The Tragic World
of Tristan L'Hermite
by Claude K. Abraham
University of Florida Monographs
HUMANITIES No. 23
The Tragic World
of Tristan L'Hermite
by Claude K. Abraham
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA PRESS / GAINESVILLE, 1966
T. WALTER HERBERT, Chairman
Professor of English
G. PAUL MOORE
Professor of Speech
CHARLES W. MORRIS
Professor of Philosophy
Professor of Music
C. A. ROBERTSON
Professor Emeritus of English
MELVIN E. VALK
Professor of German
AUBREY L. WILLIAMS
Professor of English
COPYRIGHT 1986 BY THE BOARD OF
COMMISSIONERS OF STATE INSTITUTIONS
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CATALOG CARD No. 66-64916
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P professor Jerome Schweitzer and I, in
preparing a forthcoming edition of the
plays of Tristan, compared all the editions
of these plays and decided that the follow-
ing were the most reliable:
La Mariane (Paris: Courbe, 1637), the
second (in-4) edition;
Panthee (Paris: Courbe, 1639), the sec-
ond (in-12) edition;
La folie du sage (Paris: Quinet, 1645),
the first edition;
La mort de Seneque (Paris: Quinet,
1645), the first edition;
La mort de Chrispe (Paris: Besongne,
1645), the first edition;
Amarillis (Paris: de Luine, 1653), the
second (in-12) edition;
Le Parasite (Paris: Courbe, 1654), the
Osman (Paris: de Luynes, 1656), the
It is from these editions that the quotations
cited by line numbers in this monograph are
taken. I have, however, taken the liberty of
modernizing the spelling and the punctua-
tion, except in cases where such changes
might have endangered the meaning or in-
terfered with the poetry.
I would like to express my gratitude to
Professor J. Wayne Conner, for his en-
couragement in the undertaking of this
study; to Mr. Ray Jones, for his help in
locating some rare materials; to Professor
Jerome Schweitzer and M. Amed6e Carriat,
whose love of Tristan has been a constant
inspiration; and to Marcia, without whose
patient ministering to the author and his
brouillons this study could not have come
C. K. A.
1. The Tragic Hero
A Minimal Definition 10
2. The Essential Stranger 22
3. The Existential Stranger 33
4. The Exclus: H6rode
and la Fille du Mouphti 49
5. The Exclus: Araspe,
N&ron, Fauste 62
Tristan L'Hermite, in spite of several recent studies, has
not yet been accorded the rank he deserves among
seventeenth-century dramatists. This is due in large part to
the presence of giants such as Corneille and Racine, but
much of the blame must be shouldered by the critics who
have insisted on denying Tristan an identity of his own and
on making of him a follower or a precursor of one school-
or individual-or another.
In this study, an attempt has been made, after a few pre-
liminary pages, to approach the work of Tristan not by
comparing it to that of others, not by categorizing it, but by
means of character analysis. This analysis may be considered
by some too heavily based on existential criteria, but the
anachronism is only a tool of investigation that may help in
our understanding of the author without infringing on his
Using a formula already set forth by Ernest Serret,' N.-M.
Bernardin, in his monumental thesis that remains, in spite of
the years, the basic vie et oeuvre of Tristan, suggests that
Tristan is a precursor of classical tragedy.2 Antoine Adam3
and Jacques Scherer4 consider him more a successor of Gar-
nier than a precursor of Racine. They suggest that Tristan
is not even an innovator in the realm of dramatic structure,
since his first play comes after Mairet's Sophonisbe, the pio-
1. "Un precurseur de Racine," Le Correspondent (April 25, 1870), pp.
2. Un precurseur de Racine: Tristan L'Hermite, sieur du Solier (1601-
1655), sa famille, sa vie, ses oeuvres (Paris: Picard, 1895).
3. Histoire de la literature francaise au XVII" sidcle (Paris: Daumat,
1962), I, 544-48.
4. La dramaturgie classique en France (Paris: Nizet, 1950), passim.
neer in that field. According to several critics, Tristan owes a
genuine debt to the Elizabethan dramatists. In order to as-
certain the value of any or all of these positions, it is necessary
to separate problems which, it seems to us, have been treated
as one entity.
Let us consider, for instance, the introduction by Georges
May to an edition of Polyeucte and Le menteur, in which he
states quite clearly: "It is hardly surprising . that a play
like Polyeucte-labeled in 1660 tragedie chretienne-should
appear to us neither tragic nor Christian."5 A short while
later, he adds: "Polyeucte cannot be considered a tragedy if
we define tragedy in terms of (Edipus-Rex, Othello, or
Phedre. Yet, as a play, Polyeucte does fit the less metaphysi-
cal concept of tragedy prevalent in mid-seventeenth-century
France: a serious five-act play, written in an elevated style
and in alexandrines; with protagonists of noble blood engaged
in a significant action, at least one of whom loses his life by
the time the play ends" (pp. 24-25). These two statements
raise several basic points: Is tragedy basically tragic? Is a
tragedy, in mid-seventeenth-century France, merely what
Mr. May suggests?
In order to answer these two questions, it might be well to
recall, however briefly and sketchily, what the words "tragic"
and "tragedy" meant to the authors of that time. We do not
wish to deny the value of absolute standards, nor do we mean
to imply that great profit cannot be derived from applying to
a creative author criteria which he ignored, but Corneille
called his Cid a "tragi-comedie" in the beginning, changing
it to "tragedie" in 1648; by the same token, Polyeucte, a
"tragedie" in 1643, became a "tragedie chretienne" in 1660;
labels do have a meaning and are valuable only insofar as that
meaning is specific and helps us in identifying the item
labeled. First then, what is a tragedy in mid-seventeenth-
5. (New York: Dell, 1963), p. 24.
century France? May we accept Mr. May's definition?
Hardly: Esther is in three acts, La Serre writes his tragedies
exclusively in prose-and is extremely popular-and in an
often pedestrian language, and no one dies in Berenice.
Aristotle admitted a happy ending in tragedy, but Scaliger
did not, adding to the original "imitatio per actions illustris
fortune" his own "exitu infelici."6 Castelvetro agreed with
the latter in his Poetica d'Aristotele vulgarizzata e sposta. In
1598, in his Art poetique franfais, Pierre de Laudun d'Aiga-
liers put these same ideas into French, and Vossius, half a
century later, altered little in that definition: "Praecipuum ac
essential discrimen est quod in tragcedia sit illustris persona-
rum illustrium actio, terrorem continens ac misericordiam."
Corneille, at the time of the writing of Don Sanche, attacked
such separation of genres, and for good cause: the noble
characters of his play are involved in a very comic situation;
ten years later, he was again in agreement with the aforemen-
Let us now look at the work of the dramatists themselves,
to find to what extent they followed the rules set down by
the critics in three of the basic areas, i.e., in the treatment of
action, of characters, and of passions.9
Aristotle had noted that tragedy was usually based on a
historical subject. Chapelain asserted that "beaucoup de spe-
culatifs en cette doctrine ont estime que la vraisemblance,
qui d'ailleurs fait l'essence de la po6sie dans le particulier du
poeme tragique, ne suffirait pas pour lui bailler fondement et
qu'une tragedie ne se pouvait dire absolument bonne qui n'eit
6. Poeticae septem libri (Bib. Commeliano, 1617), p. 25.
7. De artis poeticae natural . (Amsterdam: Elzevir, 1647), II, 112.
8. Rene Bray, La formation de la doctrine classique en France (Lausanne:
Payot, 1931), p. 308.
9. It is important to note here that, while Aristotle merely wished to help
the public to understand past and present dramatists by explaining the "why"
of their success or of their failure, the European critics of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries thought of themselves as teachers of present and future
dramatists. Aristotle's historical notes became recipes for success.
un e6vnement veritable pour sujet."'0 All seventeenth-
century dramatists seem to have heeded this lesson and, as
Gustave Lanson points out, only Du Ryer's Alcionee and
Rotrou's Venceslas escaped the general trends.1"
Aristotle noted that the best tragedies were not simple, but
rather that they contained sudden changes of fortune. Mod-
ern critics were unable to disagree, for "la tragedie simple, au
sens d'Aristote, sans peripetie ni reconnaissance, est inconnue
au XVIIP siecle."12 They did, however, insist on the unity of
action, and Chapelain, in his Lettre sur les 24 heures, voiced
the general opinion when he stated: "Je nie que le meilleur
poeme dramatique soit celui qui embrasse le plus d'actions,
et dis au contraire qu'il n'en doit contenir qu'une et qu'il
ne la faut encore que de bien mediocre longueur."'3 Racine
made this rule his very own when he stated, in the preface to
Berdnice, that "il n'y a que le vraisemblable qui touche dans
la tragedie; et quelle vraisemblance y a-t-il qu'il arrive en un
jour une multitude de choses qui pourraient a peine arriver
en plusieurs semaines?" But, while Racine, in this respect,
agreed with the critics that preceded him, many of his fellow
dramatists did not, and as he suggested in his preface to
Berenice, "l'(Edipe meme, quoique tout plein de reconnais-
sances, est moins charge de matiere que la plus simple tragedie
de nos jours. ... I y en a qui pensent que cette simplicity
est une marque de peu d'invention. Ils ne songent pas qu'au
contraire toute l'invention consiste a faire quelque chose de
rien." Most of these critics were obscure poetasters, but even
Corneille opposed him on that score, and it was for Corneille
that this passage of the first preface to Britannicus was in-
tended: to satisfy these critics, "I1 ne faudrait que s'ecarter du
10. Alfred C. Hunter (ed.), Jean Chapelain: Opuscules critiques .(Paris:
Droz, 1936), pp. 119-20.
11. Esquisse d'une histoire de la ,tragedie en France (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1921), p. 73.
12. Bray, p. 311.
13. Hunter, p. 120.
natural pour se jeter dans l'extraordinaire. Au lieu d'une
action simple, chargee de peu de matiere, telle que doit etre
une action qui se passe en un seul jour, et qui, s'avanqant par
degres vers sa fin, n'est soutenue que par les interets, les
sentiments et les passions des personnages, il faudrait remplir
cette meme action de quantity d'incidents qui ne se pour-
raient passer qu'en un mois, d'un grand nombre de jeux de
theatre d'autant plus surprenants qu'ils seraient moins vrai-
semblables, d'une infinite de declamations ou Il'on ferait dire
aux acteurs tout le contraire de ce qu'ils devraient dire."
Must we then resign ourselves to see disagreement on this
score among the major dramatists of the century? No, for,
as Saint-Evremond pointed out in the third part of his de-
fense of Corneille, the latter's work marks a stage on the
road to perfect unity of action. Corneille "tenait trop aux
sujets pour les sacrifier aux caracteres."" As time went on,
the public of the seventeenth century shifted its favor from
the former to the latter, and Saint-Evremond, in 1677, said
with nostalgia that "il y a eu des temps ou il falloit choisir de
beaux sujets, et les bien traiter: il ne faut plus aujourd'hui
que des caracteres."1
While there was a tendency to agree on the first point,
there was much dissension on the second, that of characters
or, as La Mesnardiere interpreted the word, "les moeurs."
According to Aristotle, since the very aim of tragedy is to
evoke fear and pity, the hero must be chosen to bring about
this end. He cannot be wholly good or wholly bad. He must
have a flaw and succumb to misfortune because of that flaw,
thus evoking pity without outright indignation. Racine, in
the preface to Iphigenie en Aulide, pointed out that the very
presence of Eriphile was dictated by this thought: "Quelle
apparence que j'eusse souille la scene par le meurtre horrible
14. Bray, p. 314.
15. CEuvres melees (Paris: Techener, 1865), II, 415.
d'une personnel aussi vertueuse et aussi aimable qu'il fallait
representer Iphigenie?" Chapelain, and most French critics
for that matter, accepted this definition of the tragic heroes
don'tt les fins ont ete malheureuses et qui n'etaient ni trop
bons ni trop mechants.""' Others-Vossius, Le Bossu, and La
Mesnardiere in France, Castelvetro among others in Italy-
disagreed, readily visualizing a virtuous hero such as Ulysses
or a truly evil one such as Medea. La Mesnardiere, however,
cautioned against the dangers of such a choice which could
only be "nuisible." Corneille, with Polyeucte, put a saint on
stage, and, with Me6de and Cleopatre, the "second Medea,"
two truly evil characters. As we shall see later, when we take
a closer look at the tragic hero, Corneille's hero is perhaps
furthest removed in his very essence from the Aristotelian
hero. There is, however, one aspect of this problem which
needs to be discussed here: "Mais le heros n'est pas seul dans
la tragedie, il lui faut au moins un antagoniste. Ici nous en-
trons dans la theorie des cas tragiques.""7 Aristotle had vis-
ualized four such situations: the conscious murder of a friend
or of a relative; the recognition-as a friend or relative-of
a person who has just been murdered; a murder prevented
by the recognition; a projected murder of a relative which is
rejected. Aristotle rejected the last entirely as theatrically
bad; he considered the first too odious to be very good; the
second, while better, he felt to be still inferior to the third,
the best of all. Most critics agreed, but again Corneille did
not. He considered the third case the worst of all, preferring
by far the fourth. It is easy to see that this preference found
its application in such masterpieces as Le Cid, Cinna, and
Nicomede. As Gustave Lanson suggests, it is precisely in this
aspect that Corneille is least "Aristotelian," since Aristotle
seemed to prefer recognition scenes while Corneille's heroes
16. Hunter, p. 130.
17. Bray, p. 316.
are always aware of the path that they take and of its
It is in the treatment of passions that the greatest gulf exists
between Greek and French tragedy. Aristotle mentioned
that the passions depicted on stage should evoke terror and
pity. Laudun went still further and insisted on the predomi-
nance of cruelty, and most of the critics at the very begin-
ning of the seventeenth century translated Aristotle's key
word not as terror, but as horror. This is in part explained by
R. C. Knight when he states that "Seneca writes tragedy as v
if he had never heard of the Poetics-as perhaps he had not.
And it is Seneca, because his elegant Latin was so much more
attractive than the difficult Greek of his betters, who shaped
and spoilt the tragedy of the French Renaissance."'9 The
Poetics may have been the livre de chevet of most critics of
the day, but the heritage of the sixteenth century could not
be denied. As of 1639, however, La Mesnardiere pointed out
the fallacy: terror and not horror is a tragic passion. How-
ever, even this toning down was considered too little by the
majority of the mid-century critics and dramatists. Mairet,
in the preface to La Sophonisbe (1635), La Mesnardiere four
years later, d'Aubignac in his Troisieme dissertation (1663),
all suggested that pity must take precedence over fear, and
Racine, in the preface to Be'rnice (1670), settled the matter
when he stated: "Ce n'est point une necessity qu'il y ait du
sang et des morts dans une tragedie: il suffit que l'action en
soit grande, que les acteurs en soient heroiques, que les pas-
sions y soient excites, et que tout s'y ressente de cette tris-
tesse majestueuse qui fait tout le plaisir de la tragedie." But
Racine went further: in the heart of the spectator, pity,
evoked by love, displaced fear. Love thus became the passion,
18. Corneille (Paris: Hachette, 1898), p. 70.
19. "A Minimal Definition of Seventeenth-Century Tragedy," FS 10
and it is in this manner that Racine is furthest removed from
Corneille too deviated from the Greek concept of the pas-
sions of tragedy, but in an even more radical manner, for he
rejected the very idea of pity: in his preface to Nicomede,
he suggested that his play was "extraordinaire" in that in it
"la tendresse et les passions, qui doivent &tre l'me des trag6-
dies, n'ont aucune part en celle-ci; la grandeur de courage y
regne seule, et regarded son malheur d'un ceil si dedaigneux
qu'il n'en saurait arracher une plainte." Corneille readily ad-
mitted that his hero "ne cherche point a faire pitie," and
defended this position: "Dans l'admiration qu'on a pour sa
vertu, je trouve une maniere de purger les passions, don't n'a
point parle Aristote, et qui est peut-etre plus sure que celle
qu'il prescrit a la tragedie par le moyen de la pitie et de la
crainte." And so, as Rene Bray has pointed out, French
tragedy, while seeming to accept Aristotle's precepts, really
reversee l'echelle des cas tragiques" that he had established.
