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An aesthetic of the transitory

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An aesthetic of the transitory
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Herrington, Carolyn Diane, 1949-
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1977
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Love ( jstor )
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Peasant class ( jstor )
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University of Florida
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Full Text















AN AESTHETIC OF THE TRANSITORY: THE COMIC WORLD OF DANCOURT









BY

CAROLYN DIANE HERRINGTON


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY












UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1977







































To my parents














ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


I would like to express my appreciation to:

Professor Claude Abraham who first suggested the topic of this study and who served as chairman of the doctoral committee. His careful reading and helpful suggestions greatly improved the final draft,

Professor Douglas Bonneville and Aubrey Williams who deserve special mention for extending their assistance and time far beyond that which is required of secondary readers,

Professor Ruthmarie Mitsch for reading and suggesting improvements in portions of the manuscript,

and, most of all, to Professor Robert Bradley for

his patience, encouragement, and kindness throughout the writing of the dissertation.


iii
















TABLE OF CONTENTS


Page


iii


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . .

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS OF DANCOURT'S PLAYS .


v


ABSTRACT


. . . vii


CHAPTER


ONE: INTRODUCTION . . . . .
Notes . . . . . . .

TWO: A TIME OF TRANSITION: FRANCE IN THE LATTER YEARS OF LOUIS XIV .
Notes . . . . . . .

THREE: NARRATIVE STRUCTURE: LINEAR
VERSUS STATIC . . . . .
Notes . . . . . . .

FOUR: CHARACTERIZATION: PSYCHOLOGICAL
REALISM VERSUS SOCIAL REALISM .
Notes . . . . . . .


FIVE: VERBAL COMEDY: LANGUAGE DISORDER
AND SOCIAL DISORDER . . . .
Notes . . . . . . .

SIX: MANIPULATION OF LANGUAGE AND MANIPULATION OF SOCIAL VALUES
Notes . . . . . . .

SEVEN: PERCEPTIONS OF REALITY: TEMPORAL
SUPERFICIAL AND ALEATORIC . .
Notes . . . . . .

EIGHT: CONCLUSION . . . . . .


APPENDIX


REFERENCES . . . . . . . .


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH


- . 15


17 36


- . 38
- . 70


. . 74
- . 105


107
141


. . 144
181


183
- 218

- . 220

- - 225

- - 231


. 238


iv















LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS OF DANCOURT'S PLAYS*


Les Agioteurs Les Bourgeoises la mode Cephale et Procris Le Charivari Le Chevalier la mode Colin-maillard La Com6die des com6diens Les Curieux de Compiegne La Deroute du pharaon La Desolation des joUeuses Le Diable boiteux Les Eaux de Bourbon Les Enfans de Paris L'Est6 des coquettes Les F6es

La Femme d'intrigues La Feste de village Les Festes nocturnes du cours La Foire de Besons La Foire Saint-Germain La Folle Enchere



*Adapted from the list of Melani's Motivi tradizionali e nel teatro di Dancourt.


Les Ag.

Les Bourg. la m. Ceph. et Pr. Le Char. Le Chev. la m. Colin-maill. La Com. des com. Les Cur. de C. Le Der. du ph. La Des. des j. Le Pihlle b. Les Eaux de B. Les Enf. de P. L'Est4 des coqu. Les F6es La Femme d'irtr. La Feste de v. Les Festes noct. La Foire de B. La Foire St.-G La Folle En.



abbreviations in Nivea fantasia del "Divertissement"


V












Les Fonds perdus Le Galant Jardinier La Gazette L'Impromptu de Garnison L'Impromptu de Livry L'Impromptu de Suresnes La Loterie Madame Artus La Maison de campagne Le Mary retrouv6 La Metempsicose Le Moulin de Javelle L'Operateur Barry L'Opera de village La Parisienne Le Prix de l'arquebuse Renaud et Armide Le Retour des officiers Sancho Panga, gouverneur Le Second Chapitre du Diable boiteux La Trahison punie Les Trois Cousines Le Tuteur Les Vacances Les Vendanges Les Vendanges de Suresnes Le Vert-Galant


Les Fonds p. Le Gal. J. La Gaz. L'Impr. de G. L'Impr. de L. L'Impr. de S. La Lot. Mme Art. La Mais de c. Le Mary retr. La Met. Le Moul. de J. L'Oper. B. L'Op. de v. La Par. Le Prix de l'a. Ren. et Ar. Le Ret. des o. Sancho P.

II Ch. du D.b. La Trah. p. Les Trois C. Le Tut. Les Vac. Les Vend. Les Vend. de S. Le Vert-G.


vi











Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


AN AESTHETIC OF THE TRANSITORY:
THE COMIC WORLD OF DANCOURT

By

Carolyn Diane Herrington

August 1977

Chairman: Claude K. Abraham
Major Department: Romance Languages and Literatures

Florent Carton Dancourt (1661-1725) was preeminent

among post-Molieresque dramatists. A thorough man of the theater, he was a prolific writer, a talented actor, and the spokesman for his troupe. During a career spanning over forty years, he provided his troupe with at least sixty plays and numerous divertissements. He excelled in the oneact play which accounts for one-third of his total production. As late as 1920, he had a larger number of performances at the Com6die-Frangaise than any other author except Moliere and Racine.

With realistic detail and acerbic humor, his comedies of manner record the confusion and turmoil of the French society at the end of the seventeenth century. His plays mock the pretentions of the new monied bourgeoisie and the discomfort of the impoverished nobility as the hierarchy based on birth gives way to the new order based on wealth.

Though critics traditionally have been quick to recognize the accuracy in his portrayal of the changing society of vii










his day, they have argued that as a dramatist he was superficial in his characterizations, negligent in his plot development, and careless in his use of language.

The unfavorable reaction of his critics to his plays is due in large part to a reluctance to consider postclassical drama on its own terms. Critics have taken the criteria emerging from their analysis of classical writers and have applied them indiscriminately to post-classical works. When judged by classical criteria, Dancourt's plays are highly "irregular." There is little unity of tone or subject manner, the plots are not symmetrical, his language often lacks refinement, and his characterizations are shallow.

Wishing to portray an unsettled and unsettling social order, Dancourt had to diverge from the classical model of his predecessors. The concentration of subject matter, the rational presentation of events, the unity of tone, and the overall stability implied in classical aesthetics were unsuitable for a theater attempting to portray a time of confusing and distressing social evolution. This study argues that the very elements for which Dancourt has been criticized (shallow characters, loosely structured intrigues, and careless use of language) are not the result of Dancourt's inability to do "better," but are deliberate attempts to adapt the genre of comedy to the new subject matter--a society in a state of transition.

Using the traditional division of drama into character, plot, and language, I have attempted to define the dramatic


viii










reality that Dancourt creates. Though his plays do not conform to the rules of classical dramaturgy, they do create an internally coherent aesthetic unity which I have termed an aesthetic of the transitory. This aesthetic emerges from Dancourt's methods of characterization, of verbal comedy and of plot development which are structured so as to diminish the integrity of their content. His characters are defined by their relationship to society; they do not have a cohesive personal identity. The sequential advances in his plots are often not causally related; there is little sense of an action being worked out in time. His verbal comedy emphasizes the arbitrary nature of language as a sign system; the ability of language to order reality is questioned. The result is a dramatic world with a transitory reality.


ix














CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION




The developments in French drama at the end of the

seventeenth century form a crucial link between the classical drama of the midcentury and the bourgeois theater of the eighteenth. By the middle of the eighteenth century, French theater had become a platform for political and social reform which differed markedly from the classically inspired theater of Moliere, Corneille and Racine. To understand this evolution, it is necessary to explore the modifications in structure and content that developed in the comedies of the French theater during the second half of Louis XIV's reign (1685-1715).

This transitional period has been greatly overlooked, a surprising neglect considering the popularity of the theater and the large number of plays produced. The prominent dramatists--Dufresny, Regnard, Lesage and Dancourt-have all received mention in theatrical histories but, with the sole exception of Lesage, they have not been studied in much depth by scholars. This neglect seems due in large part to the insistence upon approaching the drama through the artistic standards of the earlier, classical period.

