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when he was a professor at Lausanne, for the scholars of that
University. His play follows with considerable closeness a
mystery of the same name 1 , and according to the usual
practice of the mysteries Satan is one of the characters.
Wearing the habit of a monk he serves to point a shaft
or two at the Catholic Church, and his soliloquies furnish
more or less of a comic element. There is nothing remark-
able about the execution of the play except in the scene of
the actual sacrifice, which is portrayed with extraordinary
pathos, due mainly to that simplicity which is the consum-
mation of art 2 .

Of about the same date as Abraham sacrifiant and of the
same character are the Tragedie dc la descomfititrc dn geant
Goliath, also published at Lausanne, with a dedication to the
young English king, Edward VI : \ and the David combattant
of Louis des Masures, a native of Tournai. He was secretary
to the Cardinal Jean de Lorraine, then became a Protestant,
and served as pastor at Metz and Strasburg 4 . His David com-
battant is the first play of a trilogy of which the other two

1 This mystery was played at Paris in 1539 {Cronique duroy Francois /, p. 268).
See J. de Rothschild, Le mistere du viel testament {Soc. des. anc. textes franc.),
II. iff., 1879.

- Beza's play became very popular. There is an English translation by
A. Golding, 1577.

'■'■ J. de Rothschild, op. n't. iv. lxiv.

; He was born about 1515 and died in i 574 . His translation of the AZtUid
was published in a complete form in 1560.


are entitled David triumphant and David fugit if. It is a pure
mystery in form ; there are no Acts, and the numerous scenes
are separated either by a cantiqiie or a pause, and are adapted
to the mansiones or simultaneous system of scenery of the
mediaeval play. The fight between David and Goliath takes
place on the stage, and, as in Beza's play, Satan is one of the
characters. Each play ends with an epilogue of a moral
character, and there is a considerable variety of metre, octo-
syllables being employed as well as decasyllabics and Alexan-

Almost the only specimen of a tragedy of this period
which, without being in the nature of a mystery, is written on
non-classical lines is La Soitane, a grotesque and ill-written
play by Gabriel Bounin, a lawyer of Chateauroux in Berry.
It was played in 1560 at the latest 1 , and was printed in the
following year. In violation of the recognised rule of the
Pleiad that modern subjects should be avoided-, Bounin
founded his play on the recent execution of his son
Mustapha _by the Sultan Soliman the Magnificent (1553).
The conduct of the play is as irregular as the subject. -■' Ju^~
Mustapha's death takes place on the stage, an d the u nitips of
time and place are entirely disregarded. On the other hand
there are five acts divided by choruses, and the dialogue is
written mainly in Alexandrines though decasyllabics are also
employed and, for four lines only, a line of fourteen syllables.
The character of Mustapha is absolutely without interest,
while the chief interest in that of his stepmother, Roxolana
(here called Rose), is that she suggests a comparison with
Seneca's Medea. On the whole this specimen of irregular
drama shews rather an in ability to compr ehend the Senecan
pattern than an attempt to strike out new lines. At any rate
it was little calculated to encourage a departure from the
recognised model.

Of about the same date as La Soitane is another i nsula r
tragedy, also based on a modern subject. Such being its

1 La Croix du Maine and Du Verdier, tv. 2.

2 Mais prendre il ue faitt t>as les nouveaux arguments. Vauquelin dc la
Fresnaye, A. P. iii. 1113-


character it is somewhat surprising that its author, Claude
Rouillet, should have been the Principal of one of the Paris
colleges, that of Burgundy 1 , and that in its original form it
should have been written in Latin, doubtless for representation
by the students of the college. It was entitled Philani ra.
and was published in 1556 2 . The French translation, by
Rouillet himself, appeared in 1563-. The subject is one of
the many versions of the familiar and possibly true story,
which furnished Shakespeare with the sombre plot of Measure
for Measure. In Rouillet's play Philanire is represented as a
lady of Piedmont whose husband has been sentenced to death
by the Provost of the district. He promises to give him back
to her on condition that she will satisfy his passion. To this
she finally consents, and on the following day he sends her
his corpse. She thereupon appeals to the Viceroy who com-
pels the Provost to marry her, and then, in spite of her inter-
cession, has him beheaded. The play is constructed with
some skill, shewing at any rate more feeling for dramatic
action than the ordinary classical tragedy of the period.
Though the greater part is written in octosyllables, metres of
seven and fewer syllables are also employed to correspond to
the various metres of the Latin original.

