French Neoclassicism

French Neoclassicism - Neoclassicism in France (and...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–8. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: Neoclassicism in France (and elsewhere) THEA 200 Recipe for Today’s Class • 1 Generous Helping of French Theatre • Essence of Italy • Moderate Amounts of English Restoration • Sprinkle on some German • 1 Dash of American Theatre A Growing Tradition • • Early 1600s – theatre practices in France largely medieval. Aléxandre Hardy – first professional French playwright and one of the most prolific. (We have 34 plays of some 600.) His plays: ~had many characters and sprawling actions ~used simultaneous settings and emblematic costumes ~had more genteel audiences (that included women) ~more concerned with telling an interesting story than with following the strict guidelines of Neoclassicism A Fresh Start • 1st professional theatre company 1625 in Paris • Tennis Court Stages – Long, narrow playing space – Audience on both sides – Simultaneous settings (like medieval and Shakespearean theatre) •1630s – Italian practices became the model for France: ~Neoclassicism ~Italianate staging France’s Machiavelli • Cardinal Richelieu - Prime Minister to Louis XIII. • Greatness through imitation of Italy • Goal of making France the cultural capital of Europe • Encouraged writers to adhere to Neoclassical standards. Rules of Neoclassicism • Verisimilitude (truth and reasonableness) • Decorum (good rewarded, evil punished) • Purity of genres (tragedy and comedy separate) • Three unities (one day, one setting, one plot) • Five act form • Dual purpose of theatre – to teach and to please. • • • • • • • • • • • • Set in medieval Spain (and based on a Spanish play). Don Rodrigue and Chimène are in love. Their fathers are opposing generals. Chimène’s father insults Rodrigue’s. Rodrigue avenges his father by killing Chimène's. Chimène asks the king for Rodrigue’s head. Rodrigue establishes his good reputation in war and earns the title of “the Cid” (“the master”). Chimène asks the King to have a knight duel with Rodrigue – she will marry the victor. The king reluctantly agrees. In private, Chimène encourages a reluctant Rodrigue to do his best. Rodrigue wins in the duel but shows mercy to his opponent and lets him live. Seeing the opponent alive, Chimène believes that Rodrigue has died in the duel and confesses her love for him to the king. Rodrigue emerges unharmed. The lovers are finally free to marry, with the king’s blessing. Pierre Corneille’s Le Cid •Written in 1636 – most popular French drama of its day. Le Cid and Neoclassicism Similarities: • Original six acts reduced to five. • Several years compressed into one day. • Many locales compressed into one town. Differences: • Characters of high birth, but not a tragedy – has a happy ending. • Number of dramatic incidents strained the limits of verisimilitude. Making an Example of Le Cid • The French Academy praised the aspects of the play that follow the model of Neoclassicism and denounced those that didn’t. • Corneille and other French playwrights got the message. • France does Neo-Classic theatre for the next 100 years. What about staging? • 1641: First Italianate theatre (with a proscenium arch) built in France. • 1645: Giacomo Torelli brought to Paris to install scenic machines. • Tennis court theatres raced to install Italianate scenery. • Machine plays – written specifically to exploit the new scenery. Torelli’s chariot-and-pole system Public vs. Court Theatre • Public Theatre – used the rules of Neoclassicism to create a distinct French style of theatre. When Italianate scenery was used, it was modest. • Court Theatre – used Italianate staging to restage plays from the public theatre, adding: ~ ballet interludes ~ scenic spectacle ~ rich costumes ~ fake battles ~ indoor and outdoor performances The Sun King • Louis Quatorze (XIV) • Ruled 72 years • Believed France and the court should revolve around him as the planets revolved around the sun • Associated with Apollo (god of the sun and of the arts) • Massive consolidation of power in the monarch. ~”L’etat c’est moi” • Expanded the military power of France across Europe Louis and the Arts • • • Gloire – extravagance and glorification of France both on the battlefield and at home National self-display Louis became a patron of writers and visual artists, took control of the French Academy, improved the Louvre, built the extravagant Palace of Versailles, etc. Theatres received royal subsidy and patronage but also depended on public support French audiences became more sophisticated French theatre became the model for Europe • • • The Big Three • Corneille (1606-84) – Le Cid • Racine (1639 - 99) – Phaedra • Molière (1622 - 73) – Tartuffe • Peak of French tragedy – overshadows Corneille as a playwright • Strict Catholic (Jansenist) upbringing ~ Emphasis on guilt and sin in his plays • Influenced by the classics • Wrote one comedy, based on Aristophanes’ The Wasps, and all the rest were tragedies. • Most famous – Phaedra – based on Euripides’ Hippolytus Racine Phaedra • • Phaedra is married to Theseus but is in love with her stepson, Hippolytus (who is in love with Aricia) Word comes that Theseus is dead, and Phaedra confesses her love to Hippolytus, then asks him to kill her when she realizes that he doesn’t love her. Theseus returns. Phaedra’s nurse encourages her to accuse Hippolytus of coming on to her. Theseus asks Neptune to strike down his son, who refuses to compromise Phaedra with the truth. Neptune sends a sea monster to scare