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tragedy of modern literature 1 . A French version of it, the
work of Mellin de Saint-Gelais with the help of some colla- .
borateur' 2 , was played before the Court at Blois in February,
1554 3 . But Giraldi Cintio complained that Sofonisba followed
too much the inferior lines of Greek Tragedy, and chose as his
own model the most revolting of Seneca's tragedies, Thyestes.
His play, entitled Orbecchc, was the first classical tragedy
represented in Italy — the date is 1541 — and it exercised a
great influence. Of a similar type was Sperone Sperorn^s
Can ace, written in 1542, while in 1543 another adaptation of
Thyestes was published by Ludovico Dolce.

1 Rucellai's Rosmimda was written later in the same year.

2 There seems to be no authority for iilanchemain's statement that this was
Habert.

3 Saint-Gelais, CEuvres, III. 159 ff.






76 THE RENAISSANCE DRAMA [CH.

Jodelle's tragedy shews no trace of the influence of either the
Orbecche or the Canace 1 . On the other hand, in his treatment
of the Chorus, which in the Third and Fourth Acts interrupts
the dialogue with lyrical intermezzi (contrary to the express \,Jr
precept of Aristotle), he is following the example of Sofonisba.-'
In the three later Acts the Chorus also takes part in the ac tion^
T l/^of the jirama, a practice unknown to Seneca, but followed by
Sophocles and commended by Aristotle.

Before long, however, French Tragedy was to make an
even closer approximation to the Senecan pattern. In 1554
Jean Bastier de la Peruse, who, as we have seen, had been
one of the principal actors in Jodelle's Cleopdtre, died at the
age of twenty-five, leaving behind him a tragedy, named
Medee. His friends, Guillaume Bouchet and Scevole de
Sainte-Marthe, put the finishing touches to it and saw it
through the press in 15 56 s . It has distinct merits of style, but
its chief interest lies in the fact that it is an adaptation, with
some help from Euripides, of Seneca's play of the same name.
In the same year another member of the Poitiers circle,
Charles Toutain, published an imitation of Seneca's Aga-
memnon 3 , and the same play was again imitated by Le Duchat
in 1 56 1.

We must now return to Jodelle, but unfortunately we have
no evidence to enable us to fix the date either of the com-
position or of the performance (if it was ever performed) of his
next tragedy, Didon se sacrifiant. Except as regards style
and versification — it is written in Alexandrines throughout —
it shews no real advance on Cleopatir. If the lyrical element
is less prominent there is more rhetoric, the speeches being
of immense length ; and if possible there is less action. Even
the improvement in style is due in part to the fact that
Jodelle closely follows Virgil, sometimes translating him word

1 It may be noted, however, that Cintio wrote both a Cleopatra and a Didone,
the subject of Jodelle's second play.

2 Ronsard, CEnvres, VII. 240 ; Vauquelin de la Fresnaye, Art Poetiqne, II.
1039 — 1046. For a copy of an edition of this date (bound up with Toutain's
Agamemnon, 1556, and Rouillet's Philanire, 1563), see Brunet, Supp. I. col. 77S,
where the date of Philanire is given as 1553, which is clearly wrong.

3 Vauquelin de la Fresnaye, id. 1047.



XIX] THE RENAISSANCE DRAMA JJ

for word. There are two Choruses, a practice apparently
adopted from the Senecan tragedies, Agamemnon and Hercules
Oetaeus 1 .

Jodelle died in 1573, long enough after the composition of
his first play to have had time to develop his dramatic talent ;
but even without the difficulties which surrounded writers for
the stage in those days it is doubtful whether he would have
attained to any real success. A lofty and original thinker, he
had not the perseverance to perfect himself in any one
branch of literature. Puffed up with vanity and ambition he
regarded himself as a universal genius, equally fitted for
literature or practical life. It was his merit only, he firmly
believed, which stood in the way of his advancement 2 . But
the fiasco which befel a masquerade designed by him for the
rejoicings at Paris on February 17, 1558, in celebration of the
recovery of Calais, may also have contributed to his ill success.
At any rate he languished for the rest of his days in com-
parative obscurity. He made many bids for favour and
received occasional presents from Charles IX, to whom he
began a long unfinished poem, entitled Les discours de Jules
Cesar, but he never again renewed the laurels of his youth,
those laurels of which he sings in the following sonnet :

J'aime le verd laurier, dont l'hyver ni la glace
N'effacent la verdeur en tout victorieuse,
Monstrant l'eternite a jamais bienheureuse
Que le temps ny la mort ne change ny efface.