Transfixed by the achievements of the classicists,


I





2


critics have been reluctant to consider post-classical drama on its own terms. Instead, they have taken the criteria emerging from their analysis of classical writers and have applied them indiscriminately to post-classical works. Inevitably the works have been judged inferior, or imitative. This problem is not new. In their own day, post-classical dramatists found themselves hung on the horns of a dilemma humorously characterized by Dufresny in 1692:

Moliere a bien g~t6 le th63tre. Si l'on donne dans son qo~t ; bon, dit aussitat le critique, cela est pilla, c'est Molihre tout pur ; s'en
6carte-t-on un peu, Oh! ce n'est pas la Moliere.

The situation has not changed much today. Moliere remains the ruler by which they are measured.

Recently, however, certain critical works have forced us to re-examine the traditional view of the seventeenth

century as promulgated by the nineteenth-century Romantics. It is now clear 'that qualities typically associated with the seventeenth century such as clarity, order, and symmetry do not suffice to describe the century as a whole or even the period known as classicism. Borgerhoff's The Freedom of French Classicism and Butler's Classicisme et baroque dans l'oeuvre de Racine have made us aware of the diversity of expression and the co-existence of conflicting currents of thoughts within the same century.

Looking back over the first few decades following

Moliere's death, we see that the classical aesthetic began






3


to lose some of its force. For the first ten years, the comedy of character did continue as the most successful of the comic genres. Moliere's comedies continued to be produced more often than those of any other dramatist. By 1680, however, a new comic spirit began to emerge which was significantly different from the classical comic spirit. The comedies of character which had so delighted the public in the 1660's attracted the theatergoer less than the new comedy of manners. As Lancaster notes, the new society demanded a new interpretation.2 Though this new generation of dramatists published no manifestoes proclaiming a break with Moliere, they began to experiment more boldly with different forms. Caught in the dilemma of being compared constantly to Moliere, they did not seem to want to draw attention to their departure from the model he offered.

In fact, we have to wait for Diderot to break from the myth of classicism, but, in truth, the classical spirit began to wane as early as the 1680's. Audience tastes were changing in fact if not in theory. As Anderson has shown, "in concentrating their skills and talents on the subject matter and forms least developed by their great predecessor, they discovered that they were pleasing their audiences more than ever before."3

None of the dramatists was more successful in pleasing his audience than Florent-Carton Dancourt (1661-1725). A thorough man of the theater, he was a prolific writer, a





4


talented actor, and the spokesman for his troupe. During a career spanning over forty years, he provided his troupe with more than sixty different comedies and divertissements. According to Lancaster, "he was unsurpassed among Moliere's successors either in veracity, in originality, or in the art of comic dialogue."4 As late as 1920, he had a larger number of performances at the Comddie-Frangaise than any other author except Moliere and Racine.5 During his own lifetime, he was so successful that at the height of his career, during the 1695-96 season, more of his plays were performed than of any other dramatist, including Moli re. The time span of his writing career (1681-1725), the large number of plays he authored, and the warm reception given his plays, place him as the dominant force in the theater of his time.

Dancourt has not received the critical interest that such a record would seem to merit. Since his death there have been only a few articles and books devoted to his theater. Despite some variance in the degree of warmth with which his works have been received, generally speaking critics have been very consistent in their evaluations. There are two main characteristics which virtually all his critics have emphasized: his skillful depiction of the society of his day and his lack of skill as a dramatist. In 1825, Geoffroy wrote: "les auteurs qui m6ritent peu






5


d'attention, comme 6crivains, me semblent toujours curieux comme monuments." Almost a century later (1898), Petit de Julleville echoed the same view: "Il ne faut pas s'6tonner apres cela si les intrigues de ces piZces sont banales parfois et souvent semblables. Dancourt s'en pr6occupe m6diocrement. Le principal est d'amuser par une vive et fiddle peinture de la soci6t6."8 As late as 1968, Tilley repeated the same criticism and the same praise: "The plot [of Les Agioteurs], as too often with Dancourt is very poor, indeed is barely existant . The chief interest [in Dancourt's plays] is not so much for the individual plays as in the picture of contemporary society which they afford as a whole."9

Two book-length works on Dancourt, while offering much more detailed commentary on the plays, do not differ in their final conclusions. In 1882 Jules Lemaitre published La Com6die apres Moliere et Le Th6atre de Dancourt, primarily a study of character types. He relates them to contemporary social attitudes and notes how they represented social types new to French society, such as speculators, financiers, taxcollectors, ambitious peasants, impoverished nobles. He quotes liberally from contemporary observers, such as La Bruyere and Saint-Simon, to show the veracity of Dancourt's social satire. Lemaitre views Dancourt very favorably and argues for his return from an unmerited obscurity. He praises Dancourt's ability to invoke the "mouvement endiabl6" of the frenetic society that foreshadowed the Regency,





6


but he mentions only briefly Dancourt's use of language or development of plot. He makes no attempt to analyze the plays as works of dramatic fiction. For him, Dancourt is a social satirist whose worth lies primarily in his ability to provide the modern reader a description of French society during the turn of the century: "Cette p6riode de libre vie fera plus libre la pens6e militante [des philosophes], et parmi les 6crits du temps, c'est peut-etre le theatre de Dancourt qui nous en donne la plus vive et la plus fiddle peinture . C'est par l,--et aussi par le mouvement et la gait6,--que vaut ce th6atre beaucoup plus que par l'invention dramatique." 10

In 1937 Wilmorth Starr, working under Lancaster, wrote an unpublished doctoral dissertation, "Florent-Carton Dancourt (1661-1725): His Life and Dramatic Works." It is a thorough work of literary scholarship, treating each play in chronological order, describing characters, outlining the plot, and commenting upon the interesting historical references or dramatic innovations. It is primarily from this work that Lancaster compiled his articles on Dancourt in French Dramatic Literature of the Seventeenth Century. Starr advances no particular thesis except to insist upon Dancourt's use of actualities which portray the social climate of the period. He concludes: "But perhaps the Dancourt who is the observer and documenter of moeurs and of the innate psychology of society at a critical period of its evolution into the libertinage,






7


rationalism, and materialism of the century of the revolution is the most interesting of all . . In general Dancourt's plays are flimsily constructed and lack a carefully balanced plan of intrigue, but this fact does not prevent a consistent attitude toward manners that when it is considered in review, gives a colorful and vital picture of society and the social structure." 11

In the last few years there have appeared three new

works on Dancourt, two dissertations and a book. In 1970, Alexander Sokalski presented his dissertation "The Dramatic Art of Dancourt and the Metaphor of Pretense." Through investigation of what he terms the internal structure (characters, plot, language) and the external structure (setting, costumes, liaison, monologue and asides), he argues that Dancourt's comedy does not mirror society but provides an illusion of reality through the metaphor of pretense. Sokalski writes that as a satirist, Dancourt allows the audience to break through the pretense of the dramatic illusion and thus see the pretense in their own society. "The real details preserve the illusion of reality and the audience is caught up in a web of actions. Whenever it [the audience] is directly forced to participate in this illusion, the illusion is shattered and shown up in the dramatist's metaphor of pretense." 12 His analysis of the different components of the drama show how the supposed realism of the plays is simply dramatic convention, i.e., the young lovers sometimes have never met each other,





8


the peasant "patois" is stylized, etc. However Sokalski's conclusions are confusing. He claims that in the final assessment "the dramatist lacks a conscious view and a larger vision; his satire is not sufficient in itself to cause the public to question its own values. Too frequently his skill as a dramatist and his metaphor of pretense are eclipsed by his more obvious subject matter." 13 For me, Sokalski's work is more valuable for its analysis of the various components of the plays than for its purported thesis which I feel he never really proves. However, it is by far the most thorough work on Dancourt presently available, and it has the distinction of being the first work to approach Dancourt from aesthetic rather than sociological perspectives. Rather than assuming that Dancourt's plays "mirror" society, he treats Dancourt as a creative artist who chooses and selects his material from the world around, him, molding it into a theatrical work of art.