There was another reason besides the overwhelming in-
fluence of Seneca for the und rama tic character of French
Renaissance tragedy, and this was the jack_ of stage experience
on the part of the writers. There was only one place in Paris
where their plays could have been performed on a real stage
by actors who, though not professionals, had at any rate
some experience, and that was the Hotel de Bourgogue, the
home of the Confreres de la Passion. But there were various
reasons which made it impossible for the young playwrights
to look to this quarter for the interpretation of their pieces.

1 He died in 1576, being then an old man ; he had been Principal of his
college since 1536 (La Croix du Maine).

2 In C. Koilleti Belnensis varia poemata, 1556. See Creizenach, II. 434—437.

3 See ante, p. 76, n. 2 ; also Bib. du thi&tre francais, p. 174 ; Bib. dram, de
M. de Soleinm; no. 756 ; Cat. de la Bib. dram, de feu le Baron Taylor, 1893,
no. 327. I only know the edition of 1577, of which there is a copy in the Bib.


Even if the actors of the Hotel de Bourgogne had had
sufficient education to enable them to interpret classical drama,
their system of scenery was quite unsuited to it. Further, the
public for which they catered, the good people of Paris,
accustomed as they were to the liv ely bustle o f jnyste rv-
plays, would never have endured the tedio us speeches a nd -
the w ant of action wh ich marked the new classical trag edy.
Moreover the antagonis m between the two dramas, medieva l
and classi cal, was so pronounced, the a ttitude of the_ classical
champions to the Confrer es so arrogant, that any combina-
tion between them was out of the question 1 .

It is true that M. Lanson has been able to compile from
various records an imposing list of performances, either in
colleges or in noble houses, of plays written during the latter
half of the sixteenth century 2 . But though the whole list is a
fairly long one, and though we must bear in mind that doubt-
less the records are very far from being complete, the number
of times that the representation of any individual play is
recorded is exceedingly small. Moreover, not only were
these the performances of amateurs who could have had very
little experience, but they were played before audiences who
were anything but critical. The professors and fellow-students
who witnessed the performances in the college halls were only
too ready to admire anything that was modelled on a classical
pattern, while such plays as were produced in some princely
chateau for the entertainment of a royal guest were often set
off by elaborate scenery and music. Thus, though M. Lanson
is justified by the evidence he has collected in maintaining
that the writers of Renaissance tragedy during the last thirty
years of the sixteenth century still wrote with a view to stage
representation, they could have had little expectation of
seeing their hopes realised. M. Rigal well points out that
while Jean de la Taille wrote his earlier play, Saul in the
hope of its being performed, in his later play, Les Gabcotiites,
he makes no attempt to provide for the requirements <>f the

1 See on this .subject E. Rigal, l.c thMtre Jranfais, 117 It'., and in Petil de
Julleville, III. 264 fif.

- See G. Lanson in Rev. cThist. litt. X (1903), 1 77 ff-, 4 ' 3 "•



stage 1 . So when at last a writer appeared who was equipped
with a high poetical endowment, he continued for several
years to produce tragedies which were even less suited to the
stage than those of his predecessors.

Ro bert Gamie r was born at L a Ferte-Bernar cLi n Maj_ne
tbout the year 1545'. He followed the law as a profession,
practised at the Paris bar, till he became judge of the criminal
court {lieutenant general criminel) for his native province, and
finally returned to Paris as a member of the Great Council.
From the dramatic-point of view h is first tragedy, PorcjjL
which appeared in 1568, could hardly be worse. The First
Act consists of one long rhetorical monologue by Megaera,
one of the Furies, followed by a chorus. In the Second Act
we have a monologue by Porcia, a chorus, a monologue by
Porcia's nurse, a dialogue between Porcia and the nurse
obviously imitated from Octavia, which in Garnier's day was
supposed to be by Seneca, and another chorus. The Third
Act, which is very long, and in which five new characters

1 Rigal, op. cit. p. 128.

2 De Thou says Gamier died in 1590, aged 56, and Sainte-Marthe gives him
the same age, and from the place in which his elogium appears in his book evidently
supposes him to have died about 1590. But Vauquelin de la Fresnaye has an
epitaph on Gamier which begins as follows :

Neuf lustres sout passez que ma Muse Lyrique
Lamenla stir le Clain La Peruse tragique,
Et mai?i tenant -e plain Gamier.

{Diver ses poesies, p. 679. )
Now La Peruse died in 1554, and Vauquelin's epitaph on him appeared in his
Foresteries in 1555, so that according to this Gamier must have died in 1599 or
1600. Again Vauquelin in the last satire of his second book (Dtv. poes. pp. 243 ff.)
addressing Gamier says :

Je suis plus vieil que toy de quelque dix ans,
Vauquelin himself being born in 1536. From these two statements we may
infer that Gamier was born about 1545 and died about 1600. This date for his
birth agrees much better than the earlier one with that of the publication of his
first play, namely 1568.