J'aime du hous aussi la tousiours verte face,
Les poignans eguillons de sa fueille espineuse :
J'aime le lierre aussi, et sa branche amoureuse,
Qui le chesne ou le mur estroitement embrasse.

J'aime bien tous ces trois, qui tousiours verds ressemblent
Aux pensers immortels, qui dedans moy s'assemblent,
Ue toy que nuict et jour idolatre j'adore.

Mais ma playe, et poincture, et le noeu qui me serre,
Est plus verte, et poignante, et plus estroit encore
Que n'est le verd laurier, ny le hous, ny le lierre 3 .

1 Seneca's authorship of both these has been questioned, but the Agamemnon
is generally regarded as genuine.

2 See the poem A sa ?nuse.

3 Amours, xiv {(Euvres, II. 8) ; translated by Cary, p. 132. The story told



y



7 S ! THE RENAISSANCE DRAMA [CH.

In the same year (1558) in which Jodelle met with his
fiasco, a new star appeared on the dramatic horizon in the
person of 1. t oques Grevin , a native of Clermont in the Beau-
vaisis 1 , and a student of medicine of the Paris University.
Ik- was barely twenty when his first piece, a comedy, La
Tresoriere, was produced. It was followed in 1560 by another
comedy, Les Esbahis, and by a tragedy, Cesar, which were
played on the same day at the College of Beauvais 2 . The
tragedy is modelled on Muret's play, and owes much more to
it than Grevin acknowledges in his preface to the printed
edition'. For as a matter of fact he has bodily appropriated
nearly half of it, sometimes translating word for word, some-
times expanding or summarising 4 . But he has introduced
certain changes which have the effect of making the play
somewhat more dramatic than its model. Instead of con-
fining himself, as Murethas done, to Plutarch's Life of Caesar,
he has also drawn upon those of Antony and Brutus ; and
while Muret's play is more or less a declamation in honour of
republicanism, Grevin takes for his central idea the conflict
between the republican and the monarchical principle. This
in itself shews some dramatic promise, which however is only
partially realised in the working out of the play. The only
parts that can be called really dramatic are the scene between
Calpurnia, Caesar, and Decimus Brutus in the Third Act, in
which Caesar, after yielding to his wife's fears, is finally per-
suaded by Brutus to go to the meeting of the Senate, and the
last Act, in which the mob is harangued by the conspirators on
one side and by Mark Antony on the other. But these scenes

by Gentillet in the Anti-Machiavel, Pt II. c. i, that he died of hunger is doubtless an
invention of the Protestants whom he attacked smartly in his poems. See for his
lyrical work, 11. Fehse in Zeitsch. fur franz. Spr. n. 183 ff.

1 He was born in 1538. Clermont is about half-way between Beauvais and
Compiegne.

- Ronsard's Discours a Jat/ues Grevin (CEuvres, VI. 311) was written about
this time.

Je tie veux pourtant nier que s'il se trouve quelque traict digne cfestre hue,
qitil ne soit de Muret. Grevin's friend Florent Chrestien adapted Buchanan's
Jephthes.

* Collischonn, pp. 15 ff".



