment for the disappointment and disillusionment which he has suffered. For it is through the act of murder alone that he achieves a kind of vengeance upon the particular society in which he has had to function" (Denommé, 1965 pp 139-143).

“The literal prostitution of the women of Florence by the duke reifies Florence's metaphorical prostitution by its rulers: the duke, the pope and the emperor. Early in the play Florence is cursed by the banished Florentines as a "[sterile mother]" and by Lorenzo as a "[slut]...Since Lorenzo commits the murder in secret and closes the body of the duke in the locked bedroom, he effectively deprives the assassination of any possible effect in the political sphere, where appearances, though sometimes deceiving, are everything” (McCready, 2003 pp 85-88). "Disillusionment and despair, and yet a yearning for an ideal, mark this play, which records, probably to a greater depth than any other work in France, one basic aspect of the moral crisis of the early nineteenth century, the ‘mal du siècle’" (Falk, 1958 p 37).

In view of his inner turmoil, the character of Lorenzaccio appeared remarkable, Hamlet-like, in the view of romantics, less so in the view of realists. An example of the latter, Archer (1897), wrote that the character of Lorenzaccio appeared to him as a "vicious stripling... hollow-eyed and hectic with debauchery, his lip curled with a perpetual sneer at the world and himself, fanatical idealism and sick self-contempt seething like a hell-brew in his brain, and spurting forth in vitriolic jibes at all that in his heart he holds sacred. Hamlet may or may not be mad, Lorenzaccio certainly is. He has worked himself up into a delirium of cynicism. He revels morbidly in dissimulation for its own sake, and almost loses sight of the end with which he first entered upon it. His machinations are absurdly disproportionate to their object...At the last moment, he wantonly endangers the success of his designs out of sheer defiant cynicism. The thing would be childishly easy if he were capable of acting with sane resolution; as a matter of fact, he conducts himself so insanely that his success seems a miracle" (pp 188-189). “The figure of Lorenzaccio himself towers over the theater in 19th century France...In the early scenes, it is the vile aspect of his nature, those which form his fellow citizens’ image of him, that are presented...a loathsome corrupter...a drunken blasphemous brawler…an atheist who jeers at everything, the duke’s pander...he betrays his fellow citizens…and [is] carried away swooning at the sight of a drawn sword...[Then he shows more positive aspects]. He tries to deflect the duke’s interest away from his aunt…[admires Petro Strozzi for attacking Salviati]...steals the duke’s protective coat of mail…and speaks of his vengeance...grieves at the city’s sufferings at the duke’s hands… The complete opposite of the usual verbose Romantic hero, he is laconic to Filippo’s probing until finally he is spurred on into revealing why men should beware of ‘the demon who whispers of liberty’...Love of humanity was one of his motives, but so too was pride, which dictated that his murder bid must be a solo performance...driving him on to murder a man who was kind to him…In his exile, his cynicism remains and his gloom is intensified...The city of Florence is failing to seize the chance he dedicated himself to” (Rees, 1971 121-125). “Lorenzo has been feigning, wearing a mask of corruption in order to gain the intimacy and confidence of his cousin, the duke...But as he confesses to Filippo and as his actions have revealed, the role he assumed has ended up in penetrating his character in insidious ways: he has become imbued with vice and excess…..Lorenzo is determined to go through with the plot [though] he knows it will be in vain…The second plot is linked to the first [in] the friendship between Lorenzo and Filippo Strozzi, the patriarch of the Strozzi clan…devoted to the principles of justice and liberty...The protagonist of the third plot, Ricciarda Cebo, never meets either Lorenzo or Filippo during the course of the action…Alexander’s murder becomes a pure act of revenge, on Alexander for making Lorenzo what he is, on Lorenzo himself for allowing himself to become alienated from his former purity, on the world for disillusioning him and making his act objectively meaningless...The three plots, in spite of their similarity, remain totally isolated from each other on the level of action, even mutually exclusive in a positive way (Ricciarda’s regeneration of Alexander would naturally be frustrated by his murder at Lorenzo’s hands)...Lorenzo’s act of murder frustrates Pietro’s designs; Filippo’s retreat destroys any hope for Pietro to rally the exiles against Florence” (Sices, 1974 pp 116-138).