Corneille opted for a "path6tique d'admiration," while Ra-
cine and the rest of the dramatists of the century made love
the prime "ressort."20 As we shall soon see, Tristan's tragic
world rejected the "pathetique d'admiration," and, while
seeming, in many instances, to point to Racine, failed to
abandon the purely pathetic situation for a profound psycho-
logical analysis of love the passion.
In the words of R. C. Knight, "I would propose to see the
common seventeenth-century Tragedy in the first place as a
Form, which is a species of the genus Drama, subject there-
fore to such requirements as vraisemblance and bienseance,
which are laws of Drama, and distinguished from Comedy
still by the four points of Lanson, modified in only one par-
ticular: historique ou legendaire, royale, levee de style, and
if not sanglante of necessity . at least including that Peril
20. Bray, pp. 321-22.
on which Corneille founds his Unity of Action" (p. 305).
This definition fits all dramatists, Corneille as well as Racine,
Tristan as well as La Serre. But it is a limited definition, one
concerned only with forms, with an artificial genre, tragedy.
Unfortunately, there can be no such vast and all-engulfing
definition of "tragic," for while tragedy defines a structure
-and how can a structure or a form be tragic?-"le tragi-
que . est une dimension de l'existence reelle. La tragedie
est de l'ordre de la litterature et du theatre, mais le tragique
est de l'ordre de la vie."21
21. Henri Gouhier, "Tragique et transcendence," in Le theatre tragique,
ed. Jean Jacquot (Paris: CNRS, 1962), p. 479.
1. THE TRAGIC HERO
A MINIMAL DEFINITION
f one attempts a definition of the tragic hero, one finds the
same problem as that presented in the previous chapter:
to the extent that the hero belongs to the form, he is readily
definable-a noble man occupied by noble deeds and coping
with what might be loosely called his destiny-but beyond
that, when he and his audience are on the threshold of
"l'existence r~elle," the archetype disappears. Are we in fact,
at that moment, dealing with a character, with what the
French call a personnage? In Die Geburt der Tragodie,
Nietzsche suggested that "alle Individuen als Individuen ko-
misch und damit untragisch seen: woraus zu entnehmen
ware, dass die Griechen iiberhaupt Individuen auf der tra-
gischen Biihne nicht ertragen konnten. In der Tat scheinen
sie so empfunden zu haben."'
What then is the tragic hero? Again, a brief look at his
Hellenistic ancestor will help us in our search: "Es ist eine
unanfechtbare Oberlieferung, dass die Griechische Trag6die
in ihrer altesten Gestalt nur die Leiden Dionysus zum Ge-
genstand hatte, und dass der lingere Zeit hindurch einzig
vorhandene Biihnenheld eben Dionysus war. Aber mit der
gleichen Sicherheit darf behauptet werden, dass niemals bis
auf Euripides Dionysus aufgehort hat, der tragische Held zu
sein, sondern dass alle die beriihmten Figuren der griechi-
schen Biihne, Prometheus, Odipus usw. nur Masken jenes
urspriinglichen Helden Dionysus sind" ibidd.) With Eurip-
ides, we enter into a new world. Dionysus was replaced,
but not the idea of an ideal. It was due to the fact that the
1. Werke (Miinchen: Hanser, 1954), I, 61.
THE TRAGIC HERO
god hid behind these masks that the characters were able to
assume the Idealitdt that the Greeks so admired. As Euripides
changed the ideal, so did the French of the seventeenth cen-
tury, and within that century, different authors beheld that
ideal each in his own way. These apergus, being basic and
coming from the authors' very psychological nature, vary
from one author to another, but are constant within each
man's work. Corneille and Racine mature, and this is shown
in their life's work; but they basically remain true to them-
selves, and this shows too.
Both Corneille and Racine deal with a world in which the
prime resort is the pursuit of a hidden reality. Whence the
tragic? "En raison du caractere exorbitant de son ambition,
la poursuite du cache s'expose a l'6chec et a la deception."2
Here, a parenthesis is needed, for the key word in our next
point is the French word regard, and the dictionaries are of
little or no help in defining it. Larousse merely suggests
"action ou maniere de regarder" and, for regarder, "jeter la
vue sur." Littre gets us no further, and Mansion gives, as
English equivalents, "look, glance, gaze." But none of these
suffice. The regard goes far beyond the initial contact with
the object under consideration. Faced with Poppaea's veil,
with hidden beauty, with any mystery, it becomes a perse-
verant quest for something that may well escape forever. As
Goethe suggests in the Riimische Elegien, "Sehe mit fiihlen-
dem Aug'," the regard, at the risk of losing its own nature,
wishes to touch, to grasp that which flees. It does not merely
wish to "recueillir des images," but tries desperately to
"6tablir une relation."3 Man seeking the truth beyond the
veil is called to action, but if, by chance or by perseverance
he should glance upon the true nature of things, and should
he understand, he will cease to act: "Die Erkenntnis t6tet das
2. Jean Starobinski, L'oeil vivant (Paris: Gallimard, 1961), p. 16.
3. Ibid., p. 13.
Handeln, zum Handeln gehort das Umschleiertsein durch die
Illusion-das ist die Hamletlehre. . In der Bewusstheit
der einmal geschauten Wahrheit sieht jetzt der Mensch
iiberall nur das Entsetzliche oder Absurde des Seins, jetzt
versteht er das Symbolische im Schicksal der Ophelia, jetzt
erkennt er die Weisheit des Walgottes Silen: es ekelt ihn."4
The dangers involved in regarder have always fascinated
writers all over the world-Orpheus, Narcissus, Oedipus,
Psyche, Medusa, even King David and Bluebeard are known
to all-and the potential of this basic problem did not escape
the best dramatists of seventeenth-century France.
"Chez Corneille, tout commence par l'6blouissement."5
The drama of Le Cid does not really begin until Don Diegue
asks the famous question, "Rodrigue, as-tu du coeur?" In the
very first scene of Melite, Tircis sees a lovely face and forgets
everything else. Dorante, in Le menteur, is ebloui by "le tout
Paris," and in La suite du menteur, by a mere portrait. In La
toison d'or, such a portrait manages to change an entire stage
into a resplendent garden. This is not solely Corneille's con-
cept. As Professor Starobinski has pointed out, it is the
leitmotiv of the Guirlande de Julie, of all the poems on the
theme of the "Belle matineuse," and many others (p. 32).
This eblouissement, it goes without saying, is an all-devouring
and consuming light. To wrench himself free, the Cornelian
hero must regain his cognizant state. By a willful act, he must
not only destroy his momentary blindness, but become
When young Rodrigue is faced with his father's question,
when he is ebloui, there is no hesitation: "Tout autre que
mon pere/ L'eprouverait sur l'heure." Is he at that moment
truly eblouissant? No; rather, he is imbued with a will to be.
He has donned a mask; he has set out to fulfill his own destiny
4. Nietzsche, p. 48.
5. Starobinski, p. 18.
THE TRAGIC HERO
and is condemned to strive to become that which, at that
creative moment, he claims to be.6
We have suggested that, in Corneille's works, both the
comic and the tragic hero are merely appearing; for the tragic
hero, this appearance is neither an image of a pre-existing
fact, nor an out-and-out lie. "Whether kings or less than
kings, Corneille's heroes owe their sense of self to the maison
of which they were born (or, in the case of certain prob-
lematic heroes, to their sense of how those so born should be-
have). . In the greater number of plays, by far, the
Cornelian gendreux is noble and virtuous (Latin: virtus,
manly as well as morally pure) in birth and in station and
thus noble and virtuous in deed. His duty may, as Nadal and
others have stressed, be to himself, but his sense of self is
derived, not forged. . The ethos is essentialistt' rather
than 'existentialist.' "7 Rodrique dons a mask, he plays a role,
but it is an essential role-if such a contradiction in terms
can be forgiven-that is to say that the role he plays is in the
fulfillment of his destiny. He strives to become the mask,
a mask that is nothing more than the realization of his capa-
bilities. As Theophile de Viau puts it, "Tout homme de
courage est maitre de son sort."8 Dorante, on the other hand,
dons a mask that has no connection with his essence. When
his father asks "Etes-vous gentilhomme?" (line 1501), it is
precisely because the son has lied: "Qui se dit gentilhomme,
et ment comme tu fais,/ II ment quand il le dit, et ne le fut
jamais" (lines 1519-20). From the very moment of eblouisse-
6. If Le Cid lacks unity, it is not because of the presence of the Infante,
but because there are three basic eblouissements, each marking the beginning
of a quest. We have already mentioned the first; the second begins when
Rodrigue realizes that he must fill the shoes of the man he has killed; the
third, that of Chimene, is doomed to frustration in spite of the final words
of the king.
7. Robert J. Nelson, Corneille. His Heroes and Their Worlds (Phila-
delphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1963), pp. 20-21.
8. Pyrame et Thisbe, III, 2. It is important to remember that courage and
ceur were synonyms at that time.
ment, the Cornelian hero must, by his deeds, prove that his
boast was not empty. He must become what he has claimed
to be. The essential hero can either succeed (Rodrigue) or
fail due to circumstances beyond his control (Chimene).
The comic anti-hero, who has assumed a non-essential role
and therefore plays with social-relative-values, is doomed
to be ridiculous. Thus, the Cornelian tragic hero knows that
the world's eyes are on him, and he thirsts for this condi-
tion. His sacrifices (be it of his life or of his beloved) are
valid only insofar as they are public, "car le moi n'existe
pleinement que s'il est apparaissant."'
Racine's tragic hero, like Corneille's, feels an eye upon
him. Unlike Corneille's hero, he cannot escape that regard
which fills him with shame and guilt. Corneille permits his
heroes to go beyond the tragic moment; in that author's
words, they want to "ravir d'admiration." Racine like Shake-
speare, sees the true grandeur of tragedy in the fact that it
puts before our eyes the full horror of human suffering, a
horror that brings about terror and pity. Shakespeare and
Racine are not dealing with man as he should be, but as he
is, and, as a result, can go to the very limit of human suffer-
ing. In Corneille, we may see death without suffering. Yet,
what is more pathetic than Lear's "O, let me not be mad, not
mad, sweet heaven!" (I.v) or Be6rnice's "Je vivrai, je suivrai
vos ordres absolus./ Adieu, seigneur, regnez: je ne vous
verrai plus" (1493-94).
While Corneille's theater is full of movement and gestures,
that of Racine is remarkably static. "Les scenes, chez Racine,
sont des entrevues" in which the protagonists exchange
regards. A gesture is physical; a searching look, however full
of physical implications it may be, transcends the corporeal
-and thus the need for physical violence-to search the very
soul of the protagonist. Is it then surprising if the protagonist,
9. Starobinski, p. 72. 10. Ibid., p. 74.
THE TRAGIC HERO
wishing to escape this searching, judging look, breaks the
spell, if only to bring about complete disaster? The eyes,
then, are more than the "miroirs de l'ame" of the precieux;
they are the very doors to the deepest and most rigorous of
soul-searchings. Theramine tells Hippolyte as much in the
first scene of Phedre: "Charges d'un feu secret, vos yeux
s'appesantissent" (134). Two scenes later, Phedre herself
(Enone, la rougeur me couvre le visage:
Je te laisse trop voir mes honteuses douleurs,
Et mes yeux, malgre moi, se remplissent de pleurs.
She will continue to feel judged until the very end, for if the
eyes are the means by which we see, they also make us aware
of the fact that we are seen:
Deja je ne vois plus qu'a travers un nuage
Et le ciel et l'6poux que ma presence outrage;
Et la mort, a mes yeux d6robant la clarte,
Rend au jour, qu'ils souillaient, toute sa puret6.
This is because "le regard n'est point tourney vers des
objets. ... I n'explore pas le monde, interroge a peine la
nature: il ne cherche que le regard des autres . il n'est
preoccupe que d'avoir prise sur quelqu'un, et de savoir si les
yeux qu'il cherche le regardent ou l'ignorent en retour."1' Is
there a more Racinian line than Phedre's "Je le vis, je rougis,
je palis a sa vue" (173)?
From the moment he sees that he is seen, with that vision
the Racinian hero becomes aware of his destiny, for it is
invariably a nefarious vision, a forbidden one: Roxane should
not have seen Bajazet, Phedre should not have seen Hippo-
11. Ibid., p. 77.
lyte. The regard becomes thirst, a thirst that cannot be
quenched. It is then just a matter of time before the frustra-
tion becomes a destructive rage. It is at that moment that the
voyeur becomes executioner; it is then that he feels the bitter-
ness of his sorrow, the depth of his misery. From guilt to rage
-a sadistic rage heightened by the provocative glance of the
victim-and on to a greater guilt, that is the road that all
Racinian heroes must travel.
It would be wrong to consider this "po6tique du regard" a
Racinian monopoly. We will see that Tristan had already
tried in his earliest plays, as did a contemporary of Tristan,
La Serre. In Thomas Morus (1642), the clash between
Thomas More and Henry VIII is set aside early in the play
to make way for a more popular one, the love affair between
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (Artenice): "Vos larmes me
brulent aussi bien que vos regards" (I.iv), admits a king who
can no longer be a good ruler: "Des que l'Amour me banda
les yeux il m'arracha la Couronne" (III.ii). By the same
token, in Du Ryer's Alcionee (1637) the dialogues between
Lydie and Alcion6e are veritable duels in which the would-be
lovers, trying to exchange regards which can only fail to
grasp the hidden vision, vie in cruelty. "Voulez-vous plaire
enfin, a mon ceil offense?" is the question asked by Lydie
(873). When Alcion6e fulfills her apparent wish,
Vous m'aviez commander de vivre, et j'ai v6cu,
Vous m'aviez commander de vaincre, et j'ai vaincu,
Aujourd'hui vos rigueurs ont demanded ma vie,
Mon bras obeissant la donne a votre envie, (1585-88)
she finally sees his innocence in his eyes, "Ses yeux deja tour-
nes vers la mortelle barque" (1559), but it is too late: recog-
nizing in herself her lover's executioner ("j'impose a ma
rigueur le crime de ton bras" ), she can only deter-
mine her own punishment. Unfortunately, Du Ryer's hero-
THE TRAGIC HERO
ine remains romanesque at a moment when, in Racine's hand,
she would have been tragic. Her decision, "Que pour mon
chatiment je t'aime apres ta mort" (1686), is, at best, ludi-
crous in view of the enormity of her fault. Phedre and
Hermione, H6rode and La Fille du Mouphti are of another
As has been stated above, the Racinian regard is a desire to
see all, to grasp all, in one word, to be all. But, in this world
of relative values, that is impossible. As Pascal put it, add
something finite to something finite, and you still haven't
changed it in relation to the infinite. With his desire for the
absolute, the tragic hero faces a world of relative values and
finds that, as a result, "le conflict entire le heros et le monde
est radical et insoluble."12 This is accentuated by the fact
that this world has rules and laws which force us to make
constant choices. We are constantly asked to sacrifice in
order to achieve, but the Racinian hero demande le refus de
tout compromise, de tout choix, parce que pour lui le choix
constitute le mal, le peche par excellence."'3 In this tragic
situation, the hero is confronted with two presence: a world
that lacks values and is omnipresent, and a God, "la seule
valeur authentique, mais qui reste toujours muet.""4 Between
these two stands man in all his Pascalian grandeur and misery,
aware of this value, yet unable to realize it. But, and therein
lies his grandeur, the tragic hero finds greatness precisely at
the moment of doom. As Pascal stated, "quand meme l'uni-
vers l'6craserait, l'homme serait encore plus noble que ce qui
le tue, parce qu'il sait qu'il meurt, et l'avantage que l'univers
a sur lui; l'univers n'en sait rien.""