XIX] THE RENAISSANCE DRAMA



79



together only occupy about 150 lines, or less than a sixth of
the whole play, exclusive of the choruses. The rest is chiefly
taken up with long monologues and duologues which have
little or no effect on the action. A peculiar and interesting
feature is the treatment of the Chorus, which is composed of
Caesar's soldiers. The utterances generally take the form of
a lyrical dialogue, but sometimes that of a mere conversation
between individual soldiers. Grevin tells us in his preface
that he introduced this innovation in the interests of truth, or,
as we should say now-a-days, with a view to greater realism 1 .
It was in fact a step towards the suppression of the Chorus
altogether. We can hardly expect to find in the work of so
young a man any adequate representation of character, but
Calpurnia's nervous condition after her dream is not unsuccess-
fully portrayed, and there is an attempt to contrast the more
emotional and violent temperament of Cassius with that of
the calmer and more moderate Brutus. Finally, the style,
though it is marred by certain rhetorical tricks common to
most Renaissance tragedies, not infrequently attains a certain
dignity and energy, which reminds one that Grevin is a fore-
runner, however humble, of Corneille.

Unfortunately, after taking his doctor's degree, he aban-
doned the drama for the practice and study of medicine. On
the outbreak of the second civil war (end of September 1567)
he left France, being a Protestant, and after short visits to
London and Antwerp accepted an invitation from Margaret
of France, the Duchess of Savoy, to go to Turin as her
physician. Here he resided till his death, three years later,
in November 1570. Besides his plays he wrote a certain
amount of non-dramatic poetry, not in any way remarkable.
Some sonnets written at Rome during a visit which he made
to that city from Turin are too visibly inspired by Du Bellay's
Antiquites de Rome' 1 , while some others written in London
shew the influence of the same writer's Regrets*. Nor do the

1 Pinvert, p. 136.
a ib. 358 ft.

3 id. 370 ff. Neither of these groups of sonnets was published 111 Grevin's
lifetime.



8o



THE RENAISSANCE DRAMA [CH.



series of sonnets addressed to Nicole, daughter of Charles
Estienne, under the name of Olimpe, rise above the level of
the ordinary Petrarchian sonnet of the day 1 . His comedies
will be considered later.

In the year after the performance of Cesar, viz. in 1561, a
sacred tragedy, entitled Amau, by Andre de Rivaudeau, a
grandson of Rabelais's friend, Andre Tiraqueau, was played
at Poitiers. Modelled closely on classical lines, it is not a
whit more dramatic than its predecessors. But it is well
written, with a sustained energy and dignity of style, superior
to GreVin's even at its best 2 . It is partly in Alexandrines
and partly in decasyllables.

Thus when Julius Caesar Scaliger proclaimed in his post-
humous Poetice, published at Lyons in 1561, that 'Seneca
was inferior to none of the Greeks in majesty 3 ,' in France at
any rate he was preaching to hearers who were already con-
vinced. So, too, when he spoke of moral maxims as ' the
pillars which support the whole fabric of tragedy 4 ,' he was
in perfect accord with the general practice of the French
playwrights, and with the preface to Saint-Gelais's trans-
lation of Trissino's Sofonisba, published the year before,
which commends that play as enricliie de sentences graves et
morales.

So with his views on the unities, which he bases, not on
the supposed authority of Aristotle, but on that absurd theory
of vraisemblance or verisimilitude which in the hands of
Chapelain and D'Aubignac was to be so important a factor in
the developement of French classical tragedy. T he play, savsHv l/

Scaliger, s hould b e_s<3 constructed as to co me a s nea r as

possible to_lruth. Actions which would naturally occupy
several days, such as battles and sieges, must not find a place
in a spectacle of two hours' duration, nor will a wise play-
wright move his characters from one town to another in the

1 V Olimpe de Jaques Grh/in, 1560. Nicole Estienne married Jean Liebault,
a physician of Dijon. A good portrait of Grevin, ascribed to Francois Clouet, is
prefixed to his Theatre.

- A good example is Esther's speech in Act II.

3 Poetice, VI. 6.

4 ib. III. 97.



XIX] THE RENAISSANCE DRAMA 8 1

space of a few minutes 1 . For these reasons the argument
must be as brief as possible-.

