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history may also provide suitable themes for drama and that a bourgeois or a banditmay also sometimes possess enough nobility to transform a stage.These precepts he exemplified in his own plays, some of which are in prose as well asin verse and which generally deal with some dramatic episode from European history.The subjects of Marie Tudor and Lucrezia Borgia are self-explanatory. Hernani, whichquite literally caused a riot at its first performance, sets at odds a noble Spanish banditand Charles V, Emperor of Spain; in Ruy Blas, a valet, through the love of a queen,temporarily becomes head of state.We cannot today appreciate Hugo's plays as wholeheartedly as did his contemporaries.His plots, with their disguises and recognitions, seem a little too melodramatic; hisdaring adventurers and his perfect, passionate, unattainable heroines are two-dimensional. Nevertheless, particularly in their historical accuracy of incident and decor,they represent a great stride toward realism in the drama; in the stage's own terms,some of them are still "marvelous theater."Les Miserablesby Victor Hugo
Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. Upon hisrelease, he finds that he is treated like an outcast everywhere he goes, until the BishopMyriel helps him to create a new life for himself. He adopts the name MonsieurMadeleine, and becomes a successful factory owner. However, he is hunted by thedogged police officer Javert, who believes that no criminal can ever truly reform.Fantine is an impoverished but beautiful young woman who falls in love with a pompousyoung student, who eventually abandons her shortly after she gives birth to their child.Fantine names this daughter Cosette, and leaves her in the care of the Thénardiers inorder to find work. The Thénardiers treat Cosette cruelly, and charge Fantine high sumsof money for the care of her daughter. After her illegitimate child is discovered, sheloses her job at Valjean's factory and is forced to turn to prostitution.Javert takes her into custody after she assaults a young man who shoves a snowballdown her blouse. Valjean intervenes and brings Fantine to a hospital; she is deathly illafter the snowball incident. Valjean promises Fantine that he will take care of herdaughter Cosette, but this task is interrupted when Valjean hears that a man namedChampmathieu has been mistakenly identified as him, and faces life imprisonment as arecidivist convict. After much soul-searching, Valjean testifies in front of the court that heis actually Valjean. Fantine dies, and Valjean is imprisoned once again.Valjean escapes prison after falling from a rope, and he rescues Cosette from thewicked Thénardiers. They start a new life in Paris that is soon interrupted by Javert, whohas discovered that Valjean escaped from prison alive. The two take shelter in the Petit-Picpus convent, and Cosette grows into a young woman.