How does the tragic hero face this problem? There can be
only one valid answer, a systematic and total rejection of the
world and of life. Most of Racine's heroes see this, but they
12. Lucien Goldmann, "Structure de la tragedie racinienne," in Le
thdetre tragique, p. 254.
13. Ibid., p. 255. 14. Ibid., p. 256. 15. Pensee 347.
are loath to do so, and it usually takes five acts for them to
reconcile themselves to the idea. Thus, Phedre, who at the
very beginning declares "Soleil, je te viens voir pour la der-
niere fois" (172), is still in-or rather, has returned to-that
position at the end of the play:
Deja je ne vois plus qu'a travers un nuage
Et le ciel et 1'epoux que ma presence outrage;
Et la mort, a mes yeux d6robant la clarte,
Rend au jour, qu'ils souillaient, toute sa purete.
Even in Berdnice, this separation from the world is not mani-
fest until the end, when Antiochus' "Helas!" coming on the
heels of Berenice's "Pour la derniere fois, adieu, seigneur,"
shows how far above the world (Antiochus) is the tragic
universe (Titus and Ber6nice).
If Racine's drama is one of perdition, if his heroes reject
this world, it is precisely because they have accepted its
values. Many of Tristan's heroes, on the contrary, reject
these values. Their destiny is one which, while imposed on
them, does not triumph over their will. It may crush them,
but even as it does, it cannot break down the walls that these
heroes have built around themselves. Here again, one may
find Pascal's pensee 347 very apt, for at the moment of his
death, the hero knows why he dies, but the executioner does
not, or, as in the case of Camus' L'Etranger, thinks of false
Daniella Dalla Valle, in her monumental thesis on the
theater of Tristan,17 suggests that the poet, rather than the
dramatist, feels the solitude, the inability-or unwillingness
-to communicate which separates him from his world. Thus
16. As Meursault makes clear in the penultimate paragraph of L'Etranger,
he is being executed, not for the murder of an Arab, but "pour n'avoir pas
pleure a l'enterrement de ma mere."
17. Il teatro di Tristan l'Hermite (Torino: Giappichelli, 1964), p. 293.
THE TRAGIC HERO
Tristan, seldom great dramatist but always good poet, pre-
sents heroes unable or unwilling to communicate with one
another, and it is this isolation which is the basis of their
tragic situation. Herode loves Mariane and cannot under-
stand her hatred; he is ready to forgive her for what he be-
lieves is an attempt on his life, but he cannot overlook his
belief in her infidelity, and it is this alleged crime that leads
to her execution. Regicide or adultery-both crimes exist
only in the mind of H6rode, and they exist there because
Mariane has made all communication between them im-
This solitude is everywhere evident in Tristan's work and
is even present in his comedy where it is transformed into a
simple quid pro quo: "E quando degli stessi motivi egli ha
osservato dall'esterno gli effetti comici, trasformando l'inco-
municabilita in quiproquo, la solitudine in fissazione maniaca,
I'ostentazione in smargiassata, e su questi temi ha orchestrate
il suo gioco scenico, dimenticando l'angoscia nel riso, abbiamo
avuto il terzo capolavoro: il Parasite.""' Miss Dalla Valle
further suggests that most of Tristan's characters are baroque
with certain existential tendencies. Such classifications are dif-
ficult not only to establish, but to maintain. There have al-
ways been Hamlets and Fausts, heroes simultaneously ba-
roque, romantic, and existential. The baroque hero, like his
romantic counterpart, is a rebel. He seeks, as does Moliere's
Sosie or Tristan's Ariste, to establish his own identity, to find
out just what human nature is, and to determine his role in
the world that surrounds him. He especially wants to find
his authentic and dynamic moi in a world that is basically
set. When this dynamic moi (the Sartrian pour soi) clashes
with set conformity (the en soi), anguish must result, for the
hero, be he baroque or existential, can no longer reconcile
his ser with the estar of the world. While every hero will
protest, only the romantic will try suicide: not only is the
baroque hero too religious to kill himself, but his awareness
of the absurd is too necessary to allow him the luxury of
One more general point must be discussed here. While
Racine's heroes are always conscious of the importance of
their deeds, those of Tristan, isolated, are not. "Nella tragedia
classic i protagonist hanno coscienza degli ostacoli che in-
contrano sul loro cammino."20 This is what Scherer points
out when he sees, as the basis of the dilemma, an impossible
choice between "deux attitudes egalement legitimes, mais in-
conciliables. . Prenant conscience de cette situation, le
h6ros l'exprimera en un raisonnement qui pese tour a tour
chacune des deux possibilities, montre que la realisation de
chacune d'elles conduit l'inacceptable sacrifice de l'autre et
qu'il est par suite incapable de realiser aucune des deux."21
But if the Racinian heroes succumb to their passions in spite
of their awareness, Herode, Fauste, Panthee, la Fille du
Mouphti see the consequences of their acts only when it is
too late: "In Tristan, invece, il dilemma non esiste: lo scio-
glimento tragico trae, si, le sue origini da un fattore umano,
ma l'eroe si rende conto della propria responsabilita soltanto
quando gli event stanno precipitando (la fille du Mouphti
in Osman) o quando la catastrofe ha gia avuto luogo (Herode
nella Mariane, Fauste nella Mort de Chrispe, Panthee nella
tragedia omonima). Gli eroi di Tristan, cioe, non sono mai
tanto lucidi da concepire l'esistenza di due soluzioni e da
saperne prevedere e soppesare gli sviluppi e le conse-
guenze. . Solo Ariste, il personaggio meditative per eccel-
lenza del teatro di Tristan, di front alla sventura che lo
colpisce, giunge a prendere coscienza di due possibili reazioni
e, conseguentemente, cade nel dubbio; ed e il dubbio esisten-
19. Seneque and Fauste, in committing suicide, only follow royal edicts.
20. Dalla Valle, p. 121.
21. La dramaturgie classique, p. 67.
THE TRAGIC HERO
ziale nella sua forma estrema, il dubbio vita o morte, essere o
non essere (vv. 165-204, pp. 18-19), dubbio che resta irri-
solto e porta alla follia."22
This personal meditation of Ariste "nasce di front ai colpi
del destino (in questo caso 1'inattesa prepotenza del re), che
fanno entire l'uomo inerme ed indifeso."23 This omnipotent
and omnipresent destiny is also noted by Herode: "Ce
qu'ecrit le destin ne peut etre efface" (146). When con-
fronted with this incomprehensible force, the hero of Tristan
will consult nature (Panthee, 341) or God (Folie du sage,
189-92) but invariably, when he fails to get an answer
from either, he will divorce himself from the values of that
absurd world. Andromaque survives in a world in which
her foes succumb to their passions; Mariane, willful architect
of her own destiny, succumbs because of her intransigence,
and proud among foes who feel their inferiority, goes to her
doom, dragging with her those whose values she has re-
22. Dalla Valle, pp. 121-22.
23. Ibid., p. 139.
24. The preceding two paragraphs have been abstracted from an intro-
duction, written by J. W. Schweitzer and myself, to a forthcoming edition
of the theater of Tristan.
2. THE ESSENTIAL STRANGER
W while the main subject of La Mariane is well known, it
might be well to review rapidly those details empha-
sized by Tristan in his version of the tragedy. Herode, having
crushed the power of the Hasmonaean dynasty, solidifies his
position on the throne of Judea by forcing Mariane, a prin-
cess of the Hasmonaean line, to marry him. Although she
bears him several children, Mariane's pride prevents her from
truly loving Herode, while it antagonizes Herode's siblings,
Salome and Pherore. Herode having killed her father and
brother, Mariane's feelings turn to hatred. When she finds
out that Herode, upon leaving for Rhodes, left orders that
she be killed should he die, her rage knows no bounds.
Henceforth she will have nothing more to do with her
husband. A gesture dictated by ferocious jealousy becomes,
in Mariane's eyes, "una prova del non more del marito."'
The murder of Aristobule and the near-murder of Mariane
separate the husband and wife, and every time that Herode
will seek to speak with Mariane, he will be confronted-as
he is in the first scene of the play-by the ghost of the slain
If La Mariane is Tristan's masterpiece, it is so because "il
suo nucleo si colloca pressoche interamente in quella zona di
solitudine e ostentazione, di sofferta incomunicabilita,"2 a sol-
itude sought and enforced by Mariane's essential pride. From
the opening line, we see a Herode alone with his dreams,
Et j'ai trop surement affermi mon Empire
Pour craindre les malheurs que tu me viens predire,
1. Dalla Valle, p. 228.
THE ESSENTIAL STRANGER
yet longing to communicate with someone. Lacy Lockert,
analyzing the play, claims that "Herod and not its titular
heroine is the central character in his Mariamne [sic]. The
entire play is built around him, to exhibit the uncontrolled,
furious, warring passions that possess him and sweep him on
to the judicial murder of the woman who is their object, and
his subsequent paroxysms of remorse."3 While it is quite true
that the role of Herode is by far the most demanding, the
above statement seems to be an oversimplification of a great
poetic situation. Miss Dalla Valle is far more convincing
when she suggests that "Herode esiste poeticamente in
quanto ama e non e amato, dice il suo more e non e creduto,
chiede di essere illuso ed e disilluso. E Mariane esiste poetica-
mente solo in ragione del suo odio inconlpreso e non corri-
sposto, cui Herode offre in cambio un more cui lei non crede
e che lei non vuole. Herode e Mariane sono, quindi, poetica-
mente uniti fin da queste prime apparizioni in cui non
s'incontrano; essi formano un nodo indissolubile e si condizio-
nano a vicenda."4 Herode and Mariane cannot exist one with-
out the other and the tragedy exists primarily because Mari-
ane, failing to realize that Herode is as necessary to her hatred
as she is to his love, rejects all his overtures. Like Corneille's
M6d6e, out of place in Jason's world, she mistakes her moral
superiority for a limitless self-sufficiency which exists only
in her mind, for her hatred is essential to her identity, and it
cannot exist in a vacuum.
Even though Mariane does not appear in person until the
second act, she is omnipresent in the first. Herode, relating
his dream, gives us the first clue:
Je me suis trouve seul dans un bois ecarte,
Oh l'horreur habitat avec l'obscurite,
Lorsqu'une voix plaintive a perce les te6nbres,
3. Studies in French Classical Tragedy (Nashville: Vanderbilt University
Press, 1958), pp. 119-20. 4. Pages 230-31.
Appelant Mariane, avec des tons funebres.
J'ai couru vers le lieu d'ou le bruit s'epandait,
Suivant dans ce transport I'Amour qui me guidait,
Et qui semblait encor m'avoir prete ses ailes,
Pour atteindre plus tot ce miracle des belles:
Mes pas m'ont amene sur le bord d'un etang,
Dont j'ai trouve les eaux toutes rouges de sang;
Il est tombe dessus un eclat de tonnerre;
J'ai senti sous mes pieds un tremblement de terre,
Et dessus ce rivage, environne d'effroi,
Le jeune Aristobule a paru devant moi. (93-106)
Whenever he seeks Mariane, he will find only the specter
of the murdered Hasmonaeans, for she is
Un coeur que je ne puis ranger sous mon pouvoir
En possedant le corps ou je le sens mouvoir. (217-18)
Why, cries he, must it be "Que son ceur soit de glace, et le
mien soit de feu?" (238). To make matters worse, this re-
buffed husband is, to use Mariane's word, a usurper who
cannot but resent his wife's "humeur hautaine" (282). More-
over, this wife who embodies "Tout ce que la nature a fait
pour me tenter" (274) is also the woman without whose
help Herode would have lost "a la fois, et le Sceptre, et le
H6rode only too readily forgives what his siblings cannot
Et puis, il est bien just, a dire verite,
Qu'elle garde entire vous un peu de majesty.
Mille rois glorieux sont ses dignes ancetres,
Et l'on peut la nommer la fille de nos maitres.
As Salome puts it, Mariane "Parle de nous comme de ses
Mariane's opening lines show her utter contempt and
hatred: in her husband, she sees only "un monstre abomina-
THE ESSENTIAL STRANGER
ble,/ Qui du trepas des miens me parait tout sanglant" (348-
50). When Dina, her lady-in-waiting, suggests more re-
straint, she can only think of her glorious birth, and adds,
Si mon corps est captif, mon ame ne l'est pas:
Je laisse la contrainte aux services personnel,
Je sors de trop d'aieux qui portaient des couronnes,
Pour avoir la pensbe, et le front diff6rents,
Et devenir esclave en faveur des tyrans.
Qu'Herode m'importune, ou d'amour, ou de haine,
On me verra toujours vivre et mourir en reine.
Proud vestige of a noble line, forced to live with a "parvenu,"
Mariane faces a loneliness all the more terrible in that she
cannot forget her father and brother:
Soit lors que je repose, ou soit lors que je veille,
Leur plainte a tous moments vient frapper mon oreille;
Ils s'offrent a toute heure a mes yeux eplores,
Je les vois tous sanglants et tous defigures,
Ils me viennent center leurs tristes ventures,
Ils me viennent montrer leurs mortelles blessures,
Et me vont reprochant pour me combler d'ennuis,
Qu'avecque leur bourreau je dors toutes les nuits.
While her tirade (379-428) is less lyrical than Herode's, it
is equally striking, Mariane's rage and despair mounting as
she recalls each detail of Herode's crimes. Her hatred has
been nurtured for some time, yet one can sense it grow dur-
ing the entire tirade, culminating in a paroxysm of fury:
Et puis qu'apres cela je flatte l'inhumain
Qui ne vient que d'6ter la vie a mon germain?
Plut6t le feu me brule, ou l'onde son contraire
Rende mon corps pareil a celui de mon frere.