This was exactly the practice of both Jodelle and Grcvin.
As we have seen the argument of their plays could hardly
have been briefer, and in Cleopdtre Antony's ghost carefully
calls attention to the fact that the action of the play falls
between sunrise and sunset :

Avant que ce soleil, qui vient ores de naitre,
Ayant trace son jour chez sa tante se plonge,
Cleopatre mourra.

In both Jodelle's plays and in Grevin's Cesar the place is
left undefined, and doubtless they were represented without
any scenery. In all three plays, however, the convenient
practice which prevailed in comedy might easily have been
adopted, namely that of choosing for the scene some public
place within easy distance from the houses of the principal
characters. Thus a street in Alexandria would have sufficed
for Cleopatre, a street in Rome for Cesar, and the sea-shore
for Didon. Jt is not, h owever, till the year 1 572 that we find
the unity of place distinctly prescribed by a French writer.



1 On the other hand the Italian critic, Minturno, who closely follows Aristotle,
says that a play must occupy ' a day or, at the most, two days ' {De poeta libri sex,
p. 174, Venice, 1559, and V arte poetica, p. 73, Venice, 1563), while he says
nothing at all about unity of place. Similarly Mutio in his Arte poetica {Rime
diverse. Tre libri di arte poetica, Venice, 1551) limits the time to two days. See
Ebner, Beilrag, pp. 167 — 169, where the passages referred to are quoted in full.
Comp. Sidney's Apologie (written in 1 58 r) : " For... the stage should always represent
but one place, and the uttermost time presupposed in it should be, both by Aristi itle's
precept and common reason, but one day. "

2 See for Scaliger's Poetice, G. Saintsbury, A history of Criticism, II. 69 — 80;
F. Brunetiere, V Evolution des genres, pp. 46 ff . ; J. E. Spingarn, op. cit. pp. 94 ff,
I agree with the latter that the influence of this work in France has been exaggerated.
He points out that no edition of it was ever published at Paris, and he might have
added that no edition after the first was published in France. The second edition
was published at Geneva in 1581, the third at Heidelberg in 1594, the fourth at
Antwerp in 1607, and the fifth at Antwerp in 1617. Even during th<

to 1640, when the battle of the unities was renewed in France with increased
ardour, with the result that victory was ultimately assured to the partisans of the
classical drama, it is doubtful whether the Poetice, in spite of its great reputation,
was as well known in France as the little treatise of Daniel I leinsius, De Tragoediae
constitutione, 1 6 1 o .

T. II. 6





THE RENAISSANCE DRAMA [CH.

' // faut tousjours presenter Uhistoire ou le jeu en un mesme
\ jour en un mesme temps, et en un mesme heu\

This passage occurs in the DeVartdela Tragedie prefixed
by lean de la Taille to his play of Saul. He had possibly
based it on a"pSsage in Castelvetro's Poetica d' Anstolele
vulgarizsata e sposta, published two years previously (1570) 2 .
The whole of La Taille's remarks should be read as shewing
the views of a thorough-going partisan of classical tragedy.
He recognises that the true province of tragedy is the
pathetic : la vraye et seule intention est d'esmouvoir et de
peindre merveillement les affections d'un chascun. The hero
must not be very good or very bad, neither Abraham
nor Goliath. Abstract characters should be avoided, as
Death, Truth, Avarice, the World. There must be five Acts,
and each act must end as soon as the stage is empty''. The
dramatist must begin his subject towards the middle or the
end. No blood must be shed on the stage, for every one
would see that it was only pretence {feintise). Finally, he
sweeps aside the moralities and mysteries, and the plays
which still clung to the old practices, with the same con-
temptuous term epiccries, which Du Bellay had applied to
the poetry of the Marotic school 4 .

1 The words un mesme jour, as M. Rigal was the first to point out, do not refer to
the unity of time, but are a hit at the mystery plays in general, which often lasted
over several days, and at Des Masures's trilogy of David in particular. M. Rigal
further notices that La Taille uses the vague phrase en un mesme temps for the
unity of time without further defining it.

