CARTESIAN SUBJECTIVITY ON THE NEOCLASSICAL STAGE; OR, MOLIÈRE ACTS CORNEILLE FOR LOUIS XIV

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2008-05

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Abstract

<jats:p>In 1658, having been invited to perform at court for the first time in his career, Molière paired his farce<jats:italic>Le Docteur amoureux</jats:italic>with<jats:italic>Nicomède</jats:italic>, a 1651 play by France's reigning dramatist, Pierre Corneille. The choice of<jats:italic>Nicomède</jats:italic>is surprising for political reasons, since the play is shot through with suspicion of royal authority: Corneille's hero is a great military leader unjustly imprisoned by the weak king he selflessly serves. The choice becomes less surprising when one considers a different set of reasons. Corneille's play is a generic oddity that marries its tragic tropes to elements of historical drama and a surprisingly comic ending. Molière's provincial troupe may have felt more at ease in such a play than in a proper neoclassical tragedy, since they lacked training in rhetorically complex stage declamation and in the codified gestures and postures preferred to convey tragic stage emotion at the time. In particular, they lacked the facility of the king's (and Corneille's) favorites, the esteemed Hôtel de Bourgogne actors, who were in the audience as guests of the monarch. No doubt anxious in their presence and in the presence of the king, Molière might have sought to mitigate the unfavorable comparison he anticipated between the talents of his troupe and those of the reigning Paris tragedians.</jats:p>

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10.1017/s0040557408000045

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Gobert, R Darren (2008). CARTESIAN SUBJECTIVITY ON THE NEOCLASSICAL STAGE; OR, MOLIÈRE ACTS CORNEILLE FOR LOUIS XIV. Theatre Survey, 49(01). pp. 65–89. 10.1017/s0040557408000045 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18094.

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Gobert

R. Darren Gobert

Professor of Theater Studies

R. Darren Gobert specializes in comparative modern and contemporary Western drama, dramatic and performance theory, and the philosophy of theatre. His publications include The Theatre of Caryl Churchill (Bloomsbury) and The Mind-Body Stage: Passion and Interaction in the Cartesian Theater (Stanford UP), which won both the Ann Saddlemyer Prize from the Canadian Association for Theatre Research and the Barnard Hewitt Award from the American Society for Theatre Research. His other honors include a Dean’s Award for Outstanding Teaching and the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award from York University.

From 2015 to 2020, he was editor of the journal Modern Drama.


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