Dina's suggestion that this happened long ago (429), and
that "On prend beaucoup de soin pour vous en consoler"
(442), even her assertion that the king loves Mariane, is a
waste of time: Mariane neither can nor wants to believe in
a love that invades and infringes upon a solitude so essential
to her position. She will be a stranger at her own trial:
"Crois tout ce que tu dis, et tout ce que tu penses" (980),
Mon esprit que le Sort afflige au dernier point,
Souffre les trahisons, mais il n'en comment point.
She goads her husband:
J'ai mille trahisons, et mille cruautes,
Le meurtre d'un Aieul, I'assassinat d'un Frere,
until, blinded by his ill-controlled rage, he blurts out words
of hatred-a hatred he does not feel, but one which Mariane
can readily understand and which she can believe. And so
it is with ferocious glee that she welcomes his outburst:
Poursuis, poursuis barbare, et sois inexorable,
Tu me rends un devoir qui m'est fort agreable,
Et ta haine obstinee a me priver du jour,
M'oblige beaucoup plus que n'a fait ton amour.
Ici ta passion repond a mon envie,
Tu flattes mon desir en menagant ma vie,
Je dois benir l'excis de ta severite,
Car je vais de la mort a l'immortalit6.
Ma tete bondissant du coup que tu lui donnes,
S'en va dedans le Ciel se charger de couronnes,
Dont les riches brillants n'ont point de pesanteur,
Et que ne peut ravir un lache usurpateur. (855-66)
This is the Herode she understands. When a few moments
THE ESSENTIAL STRANGER
later he corrects himself and speaks of love, when speaking
to Love, he begs,
Fais-lui voir que je l'aime a l'6gal de moi-meme,
Et s'il se peut encore, Amour, fais qu'elle m'aime,
he not only reaches a truly poetic height, but in so doing,
he causes the impenetrable wall of misunderstanding to re-
On connait a ce style, et doux, et decevant,
Comme en l'art de trahir ton esprit est savant;
C'est avec trop de soin m'ouvrir la sepulture:
Pour me perdre il suffit d'une seule imposture.
But it is in her last scenes that Mariane shows herself for
what she is. Her stances (1239-72), a perfect vehicle for
pathos, only emphasize the heroic nature of the victim. No
longer is she the Andromaque who cannot forget that she is
also a mother. Time after time, she convinces herself of the
unyielding nature of her heart:
Un absolu pouvoir rend mon corps prisonnier:
Mais en quelque peril que le malheur m'engage,
J'aurai cet advantage
Que mon coeur pour le moins se rendra le dernier.
Steadfast in the face of death, she resolutely divorces herself
from this world:
Quelque horreur qu'en la mort on puisse reconnaitre
Elle n'a qu'a paraitre,
J'irai la recevoir d'un visage assure.
I1 est temps desormais que le Ciel me spare
D'avecque ce barbare,
Son humeur et la mienne ont trop peu de rapport.
Having done this, she turns her eyes to the next world:
Auteur de l'univers, souveraine puissance,
Qui depuis ma naissance
M'as toujours envoy des matieres de pleurs,
Mon ame se resigne a tes bontes divines,
Au milieu des pines,
Seigneur, fais-moi bientot marcher dessus des fleurs.
Having rejected those around her, she is at peace with her-
self. For the first time, she is truly self-sufficient, and the
pity of the Capitaine des Gardes is de trop: "Cette compas-
sion m'est fort peu necessaire" (1315). Her mother's sorrow
is equally superfluous:
Je voudrais que son coeur put borner sa tristesse,
Et que pour mon sujet elle eut moins de tendresse.
When this mother, afraid for her own life, decides to "eviter
l'orage" (1309) by disowning her daughter who is on her
way to the scaffold,
Achieve tes destins, mechante et malheureuse,
Cette mort pour ton crime est trop peu rigoureuse,
Femme sans piete, nouvelle Danaide,
Inhumaine, traitresse, assassine perfide,
Je ne te connais point, tu ne viens pas de moi.
Mariane, understanding, and without anger, simply replies:
"Vous vivrez innocent, et je mourrai coupable" (1392).
The divorce is complete. Perfect stranger, she no longer
needs anyone or anything, not even Meursault's desired "cris
THE ESSENTIAL STRANGER
Not until the creation of Osman, his last tragedy, will
Tristan return to the examination of the truly essential
stranger. According to history, Osman becomes sultan in
1618, when not yet fourteen years old. In spite of his youth,
he is a fairly good ruler; victories over Poland and Venice
consecrate his glory. Nevertheless, it is a short reign. In 1621,
he has his brother strangled. A brutal winter causes a famine.
Osman's severity vis-a-vis his janissaries, his constant wars,
his attempts to levy an army in Asia, all these factors add to
the general discontent. When he makes public his desire to
go to Mecca, the janissaries fear that this departure is merely
a ruse that might allow Osman to join his Egyptian troops,
thus ending the janissaries' control of military affairs. They
rebel and Osman, trying to escape, is captured and thrown in
jail where, in spite of his tears, he is strangled. Tristan fol-
lows history fairly closely, changing only the circumstances
surrounding Osman's death and enhancing the role of the
daughter of the mufti: Tristan's hero is not strangled, but
dies gloriously before the gates of his palace, and the rebel-
lion is due in large part to the scorned woman.
Osman, more than any other play by Tristan, is the tragedy
of man "solo e impotente di front al destiny, solo e infelice
di front agli uomini."5 It has been noted that Osman's sister
"is allowed to drop out of the play after having taken a
somewhat important part at its opening; and we are not even
told what is her fate!"6 The same critic remarks that she
"lacks personality." This is all very true, but not necessarily
a weakness of the play. At no time does she commit herself
to action; at no time does she affect the outcome of the plot.
She is not a participant. In fact, she has no name, being re-
ferred to as "la Sultane Soeur." In the tragic world of Tristan,
the gods are called upon, but they seldom answer. Fate is the
5. Dalla Valle, p. 263.
6. Lockert, p. 116.
ruler, and a fickle one: "O Fortune inconstante et de qui les
caprices" (333) are the words of Osman's sister, and he will
echo them in the last act: "O Fortune! Nimphe inconstante"
(1236). The gods, then, do not answer, but they do grant
one small favor to a chosen few, a terrible favor which only
enhances their misery: a vision of the future. The Sultane
Soeur, with her vision of things to come, is alone and im-
potent "di front al destino." Sole believer in the content of
her dreams, she is alone and unhappy "di front agli uomini."
In her we have-in embryonic form, to be sure-the two
main themes of the play. Once they have been embodied in
Osman and the Fille du Mouphti, our Ottoman Cassandra is
no longer necessary and disappears.
Like Mariane, Osman is a stranger in his own land. Truly
"genereux," he is surrounded by "des animaux abrutis"
(123). Expecting to find brothers in battle, he finds "un
Eunuque au lieu d'un Janissaire" (118). Instead of valor, he
finds intrigue. Even in love he is deceived: having fallen in
love with a portrait of the Fille du Mouphti, he sees her only
to find that the portrait had deceived him: "En ce pinceau
trompeur j'eus trop de confiance" (430). Ironically, Osman
who will succumb because of his pride, objects to the equally
proud Fille du Mouphti because "elle a plus d'orgueil vingt
fois que de beauty" (435). One might then say that he is
alone before men, but a close reading of the play shows that
this is not so. Like Mariane he soon realizes that he has
nothing in common with those who surround him. At first
he decides to go to Egypt where there are still men who can
fight as he does (141-48). When this avenue is cut off, he
is alone, face to face with his destiny.
From the start the young sultan is aware of his station:
Ne porterais-je enfin le titre d'Empereur,
Que pour etre conduit par la commune erreur?
THE ESSENTIAL STRANGER
He knows how to use this power-"Il sait que ma colere
est assez redoutable" (222)-and has full confidence in the
Dis lui qu'il m'est aise de calmer la tempete
Qui bruit pres du Serail et gronde sur sa tete,
Et que le seul peril don't il est menace,
Est a n'achever pas ce qu'il a commence.
Il n'a qu'a satisfaire a mon ardente envie,
Pour assurer par la mon bonheur et sa vie. (305-10)
He also knows that he is alone. He had plans to go to Egypt
with "le plus beau des Tresors/ Que jamais la nature ait
produit sur ces bords" (175-76), but when the Fille du
Mouphti fails to meet his expectations, he will go alone: "Je
prendrai seul le soin de conserver ma Gloire" (929), and
when he leaves, it will be in broad daylight, like a sultan
(969-87). This loneliness is accentuated by the fact that,
although his bravery is essential and hereditary--'Thonneur
de nos aieux/ Dont la grandeur encore eclate dans nos yeux"
(986-87)-his sister does not share it, showing, as she does, a
weakness "indigne de ta race" (1021). This loneliness, how-
ever, is maintained by the sheer will of a man who refuses
the many human contacts offered. The Fille du Mouphti is
rejected. Like Herode before her, she embodies "la passion
amorosa infelice e non corrisposta."7 Like him, she will un-
leash the forces which will doom the person she loves. These
forces, in the persons of the rebellious soldiers, seek only
"un moment d'audience" (1118), but Osman, from the start,
has doomed this attempt to failure:
Qui vous fait assembler pour me donner conseil?
L'ombre est-elle en etat d'eclairer le Soleil? (1076-77)
His set of values never changes. When the scorned Fille
du Mouphti challenges him:
7. Dalla Valle, p. 264.
Tu vois quel est le sort que t'a fait ton caprice,
Que me peux-tu repondre en ce funeste jour?
his answer shows no regret: "Que je trouve mes maux plus
doux que ton amour" (1329-31). Willful to the end, he finds
himself in a position not unlike that of Polyeucte in Act IV,
scene 3, of Corneille's play: the passionate declaration of the
jilted girl weakens his resolve, but cannot destroy his vertuu":
C'est assez, c'est assez, n'en dis pas davantage!
Un si tendre propos amollit mon courage.
J'ai besoin qu'il soit ferme en 1'6tat o' je suis,
Et ces traits de ton zele augmentent mes ennuis.
His death assured-and accepted (1389)-he eixts like sul-
tan: his honor intact and his isolation complete.
3. THE EXISTENTIAL
M ariane and Osman, by their very origin, were strangers
in the worlds that surrounded them. Both were, in the
tradition of the century, young and attractive, noble and
bold. "Le heros classique est jeune; il est beau, cela va sans
dire . [et il] doit briller par son courage et par sa no-
blesse." As Phedre describes the Thisbe of yesteryear, who
is "Charmant, jeune, trainant tous les coeurs apres soi," so
are Mariane and Osman. So is Chrispe, Fauste's "Idole
charmante," but he, like Seneque and Epicaris, becomes a
S6neque, having educated Neron and taught him "des
Rois le glorieux metier" (179), finds that although "Le
Soleil n'a point fait trois fois un lustre entier" (180), he is
now lost in an unjust and irrational world from which he
seeks only to escape. At first, he seeks only to be left alone:
Laisse a ton serviteur plus de tranquillity,
Permets qu'ayant servi sous un si digne Maitre,
J'aille me delasser en un sejour champetre,
Oh, bien loin du murmure et de l'empressement,
Je puisse entretenir mes livres doucement. (192-200)
When this fails, when Neron's blind passions no longer
make this dream possible, when he realizes that
On ne trouve ici bas que les lois tyranniques,
D'ou naissent des effects tragiques,
Et les Monstres y sont au dessus des Heros;
1. Scherer, p. 21.
La Vertu sous le joug y demeure asservie:
L'Orgueil, 1'Ambition, F'Avarice et 1'Envie
Nous y troublent a tous propos, (1435-40)
then Seneque turns to the "Principe de tout etre," for only
"la-haut, dans Fl'tat d'une meilleure vie/ On goite un 6ternel
repos" (1441-42). Mariane saw in death little more than a
release. Se6nque sees more: to die is to be reborn:
Voici ce que je t'offre, 6 Dieu liberateur.
Dieu, don't le nouveau bruit a mon ame ravie,
Dieu, qui n'es rien qu'amour, esprit, lumiere et vie,
Dieu de I'homme de Tharse, ou je mets mon espoir:
Mon ame vient de toi, veuille la recevoir. (1433-37)
Mariane isolated herself from a world that was not hers and
died to escape its values. Seneque isolates himself from a
world that is no longer his and in death finds the values that
he has always held dear. La Serre, in his tragedy, Thomas
Morus (1642), had presented a hero who, like Se6nque,
could no longer reconcile the voice of his conscience with
the deeds of his king. When the King does "ce qui m'a plu,"
Thomas does "ce qui 6tait just" (V.viii), and goes to his
death because, as he stated at the beginning of the play, "les
maximes de ma conscience me seront toujours plus con-
siderables que cells de l'Etat" (Ii). Thomas More, a tragic
hero, remains true to his values, goes nobly to a tragic
death. This is not quite the case of Seneque. In fact, Se6nque
is the only character in the play whose destiny is not tragic:
"la sua morte, infatti, non e catastrofe, ma liberazione,
adempimento di un desiderio a lungo represso."2
La mort de Seneque has eleven characters, all fairly im-
portant, none thoroughly described. It represents a world
which gains some of its originality because of the "c6toiement
de personnages si different de naissance et de caractere": on
2. Dalla Valle, p. 249.
THE EXISTENTIAL STRANGER
the one hand, Neron and Sabine; on the other, the coura-
geous Se6nque and Epicaris; between these extremes "evo-
luent ces personnages simplement a la measure de l'homme:
les conjures Pison, Rufus, Sevinus et Lucain, tour a tour
faibles et courageux."3
"Teatro di situazione,"4 the play allows the characters to
reveal themselves by their deeds. The world that these deeds
reveal is one where, in fact, words are all too often mean-
ingless. Neron points this out very early in the play when
he plots the demise of his former teacher:
Mais pour le perdre mieux il faut le caresser.
II faut lui tendre un piege avec tant d'artifice
Qu'on lui puisse imputer notre propre malice;
D'un filet si subtil il faut l'envelopper
Qu'il s'y perde lui-meme en pensant echapper,
Et que les gens de bien, de9us par l'apparence,
En le voyant perir, blament son imprudence.
While Mariane simply shuts out Herode, we are here con-
fronted with a world in which some people make any com-
munication impossible. Just as Se6nque finds himself en-
meshed in Neron's artifice and malice, so does Epicaris find
the other rebels unequal to their word. She once loved
Neron: "Je t'aimais autrefois" (1731), but that was before
he became a "Monstre abime dans le crime" (1743). When
Epicaris sees that Neron's vices have taken over, she begins
to hate him. Her one passion, henceforth, is an all-consuming
love of liberty, a love that erases all other considerations and
thus isolates her from her more human co-conspirators. If
Lucain is a traitor to the cause, "Ce trait fait assez voir qu'il
n'eut jamais mon cceur" (1698).
3. Carriat, "Le theatre de Tristan L'Hermite," Le Travailleur de la
Creuse (September 4, 1947).
4. Dalla Valle, p. 252.
Nor does Neron escape this curse of loneliness. Guided
and goaded by his wife, he soon finds out that, like Camus'
Caligula, he is alone. He too could say "Je n'ai pas pris la
voie qu'il fallait, je n'aboutis a rien. Ma liberty n'est pas la
bonne," as Caligula puts it in his last scene. Instead, he blames
Sabine and chases her:
Eloigne-toi d'ici, fuis promptement, Sabine,
De peur que ma col&re 6clate a ta ruine.