2 Castelvetro takes the same view of the unities as Scaliger, basing them on
the theory of verisimilitude. Cos) come il luogo slretto e il palco, cos) il tempo
slrctto e quello che i veditori possono a sua agio dimorare sedendo in theatre. Poetica,
Co v". His book was popular in France. It may be convenient to note here that
the first complete Latin translation of Aristotle's Poetics, by Alexander Faccius,
was published at Venice in 1536 and at Paris in 1538. A revision of this with a
commentary, by Francesco Robortello, appeared at Florence in 1548. The first
( ireek edition of the Poetics published in France was that of G. Morel, 1555- The
only unity insisted on by Aristotle is that of action. With regard to time he .•-ays
that tragedy endeavours if possible to keep within one revolution of the sun, or
only to go a little beyond ; he says nothing at all about unity of place.

a Faire de sorte que la scene estant vide de Joueurs un Acte soit fini cl le sens
aucunement pai-fait.

4 Saul lefurieux, 1572, pp. 2 v° — 5 r°. The principal passages are printed by



XIX] THE RENAISSANCE DRAMA 83

Jean de la Taille, the author of this manifesto on behalf of
the classical drama, was an interesting and somewhat remark-
able person. Born in 1533 of one of the oldest families in the
Orleanais he was educated first at Paris and then at Orleans.
In the Third war of religion ( 1568-1570 ) he fought on the
Protestant side under Conde, but it is not clear that he was
ever a Protestant. After the peace of 1570, disgusted with
the civil war, he retired to his estates at Bondaroy, and like
Montaigne combined the pursuit of literature with the manage-
ment of his estate. Hitherto he had only published a didactic
poem, entitled Remonstrance pour le Roy a tons ses subjects qui
out prins les armes ( 1563). It was an eloquent exhortation to
peace in the manner of Ronsard's Discours, and had met with
great success, having reached a seventh edition. In 1572 he
republished it in a volume containing the tragedy of Saul
le Furieux^ written ten years earlier, and other poems. This
was followed in 1573 by another volume, which comprised a
second tragedy, two comedies, a satirical poem entitled Le
Courtisan retire, and some miscellaneous pieces. In 1595 he
published another satirical piece, Les Siugeries de la Ligue, a
short imitation of the Satire Menippee, and finally in 1607 a
Discours notable des Duels in which, again like Montaigne, he
protested against that pernicious fashion which in thirty years
had cost France the lives of over six thousand gentlemen.
He died in 1630, having reached the ripe age o£nine±yrsevun
.jreara, 1 .

Jean de la Taille, if not a great poet, attained a fair measure
of success in various forms of poetry. His Reyimistraiici pour
le R oy, his Courtisan retire, and a long didactic poem, Le
Prince necessaire, which, though completed in 1572, was not
published till quite recently, all shew a considerable faculty for
eloquent and energetic expression in verse. His songs too are
not without beauty, and one at any rate is worth)' of quotation :

P. Robert in La poitique de Racine, [890, p. 250- See also Spingarn, p. 200, vt ho
thinks La Taille borrowed his statement of the unities from Castelvi

1 See G. Baguenault de Puchesse. Mis researches have confirmed th(
merit of the Dictiotmaire de la Noblesse, cited, but not followed, by Haa^, that he
died at the age of 97.



84



THE RENAISSANCE DRAMA [CH.

C'est trop pleure, c'est trop suyvi tristesse,
Je veux en joye ebattre ma jeunesse,
I. ..quelle encor comme un printemps verdoye :
Faut-il tousjours qu'a l'estude on me voye?
C'est trop pleure.

Mais que me sert d'entendre par science
Le cours des cieux, des astres l'influence,
De mesurer le ciel, la terre et l'onde,
Et de voir mesme en un papier le monde ?

C'est trop pleure.
Que sert pour faire une ryme immortelle
De me ronger et l'ongle et la cervelle,
Pousser souvent une table innocente
Et de ternir ma face pallissante?

C'est trop pleure.