Desportes in Bibliographic du Mans, 1844, p. 306, gives the date of his
death as Aug. 15, J590; the Biographie universelle gives 1545-1601. See also
W . Forster's introduction to vol. IV. of Garnier's plays, pp. xxi— xxiii, where
nearly all the evidence is set forth. He concludes for 1534-1590, but he had not
seen Vauquelin's lines.



appear, has nothing to do with Porcia. In the Fourth she
hears the news of Brutus's death, and in the Fifth her own
death is related by the nurse. In his next play, Hiflfio/vte *
published in _JJ£3> Gamier had the advantage of a nn
interesting subject and of a direct model in Seneca's Pluedra,
which itself is based on the Hippolytus of Euripides and a lost
play on the same subject by the same writer. The scene
between Ph aedra and her nurse, which forms the Second Act,
is really i nteresting ; there is genuine feeling in some of the
speeches, and there is some success in portraying, if not a
complete character, at any rate a mental condition. The
later Acts are inferior, and quite unsuited to the stage.
Cornelie (1.574), another Roman play, is no improvement on
Porcie, except in the matter of style. The action is confused,
disconnected, and leads to nothing, not even to the death of
Cornelia ; for the play ends with the announcement of her
intention not to put herself to death until she has buried
Pompey. It is possible, however, that in a vague sort of way
Gamier may have intended the fall of the Republic to be the
real subject of the tragedy. As in all his plays many of the __
speeches are of_conjid^rabie_beauty, and she w real poetical
merit. Perhaps the finest is Caesar's address to Rome, the
opening lines of which may be quoted as a specimen :

O superbe Cite\ qui vas leuant le front
Sur toutes les citez de ce grand monde rond :
Et dont Phonneur gaigne par victoires fameuses
Espouuante du ciel les voutes lumineuses !
O sourcilleuses tours! 6 coustaux decorez \
O palais orgueilleux ! 6 temples honorez !
O vous murs que les dieux ont ma^onnez eux-mesmes,
Eux-mesmes etoffez de mille diademes,
Ne ressentez-vous point de plaisir en vos cueurs,
De voir vostre Cesar le vaincueur des vaincueurs,
Accroistre vostre Empire, avecques vos louanges,
Par tant de gloire acquise aux nations estranges ?

O beau Tybre, et tes flots de grand'aise ronflans,
Ne doublent-ils leur crespe a tes verdureux flancs,

1 A play entitled Hipfolyte, probably Carnier's, was played at the College ol
Saint-Maixent in Poitou in 1576 (Lanson, loc. cit.).


Joycux de ma venue? et dune voix vagueuse

Ne vont-ils annoncer a la mer escumeuse

L'honneur de mes combats ? ne vont ne vont tes flots

Aux Tritons mariniers faire bruire mon los,

Et au pere Ocean se vanter que le Tybre

Roulera plus fameux que l'Eufrate et le Tigre 1 ?

, L One has only to compare this with Je an de la Taille's
trag edies to realise th e m arked advance in style wh ich Gamier
had made.

During the four years which elapsed between the publica-
tion of Cornclic and that of his next play Garnier's ideas seem
to have undergone some modification. He appears to have felt
the need of introducing more vari ety a nd life i nto hi s pla ys^
Hence in Marc-Autoine ( 1 5/8) 2 the number of characters
is considerably increased, and there is a double source of
interest, the death of Antony and the death of Cleopatra.
But the play is chiefly taken up with discussions between
Cleopatra and her maidens as to whether she shall commit
suicide (Act II), between Antony and his friend as to whether
he shall commit suicide (Act III), and between Octavius
Caesar and Agrippa as to whether Antony shall be put to
death (Act IV). The nearest approach to any action is
Cleopatra's final speech before her death, and it distinctly
increases the effect that her death is left to our imagination,
instead of being narrated by a messenger.

In La Troade(i^yg) and Antigone (1580), which followed
closely on Marc-Autoine, Gamier adopted another method of
increasing the interest of his plays, that of blendin g the plot s
of tw o or jiore plays. Thus La Troadeis taken from Seneca's
Troades and Euripides's Troades and Hecuba, the play of
Seneca being based partly on Euripides's play of the same
name and partly on two lost plays of Sophocles. The result
is that the first four Acts of Garnier's tragedy deal with two
subjects, the death of Astyanax and the death of Polyxena,
which are somewhat loosely knit together, while in the Fifth
Act we pass to a third subject, quite distinct from the other

1 U- '303 ff. Cornelie was well translated by Thomas Kyd.
- Translated by the Countess of Pembroke.


two, namely the vengeance of Hecuba on Polymestor. The
finest scene is naturally the reproduction of the famous scene
between Andromache and Ulysses, which Jean de la Taille
had already borrowed from Seneca.