According to Knight (1893), "No triling with love" "is perhaps the most characteristic of Musset's dramas. In none other are tenderness and passion so strangely blended with mockery, in none other is the full value shown of a method which unites an intensity almost Shakspearian to a heat of imaginative expression suggestive of Byron, and a serious and cynical humour the direct bequest of Heine" (p 273). “Perdican runs counter to most Romantic heroes in that he presents the picture of psychological health. By the end of the play, Perdican has contributed to his own tragedy through lacking the wisdom to realize the dangers of tampering with another’s emotions, but in the first scenes he seems the ideal young nobleman- unspoiled by his learning, showing affection for the scenes and acquaintances of his childhood, simple and modest, full of charm, gentleness, and warmth...Yet there is a worldliness about him which seems to justify Camille’s worst fears...The walking contradiction that is Camille leaves him baffled for much of the play, both as to her true feelings and his own…In the explanatory scene by the fountain...Musset gives a masterly picture of the swiftly changing reactions to Camille’s words- disgust, indignation, sympathy, and ardent statement of his own beliefs. Finally, he becomes locked with Camille in a frantic duel of false pride which is resolved too late to save either Rosette’s life or the couple’s happiness” (Rees, 1971 pp 120-121). “Camille is a passionate woman whose thirst for love and genuine tenderness are countered by an ardent idealism and her fear of disappointment...Perdican is a...headstrong young nan who genuinely loves his cousin, and seeks the calm, durable values that the village and its peasants represent, yet he is too jealous of his freedom, too piqued by Camille’s insistence to be willing to give guarantees or to swear fidelity” (Sices, 1974 pp 94-95).

"Lorenzaccio"[edit]

Lorenzo De Medici (1449-1492) is in a major conflict with his cousin. Painting of Lorenzaccio by Bronzino (1503-1572)

Time: 16th century. Place: Florence, Italy.

Text at http://www.archive.org/details/completewritings04mussiala http://www.archive.org/details/completewritings03mussiala

Alessandro de Medici, duke of Florence, with the help of Lorenzo de Medeci, his cousin, is waiting for a girl he paid for. Lorenzaccio suggests she is worth the waiting. "What a violent flow of a magnificent river underneath this layer of fragile ice, cracking at each step!" he exclaims. They head towards her garden pavilion. Seeing his sister on her away, Maffio wants to prevent it, but is stopped by one of the duke's men. He wishes to complain to the duke, but discovers that it is the duke who is taking her away. In the duke's palace, Lorenzaccio quarrels with Maurizio, a gentleman, but when the duke offers his cousin a sword, he is seized with anxiety, feels ill, and faints, to the duke's amusement. In Soderini's palace, his uncle, Bindo Altoviti, and Venturi, a gentleman, wish to know from Lorenzaccio whether he will join their conspiracy against the duke. Suddenly, the duke enters in their midst. Lorenzaccio invents good excuses for their presence, to their profit, a promotion as ambassador of Rome for the first and privileges for his cloth business for the other. They accept. Alessandro announces he has obtained the favors of the marquise of Cibo. Now he has an eye on Lorenzaccio's aunt, Catherine. In his palace, Alessandro serves as a model for a portrait while Lorenzaccio takes his coat of mail and wonders off to throw it in a well. One of the duke's men, Salviati, covered in blood, appears under his window, revealing that Pietro Strozzi and his brother, Tomaso, attacked him after he said their sister loved the duke. The duke orders their arrest. After seeing her poisoned to death by one of Salviati's men, the Strozzi family rise to liberate them. To favor Catherine's seduction, Lorenzaccio proposes his own bedroom. Freed from prison, Pietri and Tomaso return to their house only to learn of their sister's death by poison. In hope of wordly advantages, the cardinal of Cibo scolds his sister-in-law for being unable to hold her lover for more than three days. "Have you not read Aretino?" he asks sarcastically. The marquise counters by charging him of debauchery and sycophancy. "To govern Florence by governing the duke, you would soon turn yourself into a woman for him, if you could," she asserts. Unheeding the cardinal's appeal to return to her husband, she reveals her adultery with the duke to her husband and then, overcome by her emotion, faints. On the night proposed for the duke's murder, Lorenzaccio warns three noblemen to prepare for a change in government, but none of them believe he is capable of it. Having heard Lorenzaccio has horses prepared and that he intends killing his cousin, a report supported by Maurizio, the cardinal warns the duke about him, but he dismisses their warnings and follows his cousin to his bedroom, where Lorenzaccio takes his sword and scabbard and tangles them up behind his back. As the duke stretches out in bed, Lorenzaccio kills him. On learning the news in the duke's palace, noblemen worry that the people will seize this opportunity to revolt, so that Cosimo de Medici is hurriedly elected as the new duke. By the duke's death, the Strozzi conspiracy peters out, as do republican sentiments throughout the duchy, except for a small rising of students, when a hundred of them are massacred. In the continuing tumult, Lorenzaccio is assassinated and his carcass dragged into a lagoon. The cardinal gives the ducal crown to Cosimo de Medici on behalf of Pope Paul III and Emperor Charles V.

