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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Cid About the Corneille


The Cid About the Corneille


          Pierre Corneille: (1606-84), French dramatist, whose plays are masterpieces of classical French literature.
          Corneille was born on June 8, 1606, in Rouen, Normandy (Normandie), the son of a government official. Educated in Jesuit schools and in law, he held minor public offices in Rouen from 1629 to 1650. His career as a dramatist began when Mélite, a comedy of love, was successfully produced in Paris in 1630. The tragicomedy Clitandre (1631), as well as other comedies and his tragedy Médée (1635), an adaptation of classical Greek and Roman plays, followed.

          In 1636 or 1637 Corneille produced the tragedy Le Cid, based on a Spanish play about the legendary medieval hero. Although critics bitterly condemned the play because it did not adhere strictly to the classical rules of construction that require unity of time, place, and action, it was a triumph. The theme, the conflict between love and duty, characterizes many of Corneille's subsequent tragedies. In them, however, he observed the classical unities. His finest tragedies, after Le Cid, are Horace (1640), Cinna (1641), and Polyeucte (1643), all set in ancient Rome. These four plays, imbued with strength, dignity, and elegance, created the standards of French tragedy, which were further developed by his younger contemporary Jean Baptiste Racine.

          Corneille was also a master of comedy. Le menteur (The Liar, 1643) is considered the best French comedy before those of Molière. Like his earlier Mélite, it is a comedy of manners, a form he originated.

          In 1647 Corneille and his large family, including that of his brother Thomas Corneille, who was also a successful playwright, moved to Paris. Established as a major dramatist receiving a government pension, Corneille was elected to the French Academy in that year. His next productions,  Don Sanche d'Aragon (1649), Andromède (1650), and Nicomède (1651), were well received. After Pertharite (1651) failed, however, he stopped writing for the stage for eight years. Later, with
government encouragement, he wrote many plays, chiefly complex tragedies, which declined in  quality. He died in Paris on October 1, 1684.

          Corneille's best work won him the approbation of his contemporaries Racine and Molière. He is regarded as one of the greatest French playwrights; his dramas are maintained in the repertoire of the Comédie Française.