French Tragedy in the Reign of Louis XVI: And the Early Years of the French Revolution, 1774-1792

French Tragedy in the Reign of Louis XVI: And the Early Years of the French Revolution, 1774-1792

French Tragedy in the Reign of Louis XVI: And the Early Years of the French Revolution, 1774-1792

French Tragedy in the Reign of Louis XVI: And the Early Years of the French Revolution, 1774-1792

Excerpt

At the end of my French Tragedy in the Time of Louis XV and Voltaire I abandoned tragedy somewhat abruptly. A reader may well have asked whether the deluge immediately followed, as the old king had predicted, and whether tragedy managed to survive. What its fortunes were is the subject of the present volume. They are followed through the reign of Louis XVI, which includes the first three years of the French Revolution. One may enquire whether the genre remained faithful to the Bourbons, who had often favored it, or whether, following Voltaire's example, authors of tragedy continued to criticize the royal government. And did they have a hand in its overthrow and the execution of their sovereign?

After devoting a chapter to the actors, their patrons, and their critics, I take up tragedies played by the troupe of the Comédie Française in the hall of the Tuileries, with the exception of those written by three authors who wrote enough for each of them to merit a separate chapter: Ducis, adapter of Shakespeare; La Harpe, who sought to replace Voltaire; and an almost unknown dramatist with American connections, Dubuisson. After Easter, 1782, the troupe moved into its new theater, on the sight of the present Odéon. Plays given there before the Revolution are discussed in Chapter VI, which is followed by a chapter devoted to M.-J. Chénier and J.-L. Laya, then by one on Ronsin and Arnault. Tragedies by other dramatists of 1789-92 are discussed in Chapter IX, which is followed by a Conclusion, a list, with authors and dates, of the tragedies studied, additions and corrections to earlier works, and two indices.

For contemporaneous opinions I have turned to the Annie littéraire, to Meister's correspondence, to the Mercure, the Mémoires secrets, the Esprit des journaux. I have taken some interest in Geoffroy's conservative and prejudiced notions and in the enlightened criticism of Sainte-Beuve. Analyses of many plays are given in the Annales dramatiques; lists of them with dates, in the Almanach des spectacles. Information about actors is found in the works of Des Essarts, Campardon, Bonnassies, and Lyonnet. The history of actors and plays during the Revolution is related by Etienne et Martainville, byWelschinger, and byHérissay. Information is also to be derived from N. Brazier, L.-H. Lecomte, and Aghion.

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