In 1 ^82 Gamier made an interesting and successful experi-
ment with a r omantic dram a, and then in the following year
returned to the' field of trage dy, de serting his classica^mod els
inj the choice of subject , and s tanding f or_ lhe first time on his
jownJef t. Like Jean de la Taille he went to the Bible and
took for his subject the punishment of Zedekiah by Nebuchad-
nezzar. The play was entitled Lesjuives 1 . There is nothing
in it the least dramatic till we come to the Second Scene of
the Third Act, in which Amital (Hamutal) intercedes with
Nebuchadnezzar for her son Zedekiah. In the rest of the
play, if there is no real action in the true sense of the word
(for Nebuchadnezzar's mind is made up from the beginning),
there is at any rate a str ong element of pity and terr or.
These are alleviated by the final speech of the Prophet, who
foretells the downfall of Babylon and the return of the Jews
to Jerusalem. It is this appearance of the Prophet at the
begin ning and end of the play as prologue and epilogue
whic h gives a unity and grandeur to the whole . He is the
voice of God declaring His judgments to His chosen people.
The character of Amital, too, is singularly noble, and the
submission of Sedecie (Zedekiah) to the divine will in the
closing scene is extremely touching. The choruses are of
considerable beauty, especially the one at the end of the
Third Act, inspired by Psalm 137 :

Comme veut-on que maintenant

Si desolees
Nous allions la flute entonnant

Dans ces valees?
Que le luth touche de nos dois

Et la cithare
Facent resonner de leur voix

Un ciel barbare ?

1 Played circ. 1600 in the Angoumois by a Confririe (Balzac, Entretiens, VI.

cited by Lanson, loc. cil. p. 217).


Que la harpe, de qui le son

Tousjours lamente,
Assemble avec nostre chanson

Sa voix dolente ?
Trop nous donnent d'affliction

Nos maux publiques,
Pour vous reciter de Sion

Les saints cantiques.

Car helas qui se contiendra

Ue faire plainte
Lors que de toy nous souviendra

Montagne sainte !
Or tandis qu'en son corps sera

Nostre ame enclose,
Israel jamais n'oublira

Si chere chose.
• Nos enfans nous soyent desormais

En oubliance
Si de toy nous perdons jamais

La souvenance.
Nostre langue tienne au gosier,

Et nostre dextre
Pour les instrumens manier

Ne soit adextre.
Que tousjours nostre nation

Serve captiue,
Si jamais j'oublie Sion

Tant que je vive.

Moreover in this play with its national import the Chorus,
composed of Jewish women, is far more in place than in the
ordinary Renaissance tragedy, in which it merely serves to
separate the scenes and acts. Finally, the religious basis of
the play gives it a breadth of interest which is often lacking
in French tragedy. It is no mere accident that the three
plays which the majority of critics regard as the masterpieces
of Corneille, Racine and Voltaire all turn on religion.

In 1585 Gamier published a collected edition of his plays.
Whatever their dramatic merits their popularity with the
reading public was unbounded. From 1592, when the original
privilege had expired, to 16 19 there appeared over forty



editions, some at Paris, some at Lyons, the majority at

It was at Rouen that the son of an apothecary at Falaise,
Antoine Montchrestien . published in 1601 a volume of five
tragedies, one of which had already appeared separately at
Caen under the name of Sophonisbe 1 . The author was a
young man of ambitious and turbulent spirit 2 , who afterwards
distinguished himself by writing the first modern treatise which
bore the title of ' Political Economy 3 .' He took part in the
Huguenot insurrection of 1621, and was shot in a village inn
in a scuffle between his followers and some royalist soldiers 4 .
Of the five tragedies published in 1601 the most promising in
subject and the best in style is L Ecossaise . Dealing- with the
tragic and comparatively recent fate of a princess who had once
been Queen of France, it was well calculated to stir the emotions
of Frenchm en. But even worse than Jodelle's Clcopdtre and
Gamier s Porcie it sms against all the natural laws of dramatic
art 5 . Throughout the first two Acts Elizabeth deliberates
first with a single councillor and then with a Chorus of
Members of Parliament (Chcettr des Estats) as to whether she
shall sign the warrant for the Queen of Scots' execution. In
the Third Act Mary receives the sentence from Davison, the
English Queen's secretary. In the Fourth, which consists of
a single monologue, she prepares for death, and in the Fifth
her death is narrated by a messenger. Thus the play
consists of dramatic lyric s, followed by a dramatic_eleg y.
There are practically only two characters, Elizabeth and
Mary, and these never meet. There are three Choruses, the
Parliamentary Chorus, that of the Queen of Scots' maidens,

