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Posts Tagged ‘french drama’

We’re out of England and into Continental Europe (btw, theatres in England were shut down at this time; blame it on the Puritans) The Neoclassicists were a throwback to what they consider the standards of Classicism of the ancients. Elements of this would come to england when we read the restoration dramas later on. Anyway, Tartuffe:

  • It is quite funny. As with most French farces, not only is Moliere’s wit on fire here, but the potential for other sorts of comic incidents are there, such as physical comedy, slapstick, absurd, etc.
  • What I do want to point out most prominently would be the theme – it attacks hypocrisy of religion (not religion per se but people who bring religion to its most ridiculous extreme. HELLO CBCP!) Primarily with the attack on religious hypocrisy on the table (which isn’t entirely new as Doctor Faustus was commenting on evil popes as well, although Moliere gave more focus to it), as a modern dramatist, you get so depressed. Moliere has been attacking religious hypocrisy four hundred years ago and up to now we’re still doing it. Anxiety of influence, everything has been written about.
  • Still on religion, you could see why Moliere was refused a christian burial. While it does not go against the belief of god or whatever it is the church supports, the attacking of religious practices will offend a certain sector. He may have made it clear (to the point of being ridiculously on the nose) the difference between the two, but perhaps the church is how the church always was.
  • Just like Wilfrido Guerrero had a fetish for nuns, Shakespeare for clowns, Moliere has a fetish for maids. I have previously read Imaginary Invalid and the maid there is just like the maid here. He likes witty, borderline bitchy, maids so much, who are arguably more intelligent than all the other characters in the play. Of course, one could argue that the neoclassicists look back into classical tropes (such as stock Roman characters) and just drop them into neoclassical sensibilities – and, yes, servants were also a fetish of the ancient romans (Hello, Sosia of Amphitryo) – but that would rob Moliere of his intrinsic literary merit.
  • The way that Moliere goes all the way down, making his characters as stupid and as desolate as possible, shows that he has a firm grasp on characterization. In fact, he goes straight to the core and does not hide his characters under any sort of pretense.
  • He has a family ensemble and the way that every character is varied from another is just brilliant. You know when the maid is talking, when it is the wife, the daughter, the son, Tartuffe, etc. And for such a big cast (and given some of them don’t even speak/appear that much) that is an achievement.
  • Very interesting in this play, Tartuffe appears almost in the middle of the play. Everything builds up to the entrance of the lead character. Going by it, it sort of builds the tension – so when Tartuffe comes acting all religious and all, the audience already knows that he is a hypocrite. That is quite a nice structure.
  • It ends with something Aristotle would call a deus ex machina (hello, the king is saving us!) but then again you would expect something like that to happen. As a comedy, you would be anticipating a happy ending and then you see the family having already exhausted all options. In a way, it functions as a feel-good ending. Surprisingly for a plot device, I didn’t exactly NOT like it. So kudos to that.

 

Next week, we’re leaving France and touching on the Spanish Golden Age of Theater. Let’s go with Pedro Calderon dela Barca’s Life is a Dream (then we’ll go back to England the week after)

 

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