The same year, Nivea Melani published "Motivi

tradizionali e fantasia del "Divertissement" 'nel teatro di Dancourt (1661-1725).14 Despite its title, the work offers little information on Dancourt's divertissements, which remain a very fertile field of inquiry. Melani simply compiles the divertissements in the final section of the book. However, she does provide a detailed analysis of characters (lovers, social types), structural motifs






9


(misplaced letters, stolen jewels), and themes (love, time, coincidences). She also explores the realm of fantasy, a minor but significant element in Dancourt's theater. In general she provides little analysis of her topics but compensates by a thorough catalogue of repeated themes, character types, and motifs, making the book an excellent research tool.

The latest dissertation on Dancourt is John Anderson's "An Essay on the One-Act Play with Special Reference to the Theater of Dancourt" (1973). As the title suggests, Anderson provides a brief history of the development of the one-act comedy in the seventeenth century, the development of the form by Dancourt and, furthermore, a study of his influence on Marivaux. Skillfully argued and researched, it provides a very thorough discussion of Dancourt's structural innovations and his influence on the development of the one-act comedy in Western theater. "Symbolists, expressionists, absurdists--playwrights of all persuasions have come to exploit the one-act form for the intensity of situation it affords, and nearly all have demonstrated, through the structure of their works, the value of Dancourt's innovations." 15

These recent works have opened new vistas on Dancourt.16 Their analyses of the internal workings of the plays have restored Dancourt to the position of a man of the theater rather than a La Bruyre in dramatic clothing.






10


Making abundant use of the insights provided by these new critics, I wish to return to the problem presented by the more traditional critics. Their stance has been that Dancourt is a good memorialist but a mediocre or even poor dramatist. This situation is problematical. There must be some relation between an author's subject matter and his writing skill. If he is capable of evoking a convincing picture of society, he must have some skill as a dramatist. The critics themselves are not consistent. They criticize Dancourt for a lack of control of his media, but also frankly admit to enjoying his plays very much. The fact that they choose to write about him is in itself, implicitly, a favorable appraisal. Furthermore, the tone of their articles as well as specific comments reflect a sincere appreciation of his works. Guy de Teramond states that Dancourt's plays were "6crites par un homme qui connaissait toutes les ressources de so n double m6tier d'acteur et d'auteur."17 Geoffroy writes: "Dancourt est plein d'esprit, d'enjouement, de saillies vives et originales."18 Petit de Julleville, one of Dancourt's harshest critics, admits that "l'esprit abonde: un esprit ais6, facile, qu'aiguillone souvent une pointe
,19
d'observation." And Lemaitre concludes his book with the appraisal that Dancourt's theater is "un des plus bruyants et des plus amusants . en somme, le plus int6ressant du XVIIIe siecle avec celui de Marivaux et de Beaumarchais." 20

There is no doubt that these critics have enjoyed

Dancourt and are sensitive to his comedy. But they hesitate






11


to admit it. I feel this stems from an inability to free themselves from the critical models offered by classical aesthetics. The "irregularity" of Dancourt's plays make the critics reluctant to endorse him freely. Comments that his plots are poorly worked out, that his characters have no depth or that his language is crude are only unfavorable if one assumes that plots must be well balanced, characters profound and language elegant. These are classical criteria but not criteria binding to drama in general. The interesting question, which they beg, is precisely how Dancourt does please so well while breaking the rules. Instead of facing the question directly, they skirt the issue by stating that Dancourt's value comes from his social observations. But, as is obvious from their comments, Dancourt is not just interesting or informative, he is very amusing. To appreciate Dancourt fairly, a critic must rid himself of the classical model.and approach the plays on their own terms.

It is difficult to assess exactly what criteria

Dancourt presented for himself. He was not inclined toward critical pronouncements concerning his own methods. Thus it is practically impossible to state categorically any authorial intent. However, in one of the very few statements he does make, he affords an interesting apergu into his aesthetic criteria. In his Prologue des Trois Cousines (modeled after Molihre's Critique de l'Ecole des femmes) a number of characters are united in the foyer of





12


the Th6ater-Frangais preceding the performance of Les Trois Cousines. Asked if he is acquainted with the dramatist (Dancourt), the Chevalier answers:

Si je le vois Madame? Je travaille avec lui!
quand il a quelque ivrogne L mettre, c'est
ordinairement moi qui sers de module. Oh! ce
gar on-l copie bien d'aprbs nature. Il a besoin,
dan une piece qu'il fait, d'un caractere de
nigaud, de fat, d'imb6cile ;2 e veux lui donner
ta connaissance. (sc. v)

Dancourt's "copie bien d'aprZs nature" differs little from Moli!re's "peindre apres nature," but the two assurances of realism take distinct forms in their respective plays. While Moli6re remains within the classical scheme of general psychological portraits, real in terms of an ideal model, Dancourt's realism is much more direct. Rather than ideal models, he claims to copy from the living models found in the "livre du monde."

Molihre's and Dancourt's different concepts of realism show the mark of their different times. Moliere's realism was of a universal order, revealing an aspect of reality which was unchanging, and thus reflects the absolutism of the stable society of the 1660's. Dancourt's-realism consists of specific details, which are in constant flux indicative of a more fluid and mobile society.22

Classical dramaturgy was no longer appropriate for

the time that Dancourt was living in and writing about. As demonstrated in Paul Hazard's La Crise de la conscience europ6enne, the years between 1685 and 1715 were unsettling years for Europe as a whole. In France, the uncertainty





13


seen in the philosophical queries of men such as Bayle and Fontenelle was matched by the daily uncertainty resulting from the social and economical ills that beset France during the last half of Louis XIV's reign. The discontent produced by inflation and costly military campaigns appeared all the greater when contrasted with the stable years of the 60's and 70's, years when the Sun-King shone so brightly and Colbert's absolutism seemed to assure calm and order. As the eighteenth century advanced, such fears were allayed by the heady optimism of the Enlightenment reaching its peak in the Revolution. But in this transitional period, French society seemed suspended in an unsteady state, the old order was eroded and no new order rose to replace it.

Wishing to portray an unsettled and unsettling social order, it was necessary that Dancourt diverge from the classical model of his predecessors. The concentration of subject matter,.the rational presentation of events, the unity of tone, the overall stability implied in classical aesthetics were unsuitable for a theater attempting to portray a time of confusing and distressing social evolution. This dissertation will attempt to show that the very elements for which Dancourt has been criticized--loosely structured intrigues, shallow characters and negligent language--are not the result of Dancourt's inability to do "better," but are deliberate attempts to adapt the genre of comedy to the new subject matter.






14


Dancourt has evolved what I term an aesthetic of the transitory. It is obvious that his subject matter deals with a society in a state of transition, but, more importantly, his style and structures converge to evoke a state of existence which might also be termed transitory. There is a temporary suspension of the normal order. Within the world created by the dramatic illusion, the characters, their actions, their language form a world in which the normal sequences of cause and effect, the sense of purposefulness in action, the ability of words to signify are muted. It is on this level that Dancourt's plays can justifiably be said to "mirror" his society. As the French society of his day, in the throes of a "crise de conscience," forms a transition between the classical period and the Enlightenment, so too does the dramatic illusion created by his plays form a world in which action and language create only a transitory reality.





15


Notes


Dufresny, Prologue to 'Le Ndgligent,' Th6dtre (Paris: Librairie gdn6rale, 1882).

2
A History of French Dramatic Literature in the
Seventeenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1929-42), IV, ii, 818.

,An Essay on the One-Act Play with Special Reference to the Theater of Dancourt," Diss. University of Wisconsin, 1973, p. 3.

4Lancaster, IV, ii, 817.

5Ibid., IV, ii, 577.

6
Ibid., IV, ii, 768.

7"Dancourt," Cours de littdrature dramatique ou receuil par ordre de matieres, (Paris: Blanchard, 1825), II, 257.

8.
Histoire de la langue et de la litt6rature francaise des origines A 1900, (Paris: Colin, 1898), IV, 568.
9I
9The Decline of the Age of Louis XIV (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1968), p. 101. Francisque Sarcey in a notice to an edition of Dancourt's theater makes a similar comment: "Le seul et veritable agr6ment que nous puissions trouver a lire son thdAtre, puisqu'on ne le joue plus, c'est d'apprendre A connaitre par ses pochades les moeurs, les mauvaises moeurs du temps, comme on suit le progres des modes d'une 4poque en feuilletant un vieil album de caricatures." See Dancourt, Th6dtre choisi (Paris: Garnier, n.d.), p. xviii.