1 It was now entitled La Cartaginoise.

2 He was born in 1575 0TT570.

3 Traite de Vaxonomie politique [Rouen, [615]; ed. M. Funck-Brentano, [889.
The style has a certain eloquence, but is marred by an abuse of rhetorical comnv m
place. According to Professor Ashley it is of no value as a scientific treatise
(Hist. Rev. vi. 779 fF.).

4 See a letter of Malherbe, dated Oct. 14, 1021 (CEuvres, ed. Lalanne, III.
554 ff.).

5 It was, however, performed at Orleans in 160.; (Rigal, The'&tre fran fats,

P- '33)-


both of which take part in the dialogue, and the regular
Chorus, which divides the Acts with familiar commonplaces
on the insecurity of life, the unenviable lot of princes, and
so forth. There are some very long monologues relieved by
the usual antithetic duologue, and both monologue and
duologue abound in moral saws :

Reine. Le souci du renom se perd es passions.

Ckasur. Qui n'a la vertu mesme au moins l'ombre desire.

Reine. Qui n'a la vertu mesme a tout forfait aspire.

Chain: D'un specieux pretexte il tasche le voiler.

Reine. Tel est si deplore qu'il ne le veut celer.

Ckceur. Un courage modeste a crainte de la honte.

Reine. Un courage impudent n'en fait jamais grand conte.

Chivur. II nous faut done prier, e'est le dernier recours.

Reine. Les esprits furieux aux prieres sont sours 1 -

M. Rigal is not unjust when he compares this to a game
of battledore and shuttlecock, which, as he points out, can
even be played by a single actor, as when Elizabeth says :

Qui croit trop de leger aisement se degoit :

Aussi qui ne croit rien mainte perte en recoit.

Qui s'esmeut a tous vents, montre trop d'inconstance :

Aussi la seurete naist de la meffiance.

Celuy qui vit ainsi, meurt cent fois sans mourir ;

II vaut mieux craindre un pen que la mort encourir-'.

In fact throughout the first two Acts Elizabeth might
almost as well have been on the stage by herself. At the
end of her deliberations she is hardly more advanced than at
the beginning, and though at last she gives the order for her
rival's execution, she immediately declares her intention of
S> revoking it.

The one meri^of L'Ecossaise is the general excellence of
its style, which is nearly always noble and di VnirleH, and often
of considerable beaut y. This is especially the case with the
choruses, of which perhaps the most beautiful is that on the
golden age at the end of the First Act. In all Montchrestien's
plays the choruses a re a conspicuous feature. Those in La
Cartaginoise, especially the first one, Oyez nos tristes voix 3 , the

1 Act in. 2 Act L

3 Printed by Prof. Saintsbury in his French Lyrics.


one at the end of the Fourth Act of David, and that at the
end of the Third Act of Les Lacaies 1 , are among the most
remarkable. It may be noticed that while those of La
Cartaginoise, his earliest play, are short lyrical pieces, those
in the later plays are more of an elegiac character. To suit
this change of tone there is a corresponding change in the
rhythm ; the Alexandri ne line is jreely employed, and not
unfrequently used throughout. Both tone and rhythm re-
mind us that Montchrestien is a contemporary not only of
Bertaut but of Malherbe-.

Of his plays, other than UEcossaise, there is little to be said
from the dramatic point of view. If they shew rather more
life and movement they a re eq ually devoid of real action .
Perhaps the most promising in subject is A man 5 , but this,
advantage is thrown away by bad construction. Much the
same may be said of Hector, the latest play in point of date,
which was first published in 1604 in a new edition of tin
collected plays 4 .

We must now go back to Gamier and consider the one
experiment which he made in the field of irregular drama , the Vsg
' tr&gi-comedy ' of Bradaman te. According to the theory

' See the lines quoted by Petit cle Julleville from the text of 1601.

• He was in fact twenty years younger than Malherbe.

' ! Aman was also the title of a play by Pierre Matthieu which he published
togi ther with one called Vasthi in 1587. They were refashioned out of a single
play, Esther, which he had published in 1583. Matthieu also wrote some tragedies

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