Hippolytus’s horses into dragging him to his death. (Offstage.) The nurse drowns herself out of shame and guilt. Phaedra commits suicide too. • • • • • The Neo-Classic Scorecard: Phaedra • 3 Unities? Yes! • Decorum? Yes! • Purity of genre? Yes! • Verisimilitude and Reasonableness? As good as we can get with Neptune in the story! • Five Act Form? You bet! • Appropriate Ending? Tragedy = Death! • Considered a masterpiece of Neo-Classic theatre. The Great Comedian: Molière • Genius of French comedy – raised its reputation to the level of tragedy • By 1660 he was head of a theatre company, lead actor, and manager. • Favorite of Louis XIV • Comedies draw from: – Roman comedy – Italian Commedia – French Farce Making Molière • Language composed of witty and sparkling dialogue written in rhyming couplets • Highly comic plots • Seasoned with bits of physical comedy (lazzi) from Commedia traditions. • Wrote over 20 plays (The Miser, School for Wives, The Imaginary Invalid, Tartuffe) Tartuffe, Or The Hypocrite • Orgon is the head of a middle-class household. • He has fallen under the spell of a con man, Tartuffe, who poses as a religious zealot while secretly working towards his own agenda. • Orgon invites Tartuffe into his house as a pampered guest. • Orgon’s wife (Elmire), his brother (Cleante), his children (son Damis and daughter Mariane), and servant (Dorine) all see through Tartuffe, but Orgon can’t. Excerpt from Tartuffe ORGON: To put my mind at rest, I always learn The household news the moment I return. Has all been well, these two days I’ve been gone? How are the family? What’s been going on? DORINE: Your wife, two days ago, had a bad fever. And a fierce headache which refused to leave her. ORGON: Ah. And Tartuffe? DORINE: Tartuffe? Why, he’s round and red. Bursting with health, and excellently fed. ORGON: Poor fellow! DORINE: That night, the mistress was unable To take a single bite at the dinner-table. Her headache pains, she said, were simply hellish. ORGON: Ah. And Tartuffe? DORINE: He ate his meal with relish, And zealously devoured in her presence A leg of mutton and a brace of pheasants. ORGON: Poor fellow! …and so on. The Plot Thickens • Orgon arranges for Tartuffe to marry Mariane, who is in love with virtuous, if naïve, Valere. • Damis overhears Tartuffe trying to seduce Elmire and accuses him publicly. • Tartuffe claims to be too noble and pious to defend himself. • Orgon takes the bait – he throws Damis out of the house, writes him out of the will, makes Tartuffe his sole heir, and instructs him to stay constantly by Elmire’s side in order to prove his good faith in Tartuffe. Sins of the Flesh TARTUFFE: You wished to see me? DORINE: Yes… TARTUFFE: (Taking a handkerchief from his pocket.) For mercy’s sake, Please take this handkerchief, before you speak. DORINE: What? TARTUFFE: Cover that bosom, girl. The flesh is weak, And unclean thoughts are difficult to control. Such sights as that can undermine the soul. DORINE: Your soul, it seems, has very poor defenses, And flesh makes quite an impact on your senses. It’s strange that you’re so easily excited; My own desires are not so soon ignited, And if I saw you naked as a beast, Not all your hide would tempt me in the least. Exposing Tartuffe • Elmire, angered by Orgon’s treatment of their son, arranges a trap. She has Orgon to hide underneath a table while she pretends to give in to Tartuffe’s attempts at seduction. • Orgon accuses Tartuffe and orders him out, but Tartuffe orders the family out instead – Orgon has given him a deed of gift, and he now owns the house. He also blackmails Orgon with private papers that could lead to his ruin. • An arresting officer appears and all seems lost, but at the last moment, he reveals that the King has sent him to arrest Tartuffe, not Orgon – the King has learned of his treachery and knows of other crimes he has committed. • Valere and Mariane marry, and everyone is happy (except the villain). The Trap ELMIRE: Open the door a little, and peek out; I wouldn’t want my husband poking about. TARTUFFE: Why worry about the man? Each day he grows More gullible; one can lead him by the nose. To find us here would fill him with delight, And if he saw the worst, he’d doubt his sight. ELMIRE: Nevertheless, do step out for a minute Into the hall, and see that no one’s in it. (He does.) ORGON: That man’s a perfect monster, I must admit it! I’m simply stunned. I can’t get over it. ELMIRE: What, coming out so soon? How premature! Get back in hiding, and wait until you’re sure. The Neo-Classic Scorecard: Tartuffe • • • • 3 Unities? Yes! Decorum? Yes! Purity of Genre? Yes! Verisimilitude and Reasonableness? Absolutely • Five Act Form? You bet! • Appropriate Ending? Comedy = Mockery! Molière: Going out with Style • 1673: Writes The Imaginary Invalid • Molière played the lead role - a hypochondriac who is always acting sickly • Fell ill during a performance - died that night. • Denied a Christian burial at first, but Louis XIV interceded on his behalf. Keeping it Legal • • • • • • • • • 1660 – five permanent, professional troupes in Paris Sharing Companies – made up of shareholders All included women 1675 – government exercised stricter control and consolidated some of the companies When Molière died, his company and two others became the Comédie Française – national theatre of France. Monopoly on performance of tragedies and comedies in Paris. Opera, music, and dance troupe granted monopoly on musical entertainments and spectacles. Italian troupe granted monopoly on comic operas. Companies were rigidly structured and expected