"No trifling with love"[edit]

By trifling with her affections, Perdican causes Rosette's death. Death of a maiden (1932) painting by Adolf Hering (1863-1932)

Time: 1830s. Place: France.

Text at http://www.archive.org/details/completewritings03mussiala https://archive.org/details/writingsmusset03mussiala

The baron wishes to marry his son, Perdican, returning from Paris with a doctor's degree, to his niece, Camille, "out of the best convent in France", so that both may live with him in his castle, but in their first meeting since childhood, the baron is disappointed by the coolness of her replies and her refusal to kiss him. After dinner, Blazius, his steward, reports that Bridaine, the curate, is a drunkard, which the baron considers impossible, but Blazius' own breath "smells horribly of wine", he notices. For his part, Bridaine reports he saw Perdican skip stones over the water with village children, another thing the baron finds it impossible to believe till seeing it with his own eyes. When Camille meets her cousin, she says: "I came to recover my mother's possessions; I will return tomorrow to the convent." But before going, she asks Pluche, her governess, to carry a letter to him. Bridaine is sorrowful that Blazius has taken his place next to the baron, so that when it is his turn to eat "there will remain around the partridges neither cabbage nor carrots". Perdican becomes friendly with Camille's foster sister, Rosette, kissing her often and, on one occasion, leaving a tear on her hand. Blazius furnishes a second report for the baron, whereby Pluche is said to refuse conveying a love-letter, which the baron finds incomprehensible and impossible to believe. And to whom? One who flirts with a keeper of turkeys. Meanwhile, Camille assigns a second meeting with her cousin. She offers him her hand and kisses him, only to reveal she intends to become a nun. "How long did you love the one you loved the most?" she queries. He does not remember. She asks his opinion about whether she should stay in the convent, to which he first answers no then yes. By her convent anecdotes, he wonders whether she believes in anything. She wants eternal love, at the moment the one on the crucifix she wears. Does he believe in love? "Here you are, bent near me, knees used up with kneeling on your mistresses' rugs, and you no longer know their names," she accuses. He counters that, having loved, he can at least say he lived. Soon after, Blazius is chased away from the baron's house for stealing a bottle of wine and for his suspicious accusations. He complains to Bridaine, overjoyed at this piece of news. When Blazius meets Pluche, he threatens to murder her unless she yields him a letter from Camille. Perdican prevents their dispute and seizes the letter, addressed to a nun in her convent, in which she writes that, despite her attempts at disgusting him, Perdican will never be consoled by her loss. He is so offended by this suggestion that he decides to flirt with Rosette in the same place where he usually meets Camille. With Camille hiding behind a tree, he confesses his love to Rosette, gives her a golden chain, throws Camille's ring into a fountain, and asks her to marry him. As a result, Camille tells Pluche she will not enter the convent after all. Bridaine announces to the baron that Perdican has given his golden chain to a peasant-girl, an absurd story which yet upsets the baron. Camille guesses that Perdican intercepted her letter. To prove Perdican lied to Rosette, she suggests that the girl hide while speaking to him. "I would like to be courted-" Camille tells Perdican, and gives him the ring she recovered. Perdican is surprised. She then asks him: "Are you sure that everything in a woman lies when her tongue is lying?" Perdican says he never lies and that he loves her, at which point Camilla lifts the tapistry, revealing Rosette who unexpectedly has fainted. Camille next discloses Perdican's supposed love of Rosette to the baron. Affronted at the misalliance, he asks her to tell his son the following: "I have abandoned myself to grief, to see him marry a girl without a name." Camille is also convinced that the marriage is wrong for him and tells him so, calling it "a joke". For her part, Rosette requests Perdican on her knees to desist from any further marriage talk, because, in the village, she has become a laughing-stock, everyone being convinced that he and Camille love each other and are amusing themselves at her expense, which he denies. While at church, Camille finds herself unable to pray. "Pride, most fatal of human counselors, why did you come between this girl and me?" Perdican wonders. Indeed, the two turned love, that "inestimable jewel", into "a toy", but now recognize their mistake and kiss, after which a loud scream is heard behind the altar. Camillo goes to find out what it is, Perdican praying it is not what he thinks it is. She returns to say in two sentences that Rosette is dead and that she bids him farewell.