0 Ciel! qui me veux mal et que je veux braver,
Des pieges que tu tends on ne se peut sauver:
Tu prepares pour moi quelque eclat de tonnerre,
Mais avant, je perdrai la moitie de la Terre.
And so the play ends with Neron alone on stage, alone with
his crime and his ill-concealed remorse, "solo di front al
destiny e di front a se stesso,"5 alone, but, as the last line of
the play indicates, undaunted.
Seneque is more fortunate than N6ron in that respect, for
in death he not only finds peace, but also true love. Until
he learns of Neron's order for his death, Se6nque has thought
only of his own peace, reputation, and glory. Now, his
thoughts turn to his faithful wife Pauline:
Il te souviendra bien qu'avec assez d'estime
J'ai vecu pres de toi sans reproche et sans crime;
I1 te souviendra bien de ma constant foi,
Et que pret a partir je n'eus regret qu'a toi.
This mild and reticent tirade brings a quick rejoinder from
Moi, je m'en souviendrai? Je veux qu'on se souvienne
Qu'il ne fut point d'amour comparable a la mienne:
5. Ibid., p. 251.
THE EXISTENTIAL STRANGER
En vous suivant partout je veux montrer a tous,
Si vous viviez en moi, que je vivais en vous. (1563-66)
The mutual declarations of love and devotion become more
and more exalted until the scene reaches a poetic intensity
seldom found in the seventeenth century. Together, they
die praising their new-found God, this "Dieu qui n'es rien
qu'amour, esprit, lumiere et vie" (1835). Neron, hearing of
this death, fully realizes the depth of his loneliness. He can
only shrug off Sabine's "Qu'as-tu donc?" (1845) and, alone,
face the furies already invading his mind:
Une Erinne infernale a mes yeux se present;
Un Fantome sanglant me press et m'epouvante.
Ne vois-je pas venir des bourreaux inhumains
Qui tiennent des serpents et des fouets en leurs mains?
S6neque is never more sure of himself than he is at the mo-
ment of his death. Epicaris, "la populaciere esclave" whose
"basse origine n'ote rien a l'heroine ge6nreuse qu'elle de-
meure,"6 is equally sure of herself. Like Rotrou's Syra, she
is only sorry that she has failed. Syra points this out with
pride; she had only one plan:
Je veux purger Pl'tat de l'objet de ma haine,
Et tends a me venger plus qu'a ma surete.
When it fails, she offers no apology:
J'ai jure de p6rir ou voir regner mon fils,
Et si la liberty m'etait encore offerte,
J'en emploirais pour lui tout l'usage a ta perte.
Epicaris is equally brave: "Je ne trahirai point des coeurs si
6. Carriat, "Le theatre de Tristan L'Hermite" (September 15, 1947)
7. Cosroes, III.i; V.ii.
g6nereux" (1705), she replies to a menacing Neron whose
threats are in vain, for she is sure of herself: "Mais je mourrai
cent fois avant que je les nomme" (1712). The lonely tyrant
lacks even this comfort; his enemies are dead or doomed, yet
he alone is unsure of even his own frame of mind:
Je ne sais ce que j'ai.
Tous mes sens sont troubles, et mon ame inquiete
Ne peut plus se remettre en sa premiere assiette:
Je brfile de colere et frissonne d'effroi;
Je forcene, j'enrage, et je ne sais pourquoi. (1845-49)
With La mort de Chrispe (1644), Tristan will return to
the idea so well put forth in La Mariane, of a tragedy cen-
tered around two characters who do not understand each
other. Fauste, the wife of Constantin, loves her stepson
Chrispe who, in turn, loves-and is loved by-Constance.
The jealous Fauste decides to rid herself of her rival by
sending her a pair of poisoned gloves, a plan that backfires
when Chrispe smells the gloves and shares Constance's fate.
Constantin, upon learning the truth, orders Fauste's death.
Creator of an isolation that takes shape under our very
eyes, Chrispe is not to be compared to Mariane. She was a
total stranger from the beginning. He becomes a stranger,
and even then only insofar as the tragic situation is con-
cerned. Mariane needed H6rode as much as Herode needed
her, but if Fauste needs Chrispe, the young prince, sur-
rounded by friends and with a love of his own, does not
need Fauste. He is not a total stranger, he simply will not
allow Fauste to enter into his world. All her attempts to
speak of her love will be rejected by a hero "che non pu6,
non sa, non vuole capire."8
Fauste loves Chrispe, yet cannot fail to see the evil of such
8. Dalla Valle, p. 257.
THE EXISTENTIAL STRANGER
Le Devoir et l'Amour avec trop de rigueur,
S'appliquent a la fois a dechirer mon coeur:
Je fr6mis tout ensemble et brfile pour ce crime,
La raison me gourmande et mon Amour m'opprime.
Making a supreme effort, Fauste "renonce par force a tant
d'aimables charmes" (57) and decides to keep her love
silent, even though such a "resolution me comble de dou-
leurs" (59). But when she finds herself face to face with
Chrispe, all these plans are forgotten. Like Phedre, she tries
to disguise her declaration of love, praising his valor and
Vous voyant si bien faith, et si vaillant encore,
La Thrace vous a pris pour le Dieu qu'elle adore,
Elle s'en va vous mettre au dessus des Autels,
Et placer votre Image entire les Immortels. (85-88)
Chrispe, not understanding her motives, returns the favor
by suggesting that
tout l'honneur de cet heureux destin
Se doit attribuer au Sage Constantin, (91-92)
supposing that praise of the husband will please the wife. A
second attempt only complicates the situation: when Fauste
asks Chrispe to tell her of his victory, he speaks only of the
valor of Licine, the vanquished foe. It is Fauste's turn to be
puzzled: "Quoi? pour nos Ennemis avoir tant de clemence?"
(177). Chrispe soon enlightens her: he loves Constance,
Licine's daughter, who will soon arrive to plead the un-
fortunate family's case before Fauste. Thus, in spite of a
brief peripetie, the situation remains unchanged: Chrispe
still does not understand the situation. In fact, with her new
knowledge, Fauste is in even deeper agony. In vain does she
Comment? a vous entendre on dirait qu'aujourd'hui
Chrispe n'aurait plus rien a demander pour lui.
Chrispe does not grasp the meaning of her subtle words.
When she replies to his flattery by the doubly ironic line,
"Vous voulez me seduire avec vos vanites" (283), his answer
betrays only bumbling optimism, and the act ends in the same
vein: Fauste's last attempt,
Je ferai tout pour vous, et rien pour l'amour d'eux,
Mon esprit n'agira que par votre priere,
brings about a rejoinder caricaa di sinistri presagi":'
Et bien, je prends sur moi la dette toute entire.
As of that moment, the die is cast. By his obstinacy, his op-
timism, and because of his love-a love that excludes Fauste
from the world of the two young lovers-Chrispe will not
know of the terrible struggle going on in Fauste's heart and
mind. He will, in effect, remain a stranger to the tragic
events that engulf his world, so much so that even his death
is little more than a horrible mistake. As Dalla Valle has so
well pointed out, Fauste needs Chrispe, and her best lines are
due to his presence. But Chrispe, in love with Constance,
needs his stepmother only as a protector of the woman he
loves. "La poesia di Chrispe si manifesta piuttosto di front
a Constance."o' Alone with Constance, Chrispe sings of a
future happiness while Fauste, locked out, thinks only of
destroying a rival that has "choque ma gloire et mon amour"
Only one play, Panthee, defies our classification, and in
so doing only strengthens our belief in the fact that the
9. Dalla Valle, p. 259. 10. Dalla Valle, p. 261.
THE EXISTENTIAL STRANGER
psychological concepts described until now are basic to the
theater of Tristan. Panthee is a stranger at the court of Cirus,
but this is due neither to her birth nor to her acts: passive
victim of war, she finds herself prisoner at the court of a
monarch who does not understand her, entrusted to the care
of a favorite who understands her even less. Thus, she is
isolated in a world of hope and of illusion until reunited
with her husband. In this play, therefore, we cannot speak
of willful strangers, but rather of an a priori situation that
forces certain characters to isolate themselves and thus to
shut out others.
In the letter to Henry de Lorraine that precedes the play,
Tristan mentions his struggle to regain "de la force et de
la sante," and in the avertissement he describes himself as
"languissant" in the throes of the illness that plagued him all
his life. The sonnet "A Jesus-Christ, dans une maladie,"
which follows the play, depicts not only a man who is ill,
but one whose physical ailments have definitely affected his
morale. The play was a failure in every respect, and Tristan
blames his illness, the "peu de matiere" of the subject, and
the death of Montdory, the famous actor for whose talents
the play had been destined but who had been felled by a
stroke during a performance of Mariane and was thus unable
to create the role of Araspe. Tristan's illness may have been
a legitimate excuse. The other two are not."
According to Xenophon's Cyropaedia, Cyrus crushes the
armies of the king of Assyria and takes many prisoners.
Among them is the beautiful Panthea, wife of Abradates.
Cyrus entrusts her to his friend Araspes who is confident that
he will never become her slave since, according to him, love
can always be ruled by the will. But, in spite of his will, he
11. There is no need here to comment on the many critiques of the play,
from d'Aubignac's "Jugement de la tragedie intitulee Penthee, ecrit sur le
champ" to those of today; both Bernardin and Dalla Valle have done so satis-
succumbs and declares his love to Panthea who rejects him
disdainfully and, when he threatens, complains to Cyrus.
Like a true Solomon-though a somewhat ironic one-Cyrus
settles the matter. Araspes feigns to flee from Cyrus' camp
and the affair is never brought up again. Thus ends the first
episode. In the second, Panthea assumes a far more tragic
and touching role, a perfect model of conjugal fidelity.
Grateful, and believing that she is to blame for Araspes'
departure, a true loss to Cyrus, she decides to repay her
benefactor by convincing her husband to change sides. In
the very first battle, Abradates is killed and Panthea, faith-
ful to the end, stabs herself and dies on the body of her
Tristan is not dealing here with one meager subject, but
with several subjects. Combining two episodes into one is
not always easy, and it becomes impossible when the hero
of one (Araspe) is nearly absent from the other. All the
critics are in agreement: the weakest parts of the play are
the fourth act and the denouement. How then could Mont-
dory have saved the play as Araspe when, in that role, he
would have spoken only four lines in Act IV, and twenty-
four in the last two scenes of Act V? The subject is, in
fact, to blame for the failure of the play, even if it is not
sterile in every respect. As Bernardin has noted,12 we are,
from the very beginning, confronted with an untheatrical
situation. There are three main characters, each one with
his own theme, each one on a plane that will not permit
him to become truly involved with the problems of his
Cirus' theme is that of honor and glory. He considers him-
self "uno strumento della volonta divina su questa terra,""'
and the entire first scene of the play is devoted to the pres-
12. Page 386.
13. Dalla Valle, p. 127.
THE EXISTENTIAL STRANGER
entation of that theme. This attitude is put to its first test
when the king faces Panthee in the second scene, but the
king leaves no doubt in our minds:
Cirus ayant su vaincre emportera la gloire
D'avoir su noblement user de la victoire,
En vous rendant I'honneur et la civility
Que veulent votre sexe et votre quality. (127-30)
Cirus, in all of his actions, will be governed by the role that
he expounds when he claims that a king must
Gouverner son esprit ainsi que ses sujets,
Et melant la justice a des bontes extremes,
En commandant autrui, se commander soi-meme.
When Araspe opens his heart to Panthee, and when the
queen complains to Cirus, the latter views these events
only insofar as they shake his beliefs:
Ma reputation se tache par ce crime,
On en voit tout a coup decroitre mon estime,
Et de quelque fagon qu'Araspe soit puni,
L'6clat de ma grandeur en demeure terni. (883-86)
He is ready to punish the "insolent" when Panthee saves
Sa faute est excusable, il faut que je le die,
Apres une cruelle et longue maladie
Sa raison l'a quitter, son sens est affaibli,
Vous mettrez s'il vous plait cette faute en oubli:
Je vous en veux prier. (1009-13)
With these words Panthee removes not only her demand for
Araspe's punishment, but also any blemish on Cirus' honor:
if Araspe's action was "excusable," it could not involve the
honor of his king. Abradate's friendship is accepted by Cirus,
not in the spirit that it is meant, but because
Les amis tels que vous apportent plus de gloire,
Et plus d'utilit6 qu'une grande victoire. (1267-68)
Yet it is this friendship that will be the weakness in Cirus'
armor, for it is Abradate's death that shakes the faith that
Cirus had in his attitude. Telling Panthee that
Nous devions mettre ensemble, apres ces grands combats,
Les murs de Babylone et ceux de Sardes bas, (1487-88)
he praises the dead hero only to reassure himself:
Ton merite toujours vivra dans ma memoire,
Et mille monuments eleves a ta gloire
Se couvriront de marbre afin de faire foi
Que j'eus beaucoup d'estime et d'amitie pour toi.
Cirus leaves the sorrowful widow to pursue the enemy
while, within a matter of minutes, Panthee and Araspe kill
themselves. We do not know how this news will affect
Cirus, for the play ends on precisely that question:
Quel desastre! 6 Cirus, comment l'apprendras-tu
Sans que ce rude coup ebranle ta vertu?
These closing words of Hidaspe, suggesting that Cirus can-
not fail to be "6branle" in this world where nothing is con-
stant, find an echo in the motto that Tristan added after
"Fin": "Nil Solidum."
Panthee, prisoner of Cirus, a queen enslaved, is surprised
by the good treatment that she receives. This very surprise
shows that Panthee, given over to her love for Abradate,
understands neither Cirus nor his motives. Feeling indebted
to her generous captor, she can think of only one way to
THE EXISTENTIAL STRANGER
repay him: assure him the services of her husband. D'Au-
bignac, in his critique of the play, thinks of Panth6e as a
woman motivated by chastity. Such cannot be the case, for
it explains neither her desire to repay Cirus nor her clemency
in saving Araspe. Rather, as Dalla Valle sees it, "per tutta
la tragedia, Panth6e non vibra che su questa sola corda":
her love for her husband."4 It is because of this love that
she rejects Araspe, because of it that she feels indebted to
Cirus who will reunite the lovers, because of it that, in her
gratitude, she wishes to permit Cirus to forgive Araspe; and
it is because of this love that she kills herself on the body of
Throughout the first act Panth6e speaks of her love and
gratitude to friends who can only echo or to protagonists
who, too involved in their own ideas, cannot truly com-
municate. Completely undramatic, this first act reveals Pan-
th6e as it did Cirus: a character so oblivious to problems
that are not hers that she is unaware of the absence of true
dialogue. Only in the second act does Panth&e come face to
face with a situation that has dramatic possibilities. Speaking
of her love to one of her maids of honor,
O Dieux! si tu savais ce que c'est que d'aimer,
Quand d'un feu legitime on se sent enflammer,
she also tells her of her fears. In a passage in which joy and
fear alternate, she utters some of the most lyrical lines of
Le Soleil poursuivant la nuit aux voiles sombres,
A coups de traits dores avait chasse les ombres,
Et les petits oiseaux que reveille I'amour
C6Clbraient en chantant la naissance du jour,
Lorsque ce songe affreux don't l'horreur m'epouvante
14. Dalla Valle, p. 127.
M'a fait voir d'Abradate une image vivante.