Mais que me sert d'ensuyvre en vers la gloire
Du grand Ronsard, de scavoir mainte histoire,
Faire en un jour mille vers, mille et mille,
Et cependant mon cerveau se distille?
C'est trop pleure.

Cependant l'age en beaute fleurissante
Chet comme un lys, en terre languissante,
II faut parler de chasse et non de larmes,
Parler d'oyseaux, et de chevaux et d'armes :
C'est trop pleure.

II faut parler d'amour et de liesse,
Ayant choisy une belle maistresse ;
J'ayme et j'honore et sa race et sa grace,
C'est mon Phcebus, ma Muse et mon Parnasse :
C'est trop pleure.

Digne qu'un seul l'ayme et soit ayme d'elle,
Luy soit espoux, amy et serf fidele,
Autant qu'elle est sage, belle et honneste,
Qui daigne bien de mes vers faire feste :
C'est trop pleure.

Va-t'en, chanson, au sein d'elle te mettre,
A qui l'honneur (qui ne me doit permettre
Telle faveur) est plus cher que la vie.
Ha ! que ma main porte a ton heur d'envie !
C'est trop pleure 1 .

1 CEtivres, II. p. clx ; Becq de Fouquieres, p. 256.



XIX] THE RENAISSANCE DRAMA 85

But it is chiefly as a dramatic writer that he is important.
As might be expected from the Art_ _de la Tra^edie, Saul le



Furieux 1 is closely modelled on the Senecan pattern, and one
could not wish for a better illustration of its defects. The
subject, Saul's madness and downfall, is sufficiently dramatic,
and the play is laid on dramatic lines. The Third Act, in
which Samuel's ghost appears, is especially good in intention.
But the whole dramatic effect of the play _ig_.s_ pni1r hy rh ^
dialogue, which hinders instead of helping the action. Thus



in the Fourth Act, in which Saul declares his intention to
commit suicide, there is far too much argument and discussion,
while the Fifth, the scene between David and the Amalekite
soldier, which has great dramatic possibilities, loses all its
force from the drawn out tedium of the dialogue.

The subject of his other tragedy, La famine oil les Gabeo-
jiites, is that tragic story which has immortalised the name of
Rizpah. The scene between Joab and Rezefe (the French
form of Rizpah) in the Third Act, in which she pretends that
her children are dead, is an imitation of the famous scene
between Ulysses and Andromache in Seneca's Troades, and
together with that in the Fourth Act between Rezefe and her
two sons, has much beauty and pathos' 2 . But in neither scene
has the author really availed himself of the dramatic possibi-
lities of the situation. In both alike he is lyrical and oratorical
rather than dramatic.

The fact that both Jean de la Taille's tragedies are taken
from the Bible is noteworthy, for it was contrary to the general
practice of the Pleiad, who had an almost exclusive preference
for classical subjects. The Old Testament, however, furnished
Gamier, as we shall see, with the best of his pure tragedies,
Lcs Juives, and Christian subjects are warmly advocated by
Vauquelin de la Fresnaye in his Art poetique\

On the other hand Jacques de la Taille, the younger
brother of Jean, who died in 1562 at the age of twenty, left
behind him in manuscript, besides a comedy, five tragedies, all

1 Played at the Jesuit college of Pont-a-Mousson in Lorraine in 1599.

2 Portions of both scenes are given in Darmesteter and Hatzfeld.
s iii. 845—904.



'






I



86 THE RENAISSANCE DRAMA [CH.

founded on classical history or legend. Two of these, Daire
and Alexandre, were published by his brother Jean. Though
not badly written, with a certain dignity of style, they are
neither in any way remarkable and shew no knowledge of
the stage. Daire, it may be noticed, is written partly in
Alexandrines and partly in decasyllables.

The references to Abraham and Goliath in the Art de la
Tragidie are no random shafts. They are evidently aimed at
certain plays of Jean de la Taille's contemporaries, which in
opposition to the classical school of the Pleiad were written
more or less in the manner of mysteries. One of these was
the Abraham sacrifiant of Theodore^Beza, written in 15 50,



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