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FRENCH CLASSICS

A SELECTION OF PLAYS

BY

CORNEILLE, MOLIÈRE, AND RACINE

EDITED

WITH ENGLISH NOTES

BY

GUSTAVE MASSON, B.A.

UNIV. GALLIC.

[graphic]

VOLUME III

rourberies de Scapin, a Comedy by Molière. Atbalie, a Tragedy by Racine.

AT THE CLARENDON PRESS

M.DCCC.LXX

[All rights reserved"]

INTRODUCTION.

A sketch of French Dramatic Literature from the performance of Corneille's Cid to the death of Racine.

The appearance of Corneille's Cid caused quite a revolution in French dramatic literature. Compared with the 5 tragedies which immediately preceded it, it was certainly a wonderful production; and great as our admiration of it is, even at the present day, it must necessarily fall far short of the enthusiasm it excited amongst the Parisian play-goers of the seventeenth century, who had, till then, been obliged to 10 put up with the platitudes of Scudéry and the bombast of La Calprenède. 'Beau comme le Cid' became a proverb, and Boileau expressed very accurately the popular feeling which then prevailed, when, at a somewhat later period, he said in his ninth Satire: 15

'En vain contre le Cid un ministre le ligue,

Tout Paris ,pour Chimène a les yeux de Rodrigue:

L'Académie en corps a beau le censurer,

Le public révolté s'obstine à l'admirer.' We see from these lines that Corneille had much difficulty 20 in overcoming the opposition raised against him by prosperous mediocrity. Authors who, like Mairet and Scudéry, found themselves completely eclipsed by the transcendent beauties of the Cid, could not brook what they almost viewed in the light of a personal insult; and it is deeply to 25 be regretted that Richelieu could have been so narrow

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