Theatre in France--1500-1700
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VIII. The Theatre in France--1500-1700

Much of early French drama had little impact on the world of theatre. Dramatists too often catered to the aristocracy and never produce any plays of lasting interest. Conditions did change around 1597, however, when more skilled companies and playwrights began to appear in Paris. France's first professional dramatist was Alexandre Hardy who appeared around 1597. He wrote a large number of plays, 34 of which have survived. He used the five-act form, poetic dialogue, as well as the chorus from early Greek and Roman times. While Hardy's contributions were important to the French theatre, he never achieved lasting greatness.

One of the most famous French playwrights of the period was Moliere, famous for Tartuffe and other satires on the corruption of French nobility. Banned from performing his plays on stage, Moliere was called a "demon in human flesh" by the Church, and the State closed his theatre and tore down his posters. In 1667, church leaders threatened excommunication on all who might act in plays like Tartuffe. Finally, in 1669, permission was granted by King Louis XIV for Moliere to perform his plays in public. Other noteworthy playwrights of the time were Racine, who wrote tragedies,such as Phaedra, and Corneille. Racine wrote plays which had simple plots and complex characters while Corneille wrote plays with complex plots and simple characters.

One of the most famous French theatres was the Hotel de Bourgone which was the only permanent theatre in Paris between 1595 and 1629. There were no permanent seats except for the benches running along the side walls. Around the walls of the auditorium were galleries which were divided into boxes for the wealthy and the aristocracy. The auditorium held 1600 theatre-goers. Cardinal Richelou built another large theatre at his own palace called the Palace Royale. In 1680, the French started the very first national theatre, called the Comedie Francaise. During the seventeenth century, the French had acting companies composed of eight to fifteen actors which toured and performed plays.

The French are also noted for their development of methods of shifting scenery. Some examples of their work were the Chariot and Pole system, the Wings and Shudders system, and the popular Mansion Platea system. These innovations were eventually used in many other countries in Europe and helped secure France's place in theatre history.

Links to Chapter 8

Moliere

bullet French Theatre
bulletBooks and Writers
bulletOfficial Site

Jean Racine

bullet Biography
bulletBio. and Bibliography

Corneille

bullet Biography
bullet Pierre Corneille

Cardinal de Richeleu

bulletCardinal de Richeleu
bulletCardinal Richelieu: Political Testament, 1624

 

W.ild W.onderful W.orld of Theatre History

The purpose of this project is to show the highlights of different periods of theatre history, including plays, acting styles, staging convention, costuming, and playwrights. Web links have been provided so that students can find additional information on items of interest.

Origins of Theatre ] Theatre and Drama in Ancient Greece ] Roman and Byzantine Theatre and Drama ] European Drama in the Middle Ages ] Italian Theatre and Drama ] English Theatre Middle Ages to 1642 ] Spanish Theatre to 1700 ] Theatre in France--1500-1700 ] Theatre of the Orient ] English Theatre, 1642-1800 ] Italy and France - 18th Century ] Northern and Eastern Europe - 18th Century ] Europe & the U.S. - 19th Century ] Europe and the U.S. - Late 19th Century ] Modern Theatre, 1875-1915 ] Europe/ U.S. Between the Wars ] Europe and the U.S., 1940-68 ] Drama After 1968 ]

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