Alfred de Vigny[edit]

Alfred de Vigny wrote a biographical drama of Chatterton, the English poet. Portrait of the author by an unknown artist

Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863) reached tragic heights with "Chatterton" (1835), based on the life of the poet, Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770) and taken from Vigny's own novel, "Stello" (1832). "The characters, as critics have pointed out, are personifications of ideas, types; Kitty Bell, of innocent and downtrodden womanhood; John Bell, of selfish brutal materialism; the Lord Mayor, Beckford, of the harshness of society; the Quaker is the spokesman of the author. The dialogue, though Vigny stresses the importance of simple and and natural language, is not especially life-like…ters. The touching nascent love between Chatterton and Kitty Bell is perhaps the most human part. But Vigny’s interest was elsewhere. A theme dear to his generation, and particularly dear to Vigny, was the isolation of genius” (Henning, 1935 p 322-323).

According to Wilson (1937), "the interest of the play lay in the analysis of the mind of the young poet who, finding his genius unrecognised, gave up the struggle for life and was speedily followed to the grave by Kitty Bell, the misunderstood wife of his coarse-fibred landlord. The idea that poets should be allowed to follow their bent untrammelled by social duties or the sordid cares of life was bound to be popular with the Romantics. But most of them would have treated the subject far more hysterically than Vigny. In his play deeds took second place to ideas and the struggle went on within the tortured mind of the central figure. The fact that Chatterton was too much of a weakling to hold the spectator’s sympathy mars the play, but the fault lies rather in the nature of the subject than with Vigny" (p 144).

Fischer-Lichte (2002) pointed out that "poetry, which distinguishes Chatterton from others and raises him above them, is at the same time, the source of his tragedy...This experience separates him from his fellow men, isolates him and turns him into a kind of leper...The society into which Chatterton is born has not the slightest sensitivity, however, to the poet’s calling. The only quality society values is money. John Bell represents the credo of a calculated rationale, a utilitarian positivism... For them [ordinary citizens], poetry is at best ‘entertainment’ (II, 3). But since ‘the most beautiful muse in the world is not enough to nourish a man’ (III, 6), such a muse is ultimately ‘useless’, as ‘the most honest and one of the most enlightened men in London’ (III, 2), the Lord Mayor of London, remarks. He denies the social mission of the poet and instead of a privileged position in society, offers Chatterton the post of chief valet in his household" (pp 222-223).

"Chatterton"[edit]

Thomas Chatterton was tormented by his love of a married woman. Drawing of the poet by an unknown artist

Time: 1770s. Place: England.

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A medical doctor and quaker living in the house of the manufacturer, John Bell, complains of his cruelty and indifference towards the condition of the workers. John retorts that the workers are lazy. The quaker mentions one who lost his arm while working on one of his machines. "Yes," John retorts, "and he even broke it." When John asks his wife, Kitty, to let him verify the house accounts, he finds six guineas unaccounted for. She pretends not to know why; it concerns a secret gift to another lodger, Thomas Chatterton, the poet. Of this man, both John and the quaker complains. "In you, continuous daydreaming has killed action," the quaker affirms. "What does it matter," Thomas retorts, "if one hour of this daydreaming produces more works than twenty days of action by others?" He himself with his poetry "wishes to add one pearl more to the English crown", although considering poetry "a harmful fairy found no doubt in my rocker, the distraction". The quaker also worries that Thomas has turned away from religion, but Thomas assures him he is as harmless as a child. One day, Thomas' Oxford companion, Lord Talbot, accompanied by other lords, greets him volubly at Bell's house. Kitty dislikes the way Talbot addresses her. But since Talbot is a lord, John encourages his wife to make much of him. After mentioning to Thomas that these lords must be surprised to see him in so simple a house, he seems hurt. "Had one asked me to know my fortune, my name, and my life's history, I would never have entered," Thomas declares. After this visit, he appears progressively more despairing. One day, the quaker finds him with a vial filled with opium. "You do well to follow your project," the quaker sarcastically affirms, "because that will rejoice your rivals...You do well to leave them your part of the empty bone of glory you all gnaw on." Thomas answers he has written to a friend of Talbot, the lord-mayor of London, about his wretched condition. The quaker approves of this decision, later declaring to the Bells and Talbot: "The only resource still left to Chatterton is his protection." But the mayor's proposal displeases Thomas, as does his person, and he no longer wishes to continue writing. Instead, he drinks the contents of the vial and begins tearing up his papers as Kitty enters the house. Thomas reveals his love of her, at which she fearfully comments: "Ah, sir, if you say so, it is because you wish to die." She watches him reel upstairs towards his room. The quaker rapidly discovers what is wrong and climbs the stairs after him, followed by Kitty. What she beholds up there shakes her so much that she falls downstairs and so the quaker is left bemoaning two deaths in the house.