10 (1882; rpt. Paris: Welter, 1903), p. 234-35.

11Diss. Johns Hopkins, 1937, p. 282.


12Diss. Yale, 1970, p. 280.






16


31bid., "Summary."

14(Naples: Istituto universitario orientale, 1970).

15Anderson, p. 223.

16Giedra Trocone has written a dissertation on Dancourt but it deals with only one play: "Dancourt's Le Chevalier la mode: A Critical Edition and a Commentary on the Play," Diss. St. John's, 1970.

7Le Malade imaginaire : La Maison de campagne," Conferences de l'Od6on, 26me s~rie, (1916-17) (Paris: Hachette, 1918), p. 122.

18Geoffroy, p. 244.

19Petit de Julleville, p. 570.

20Lemaitre, p. 240.

21OEuvres, 36me 6dition (Paris: Ribou, 1729). All future references to Dancourt will be taken from this edition and will be cited in the text. The edition is not consistent in its orthography and the text contains numerous typographical errors. To avoid annoying the reader with the repeated use of sic, I have simply reproduced the text as is, including all errors.

22
A more detailed comparison of Molire's and Dancourt's theoretical comments can be found in Muller's article "Dancourts 'Prologue des Trois cousines' : Probleme der Moli6re-Imitatio in der Kom6die der Fr~ihaufklgrung," Archiv fur das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen,
196, No. 2-3 (November 1959), 113-44.














CHAPTER TWO

A TIME OF TRANSITION:
FRANCE IN THE LATTER YEARS OF LOUIS XIV


Dancourt was born in 1661, the year that Louis XIV

reached adulthood and started his personal reign. He thus spent his childhood in a France bathed in the glorious light of the Sun King. He reached maturity and entered the theatrical world as the sun began to set over Versailles. Extending over a period of 44 years from 1681 to 1725, his plays document the economic and social plight of France during the last half of Louis XIV's reign. To understand the social context of his theater, one needs to know the problems France encountered during this time.

However, it is equally important to keep in mind the brilliance of the first half of Louis XIV's reign. Under Louis XIV France had become the political and cultural center of Europe. "For fifty years France would support and import geniuses in science and letters, build colossal palaces, equip immense armies, frighten and inspire half the world. It was a picture of almost unprecedented glory,

painted in all the forms and colors of art, and in the blood of men." I There is no doubt that France reached unparalled heights, politically and culturally, during Louis XIV's reign, though historians have yet to agree upon the


17





18


extent of his achievements. But it is also clear that the myth of classical absolutism was every bit as important as the reality behind it. According to writers such as Houssaye, the myth was more important:

La monarchie de Louis XIV, meme a l'apog6e de sa
splendeur et de sa puissance, 6tait un grand corps
avec tres peu d'appuis solides ; en un mot, un
colosse aux pieds d'argile. Sa superiorite consistait
surtout dans le prestige dont l'entouraient tant de
victoires, tant de g6n6raux naguere fameux, tant
d'6crivains r6pandant le rayon de la France sur le
monde, tant de vertu et de gsnie, une si longue
fortune sur les champs de bataille, une si
valeureuse attitude dans la paix, une confiance aveugle dans la sagesse du roi, une majesty que
l'infortune et la defaiterespectaient jusque dang
les fautes ins6parables de la faiblesse humaine.

The achievements of Louvois and Colbert made France the envy of Europe, as did the military victories in Flanders and Franche-Comt6. The perceived glory of the reign, however, owes as much to such political and military accomplishments as to Louis XIV's foresight in surrounding himself with talented artists to proclaim his glory. Colbert's policy of centralizing the administrative arms of the government was echoed in the clustering of painters, architects, and writers around Versailles. According to Voltaire he gave greater encouragement to the arts than all his fellow kings combined.3 Colbert poured French money into Italy to buy classical and Renaissance art. Everything was done to transfer the glory of the Roman emperors to the king and capital of France. The result amazed the world. But when the disillusionment came, the political and economical realities stood out all the more glaringly in contrast to the brilliance of the illusion.





19


Louis XIV's reign is normally divided into two equal halves: the glorious years from 1661 to 1687 and the decline from 1688 to his death in 1715. The last half of the reign shows a steady weakening of his powers and the loss of the gifted men who had helped build his empire. By 1688 most of his great administrators had disappeared. Cond6 and Turenne were dead. Louvois died in 1691. Only Luxembourg and Villars remained. Many of the great classical writers had died or were ceasing to write. Moliere, Corneille, and La Rochefoucauld were dead. All but the last book of La Fontaine's Fables (1693) had been written. Only Boileau and Racine still had masterpieces to come. The rest of Louis XIV's reign was accompanied by a decline in the creative arts, but the illusion of grandeur continued to persist even after the reasons for its emergence had faded. In fact, Louis XIV seemed to have demanded more and more from his poets and painters as the military situation worsened. "A mesure que la monarchie s'absorbe dans son prestige et cesse d'incarner les espoirs et les intdr&ts de la nation, elle requiert une adhesion plus aveugle et plus inconditionnelle, une adulation plus servile et plus vague."4

Perhaps the pivotal point of the reign can be seen in Louis XIV's decision in September 1688 to invade Germany.5 The result was a committment to a long and exhaustive series of wars against a Europe almost totally united against him. Though the French army was victorious






20


for a number of years, the cost to the country in terms of life and resources was enormous and began to be felt immediately. The levying of strangling taxes and the loss of manpower drained the country physically and spiritually. By 1689 famine was rampant in diverse parts of the country. The national economy was stricken from within by the exhausting support needed for the huge armies. Foreign commerce was severely restricted by pirateering and enemy ships. Poverty, famine, and war reduced the population in France from around 23 million in 1670 to some 19 million in 1700.6 Economic and military decline continued reaching its nadir in the great famine of 1709. When the humiliating peace of Utrecht was finally signed in 1713, the country was wrecked. She had lost her dominance of the seas to England, and her economy was damaged almost irreparably. When Louis XIV died in 1715, Parisians rejoiced, remembering him only for the terrible toll taken on the country in terms of life and resources.

Though Dancourt does not directly address the disturbing effects of the long succession of military campaigns, their social and philosophical repercussions form a basis for his comic structures. The two main subjects that dominate Dancourt's plays are the decline of the aristocracy and the ascent of the monied bourgeoisie. Though these patterns are recognizable over the entire century, the unsuccessful and costly wars significantly accelerated their progress, bringing them into sharp focus at this time.






21


The struggle between the aristocracy and the crown for power had been a continuing phenomenon over the last few centuries. In the seventeenth century, Richelieu's restructuring of the central government had given a marked impulse to the process. He significantly increased the responsibilities of the office of intendants which previously had attended only to the local functions in the different provinces. Under his governance, the intendants became the supervisors of local governments, of legal decisions, of administration, and above all of taxation, which beforehand had been the exclusive provenance of the noble governors and the Parlements. Under Louis XIV, the centralization of power under the crown was a conscious decision from the beginning. Starting from his childhood amidst the chaos of civil war, Louis XIV was determined to wrest as much control as possible from the nobles. He would delegate positions of authority only to commoners, as he explains in a letter written to his Dauphin:

Pour vous dscouvrir mime toute ma pens6e, il
n'6tait pas de mon int~rit de prendre des sujets d'une qualit6 plus 6minente. Il fallait, avant toutes choses, 6tablir ma propre reputation, et
faire connaitre au public, par le rang meme
d'obi je les prenais, que mon intention n'6tait
pas de partager mon autorit6 avec eux.8

Little by little the power of the nobility diminished. Following Richelieu's lead, the king strengthened the administrative and taxing powers of his intendants in the provinces. The Estates General had not been convoked since






22


1614. The ordinance of1667 and the letters patent of 1673 deprived the noblesse de robe of almost all powers to interfere in the legislative sphere which was at the heart of the nobility's traditional source of power.9 Their dominance of the military weakened, too. Louvois expanded the system of commutation payments from the nobility, encouraging the nobles in effect to hire substitutes, military men being in less demand than money to fill the state's coffers. Ennobling citizens through the purchase of letters patent was another attack on the noble's status. Again this practice had been used as far back as the sixteenth century, but never to the degree seen under Louis XIV. This provided the treasury with not only an initial sum of money, but, through a series of revocations, with continuing payments. The final insult to the nobility was the capitation in 1695, or head tax, payable by every French subject according to rank. This was the first time that the crown had overridden the nobility's immunity to taxation. And this was followed in 1710 by the dixieme, a taxing of 10% on all gross incomeregardless of status--thus equalizing everyone under the law.