to stick to tradition. Sentimentalism • Louis getting older, more religious, more conservative • Sentimentalism – worldview that each individual is basically good and that evil is introduced through corruption, not an inherent part of human nature. Implied that humans are not perfect, but perfectible. • Literature became concerned with virtuous humans acting virtuously in their daily lives. What it Means for Design • Costumes were prettified and sentimentalized • Sets used angle perspective – moved the vanishing point away from the center and towards the side • Also used multiple vanishing points ~actors could work closer to scenery ~more “perfect” seats in the house …And For Acting • • • Acting becomes even more specialized Utility players – hired to play small roles as needed Then declared specialties, or lines of business – a range of roles in which an actor would specialize throughout the course of his/her career: ~ “walking” ladies and gentlemen (3rd line) ~ “stage eccentrics,” or specialists in low comedy (2nd line) ~ hero or heroine (1st line) • Possession of parts – actor who played a specific role in a company “owned” the part for as long as he/she remained in the company Vocal power, versatility, formality, and elegance became more important than “truth to life” in acting Illegal theatres – outside the monopolies. • • Give it a shot 1. Recall a recent TV episode, movie, or play that you saw 2. Do a brief plot summary 3. Explain how the show/movie either meets or fails to meet the NeoClassical standards of theatre English Restoration Theatre • Stuart king, Charles II, restored to the throne in 1660 (at the height of Molière's fame) • English theatre now modeled after the theatres of Paris ~female actors (except for witches and comic old women) ~Italianate staging ~theatre buildings designed to meet the needs of Italianate staging ~King granted monopoly patents to only two “legitimate theatres” Theatre Buildings • Blended Shakespearean and French features: ~box, pit, and gallery ~proscenium arch ~raked stage behind it ~forestage extends into the pit ~scenery behind the proscenium arch ~intimate playhouses with as little as 30 ft. from forestage to rear boxes Design and Performance • • • • Italy France England Wings, borders Elaborate costumes – not historic but contemporary Acting again depends on vocal power, versatility, formality, and elegance rather than on realism Lines of business and possession of parts Dramas from Shakespeare’s time still produced, but often adapted to meet Neoclassic standards Highly artificial and aristocratic worlds • • • Types of Restoration Plays • Comedy of Manners – concerned with the proper social behavior of a single class. ~still popular today ~witty dialogue ~sophisticated sexual banter ~reveal the highly artificial and aristocratic nature of Restoration society ~a “virtuous” hero is one who can capture a lover or trick a spouse ~Honor = reputation ~Wit = highest quality a character can possess • Heroic tragedies – conflict between love and duty ~Heroes were flawless, heroines were chaste… and both were subject to parody and burlesque. ~Heroic couplets – two-line units of rhymed iambic pentameter ~Idealized and formal William Wycherley’s The Country Wife See and Be Seen • • • • • Restoration audiences were small Young, courtly elite Royalty and upper aristocracy Women wore masks to enhance their appearances Eventually non-courtiers begin to attend in larger numbers Sentimental England • 1700-1750 • Influenced by sentimentalism in France and offended by the amorality of the comedies of manners • Altering endings of existing plays for more virtuous results • Middle-class heroes and heroines struggling cheerfully against adversity until their persistence is rewarded • Pithy statements (or sentiments) – expressions of insight into human goodness • “Sentimental hero” – virtuous, with speech full of sentiments • Sentimental comedy – not about laughter, but about good characters doing good things and reaping good rewards A Few More Types of Theatre… • Domestic tragedies (or middle-class tragedies) – aimed to teach morality by showing the punishment of evil ~prose, middle-class hero, affairs of the heart rather than of state not compatible with Neoclassicism • Opera – became a major outlet for visual display. Basically heroic tragedy + music + spectacle. • Pantomimes – combined elements of commedia dell’arte, farce, mythology, and satire with elaborate scenes of spectacle in short afterpieces ~contributed to innovation in set design because new scenery was often commissioned for it Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera Spreading the Love • Theatres built larger to accommodate large middle-class audiences • Painters commissioned to create backdrops • Forestage shrinks into the proscenium • Sentimentalism and spectacle (especially in opera and ballet) spread to theatres across the continent as Neoclassicism declines – including to just-developing German theatres • Commercial theatres become centers for innovation What about America? • Many British actors who couldn’t make it into the monopoly theatres had to go elsewhere. • William and Lewis Hallam assembled a company to go to the New World. • 1st production – The Merchant of Venice – played in Virginia and toured the East Coast • English conventions adapted for touring • No competition until 1790s ...
View Full Document

Page1 / 45

French Neoclassicism - Neoclassicism in France (and...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 8. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online