Princesses and Queens : A Reappraisal of Royal Women in Corneille and Du Ryer
James F. Gaines
Gaines, James F., "Princesses and Queens : A Reappraisal of Royal Women in Corneille and Du Ryer", dans Cahiers du XVIIe siècle, 2006, vol. XI, 1.
Beginning with Médée, Pierre Corneille’s theater offers an ample panoply of queens and princesses to the student of early modern drama. To consider only the first segment of his career, we encounter the Infante in Le Cid ; Livie in Cinna ; Cléopâtre in La Mort de Pompée ; a different Cléopâtre and the eponymous princess of Rodogune ; Pulchérie in Heraclius ; Isabelle, Léonor, and Elvire in Dom Sanche d’Aragon ; Laodice in Nicomède ; and Rodelinde and Edvige in Pertharite, as well as the central characters of Théodore, vierge et martyre and Andromède. The retrospect of literary history has encouraged scholars to view these women in contrast to those of Racine, but one does well to remember that all of these plays were finished before Racine ever set pen to paper. They belong to Corneille’s first period of dramaturgical production, when he was in competition with dramatists such as Scudéry, Mairet, Tristan, Rotrou, and, for the primary focus of this study, Pierre Du Ryer. This was the golden age of heroic tragedy, of protagonists in glorious and often successful combat with their fates. The complex image of the female monarch that emerges from this period belongs not only to Corneille, but to the entire theatre that developed and sustained the debate on women’s political significance and psychological imperatives in the early modern period. A philosophical, as well as personal and dramaturgical, rival of Corneille, Du Ryer plays a key role in this process. I propose to examine certain of his female tragic leads in comparison to
Corneille’s in order to distinguish Du Ryer’s contribution to the figure of the royal woman.
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