The Flower and the Castle: An Introduction to Modern Drama

By Maurice Valency | Go to book overview

Realism

IN the 1860's the artistic and commercial aspects of the drama had not yet parted company so far that a writer like Sardou could not insist on being taken seriously. The realistic reaction to the well-made play and the Scribean idea of theatre set in after 1870, and it took some time to define itself. The realists were, to begin with, mainly novelists. They knew nothing of the dramatist's problem, but they had quite definite ideas about the art of storytelling, and initiated their attack, accordingly, by deriding the stale formulas of the theatre, the mechanical concatenation of stock situations, the absence of surprise, and the banality of the play- wright's invention.

This went directly to the heart of the matter. The masters of the drama during this period were professional writers whose livelihood depended on the frequency of their productions. In 1861 Sardou had five new plays running concurrently or successively in Paris; he had three in 1862, two in 1863, and two in 1864. Ten years later, he still had two new plays running concurrently, Le Magot at the Palais Royal, and Haine at the Gaîté. In these cir

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