Looking backward from 1715 across the long expanse of the preceding reign, French noblemen
thus saw their class excluded from civil offices,
reduced to a breathless reliance on the king's
pleasure, cowed by an initial show of royal
power, prevented from exerting group pressure on
high policy, diluted and degraded by wholesale
commerce in titles, and squeezed for military
commutation payments, for confirmation fees and





23


latterly--horrendous innovation!--for taxes.
Yet the class survived as a privileged stratum
of the population. It survived because the
sponsor of all these humiliating and crippling
measures had never for a moment entertained thyO
thought that it could or should be liquidated.

Louis XIV compensated the nobility for their loss of

real power by increasing the appearances of prestige. Real control was replaced with the inanity of pageantry and ceremony. He gathered the noblemen under his roof by convincing them that to live at Versailles was to be at the hub of the universe. By evolving a complex set of formal rituals at Versaiiles which consumed their energies and flattered their vanity, he chained them to the crown while his administrators spread throughout the country. Thus emerged two separate hierarchies: one of grandeur for the nobles, one of power for the administrators.11

The second social phenomenon important to an understanding of Dancourt's plays is the rise of the upper bourgeoisie, particularly the financiers. This was not new either to Louis XIV's reign nor to the seventeenth century. The process had been continuing for centuries as the growth of trade and light industry had spread over Europe. But certain circumstances in particular encouraged the process during Louis XIV's reign. The growth of trade in France, both foreign and domestic, increased considerably in the seventeenth century, creating a new class of wealthy wholesale merchants who did not actually produce anything themselves but bought their products from artisans at






24


piece-rates. Secondly, there was another group of wealthy middle-class citizens who grew up in the seventeenth century under the centralization of the government and its growing need for management. These were the high-level administrators of whom the most famous example was Nicolas Fouquet. His grandfather was a merchant of Nantes yet when Fouquet acquired the post of Surintendant des Finances, the great lords and ladies of the court were at his call. Not as powerful as the great ministers were other public-servants such as the fermiers-g6nsraux, or tax collectors. Some of them acquired enormous fortunes and the literature of the seventeenth century is full of outrage at their unscrupulous methods of obtaining money and their enormous personal fortunes.

This rise of the middle class accelerated during

Louis XIV's reign. France along with the rest of Europe suffered a general depression in the seventeenth century. When Louis took office the treasury was already bankrupt.12 Through Colbert's reform efforts, the treasury was almost doubled by 1667, but when the wars of the reign started, taxation increased and general prosperity declined. The king found himself more and more dependent upon middleclass financiers from whom he borrowed money to support his disastrous military expansions. The result was that while almost all of France from the treasury down to the peasants was undergoing a severe financial crisis, the






25


financiers were actually increasing their wealth. The more desperate the crown became for their services, the more the financiers were able to extract from the treasury. They acquired enormous personal wealth, bought and furnished sumptuous houses, and married their daughters to impoverished noblemen.

But society refused to accept them. For all their money, they could not acquire posts outside of finance. Their sons and grandsons quit the profession once the family fortune had been made. Though they blatantly aped the nobles in lifestyle, there was a constricting in the ranks of the nobility with deliberate intent to exclude the financiers. As Julian Dent shows, this elevation of a new superior class should have been seen as a natural phenomenon, a replenishing and renewing of the older aristocracy:

Noble genealogies of the period in which two or
even three -sons were killed in action or died
of wounds are depressingly common. Many of these
men were junior officers who died before they
had had time to get married let alone beget
children. As if this were not enough to limit
the fecundity of noble families, very large numbers of the sons of nobility who did not
enter the army went into the Church. For these
reasons there was a continuous rarefaction of
the atmosphere at the apex of society.13

Reasons explaining the hostility displayed toward

financiers' are difficult to pinpoint. One no doubt was envy of their material fortunes, a sentiment aggravated by the financiers' often gaudy display of their wealth while other sections of society were suffering financially.





26


Also there was the traditional disdain of those who acquired wealth through commerce. But there seems to have been something else which perhaps explains the degree of the resistance, and that was the speed with which the financiers amassed their fortunes. Enormous wealth was sometimes acquired within one generation. Perhaps it was the social instability implied by these tremendous changes that frightened people. For example, the rise of parlementaires which had also been occurring throughout the century did not seem to bother anyone, but it was done much less conspicuously. 4

Dent finds the denunciation of the financiers disproportionate to the harm they were causing society. As he argues, if the financiers were parasites it is difficult to see how "this quality distinguished them markedly from other groups in French society during the period of the ancien r4gime."15 What did distinguish them from other groups was that they seemed to represent an unstable segment in a society which felt itself to be in a state of crisis:

Very large sectors of the population (though
unable, as most people in the grips of a crisis
are, to evaluate the precise nature of their sufferirg) experienced fear and anguish, and
even the most calm would have produced some
reaction to a more or less cruel fate. There
was a closing of the ranks among groups that felt themselves threatened. Amongst long established groups proud of a certain stability
in membership, there was even some hysteria
about persons who moved around socially, and who
appeared to weaken the precarious equilibrium which
seemed to be all that prevented social collapse.16





27


The financiers became a focal point for much of the general social unrest in France at the turn of the century.

Dancourt's humour finds its source in the ambivalent social positions of the bourgeoisie. Their pretentious airs, the opulent display of wealth, and their vulnerability to mockery by their social betters is fully exploited by the dramatist.

An understanding of the economic, political and social climate of France at this time is essential to an appreciation of Dancourt's drama, for he makes many explicit references to contemporary events, such as the military campaigns and the rise of the wealthy financiers. But Dancourt not only describes the events of the time, he evokes in his theater the sense of unrest that was in the air. He captures on a poetic level the feelings of uncertainty and inquietude experienced by the population. The society was not just undergoing structural changes; it was redefining its very nature. What we now look back upon and call the emergence of the modern era was not recognizable as such by the people of the time. But the awareness of a profound change was there and Dancourt evokes the concept of being in a transitional period in his plays.

To place his plays in their full contemporary setting, we must look beyond the visible social and political changes and see what the philosophers thought of their society.





28


The more immediate signs of social convulsions, such as the military defeats, the economic changes, and the unsettling class divisions were mirrored on the philosophical levels by the disturbing treatises being written by the intellectuals of the day.