Casimir Delavigne[edit]

Casimir Delavigne reached a high level of dramatic power in describing the woes of a pariah in India. Drawing of the author by Marie-Alexandre Alophe (1812-1883) after Henry Scheffer (1798-1862)

More than Hugo and Musset, Casimir Delavigne (1793-1843) approached Racine's manner with "Le paria" (The pariah, 1821).

Despite nearness to the neo-classic manner, Evans (1932) pointed out resemblances between Idamore and Hernani. “Both heroes are outcasts, although Hernani is eventually restored to his birthright. Both describe themselves as "montagnards," and savor of the mountain and the flood. Both are separated from the woman of their choice by apparently insuper-able obstacles (Idamore is a pariah, Neala a priestess; Hernani is an exile, Dona Sol a noblewoman; Idamore is the enemy of Neala's father, who is the High Priest; Hernani is the enemy of the king, and becomes the enemy of Dona Sol's uncle and guardian). Both triumph over these obstacles, and marry their beloved. Both forgive their enemies. Both forget their duty to their father, and finally Nemesis overtakes each in the same way, Idamore being taken away during the wedding ceremony to die a victim of the religious fanaticism of Neala's father, and Hernani perishing on the wedding night, a martyr to the zeal of Dona Sol's uncle for the honor of the Silva family" (p 515).

"The pariah"[edit]

Time: 1820s. Place: The woods near Benares, India.

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Idamore, leader of a band of warriors successful in their defense of followers of Brahma, the Hindu God of creation, reveals to his friend, Alvar, a Portuguese Christian arrived for the purpose of conversion, but now almost a prisoner, that he is a pariah, an avoided and detested group in India. But he does not reveal this to his intended, Neala, priestess of Brahma, expected to be married by her father, Akebar. To Idamore's astonishment, Akebar wants to marry his daughter to him. Neala is elated at these news. "His power changes guilty ardor into pious duty," he says of Akebar. Unable to deceive her further, Idamore discloses he is a pariah. She runs to Brahma's statue and clings to it. "Their name is fatal, odious," she declares, "it would sully the pure air we breathe in this place." She first asks him to go away, but then changes her mind. "Everything is pain to me," Idamore states, "even hope." Idamore's father, Zares, arrives and asks his son to leave with him. Idamore accepts, but wants to see Neala one more time. Zares threatens to tell all should he fail him. Idamore asks Neala to leave immediately after the wedding. She is surprised but willing to do so. Zares is soon discovered as a pariah condemned by Akebar to death. Idamore can no longer remain silent, revealing himself as the pariah's son. A jury convened by Akebar condemns Idamore to be stoned to death and Zares to be exiled and cared for by Alvar. In distress as to Idamore's fate, Alvar asks Idamore concerning his father: "You leave him with a son: who will give me back a brother?" As Zares is set to go, he learns from Alvar of his son's imminent death. Witnessing to their horror Alvar's loyalty to the pariah, the people kill both Idamore and Alvar. Neala is exiled. She decides to follow Idamore's father. A weeping Akebar curses his daughter for being disloyal to him and religion.

Etienne de Jouy[edit]

Etienne de Jouy described the life of Belisarius, who defended the Byzantine emperor, Justinian, despite being cruelly mistreated by him. Portait of the author by an unknown artist

In a similar style to Delavigne, Etienne de Jouy (1764-1846) wrote "Bélisaire" (Belisarius, 1818) concerning the life of Belisarius (502-565 AD) a Roman soldier who defended the Byzantine emperor, Justinian (482-565, reign: 527-565), from his enemies.