De ses vaines couleurs il me l'a si bien peint,
Que j'ai cru voir sa taille et ses yeux et son teint,
Le vrai ton de sa voix a frappe mon oreille,
Son visage etait gai, sa bouche etait vermeille,
Du bien de me revoir il rendait grace aux Dieux,
Et son contentement se lisait dans ses yeux.
Mais comme je goutais cette douceur extreme,
Je l'ai vu tout a coup triste, sanglant et bleme. (465-78)
Her husband tells of his death in battle, ending his tale of
horror with the admonition, "Fais que toujours au moins je
vive en ta memoire" (490). It is with these thoughts that
she stumbles upon Araspe who, in an overly long and pre-
cieux tirade, bares his love for her. The scene could be as
dramatic as the one in which Phedre confesses her love to
Hippolyte, but it fails, for the two protagonists never really
communicate. Panthee's anger is prompted mainly by the
fact that Araspe has not respected her "chastes amours"
(636), and the latter does not truly understand-does he
even hear?-her reproach. His answer shows plainly how
wrong he is in his interpretation of Panthee's "A moi?
Je sais que pour atteindre au bonheur o' j'aspire,
II faut tenir au moins les renes d'un Empire:
Mais le defaut d'un sceptre est un empechement,
Que ma fiddle amour pourrait vaincre aisement.
Cirus comme il lui plait eleve les personnel,
II dispense a son gre les fers et les couronnes.
Et de tant de faveur il daigne m'honorer
Que d'un Maitre si grand je puis tout esperer.
Panthee's understanding is no greater: she only sees in him
a man who offended her in her misfortune:
THE EXISTENTIAL STRANGER
Il n'a pas redoute que sa faveur cessat.
Ni qu'il fuit maltrait6, pourvu qu'il m'offensat.
N'a-t-il pas entrepris, l'insolent et le traitre,
D'aggraver mes malheurs en depit de son maitre?
Only when Charis, her maid of honor, points out that Pan-
thee should squelch the affair for the sake of her own repu-
tation, only when she points out that
On ne peut le punir qu'a votre prejudice:
Faut-il que le bruit coure en la bouche de tous
Les plus sages du temps jamais ne se hasardent
A donner de l'6clat aux bruits qui les regardent,
does Panth6e relent and decide to save Araspe from the
wrath of Cirus.
Reunited with her husband, Panthbe does not lapse into
lyrics praising her love for him. Rather, having calmed his
jealous fears, she prepares him to meet his new master and
thus fulfill her covenant. It is thus that she presents him to
Seigneur, de vos bienfaits voici le digne fruit,
Voila cette Ranqon que je vous ai promise,
Quand vos heureux succes m'ont o6t la franchise;
Vous m'avez bien trait6e, et pour m'en revancher
Je vous offre un tresor que j'estime bien cher. (1246-50)
With the death of her beloved, Panth6e sees her whole
world crumble. For her, this is truly "la tragedia dell'illu-
sione e della delusione.""'
Many critics have blamed Tristan for the "baroque" ex-
15. Dalla Valle, p. 240.
tremes of Panth6e's lamentations. In these, however, we see
only the culmination of her entire poetic being:
O charmante merveille! 6 funeste prodige!
C'est tout ce que j'adore, et tout ce qui m'afflige,
C'est mon cher Abradate, et si ce ne I'est pas.
Blaming the Gods into whose care she had entrusted her
husband, she gives in to her sorrow. Rejecting Cirus' offer
of help, she sends everyone away, so as to be left alone with
her dead husband, lamenting her fate and restating her love:
Ton visage change n'a point change mon ame,
Tu n'es plus rien que glace et je suis toute en flamme:
Mon coeur est tout ouvert des coups qui t'ont bless,
Bien que tu sois parti, je ne t'ai point laisse;
Mon esprit suit toujours ton ombre qui s'envole,
Et ma bouche mourante a la tienne se colle. (1593-98)
Blaming herself, she kills herself, but not before she has
reaffirmed the constancy of her love in a world whose motto
remains "Nil Solidum."
4. THE EXCLUS: HERODE
AND LA FILLE DU MOUPHTI
Tivie excuses all the past crimes of Auguste the man as well
as all the future crimes of Auguste the emperor with
Tous ces crimes d'Etat qu'on fait pour la couronne,
Le Ciel nous en about alors qu'il nous la donne,
Et dans le sacred rang ou sa faveur l'a mis,
Le passe devient just et l'avenir permis.'
Ancient thrones had always been readily accessible to those
with the courage to seize them, and Herod was little more
than "a colossal parvenu."2 Hardy, in creating the prototype
of such a man, put Livie's thoughts in the mouth of one of
H6rode's enemies: "Les appas d'un royaume autorisent le
crime,"3 and Du Ryer put it even more bluntly: "Les
Sceptres sont a ceux qui peuvent les ravir."4 Auguste in
Corneille's Cinna, Phocas in his Heraclius, Arsace in Cam-
pistron's Tiridate, all show that when Herode boasts of
having risen by his own strength to his position, he is not
an isolated phenomenon.
Tristan's Herode has committed just as many crimes as
Hardy's, but is far less monstrous, thanks particularly to the
care taken by the author to explain the nature and motiva-
tion of the crimes involved. Mariane, speaking of her young
brother, Aristobule, describes his physical and spiritual assets,
adding that such graces could only have come from Heaven
1. Corneille, Cinna, 11. 1609-12.
2. Maurice Baudin, The Profession of King in Seventeenth-Century
French Drama (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1941), p. 38.
3. Mariamne, II.i.
4. Dynamis, I.i.
"Pour reliever l'honneur des braves Machabbes" (412). This
view is obviously shared by the people:
Le people que sa vue au Temple ravissait,
Admirant ses appas, tout haut le benissait.
This, in the eyes of the seventeenth-century audience, justi-
fied his murder, for a king's first duty was to his self-
preservation on the throne, and "if it is granted that the
safe-guarding of his crown must be a king's first concern,
the murder of Aristobule, for example, was an inescapable
consequence of the young prince's popularity."'
As the play opens, Herode addresses the murdered prince
whose "fantome injurieux" has troubled his sleep. Reassur-
ing himself, he tells the ghost that
Je suis assez savant en l'art de bien regner,
Sans que ton vain courroux me le vienne enseigner;
Et j'ai trop siirement affermi mon Empire
Pour craindre les malheurs que tu me viens predire.
His bravado fails to convince him, and he calls out for help.
To his siblings who arrive at his call, he describes his night-
mare, vividly recalling the features of the drowned Aristo-
I1 semblait retire de l'onde fraichement,
Son corps etait enfle de l'eau qu'il avait bue,
Ses cheveux tous mouilles lui tombaient sur la vue,
Les flots avaient 6teint la clarte de ses yeux,
Qui s'etaient en mourant tournes devers les Cieux.
But they also fail to calm his fears, and so he proceeds on his
own, reminding himself that
5. Baudin, p. 39.
HERODE AND LA FILLE DU MOUPHT1
Tous les Asmoneens sont dedans le tombeau,
On voit dessus le Tr6ne un Monarque nouveau,
Qui tient sous les lauriers sa Couronne et sa tete
Pour jamais a l'abri des coups de la tempete. (161-64)
If H6rode is a king anxious about his throne, he is no less
a husband anxious about his wife. However, he finds that
these two parts are not in harmony. Having boasted of his
valor, he seeks his siblings' pity by telling of Mariane's cold-
ness. To the taunts of his brother (239-42), he can only
L'erreur don't on m'accuse a trouble de grands hommes,
Soit aux siecles passes, soit au temps oi nous sommes.
L'Amour est tellement fatal a la valeur,
Qu'il n'est point de H6ros exempts de ce malheur.
H&rode's unhappiness is due in part to the fact that "Le feu
qui me consume, est un feu legitime," but also to the fact
that Mariane once cared for him. He has fought for his
throne, and God has helped him-"I1 preserve ma tete, il
soutient ma couronne" (1095)-but where would he be
Quand le Parthe inhumain prit Hyrcane et Phaselle6
Je dus ma delivrance a son conseil fiddle:
Sans cet insigne effet de sa secrete amour,
Je perdais a la fois, et le Sceptre, et le jour;
C'6tait fait de ma vie, et le traitre Antigone,
En me foulant aux pieds, remontait sur le Trone.
Mariane is thus witness not only to the crimes of Herode,
but also to the fact that, without her, he might not even be
6. In 40 B.C. Antigonus II Mattathias, with the aid of the Parthians, cap-
tured Herod, Hyrcanus, and Phasael. Only Herod escaped unharmed, and
three years later, with the help of Mark Antony, became king of Judea.
king. His pride and his possessive love are both shaken by
the disdainful rejection of the woman he adores and to whom
he owes the very throne he is so proud of having secured.
H6rode the lover and H6rode the king react simultaneously
to Mariane's rejection, for they have become as one:
D6sormais de ta part tout me sera suspect,
Je n'aurai plus pour toi ni bonte ni respect,
Et s'il advient jamais que dans cette humeur noire,
Tu lances quelque trait qui ternisse ma gloire,
Je le repousserai d'un air qui fera foi,
Qu'on ne doit pas manquer de respect a son Roi.
And so, little by little, the gulf between husband and wife
grows, thanks in part to the work of Herode's siblings,
thanks in part to the inability-or unwillingness-of the two
major protagonists to communicate. According to seven-
teenth-century dramatic theory-and practice-"les person-
nes de naissance ne se portent qu'a de hauts desseins."7 If
history tells a different story, it is because "l'avis d'autrui
corrompt leurs sentiments."8 As his loneliness increases,
Herode seeks reasons for Mariane's aloofness. When he fails
to understand her, he turns to his siblings for advice. How-
ever, since neither he nor they are "de naissance," the cor-
ruption of the siblings readily masters the scruples of the
king. Later on, H6rode will blame Salome and Ph6rore:
Ministres de mes maux a me nuire obstines,
Vous m'osez consoler, vous qui m'assassinez?
Vous m'avez fait donner par vos mauvais offices
Cette atteinte mortelle a toutes mes delices,
Vous m'avez inspire ce funeste dessein,
Vous m'avez fait entrer des bourreaux dans le sein.
7. D'Aubignac, La pratique du theatre (Paris: Champion, 1927), pp. 74-75.
8. Corneille, Pompee, 1. 376.
HERODE AND LA FILLE DU MOUPHTI
But this is nothing more than an expected seventeenth-
century commonplace,9 one that heaps guilt upon the satel-
lites without exonerating the principal villain.
That these satellites are not to be blamed for the catas-
trophe which ensues is made obvious by this fact: in every
tragedy of Tristan, whatever evil advisors may suggest, the
final decision takes shape only under the eyes of the eventual
victim. This is equally true for many of Racine's plays, and
mention of this phenomenon was made in the first chapter.
H6rode, in the last scene of Act II, is on the verge of con-
demning Mariane, but his mind is not quite made up. But,
when Mariane enters in the first scene of the following act,
when Herode feels judged himself by the provocative regard
of the woman he plans to judge, then his fury knows no
bounds. Thus when Herode, looking at Mariane as a judge,
sees that she is looking at him, when he feels that gaze and
Mais la voici qui vient avec autant d'audace,
Que si je l'attendais pour implorer sa grace:
On dirait que l'altiere en mesurant ses pas,
D6pite ma justice, et brave le trepas. (751-54)
H6rode the judge is suddenly transformed into Herode the
judged, and the inquisitor-turned-victim lashes out at his
tormentor with a savagery born of frustration. Mariane's
calm rejoinders, her continued insinuations recalling H6-
rode's past crimes,
Mais jamais votre esprit n'a manque d'artifice
Pour perdre l'innocent sous couleur de justice,
lead to the inevitable outburst: "La mort emoussera tous ces
9. For a full treatment of this commonplace, see Maurice Baudin, "The
Shifting of Responsibility in Seventeenth-Century French Tragic Drama,"
MLN, XLIX (March, 1934), 152-58.
piquants propos" (773). Throughout this "trial," Mariane
will refuse to play the game, not deigning even to answer
the charges. To Herode's angry "I1 faut denier ou confesser
la chose" (808), she retorts with her usual pride and disdain:
Par force ou par adresse il sera malaise
Qu'on me fasse avouer un crime suppose,
Et n'etait mes malheurs, je suis assez bien n6e
Pour n'apprehender pas d'en etre soupqonnee:
Mon esprit que le Sort afflige au dernier point,
Souffre les trahisons, mais il n'en comment point,
Encore qu'il en euit un sujet assez ample,
S'il 6tait oblige de faillir par example. (809-16)
The mention of these examples-"Le meurtre d'un Aieul,
l'assassinat d'un Frere" (819)-drives Herode to utter in-
sults which he can only regret, especially when, a few mo-
ments later, Mariane having melted into tears at the thought
of her orphaned children, he finds himself imbued with "una
folle speranza d'amore."'0 Inevitably, "La quality de Roi
c'de a celle d'Amant" (894), and it is as lover that he utters
the ironically lucid line "Vois de quelle fagon mon sort
depend du tien" (905). This very line, however, opens the
door to doubt and suspicion, for it reminds Mariane of the
fact that H6rode had ordered her death in the event of his
own. When Mariane voices these feelings, Herode realizes
that Soesme has betrayed him. He can think of only one
reason for such a betrayal:
Il n'a pas mis pour rien sa vie a l'aventure,
Tu n'as pu l'Fblouir par Fl'clat des tresors,
Tu n'as pu le tenter que par ceux de ton corps,
Il en fut possesseur . (1062-65)
When Mariane refuses to defend herself against this vile
accusation-"Crois tout ce que tu dis, et tout ce que tu
10. Dalla Valle, p. 233.
HERODE AND LA FILLE DU MOUPHTI
penses" (1070)-he makes any reconciliation impossible by
Oui, oui, je le veux croire, et te faire sentir,
De cette perfidie un cuisant repentir.1 (1071-72)
If Mariane refuses to defend herself, Soesme does not. He
cannot understand how Herode would think of such accusa-
Peut-on croire qu'une ame et si noble et si belle,
Conqoive des soupqons qui sont indignes d'elle,
but his defense of Mariane only raises further questions in
Herode's mind and he sends Soesme to the scaffold.
These decisions, as has been stated before, are taken in
the presence of the victim. Once they have been removed,
once Herode no longer feels their judging eyes, then doubt
Mais quoi, faire perir ce que j'ai tant aimed?
Pourrai-je me resoudre a foudroyer un Temple
Que j'ai tenu si cher et qui n'a point d'exemple?
Mon esprit y resiste, et s'y trouve 6tonn6. (1244-47)
Only the persistent goading of Salome and Pherore make
him say the fateful "Bien, qu'on l'6te, qu'on l'6te" which
seals Mariane's fate.