Paul Hazard has detailed what he calls a crisis of

the European conscience in his famous work of 1935. He finds between 1685 and 1715 a whole continent in a period of questioning and re-examination of the tenets of its philosophical and social order. The era is characterized by a new and very modern critical attitude toward all aspects of received knowledge. The inception of this critical attitude may be traced back to Descartes and the Discours de la mdthode in which he insisted on the exposition of clear and distinct logical arguments. Exactly how strong his influence was on later generations has never been agreed on entirely. Hazard's claim that by the end of the century Descartes was king might be overly simplistic, but nonetheless it is true that by this time Descartes was being widely read by the intellectural elite and his name and philosophy were well known even to those who had not read him personally.18 In an article written in 1688, Fontenelle credits Descartes with radically changing the way that his contemporaries approached philosophical quest ins. The passage is interesting on a number of levels. For one, it is a contemporary testimony to the influence of Descartes. Secondly, Fontenelle perceives





29


very clearly the difficulties that lay ahead for Descartes'

intellectual heirs. The exigence that all knowledge be

rigorously examined and accepted only when proven clearly

and distinctly necessitated the rejection of much conventional wisdom leaving men without the comfort and support

of tradition and authority. And, thirdly, Fontenelle acknowledges the importance of Descarte's methodology not just as

applied to physical or even metaphysical problems but to

problems of theology and ethics as well:

Sur quelque matire que ce soit, les anciens sont assez sujets t ne pas raisonner dans la
derniere perfection. Souvent de faibles
convenances, de petites similitudes, des jeux
d'esprit peu solides, des discours values et
confus, passent chez eux pour des preuves ;
aussi rien ne leur co(te prouver : mais ce qu'un
ancien d6montrait en se jouant, donnerait, A
l'heure qu'il est, bien de la peine a un pauvre
moderne ; car de quelle rigueur n'est-on pas sur
les raisonnements? On veut qu'ils soient
intelliqibles, on veut qu'ils soient justes, on veut qu'ils concluent. On aura la malignit6 de d6meler la moindre 6quivoque, ou d'iddes, ou de
mots ; on aura la duret6 de condamner la chose du monde la plus ing6nieuse, si elle ne va pas
au fait. Avant Descartes, on raisonnait plus
commod6ment ; les siecles passes sont bien heureux
de n'avoir pas eu cet homme-la. C'est lui, a ce
qu'il me semble, qui a amen6 cette nouvelle
m6thode de raisonner, beaucoup plus estimable
que sa philosophic m6me, dont une bonne partie
se trouve fausse ou incertaine, selon les propres regles qu'il nous a apprises. Enfin il regne non seulement dans nos bons ouvrages de physique et de
m6taphysique, mais dans ceux de religion, de
morale, de critique, une precision et une
justesse gui, jusqu's pr6sent, n'avaient 6t6
guere connues. 19

Fontenelle's reference to the "pauvre moderne" is a little

tongue-in-cheek no doubt, but it does suggest the sense

of dispair that man must inevitably feel when he realizes





30


that he is losing confidence in his ability to perceive accurately the reality around him.

The new tool of the mind, the critical method, was quickly applied to all aspects of conventional wisdom, resulting eventually in the flood of new ideas from the philosophes of the eighteenth century. But already in the seventeenth century the reappraisal of knowledge had begun. Galileo's heliocentric theory and Harvey's theory of the circulation of the blood, just to name the most famous, overturned the collective wisdom of centuries of pagan and Christian thinkers. More important for the social history of the time was the appearance in the last half of the century of numerous popular treatises on recent scientific discoveries. Written in the language of the honnete homme, learned but not pedantic, these writings aided enormously in the dissemination of science to the nonprofessionals, and, more importantly, in the dissemination of the new critical spirit. Fontenelle's Entretiens sur la plurality des mondes (1686) exposes the latest astronomical discoveries inthe context of an after-dinner promenade by an urbane couple admiring the beauty of the evening sky.

The appearance of more and more theories refuting

the traditional concepts of the past triqered a profound malaise in respect to the very notion of the past. According to Hazard, the overly famous Querelle of the ancients and the moderns was only a symptom of a much more






31


serious problem which he terms the failure of history. Spurred by increasing contact with the New World and the Orient, the historians of the day were forced to reexamine their own history in a new light. Attempts to reconcile the chronologies of Western history with those of other historical traditions only produced an increasing confusion. The deeper the researchers delved into the past, the more remote the possibility of finding reliable answers became. Paul Pezron, in 1687, admits to the increasing pessimism:

Le temps, qui consume toutes choses, et qui semble
vouloir tout mettre dans tin oubli 6ternel, a presque ravi l'homme la connaissance de sa dur6e et de son antiquity. Cela est si vrai,
qu'apr.s tous les soins qu'on a pris de nos
jours pour dccouvrir son etendue, et pour
savoir combien de si cles se sont ecoul6s depuis
l'origine du monde jusqu'5 la venue du Messie, non seulement l'on n'a point trouv6 la verite,
l'on s'en est meme beaucoup dloiqn6.20

Along with other institutions of the past the Church was not exempt from this re-examination. It had never fully recovered from the rediscovery of pagan philosophers during the Renaissance, and the Counter-Reformation was only a partial success. By the time of the reign of Louis XIV, the Church was confronted with a multitude of problems: a continuous battle against Protestantism, Jansenism and other divisive sects, the continuous stream of anticatholic propaganda from the north, the desertion by a notable segment of the working class, refusal of the younger sons and daughters of nobility to enter the religious life,






32


and a moral laxity brought on by the exhausting wars and the trying economic conditions.21

The same spirit that attacked the scientific and historical traditions of knowledge turned its critical tool on the Church. Fontenelle, in Histoire des oracles, applies the sword of reason to undermine the Church's teaching concerning the existence of miracles. Though he restricts himself to pagan miracles, he allows his scepticism of the historical sources to slip over into Christian authority as well. Like many of his contemporaries, he denies that he is attacking the Church outright, but, by insisting that one apply critical and rational standards to questions of faith, he breaks the ground for the wholesale onslaught that the eighteenth century will witness. In Chapter IV, for example, he questions the accuracy of certain Christian writers in the first few centuries of Christianity. He criticizes them for not using sufficiently rational processes in supporting their suppositions: "Quelques grands hommes de l'Eqlise ont 4t6 quelquefois trompds aux suppositions des h~rdtiques . . Ils n'ont pas toujours examine d'assez pres ce qui leur semblait favorable la religion." And even more dangerously, he calls on the moderns to accept and reject, according to their own rational discretion, what the authorities have written:

On ne pretend point par l affaiblir l'autorit6,
ni attaquer le m6rite de ces grands hommes.
Apres qu'on aura remarqu6 toutes les m6prises oni






33



ils peuvent 6tre tombs sur un certain nombre de
faits, il leur restera une infinit6 de raisonnements
solides, et de belles d6couvertes, sur quoi on ne les peut assez admirer. Si avec les vrais titres de notre religion ils nous en ont laiss6 d'autres
qui peuvent &tre suspects, c'est S nous S ne recevoir d'eux que ce qui est 16gitime, et S
pardonner S leur zele de nous avoir fourni plus
de titres qu'il ne nous en faut.22

Pierre Bayle, the Calvinist philosopher exiled in

Rotterdam, dared to go much farther. Believing that errors

were none the better for being old, he attacked directly

the very notion of authority. Ultimately all knowledge

must be verifiable by one's own senses and this applies

to theological questions as well as scientific ones:

. nos sens doivent itre les juges de nos
controverses, et d6cider de nos doutes. Si
donc la lumiere naturelle et m6taphisique, si
les principes g6ndraux des sciences, si ces id6es
primitives qui portent elles-memes leur persuasion,
nous ont 6t6 donne'es pour nous faire Lien juger
des choses, et pour nous servir de regle de
discernement, il est de toute ndcessit6 qu'elles
soient notre juge souverain, et que nous
soOmettrions h leur d6cision tous les diff6rends,
que nous aurons sur les connoissances obscures
de sorte que si quelcun s'avise de sodtenir que
Dieu nous a rdveld un pr6cepte de Morale
directement oppose aux premiers principes, il
faut lui nier cela, et lui soitenir qu'il donne dans un faux sens, et qu'il est bien plus juste de rejetter le t6moignage de sa Criti ue et de
sa Grammaire, que celui de la Raison. 3

Perhaps, more than any other writer, Bayle incorporated

the critical spirit of the time. "Bayle is no mere

Renaissance philologist, no emancipated Benedictine. He

is critical curiosity incarnate."24 His mind, encyclopedic

in reach and iconoclastic in temperament, attempted to






34


assess critically all aspects of traditional knowledge. His most famous work, the intellectual precursor of the Encyclop6die of the eighteenth century, was the Dictionnaire critique, (1696-97), an unorganized mass of notes on contemporary theological disputes. Its real import lies in the voluminous and detailed footnotes to each entry. The footnotes juxtapose contradictory authorities, resulting in the destruction of the very notion of authority. By amassing quotations, arguments, counter-arguments, references, and cross-references, the very possibility of certain knowledge is destroyed in the multitude of conflicting theories.