"Belisarius"[edit]

Belisarius remains loyal to his master despite being blinded by his wife. Mosaic of Belisarius at the basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy

Time: 6th century AD. Place: Thrace.

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Based on false information, the Byzantine emperor, Justinian, orders the arrests of Belisarius despite his many services in the past. The latter's friend, Marcius, protects Antonina and Eudoxia, wife and daughter, respectively, of the maligned soldier. To redress their fortunes, Antonina's hope rests on her daughter's marriage to Thelesis, king of Bulgaria. She is gratified after hearing Eudoxia loves Thelesis. She hears more good news from Marcius, who reveals that Belisarius has been set free by Justinian's wife, Theodora, fearful of the people's rage at his arrest while Justinian joins his army in Thrace. But before releasing him, she orders him to be blinded. When Antonina rejoins her husband, she is dismayed on learning he refuses the proposed marriage, loyal to the emperor despite being blinded by his wife. To win Belisarius to his side, Thelesis proposes to overthrow Justinian and place the emperor's crown on Belisarius' head, but the soldier refuses such an honour, preferring yet again to remain loyal to the emperor. Despite her love of the king, Eudoxia immediately accepts her father's decision. In addition, two chiefs of Roman legions, Valerius and Phocas, long working under his orders, agree to fight on Belisarius' side against Thelesis' army. In the confusion of the battle, Justinian becomes separated from his troops when he is discovered by Eudoxia and Belisarius. Justinian is abashed on learning of Belisarius' loyalty despite his wrongs. "You conserve still the light of the soul," he declares, "and just your presence, arbiter of hazards, will yield victory to the eagle of Caesars." To join her father's side, Eudoxia prepares to leave Thelesis, but the king refuses to release her. After fierce fighting, Phocas announces to Antonina and Eudoxia that the king is defeated by the emperor. However, Belisarius was wounded by an arrow. Now that the emperor is safe, he accepts his daughter's marriage to Thelesis who is freed. In great pain, he removes the arrow and immediately dies.

"Frédéric Soulié"[edit]

Frédéric Soulié presented a drama where madness leads to truth

“Le fils de la folle” (The son of the madwoman, 1839) by Frédéric Soulié (1800-1847) ia another drama of note.

"The son of the madwoman"[edit]

Time: 1816. Place: near Grenoble, France.