Elle n'est plus au monde, ou bien l'on m'a trahi,
Et c'est m'avoir perdu que m'avoir obei. (1421-22)
With these words, Herode shows in the opening scene of
the last act that his mind is far from settled, that, like many
11. In La Calprenede's Mort des enfants d'Herode, ou suite de Mariane,
Herode condemns his own children in a like fashion. However, the two sons
are not simply proud, but arrogant, and unable, not unwilling, to escape and
of the baroque "almas doloridas, partidas en dos y que se
pierden en inutiles esfuerzos para reunir las dos mitades
irreductiblemente enemistadas,"12 he is struggling with a
problem whose macabre solution he already perceives.
Alternating between moments of lucidity and moments of
complete insanity, he calls upon Mariane to return to him,
mourns her, curses himself for having caused her death, and
then, having lost contact with reality, speaks to his court as
though nothing had happened:
C'est que j'ai trop de soin des affaires publiques,
Mais je veux aujourd'hui prendre un peu de repos.
A parler librement, ce qui me tient en peine,
C'est que depuis hier je n'ai point vu la Reine,
Commandez de ma part qu'on la fasse venir.
A brief moment of sanity is filled with expressions of grief,
but he soon lapses into his madness, seeking Mariane to "cer-
care ancora di stabilire con lei un contatto ora pii che mai
Dites-lui de ma part qu'elle me vienne voir;
Par sa seule presence elle cause ma joie,
Je lui pardonne tout, pourvu que je la voie.
Narbal manages to bring him back to the world of reality,
but not for long; Herode, unable to rejoin his wife, gives her
a new life: "Elle s'eleve au Ciel pleine de MajestY" (1765).
Too late he realizes that he cannot live without Mariane.
Giving voice to his remorse, he thinks only of joining her:
12. A. Cioranescu, El barroco o el descubrimiento del drama (Tenerife:
Universidad de la Laguna, 1957), p. 333.
13. Dalla Valle, p. 239.
HERODE AND LA FILLE DU MOUPHTI
Mon ame avec mes pleurs s'efforce de sortir.
Vois l'excis de l'ennui don't elle est d6solee,
Et comment pour te suivre elle prend sa volee.
Fainting in the arms of his servants, he remains oblivious of
the fact that death, in freeing Mariane from him, has forever
Gustave Larroumet could very well have been thinking of
the Fille du Mouphti in Osman when he ended a lecture on
Tristan with these words: "Avec lui nous voyons pour la
premiere fois les evenements du drame engendr6s par les pas-
sions memes."" She is "uno dei piu originalmente concepiti
di tutto il suo teatro."15
When Fatime, the Sultane Soeur's slave, describes the Fille
du Mouphti to Osman, she praises her beauty, but especially
the "traits de son esprit" (181). She speaks of the young
lady as being modestte/ Mais fire et pleine d'un orgueil/
A mettre d'un amant I'esperance au cercueil" (186-88).
When Osman finally meets the Fille du Mouphti, he is im-
mediately struck by "cette mine superbe" (428), but no less
by the fact that he had put too much faith in the portrait:
"En ce pinceau trompeur j'eus trop de confiance" (430).
Coming to the conclusion that "elle a plus d'orgueil vingt
fois que de beauty" (435), he rejects her before she has even
the time to salute him.
Thus, the first words of the Fille du Mouphti are spoken
at a moment when she has been rejected by the man she
loves, when she considers herself
Une Fille a peu pres sur le Tr6ne place,
Et qu'on a du Serail indignement chassee.
14. "Histoire du th6etre frangais au XVIP siecle," RCC, XXV (1897),
15. Dalla Valle, p. 264.
It is at this moment that the Fille du Mouphti will take on
the attitude and task that have caused so many critics to liken
her to Hermione:'"
Le Proph&te la-haut n'aura point de puissance,
Ou devant qu'il soit peu, j'en aurai la vengeance.
II aura centre lui tous les bons Musulmans,
Les Anges, les humans, les Cieux, les Elements,
Et n'euit-il que moi seule a sa mort preparee,
Qu'il sache que sa vie est fort mal assure. (481-86)
With Selim she plots the overthrow of the proud Osman,
promising-by implication (555-60)-to personally reward
the dissatisfied bassa once his task is accomplished: "Je con-
naitrai ton coeur quand je verrai sa tte" (558). Yet in spite
of that promise which she repeats to herself in her stances
at the opening of Act III, she, like Hermione plotting with
Oreste, knows that she cannot reward Selim, for "mon coeur
n'est plus a donner" (643). In spite of her well-nurtured
hatred she still loves Osman, as she reluctantly admits after
a thorough self-examination:
Tu l'aimes? oui je l'aime: et bien, qu'en veux-tu dire,
Raison, qui sur mon ame a pris un tel empire,
Que dans les movements du plus grand deplaisir,
Tu ne lui laisses pas l'usage du desir?
Oui! j'aime ce cruel, oui, j'aime ce barbare,
Et confesse toujours que son merite est rare;
Je trouve que sa mine eblouit tous les yeux,
Qu'il semble que ce Prince est descendu des Cieux,
Comme un brilliant eclair, comme un foudre de guerre,
Capable de dompter tous les coeurs de la terre. (658-67)
And it is only with the greatest of efforts that she decides
to "demeurer toujours aux terms du devoir" (697). Having
16. The parallel is obvious and has been thoroughly commented by such
eminent critics as Bernardin, op. cit., and Jean Pommier, Aspects de Racine
(Paris: Nizet, 1954).
HERODE AND LA FILLE DU MOUPHTI
momentarily lost faith in the ability of Selim to avenge her,
she, like Hermione, decides that her own hand "vengera mon
During the entire fourth act Osman fights for his throne
and his life, and the Fille du Mouphti remains off-stage. Only
in the last act, when Osman has lost his throne, does she
reappear. Osman, seeing her enter, shows by his reaction
that his misfortune has not changed his character:
Cieux! qu'est-ce que je vois, cette fille importune
Accroit par son objet ma mauvaise fortune;
Ne prenons pas la route ou ses pas sont tournes,
Ou passons promptement le mouchoir sur le nez.
Attempting to express her pity for him, she only antagonizes
Osman with her reproaches and her reminder that she could
have saved him:
Et salue en passant la fille d'un Mouphti
Qui de tant de malheurs t'aurait bien garanti,
Si tu n'eusses trouble la paix de sa famille,
En faisant un eclat au mepris de sa fille. (1314-17)
She errs in prolonging her tirade, listing her complaints, and
when she compounds that error by gloating, the sticho-
mythic duel that ensues leaves her no choice but to retreat:
Tu vois quel est le sort que t'a fait ton caprice.
Que me peux-tu repondre en ce funeste jour?
Que je trouve mes maux plus doux que ton amour.
LA FILLE DU MOUPHTI
J'aurais par mon amour affermi ta Puissance.
Ce mal aurait possible accable ma constance.
LA FILLE DU MOUPHTI
Mon amour en ta bouche un mal se peut nommer!
Je penserais plutot a mourir qu'a t'aimer. (1329-35)
Realizing the error of her approach, she changes course:
Seigneur! par ces rigueurs tu punis mon audace,
Qui trop insolemment s'attache a ta disgrace:
Aussi t'oser blamer durant cette saison,
C'est manquer de courage autant que de raison.
Pardonne-moi ce crime, 6 Prince magnanime!
Si ce premier transport peut passer pour un crime,
Tu sais bien que mon Sexe a trop de vanity
Pour etre sans depit quand il est rebute. (1336-43)
In lines worthy of Racine she pours out her love. She wanted
vengeance while he was on the throne, and were he still
ruler, she would not hesitate to pursue it, but now that he
has lost everything, she can only think of her love for him.
The fact that she still loves him, she points out, must surely
show that ambition was not her prime motive.
Mais sur ces sentiments ne t'imagine pas
Que ta grandeur passee eut sur moi des appas.
Je trouvais ta personnel encore plus precieuse,
Et je ne t'aimais point comme une ambitieuse.
De peur que ton esprit ne soit en quelque erreur,
J'aimais Osman lui-meme et non pas l'Empereur,
Et je considerais en ta noble personnel
Des brillants d'autre prix que ceux de ta couronne.
If she were queen and Osman a simple soldier, "Il n'aurait
qu'a m'aimer et tout serait a lui" (1375). Osman is touched,
but his mind is not on love: the danger is pressing and he
HERODE AND LA FILLE DU MOUPHTI
must leave to defend his honor and his throne. Refusing the
help of the Fille du Mouphti, who suggests her rooms as a
hiding place, he goes to face the rebels. Once again, she finds
herself left out. Too late, she realizes that he will never love
her, but that she will always love him:
Il ne me peut souffrir, il me hait, il m'abhore,
Il me quite, il me fuit, et si je l'aime encore."7
Que n'ai-je ete pour toi sans oreille, sans yeux,
Sans orgueil, sans courroux, sans esprit, sans adresse,
Sans soupirs et sans pleurs, ou plutot sans tendresse?
Deciding to follow him into danger, she vows to die for him,
hoping to "perir a sa vue" (1419) but, prompted by Fatime,
she explains at length the birth of her love and, by the time
her long speech is over, Osman is dead."8 Thus, the Fille du
Mouphti, like so many other heroes and heroines of Tristan
shut out by the ones they love, seeks in death the union that
has eluded her in life. In her last lines, Bernardin sees little
but precieux melodrama, but Dalla Valle points out very
clearly that here, "assistiamo, come gia altre volte, al riscatto
attraverso l'ispirazione dell'intellettualistica ricercatezza fi-
gurative barocca, e in questo senso ci pare che essi coro-
nino degnamente, contrariamente all'opinione del Bernar-
din, l'evoluzione del personaggio piui poeticamente valido
della tragedia." 9
17. It should be kept in mind that et si was used as et pourtant in the
18. This wordy tirade seems totally out of place here, and it was ob-
viously added by Tristan to allow enough time for the death, off-stage, of
19. Page 266.
5. THE EXCLUS: ARASPE,
W while Herode and the Fille du Mouphti feel themselves
rejected from the start, such is not the case of the
three heroes that remain to be discussed. It may be obvious
to the reader that at least two of them-Araspe and Fauste
-are never a part of the world in which they wish to
dwell, but this truth dawns on each of these protagonists
only little by little, and too late.
In the original version of Panthee, as it was first played,
Araspe's fate was not decided. D'Aubignac blamed this
and, some time before the first edition of the play, Tristan
reworked the denouement to allow Araspe to follow
Panth6e's example. While this new conclusion may have
satisfied d'Aubignac and Richelieu-at whose request
d'Aubignac had criticized the play-it does nothing but
detract from the poetic unity of Tristan's original creation.
Throughout the play Araspe functions on a single plane,
that of lover. It is interesting that his name is not among
those of the other participants at the head of the second
scene of the play, the first in which Araspe appears. Simple
oversight? Probably, but Araspe remains quiet until Cirus
entrusts Panthee into his care with these words:
Araspe, fais toujours avec un soin extreme
Qu'on respect Madame a l'6gal de moi-meme.
As he exits, his ambiguous reply,
Sire, on ne saurait voir ce miracle des Cieux
Sans lui rendre aussit6t I'honneur qu'on doit aux Dieux,
ARASPE, NERON, FAUSTE
heightens the impression that he not only is not part of the
conversation, but also that he does not grasp the full mean-
ing of the words that have been exchanged.
Two scenes later, face to face with Panthee, Araspe will
again be in a position to reveal his love, and again he will
veil his declaration:
Cirus est un miracle en rares qualities
Qu'on ne doit compare qu'a des divinites.
Madame, dans ce rang vous pourriez prendre place.
Vous voulez, me flattant, adoucir ma disgrace;
C'est en continuant vos soins accoutumes,
Avec beaucoup d'esprit, montrer que vous m'aimez.
On ne peut rien aimer qui soit plus adorable. (257-63)
Several lines later, he nearly faints at the mere mention of
his rival, Abradate. Thus it is throughout the play: Araspe
considers himself a legitimate suitor, refuses to understand
that he is not truly Abradate's rival, and never quite faces
the fact that there is no place for him in Panthee's world,
although he confesses to Charis, Panthee's maid of honor,
Un destin tout-puissant, une invincible Etoile
Aux yeux de ma Raison attache un sombre voile.
Je sais bien que je sers une ingrate Beaute,
Et qu'aimant sans espoir, j'ai des feux sans clarte.
In the stances that open the second act, Araspe, finding
no solace in the camp of Cirus, tells his woes to the forest:
H6tes du silence et de l'ombre,
Oh l'air est si frais et si sombre,
Arbres qui connaissez l'6tat de ma langueur,
Soyez les confident des peines que j'endure,
Et souffrez que je grave en votre ecorce dure
Le beau nom que l'Amour a grave dans mon coeur.'
In lines reminiscent of those of Herode, who also felt his
unrequited love and whose lyricism has few equals in the
seventeenth century, Araspe deplores the fact that Pan-
thee is "ingrate et cruelle" (377), and "Que jamais sa
pitie recompense ma foi" (385). Abradate alone "est l'objet
de toutes ses pensees" (390). Araspe sees in Abradate little
more than a rival, an
Ennemi de mon bien, obstacle de ma joie,
Que le Sort enrichit d'une si belle proie,
and he decides to fight for such a worthy prize:
je veux taller chercher,
Et l'epee a la main te la faire lecher. (397-400)
In a moment of lucidity, he realizes that "Panthee est a la
fois sa femme et son Amante" (406), but this wisdom is
fleeting, and moments later he again searches for "Un secret
pour lui plaire et pour me contenter" (420).
When, at last, he bares his feelings in a long declaration
of love (545-628), when he soars on the wings of his emo-
tional outburst, he loses all contact with reality. Panthee's
violent reaction, already discussed at the end of Chapter
3, makes him aware of the fact that she does not understand
him; but he does not realize that he does not understand
her either. When, rejected and misunderstood, he fails to
1. For a fuller treatment of Tristan's use of nature, see my article "Un
po'te de la nature au dix-septieme siccle: Tristan L'Hermite," FR, XXXIV
(October, 1964), 51-59.
ARASPE, NERON, FAUSTE
understand-or to justify-Panth6e's reaction, he indulges
in a long (sixty-one lines) monologue during which Tris-
tan reaches "la sua pim autentica ispirazione,"2 and this is
because Araspe "ha una sua region d'essere poetica soltanto
fino al moment in cui si dichiara a Panthee e ne e respin-
to." 3 At no time does he feel guilty, and he is willing to
face Cirus' ire without trepidation. Panthee's intervention
in his favor-which he appreciates, but whose motives he
does not understand-only strengthens this feeling, for he
refuses to believe that he has done anything wrong:
H6, Sire, a l'offenser je n'ai jamais pens6;
Les Cieux me sont temoins que je suis l'offens6.