The strength and growing acceptance of the new critical spirit can be gauged not only by the strength of its advocates but also by the rage of its opponents. Bossuet, the inveterate defender of the French Catholic tradition, perceived very clearly the danger in the new writings. God was being forced out of a central position of command in the daily events of mankind. The mechanistic, rational system of cause and effect was reducing God to a general First Cause, a passive observer. Bossuet lashed back at the unmeasured pride of these men:

Que je e6prise ces philosophes, qui, mesurant
les conseils de Dieu leurs pens6es ne le font
auteur que d'un certain ordre g6n6ral d'o6 le reste se d6veloppe comme il peut! Comme s'il
avait notre maniere des vues g6n6rales et
confuses, et comme si la souveraine Intelligence
pouvait ne pas comprendre dans ses desseins les
choses particulibres, qui seules subsistent
v6ritablement.25






35


But man's faith in Providence had been irreparably damaged and Bossuet's anqer was only the final cry of a defeated man.

Dancourt's plays embrace a period whose main accomplishment was to sow the seeds of the destruction of a worldview which had defined man and his place in the world for over a millennium. The past was discredited, authority and tradition were found to be unworthy, God was reduced to impotence. No new philosophies were offered to fill the void except an all-encompassing scepticism which could easily degenerate into despair:

Au profond des consciences, l'histoire fit
faillite ; et le sentiment mdme de l'historicit6
tendit a s'aholir. Si l'on abandonna le pass, c'est qu'il apparut inconsistant, impossible a saisir, et toujours faux. On perdit confiance
dans ceux qui pr6tendaient le connaitre ; ou bien
ils se trompaient, ou bien ils mentaient, apres lequel on ne vit plus rien de certain, sinon le
present :20t tous les mirages durent refluer vers
1 avenir.






36


Notes


lWill and Ariel Durant, The Age of Louis XIV (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963), p. 3.

2La R~gence (Paris: Dentu, 1875), p. 14.

3Le Sihcle de Louis XIV (Berlin: Weidmannsche, 1878), p. 203.

4
Butler, Classicisme et baroque dans l'oeuvre de Racine (Paris: Nizet, 1959), p. 251.

5Gu6rard in The Life and Death of an Ideal: France in the Classical Age,-(New York: Scribner's, 1928) dates the beginning of the decline at 1685, Tilley in The Decline of the Age of Louis XIV, (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1968) suggests 1688.

6Durant, p. 695.

Wedgwood, Richelieu and the French Monarchy (New York: Collier, 1962), p. 99.

Memoires pour les annees 1661 et 1666 (Paris: Bossard, 1923), p. 76.

9Ford, Pobe and Sword (1953; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University, 1968), p. 12.

10Ibid., p. 15.

11Ibid., pp. 18-19. As Ford points out, Louis XIV
actually took measures to increase the nobility's prestige. "This was no Hobbesian sovereignty, equalizing all subjects through the equality of their subjection. Complaining, potentially dissident, in many respects parisitic, the nobility still received flattering mention in royal writs as the chief support of the throne . When in 1963 he established the military order of Saint Louis,it was to supply additional prestige and monetary rewards to those whose individual acts had best accorded with the nobility's fighting past."






37


12Lough, An Introduction to Seventeenth Century France (New York: McKay, 1954), p. 153.

13Crisis in Finance (New York: St. Martin's, 1973), p. 236. Dent claims that this upward mobility had been a constant phenomenon in French history, though never to such an extent. "The original Frankish aristocracy of birth died out very rapidly right at the beginning of the feudal period, its demise accelerated by the violence of the age. In periods of relative peace both internal and external the rate of disappearance would tend to fall; but it is not to be doubted that the centuries from 1300 to 1700 were sufficiently lethal for the process to continue apace." See Dent, p. 236.

14Ibid., p. 239.

15Ibid., p. 243.


16Ibid., p. 237.

17La Crise de la conscience europsenne (1680-1715),
2 vols. (Paris: Bovin, 1935).

18Ibid., I, 171.

19"Digression sur les anciens et les modernes," Pages choisies (Paris: Colin, 1909), pp. 87-88.

20Quoted by Hazard, op. cit., II, 61-62.

21Saint-Germain, La Vie quotidienne en France L la fin du grand sibcle (Paris: Hachette, 1965), p. 247.

22Fontenelle, op. cit., "Histoire des oracles," p. 71.

23OEuvres diverses, "Commentaire philosophique," (n.p., n.d.), II, 370.

24Gu6rard, p. 217.

25OEuvres, (Gallimard: Paris, 1960), p. 110.


26Hazard, 1, 39-40.














CHAPTER THREE

NARRATIVE STRUCTURE:
LINEAR VERSUS STATIC


Dancourt's dramatic structures defy classification. Since he wrote more than fifty plays over a span of forty years, one would expect a large variety of structural patterns and organization. The structures of Dancourt's three initial essays in drama, the first two written while he was a novice playwright touring the provinces, reveal considerable interest in experimenting with different structures. Though his first play, La Mort d'Hercule (1693) betrays the inexperience of its author, it is an attempt at serious drama in the classical tradition. The tragedy comprises five acts, in verse, and the subject matter stems from classical mythology. Starr has shown the possible influence of Racine in the

structuring of a love quadrangle similar to the one in Andromaque. Dancourt was not to attempt another tragedy, but his interest in serious theater in the classical mold will reappear in his later productions. His second play, Les Nouvellistes de Lille (1693), is a one-act comedy of manners, satirizing people interested in and willing to pay for news of recent events. Though a slight love plot runs through the play, it serves mainly to occasion humorous scenes mocking contemporary manners and thus results in a dramatic structure that is loose and episodic. The third

38





39


play, Le Notaire obligeant (1685), later called Les Fonds perdus, is a comedy of intrigue built around a conventional love plot.2 The parents attempt to thwart a young couple's plans for marriage, but, with the help of clever servants, the obstacles are overcome. There is some satire on manners, but the play is essentially the working out of a clever intrigue.

Such thumbnail sketches of his plays show the broad

range of his interests. One play aspires to serious comment on the essential nature of man, another attempts to satirize the temporary fashions of a particular society, and still another is a variation on the timeless theatrical types of Western comedy, old fools and young lovers. Two of them are written in verse and one in prose. One is in five acts, another in one, and the last in three. In two of them, the narrative plot provides the structural support; the scenes are well linked, and the action progresses in a linear fashion determined by a cause and effect relationship between the different subordinate parts. In the third, there is only a very weak narrative plot. Many of the scenes are not subordinated to this central action nor are they linked to it by a causal relationship. The structure is loose, the action fragmented, and the presentation of subject matter episodic.

Throughout his writing career, Dancourt would continue

to experiment with different lengths and structures for his plays. Of his ensemble of known works, thirty-nine are in






40


one act, one in two acts, nine in three acts, and eleven in five acts.3 As regards structure, he would vacillate between the classical demands for unity and balance and his own need for a new, freer structure better suited to his brand of manners comedy. Dancourt never seemed satisfied with his structures. Ile was criticized during his lifetime for his weak plots and later critics have repeated the charge. His failure to be a first-rate dramatist lies partially in his inability to find a structure that would reconcile the aesthetical demands for unity in an artistic creation and a subject matter which demanded a unity other than that of classical aesthetics.

