Critical prefaces of the French Renaissance

By Bernard Weinberg | Go to book overview

THÉODORE DE BÈZE
PREFACE TO HIS Sacrifice d'Abraham 1550

TEXT:

( 1576) Theod. Bezæ poemata. Psalmi Davidici XXX. Sylvsæ. Elegiæ. Epigrammata, cùm alia varii argumenti, turn Epitaphia, & quæ peculiari nomine Iconas inscripsit. Omnia, in hac tertia editione, partim recognita, partim locupletata. [The printer was Henri Estienne; the dedication of the volume is dated Geneva, 1576. Newberry Library.]

[Cf. Brunet, I, 842-43, on this and the earlier editions; also Graesse, I, 359. The first edition was of 1550, probably Geneva; others followed in 1553, 1561, 1580, etc. The first edition of the Poemata was in 1548, and the second edition of 1569 did not contain the tragedy. Cf. also the edition of Geneva: Cherbuliez, 1856, for a listing of editions. None of these have been collated.]

Théodore de Bèze became a convert to Protestantism in 1548 and took refuge in Geneva in October of that year. He went to Lausanne in 1549, and it was there that he wrote his tragedy of the Sacrifice d'Abraham. According to one of his biographers, Henry Martyn Baird ( Theodore Beza, New York: Putnam's, 1899, p. 49), the play was first performed there by students "in one of the halls of the former 'officiality' ... So favourable was its reception by the public, that it was repeatedly brought on the boards." Gustave Lanson ( "Etudes sur les origines de la tragédie classique en France," Revue d'histoire littéraire de la France, X [ 1903], 185), believed that the tragedy was produced in Lausanne in 1549 or 1550, and that it thus preceded the Cléopâtre of Jodelle. Bèze himself referred to the performances, but without giving any date, in a letter to Johannes Jacomot prefatory to the latter's Latin translation of the Abraham in the Poemata varia of 1597:

Istud qualecunque ante annos circiter quadraginta quinque fuisse Lausannae, vbi tunc Graecas literas profitebar, nulla sanè cura, sed leuiter, vt ludicrum quiddam perscriptum quod ab illius Gymnasij iuuenibus de more spectandum repraesentaretur, nec fortassis istud scriptionis genus quibusuis probatum iri. Respondit ille sic tamen istud & turn placuisse, & multis postea probatum, vt & in publicum prodierit, & multis Galliae locis magno cure applausu exhibiturn ... (pp. 285-86).

The Abraham was translated into English by Arthur Golding in 1575 (published 1577). Its preface, dated 1550, went through many editions with the tragedy; it has been reprinted in the edition of Geneva: Cherbuliez, 1856, and in Malcolm W. Wallace's edition of the Golding translation, Toronto: University of Toronto Library, 1906.

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