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Fanny reproves Achilles, her cousin to whom she is engaged, of mocking Fabius, the secretary of her uncle, the count of Matta and tutor of her fortune. She also complains of his leaving her alone too often. As Fabius leaves the castle, he crosses Fat Louis, a farmer whom Celestine rejected as a husband. A bitter Louis suggests that his sister, Celestine, has been suspiciously inviting Achilles at his house. A disbelieving Fabius replies angrily and browbeats him until the count and Achilles separate them. But yet indeed, at Fabius’ house, Achilles attempts to seduce Celestine, who loves the ardent youth but insists on marriage first. Their discussion is interrupted by her mother, a madwoman she and her brother have taken care of, who has discovered some papers on the ground marked “Matters relating to the marquise of Esgrigny” in the handwriting of the count of Matta. Achilles wants to peruse those papers, handed over to Fabius that very morning, but Celestine pulls away and discovers that many years ago the marquise of Esgrigny begged a citizen named Bénard to free her husband from prison. Celestine concludes that the count of Matta used that pseudonym to prevent being slaughtered during the revolution. As Fabius enters, Achilles hides in the next room. Fabius is bleeding after being attacked from behind by Fat Louis. He accuses his sister of entertaining Achilles in their house, but she denies it weeping. Fabius informs her that Achilles will marry Fanny one month from now. She denies that, too, but a slip of the tongue on her part reveals that she and Achilles have indeed been seeing each other. Their talk is interrupted by the madwoman, who says that she just saw Achilles outside the house but could not hold him. At their next meeting, the count tells Fabius that he has a new position for him as a forest manager and that he must leave at once. Recognizing that the purpose of the offer is to remove Celestine from Achilles’ influence, Fabius proudly declines. Undeterred, the count expresses a wish to see his sister. Meanwhile, Fanny is frightened to find a strange woman enter the castle, a madwoman who declares having seen her portrait on Fabius’ breast while sleeping. She also declares that Achilles is her brother and has been courting Celestine, then escapes before Fabius can catch up to her. At Fanny’s request, Fabius confirms that Achilles has promised to marry his sister. Chased by the servants of the castle, the madwoman re-enters the room, seeming to hear a song from revolutionary times. “They sang it when I pleaded the pardon of the condemned man,” she says and screams after seeing the bewildered count, who asks Fabius who the woman is. “My mother who is mad,” Fabius answers. “Ah, it is therefore hell which has given her that face and that voice,” the count asserts. To settle the matter of his son’s marriage prospect, the count visits Celestine at her house, stating that he forbids his son to marry her while being prepared to buy her off. Recognizing that she can obtain more money by lying, she counters that Achilles slept with her. “He cheated you as he cheated me,” she adds weeping. Fabius has overheard them, all the more adamant about remaining where they are and promising to restore his papers, still in his mother’s hands, who states that the papers are false, that the marquise of Esgrigny never obtained the pardon, for she herself is the marquise of Esgrigny who yielded her body to the treacherous count. Although the count denies it, the marquise discloses that Fabius is not the son of the marquis of Esgrigny but the son of the count of Matta. Because Achilles compromised Celestine, he offers to marry her while Fabius, now destitute marquis of Esgrigny, having threatened his father and being cursed by his mother, feels he must move away. His musings are interrupted by his half-brother, Achilles, who informs him that the marquise refuses to permit her daughter to marry the son of her husband’s murderer. To salvage his father’s honor, he requests Fabius to write a statement contradicting the marquise’s accusation, imputing it to madness. Fabius refuses, to the marquise’s joy. “I’ll wait for you, sir,” Achilles threatens. “I bear arms.” After he leaves, Celestine announces the arrival of the count of Matta. “You must repulse your father from this house,” the marquise commands her son. “Otherwise, it is just that your mother leaves it as a prostitute.” The count conveys Achilles’ wish to be pardoned and his own thanks for refusing the duel. The count explains his past behaviors as a result of the madness of revolutionary times and offers him Fanny’s hand in marriage, who falsely considers Fabius the son of the marquis of Esgrigny. As Fabius turns away, the count reminds him of the disadvantages of a refusal: the reputation of his sister and mother liable to be shriveled, for the latter’s accusations cannot be proven. Seeing her son’s despair, the marquise accepts the count’s offer of Fanny’s hand in marriage with her son, but refuses ever to see the count again. “I’ll leave alone,” the count promises. “And leave you with your children.”

Jules Sandeau[edit]

Jules Sandeau showed why a man's choice of a son-in-law is sometimes capricious, 1880

Among the few comedies of note in this period, Jules Sandeau's (1811-1883) "Mademoiselle de La Seiglière" (1851), based on his own novel of 1847, stands out.

According to Knight (1893), the play's "success is attributable in part to the thoroughly sympathetic nature of the plot, in part to the admirable picture it supplies of an old aristocrat fallen on evil times. The Marquis de la Seiglière is one of the finest types of modern fiction. The revolution has passed over France with no other result than sending him to spend a quarter of a century in exile in Germany. The Emperor is M de Buonaparte, and a huissier of the court, or even an avocat, is a being who is to be frightened out of his house by the threat of having his ears cut off. He is, indeed, a grand seigneur of the time of Louis XVI, and has yielded no single right that has belonged to his ancestors. The spectacle of a man such as this in open conflict with Napoleonic ideas has extreme interest, and as the psychology of the play is backed up by a genuine love interest, the result is good" (p 275). The play "reflected the canceling of social distinctions following the Revolution, and suggested that noble blood must be joined with noble character. Excellent in construction and character drawing, the piece was somewhat too obvious in its moralizing" (Chandler, 1920 p 22).