This impression is accentuated by his triumphal-repug-
nantly so-statements that open the last act. He has just
heard of Abradate's death, and rejoices at the thought:
Selon mes voeux secrets il a perdu la vie,
Que la terre 6 grands Dieux! soit le6gre a ses os,
Pourvu que mon bonheur succede a son repos,
Et qu'apres ce grand deuil qu'on fait sur sa disgrace
Je sois assez heureux pour occuper sa place. (1317-30)
But Oronte, relating the sad events, also brings bad news
to the star-crossed lover: Panthee,
A qui cette nouvelle aussitot fut portee,
L'enleva sur un char avec un si grand deuil,
Qu'on les mettra tous deux dans un meme cercueil,
Car elle fait bien voir qu'elle n'a pas d'envie
De survive longtemps la moitie de sa vie. (1402-6)
Oronte, in fact, has foreseen what the "trop facile Araspe"
and the "Cirus trop credule" did not; namely, that the
2. Dalla Valle, p. 244. 3. Dalla Valle, p. 241n.
death of Abradate was not a beginning, but an end, that
this very death, rather than permitting new hope, ended it
forever. Panth6e, still faithful amante, follows her husband
and lover to the tomb, shutting out Araspe with greater
finality than ever. Araspe follows Panth6e in an attempt
to show that
Malgre tous les efforts de ton cruel orgeuil
Je te veux adorer au delay du cercueil,
Et donner par ce coup une preuve evidente
Que centre mon amour la mort est impuissante.
However, while the gesture may well prove his love, it
opens no new vistas, and if the world of the living is ruled
by the omnipresent "nil solidum," that of the dead is static,
and Araspe fails to achieve in death that which he sought
Dalla Valle, in her treatment of La mort de Seneque,
states that all eleven characters are important and are "osser-
vati nel moment in cui si stabilise fra di loro un qualche
rapporto." 4 I would rather suggest that they are important
insofar as they point out the complete impossibility of any
real relationship. From the start, Neron-like H6rode-
asserts that he is ruler of a world that he wishes to share
with Sabine: "Enfin, selon mes voeux, Sabine est sans
rivale" (1). But, unlike Herode, Neron does not see him-
self excluded from the start. Rather, he and Sabine seek
absolute power and wealth while also desiring universal
approval. Thus, unlike Herode, who finds himself shut out
by his wife from the start, N6ron sees hostility grow
around him as his policy-or rather, that of his wife-alien-
ates those whose vote of confidence he most desires.
4. Pages 248-49.
ARASPE, NERON, FAUSTE
Since even he cannot visualize public acceptance of his
policies, Neron must be reassured by Sabine. Thus, the
entire first act is taken up by his attempts at justifying his
past and future misdeeds. When, in Act III, Neron con-
fronts Epicaris, he does not question her as though she were
seeking a personal revenge:
Apprends-moi qui t'anime et qui te desespere;
Ai-je ravi tes biens, ou fait perir ton pere,
Entrepris sur ta vie, ou bien sur ton honneur,
Et de quelque faqon traverse ton bonheur? (747-50)
He wants to be accepted, to be honored, and can never
forgive Epicaris for voicing the general discontent:
Oui, je sais le dessein de cent hommes d'honneur
Qui fondent sur ta mort leur souverain bonheur.
Sabine and Neron face the wrath of Epicaris who judges
them to the end:
Prends-tu quelque plaisir a te faire g8ner?
Beaucoup moins qu'un Tiran n'en goiute a l'ordonner.
L'impudente, la terre est-elle bien capable
De porter un moment ce Monstre insupportable?
Elle peut sans horreur porter Epicaris,
Puisqu'elle porte bien la femme aux trois maris.
Ta langue pour ce mot sera bient6t couple.
Que devrait-on couper a Sabine Popee?
Quand tu n'aurais vomi que ce mot seulement,
Tu mourras de cent morts par mon commandement.
Ces matieres de peur sont ce que je dedaigne:
Menace-moi plutot de vivre sous ton regne;
Aucun autre malheur ne me saurait trouble,
Et c'est la seule peur qui me ferait trembler.
0 nouvelle Alecton que l'Enfer a vomie!
Qui t'a donned sujet d'etre mon ennemie?
Qui de ta cruaute me rend ainsi l'objet?
Tu veux done le savoir, en voici le sujet:
Je t'aimais autrefois, quand ton front hypocrite
Se couvrait faussement des couleurs du merite;
Mais depuis que tu course oui la fureur te guide,
Que tu te rends cruel, ingrat, et parricide,
Que tu r6des la nuit, et que tu tiens a jeu,
Les titres de voleur et ceux de boute-feu,
Je te hais comme un Monstre abime dans le crime,
Et trouve que ta mort est un coup legitime.
It is this judgment that dooms Epicaris, but it is also this
judgment which is followed immediately by the relation of
the death of Se6nque, a death which is, in itself, a judg-
ment. As the centurion tells of Seneque's death, the truth
dawns on N6ron at last. He realizes that
Tous mes sens sont troubles, et mon ame inquiete
Ne peut plus se remettre en sa premiere assiette.
ARASPE, NERON, FAUSTE
He senses his error, senses that the world condemns him,
and, in fact, condemns himself, though he does not quite
know why. Only Sabine is left at his side, but Neron, shut
out, realizes at last that she is the one person who cannot
Ah! ne me parles point.
Eloignes-toi d'ici, fuis promptement, Sabine,
De peur que ma colere eclate a ta ruine. (1861-63)
Alone at last, Neron reaches his poetic potential in the final
lines of the play, and hurls to Heaven the challenge already
cited in Chapter 3: "Mais avant, je perdrai la moitie de la
Terre" (1867). For the first time, he realizes that he is
truly "solo di front al destino e di front a se stesso." 5
Unlike Phedre, Fauste never reaches the moment of open
declaration. Phedre will hint of her love, but when Hip-
polyte fails to grasp the meaning of this indirect language,
Phedre unleashes her passions: "He bien! connais done
Phedre et toute sa fureur" (673). Fauste will never open
her heart, and there will never be any true communication
between her and any other character in the play. In fact,
from the very beginning, La mort de Chrispe is a tragedy
of errors in which malentendus and quid pro quos rule a
world of absurdity.
Fauste never declares herself to anyone, for she cannot
share the horrible burden that she bears. Thus, Chrispe
never really shuts her out. Rather, she is shut out by her
own conscience. With great strength of will she rejects the
idea of confessing her love (1-62), but all this strength dis-
appears in the presence of the beloved. No sooner does
Fauste hear of Chrispe's approach than she begins to aban-
don her resolve:
5. Dalla Valle, p. 251.
Ah Chrispe, il peut entrer.
Mais suis-je en un etat a me pouvoir montrer?
Demeure Cornelie; 6 Dieux, a cette vue
On me verra changer, je serai toute emue;
Je devrais eviter ce fatal entretien:
Retourne, et lui dis que. . Mais non, ne lui dis rien.
Va done; arrete encore. . (67-73)
It is this indecision that is manifest in the third scene de-
scribed in Chapter 3: Fauste hints of a passion that Chrispe
never really discovers. As Act I ends, Fauste knows more
about Chrispe than before, but this new knowledge only
makes her love more difficult to divulge. From that moment
on, she feels shut out, not by Chrispe, but by the circum-
stances and by her own conscience. In the stances that open
Act II, it is this very problem that she thinks over.
Fauste, a quoi te resoudras-tu
Entre l'Amour et la Vertu
Qui tiennent aujourd'hui ton ame balance?
Deja la Crainte et le Desir
Font des ligues dans ta pensee;
II faut laisser ou prendre, il est temps de choisir.
She is aware of her duty, but "mon Ame est encline oui
le peril est grand" (318). Unlike Phedre, Fauste realizes that
her guilt does not depend on her revelation of it. At first
there is doubt in her mind, and she asks herself a question
to which the Bible-Matthew 5:28-provides the answer:
Quel crime en ces pensers si je cache ma flamme?
Toute l'horreur du Crime a sa source dans l'ame.
Like Phedre, she is on the point of resignation when she
finds out that her worst fears are indeed fact: Constance
and Chrispe love each other. Giving vent to her fury, she
ARASPE, NERON, FAUSTE
Nous leverons le masque a sa trompeuse flamme:
Nous saurons eclairer jusqu'au fond de son Ame,
Et nous lui ferons voir, s'il pretend s'echapper,
Qu'il est trop jeune encor pour nous vouloir tromper.
This position might be compared to that of Araspe who,
excluded from the world of Panthee and Abradate, sees
himself as "wronged," but it should be remembered that
Fauste, as empress seeing an enemy of the state protected
by a national hero, has a right to feel offended. The ques-
tion then is not whether or not Fauste has the right to resent
Chrispe's love, but whether or not that resentment exists
for the proper reason. It is true that Fauste offers her sup-
port to Chrispe if he abandons "et Licine, et les siens"
(910), but this is not prompted by political motives. Her
last lines in Act III, spoken to her confidence, show that
she is quite willing to put her position at the service of her
Je l'y forcerai bien, s'il ne plie, il rompra,
II quittera l'Empire, ou changera de flamme.
Mais il est Fils d'Auguste.
Et moi j'en suis la femme,
Et nous verrons bient6t, s'il me veut mettre au pis,
Lequel l'emportera de la femme, ou du fils. (970-74)
She proceeds to win the emperor over to her point of view
and, ironically, it is at that point that Chrispe enters to ex-
press his gratitude for all that Fauste has done for the young
lovers. His speeches only reaffirm his position and heighten
the fury of Fauste. To make matters worse, Constance
follows on her lover's heels, echoing his thoughts. Con-
stance speaks of Licine's errors and of Fauste's clemency.
The latter soon enlightens Constance: Licine sinned against
the Empire, and this can be forgiven. Constance, however,
indulged in a far more dangerous game, one which Fauste
Si Licine en fuyant est sorti de la Thrace,
Vous l'avez sur le champ venge de bonne grace:
Exprimant un pouvoir qui n'est point limited,
Vous avez mis aux fers celui qui l'a dompte.
Chrispe vous rend des soins et vous fait les doux yeux,
Vous obsede a toute heure et vous suit en tous lieux.
When she fails to shake Constance's faith in Chrispe, Fauste
reveals her plans:
Enfin, quoi qu'il en soit, Constance n'est point n6e
Pour pr6tendre avec Chrispe au lien d'Hymenee:
Nous ne souffrirons point qu'il soit fait son Epoux.
Vous souffrirez au moins qu'il m'aime mieux que vous.
A son dam s'il vous aime, interdit de le faire.
A son dam beaucoup plus s'il agit au contraire.
Il ne peut vous aimer qu'avec beaucoup d'erreur.
Ni vous aimer aussi qu'avec beaucoup d'horreur.
ARASPE, NERON, FAUSTE
Ah! sortez promptement, engeance de vipere.
On ne m'accuse point d'avoir perdu mon Pere.6
The truth of these last two sallies is too much for Fauste,
and she decides that Constance must die:
L'insolente qu'elle est, voit encore le jour
Apres avoir choque ma gloire et mon amour?
It has been suggested that Fauste does not act because of
her passion, rather that it is "sa rage d'etre combattue poli-
tiquement dans l'ame de Constantin qui la fait eclater centre
Chrispe."7 But the long-over one hundred lines-tirade
that follows can be boiled down to two of its most power-
Plut6t que cette Amour m'offense impunement,
Je veux perdre a la fois et l'Amante et l'Amant.
In fact, it is Chrispe who is her rival in Constantin's heart,
and it is Chrispe who will be spared:
Ne fais rien qui t'oblige a des grandes douleurs,
Et previens sagement tes soupirs et tes pleurs.
Pitiless in her hatred, Fauste directs all her venom against
Constance, and justifies herself coldly:
6. In 310, three years after her marriage to Constantine, Fausta denounced
her father who had tried to obtain her help in an attempt on Constantine's
7. Andre Stegmann, "Les metamorphoses de Phedre," in Aotes du Premier
Congres International Racinien (Uzes: Peladan, 1962), p. 50.
En m'osant offense, Constance s'est perdue.
La mort qu'elle revoit est une peine due,
Ma violence est just et n'a rien d'inhumain,
Elle dicte l'Arret la balance a la main. (1403-6)
But, as we have stated before, this is a tragedy of errors,
and Fauste's vengeance backfires. Learning of the death of
the young lovers, she refuses to blame herself:
O Destins! 6 Venins! 6 Mort! 6 Violence!
Que ne laissez-vous Chrispe en enlevant Constance.
Quoi? si je lance un trait, 6 rigoureuse loi,
Pour me percer le cceur il reflechit sur moi? (1543-50)
In her sorrow, she realizes that Constance and Chrispe are
now forever united in death:
Par ce funeste trait qui ne m'a point vengee,
J'ai servi ma Rivale et me suis outragee.
Constance a de ce mal retire mille biens,
Chrispe a ferme ses yeux, elle a ferme les siens,
Et serrant les liens don't l'Amour les assemble,
Ils ont fait leurs adieux et sont parties ensemble.
Pour rendre mon depit et plus just et plus grand,
On les a vus encor s'embrasser en mourant:
En un sang qui se glace ils conservent des flames,
Leurs corps restent unis aussi bien que leurs ames;
La Mort ne defait pas ce que l'Amour a joint.
Ils quittent la lumiere et ne se quittent point:
Chrispe baise en mourant Constance qui l'adore,
Ils n'ont plus de chaleur, et s'ils bruilent encore:
Leur dessein continue au delay du trepas,
Et dans leur coeur eteint leur amour ne l'est pas.
Remorseless, she sees this death as the supreme insult to
ARASPE, NERON, FAUSTE
her love. Feeling shut out, she seeks death, not as a liber-
ating force, but as the means to seek once more that which
has eluded her so far:
Ah Constance! c'est trop traverser mon envie.
Je te veux suivre encore, et chercher une voie
Pour rompre tes plaisirs et traverser ta joie;
Je veux trouble encor ton amoureux dessein,
Te porter des flambeaux et des fers dans le sein,
Et m'opposant la-bas a ton Idolatrie,
Au milieu des damnes te servir de furie. (1567-76)
The titles of the preceding chapters, along with an occa-
sional reference to L'Etranger, may tend to suggest
that the tragic world of Tristan L'Hermite is populated by
Meursaults. This was not intended. In fact, if a connection
with Camus is to be made, it might well be with the state-
ment which he made at the Dominican convent of Latour-
Maubourg in 1948: "Ce que j'ai envie de vous dire au-
jourd'hui, c'est que le monde a besoin de vrai dialogue,
que le contraire du dialogue est aussi bien le mensonge que
le silence, et qu'il n'y a done de dialogue possible qu'entre
des gens qui restent ce qu'ils sont et qui parent vrai." 1
The Herodes of Tristan's tragedies seek such a dialogue
which is made impossible by themselves as much as by the
Marianes who torment them. When dialogue with others
becomes impossible, these characters lapse into a state of
self-deception consecrated by madness and stilled only by
death. In this state, lucidity seldom comes to them or, if
it does, it comes too late to stem the tide of events precipi-
tated by the original malentendu.
Under these circumstances, the key figure in each play
may well be the one whose name the play bears, but it is
highly debatable whether that figure is the most dramatic.
In fact, while Mariane, Panth6e, Se6nque, Chrispe, or
Osman are the central figures of the plays discussed, while
they are the nuclei of the tragedies bearing their names,
they are obviously not the most tragic.
Tristan seems to be at his best when he allowed rejected
love to express its sorrow or its rage, for his forte was
poetry, and it was to the lyricism of those shut out by the
aforementioned key figures that many of the plays owed
a large part of their original success.
1. Actuelles (Paris: Gallimard, 1950), p. 213.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA MONOGRAPHS
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No. 18: Las Guerras Carlistas y el
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No. 19: Diderot's Vie de Seneque: A
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