Montague (1925) underlined the construction of "Mademoiselle de La Seiglière" as an example of the 19th century "well-made play". "Plainly your chance is in the seismic dispossessions, redistributions and restitutions of French real estate between the outbreak of the Revolution and the final return of the Legitimist emigrants. When by this process, carried straight on, you have deduced a Royalist Marquis, with one fair daughter, in actual but not legal possession of an estate belonging, under the Code Napoleon, to the unexpectedly surviving son of an ill-used person of lowly origin, your first act begins to write itself, for it must unfold these circumstances. Characters, too, are disengaged from the philosophic equation. Real property and the Code Napoleon imply a lawyer, to instruct the young claimant to the estates. But in a well-made cast a lawyer cannot be wasted on law alone. People in well-made casts have to work for their places. The obvious work for him to fill up his time with is that of the friend who, by old dramatic tradition, keeps up to the mark, the vindictive mark, the hero who wavers between love and vengeance. The child of the people having thus obtained a bottle-holder, balance necessitates one for the other combatant, the Marquis. Well, as his daughter was first to be betrothed to a man of her own rank, and as she and her father call out, in any case, to be balanced by this young man and his mother, why not make this dowager work double tides too, like the lawyer, and be the Marquis’s second and adviser in the conflict. Then the lawyer and this lady, being thus set at one another, must be furnished with some vitriolic dispute of their own, to keep them hard at it; so the lawyer shall be her old, scornfully rejected suitor. And there, with just one footman to get people into rooms and say the things that have to be said but do not quite come rightly from any one else, is Sandeau’s whole cast, and, in outline, his whole play; and the cohesion and compactness of plays thus evolved were, until the disturber Ibsen came, the modern European ideal of dramatic craftsmanship" (pp 65-66).

"Mademoiselle de La Seiglière"[edit]

Helen de la Seiglière discusses her marriage prospects with her father. Drawing by an unknown artist

Time: 1817. Place: France.

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After twenty years of exile in Germany to avoid being murdered during the French Revolution, the marquis de La Seiglière has settled down comfortably in his domains, formerly kept by his steward, Thomas Stamply, who died and gave him back the entire property after hearing news that Thomas' son, Bernard, died during Napoleon’s Russian campaign. The marquis particularly enjoys hunting and mocks the interest in botany of Raoul, son of his neighbor, baroness de Vaubert, a man destined to marry his daughter, Helen. One day, the baroness receives a letter confirming the position she sought for a lawyer, Destournelles, is accepted. It concerns the prestigious post of counsellor at the royal court for services Destournelles rendered while she was reclaiming her property on her return from exile. She omits to mention these good news to him because he may still be of service to her son as Helen’s suitor. The ill-used Destournelles asks to marry the baroness, but is rejected. His thoughts of vengeance are satisfied after discovering that Bernard is alive and can reclaim his father’s property. Indeed, Bernard informs the amazed and disbelieving marquis that he intends to oust him from his domains. To counter this attack, the baroness informs Destournelles of his nomination, thus depriving Bernard of legal advice. Bernard’s ardent pursuit of his legal rights diminishes after meeting Helen, who had acted as the kindest of mistresses during his father’s final moments. Six weeks later, Destournelles still has not obtained his position as the result of the baroness’ manipulations with a powerful friend on whom this position depends. In the meantime, Bernard and Helen have become very friendly. When the marquis refers to Napoleon’s campaigns as “escapades”, Bernard withholds an aggressive reply through her influence. Tired of the delay regarding his post, Destournelles returns to ask Bernard what are his instructions for him. “Nothing,” Bernard answers. Instead of discussing his claim, he prefers to follow Helen, who charitably carries clothes to a miller’s widow. Eventually, he even considers abandoning his legal rights. “I still possess a sword,” he avers. Destournelles guesses that Helen and Bernard love each other without having informed each other of their state of mind. To keep his client from leaving, Destournelles tells him that Helen loves him but may marry Raoul. Although shaken, Bernard thinks his love can lead to nothing. “Son of a peasant, I’m only a soldier,” he says disconsolately. He nevertheless declares his love for her. To his surprise, she declares her love for him but speedily withdraws her hand while he kisses it as the baroness enters the room. Meanwhile, Destournelles informs the marquis that he has begun legal proceedings against him, but all may yet be well provided Helen accept to marry his client. The marquis is aghast at the misalliance but yet reflects that Bernard’s behaviors, particularly his hunting habits, is more congenial to him than Raoul’s. When the baroness learns of the legal proceedings, she thinks her friend has no chance of winning and so offers him her castle as a retreat. Despite this generous offer, the marquis announces that he wants Bernard as a son-in-law instead of her son. When he tells this to Helen, she yet hesitates to reveal her love fully because of her promise to Raoul. Hurt in her pride as if the price of a market deal, she backs off all the more on learning from Raoul of Bernard’s rights on her father’s property. Nevertheless, Raoul, recognizing that she loves Bernard more than she loves him, joins their hands together and retreats. The baroness at last informs Destournelles that his nomination is assured.