The difficulty critics have experienced trying to

assess Dancourt's structures is evident in a brief review of Dancourt criticism. Until recent years, interest in Dancourt has been limited to his role as a social historian rather than as a playwright. Authors of substantial articles on Dancourt in the nineteenth century, such as Geoffroy (1825) and Lucas (1843), attempt no analysis or even judgment of his dramatic structures.4 Fournel (1892) dismisses his plots as either meager or simply nonexistant.5 The

author of the first book-length study of Dancourt, Lemaitre (1882), adds only that his intrigues are "l6geres, parfois un peu confuses, avec un desnrdre qui a son charme" and devotes the rest of the book to the study of character and social satire. Lenient (1889) is the only critic who actually praises Dancoiirt's structures: "Pour conduire et






41


filer une action, il s'y entend aussi bien et mieux que Molihre lui-m~me." In a 1937 dissertation on Dancourt, Starr writes: "Dancourt's plays are flimsily constructed and lack a carefully balanced plan of action or intrigue." 8 Interestingly, he does suggest a model for a typical Dancourt comedy "formed by a composite of some of his great successes," but it is too general to be of much worth and, even so, does not account for many of Dancourt's plays.9 Lancaster assesses at least some of Dancourt's structures favorably: "Dancourt's five-act plays, except those in which he was assisted by Saint-Yon, show lack of constructive ability, but his one-act comedies are usually built with great skill."1 fie is also the first critic to suggest the substitution by Dancourt of a unity of subject even in plays that do not observe unity of action. However, the general nature of Lancaster's work precludes any detailed analysis.of the structure. As late as the 1950's a lack of interest is demonstrated by Attinger's dismissal of the question with the comment that "la charpente de ses intrigues n'apporte rien de neuf."12 Moreover, a good deal of confusion about his structure is seen in Tilley's comment that Le Chevalier h la mode "has no real plot" which he contradicts on the following page with the statement that "the plot, though it drags in the last two acts, is fairly well worked out."13

Only in the last few years has serious interest been

shown in Dancourt's structures and a certain consistency in





42


methodology been applied. Sokalski, defining plot in the broad sense of the term, finds all of Dancourt's plays to share a binary structure: one part is a minimal love story and the other, which he feels to be the more important, "deals with reputation and concentrates on incidents having to do with appearance."14 Sokalski's division illuminated the aspect of Dancourt's work which most interested him, the working out of a dramatic metaphor of pretense as a dominant theme in the plays, but it fails to deal with the specific narrative structures of the plays. In Motivi tradizionali e fantasia del "Divertissement" nel teatro di Dancourt, Melani divides the plays according to subject matter. She lists three categories: commedie tradizionali (comedies of intrigue, manners, or characters), commedie alla moda (comedies of actuality), and commedie mitologiche (comedies employing mythological characters). 15 Anderson, in a dissertation which concerns plot structure specifically, but only in one-act plays, divides them into three categories: comedies of intrigue, comedies of manners, and--a division which admits many of the disparate elements of Dancourt's structures--plays which include the three elements of intrigue, manners study, and musical spectacle.16 This division reveals how problematic Dancnurt's structures are. The third category, a melange of the other two, is a particularly unwieldly mixture. Furthermore, the division is limited to his one-act plays and excludes thereby twentyone others.






43


While those last three examples of Dancourt criticism illuminate essential aspects of the plays, they also show

exactly how wide and disparate are the comic structures. Melani ends her categorization with a warning of the danger of such attempts to catalogue: "Va da se che questa distribuzione e assolutamente fittizia e che molti titoli potrebbero benissimo figurare in tutti e tre i gruppi ; il che sta a dimostrare, ancora una volta, la nericolosit dei compartimenti stagni."17 The sixty-odd plays cannot be neatly catalogued without sacrificing essential differences between them. Lemaitre's comment that the intrigues are "un peu confuses" is not very helpful but might well be the most accurate of the critical assessments. The problem lies on two levels. Sokalski has pointed out the danger of critics evaluating Dancourt by the standards of the Scribean piece bien faite, an anachronism which does Dancourt an injustice. But the confusion is not simply in the minds of the critics. Dancourt himself, writing less than twenty-five years after the publication of d'Aubignac's Pratique du theatre, seemed confused about the kind of structure needed for his plays, and more specifically, about how to reconcile the demands of classical dramaturgy with his interest in actuality as a subject matter. Ile needed a structure that was freer and more malleable than that offered by his classical predecessors. After his first unsuccessful attempt at writing






44


a five-act tragedy, he turned to the one-act form. It was here that he would be most successful.

A look at the history of the one-act form in the seventeenth century might help explain its appeal for Dancourt, and, by comparison, we can better appreciate the dramaturgical innovations he brought to French comedy. Though the one-act farce had been revitalized during the sixteenth century by the arrival of Italian actors and the commedia dell'arte, it had fared less well during the first part of the seventeenth century. Anderson notes that "as the vogue of the longer and more regular comedy began to

catch on, the farce, because of its length and its lack of refinement, slipped temporarily into oblivion. Though it never totally relinquished its place as curtain-raiser or afterpiece, the farce attracted the attention of playwrights less and less, and thus underwent little of the modernization accorded at the time to three- and five-act plays."18 However, around the midcentury, a new interest in the one-act play appeared. In particular, Moliere's successful presentation of Les Prdcieuses ridicules and La Comtesse d'Escarbagnas displayed the possibilities inherent in the form for modern comedy. Thus, toward the latter part of the century, the one-act comedy increased in popularity. Though Dancourt is not solely responsible for this growth of interest, he, more than any other playwright, was able to forge it into a viable and accreditable form, worthy of serious attention. Lancaster, documenting the marked






45


increase in production of the one act, states that "out of 84 comedies that have survived [in the period between 1689-1700] 48 are in one act" and almost half of these

(22) were authored by Dancourt. 9

In choosing the one-act form, Dancourt was entering an area that had received little critical definition by the classical playwrights and had been virtually ignored by classical theorists. This lack of critical interest can be clearly perceived in a 1672 preface by the dramatist, Hauteroche, in which he states that the one-act play should adhere to the same rules of dramaturgy as the five-act play concerning the unities, the bienseances and the requirements of vraisemblance.20 His statement implies that the one-act comedies were not being subjected to such regularization. Lancaster affirms that despite Hauteroche's appeal for regularization, authors of comedies continued to allow themselves much.freedom with the biensdances, linking, and the unities (except that of time). He states that violation of the unity of action occurred in a majority of late seventeenth-century comedies.21

I suggest that it was precisely the freedom allowed by the one-act comedy that appealed to Dancourt. His brand of comedy was so unsuited to classical theory that

he needed a form which had not been subjected to classical regularization. The pressure of contemporary critical theories and the accompanying beliefs in the fixity of

certain genres would not have permitted his brand of comedy





46


in the established five-act form. The one-act play offered him a flexible and malleable structure which he could shape to fit his own comic ends.

Dancourt's comic vision is in direct opposition to the most fundamental of classical precepts--the concept of dramatic unity. As Rend Bray has shown, unity of action was more than just one of the many classical rules; it was the very soul of aesthetic sensibility. Its reach encompassed not only dramaturgy but all genres. It was an understood "loi de l'esthdtique litteraire . c'est que l'unite d'action convenait essentiellement au temperament classique, disons meme au temperament francais." 22 Of course, more recent criticism has suggested that Bray's La Formation de la doctrine classique pe_-rhaps overstated the influence classical theoreticians had on contemporary playwrights and on the tastes of the audience. Borgerhoff has substantially documented the importance placed on artistic freedom and individuality which co-existed with the more rigid classical theories.23 Scherer has shown that during the very height of the classical period, the playwrights thems-lves liberally abused the dictums of Chanelain and d'Auhianac.24 However, certain general characteristics consistently observable during the classical era warrant its being designated as a distinguishable literary movement. Borqerhoff, the most adamant of critics in insisting upon the freedom allowed under classicism,





47


accepts the general standards of "unity, symmetry, clarity and simplicity" as representative of the movement as a whole.25 Scherer, who finds that the unity of action as defined by the classical theoreticians was contradicted consistently hy the finest of the classical playwrights,26 also states that a more generalized theory--never verbalized by the critics or the playwrights--which he calls the unit d'int6ret, was, in practice, observed by nearly all the classical playwrights. The unit d'intdr~t insisted that "l'attention soit concentrAe sur un h6ros ou sur un probl me vital." Molire's plays are exemplary in this respect, Scherer argues, for often they are poorly developed and poorly linked. There may be no principal intrigue or even necessarily any rapport between all the actions, but the plays do succeed in concentrating the attention of the spectateur on a certain object, vaguely defined though it may be. 27 It is precisely this concentration on one object that is lacking in Dancourt's plays. Or, to use Borgerhoff's standards, Dancourt's plays are neither unified, symmetrical, clear or simple. It would not he necessary to point out that a post-classical playwright specializing in one-act plays di1 not adhere to the classical rules, but it is important to realize that Dancourt radically severed himself from the very spirit of classicism. His plays are fragmented, episodic, loosely organized, and lack a central focus.






48


The fact that the one-act play was outside the

governance of classical rules made it very appealing for Dancourt, but that explains only its availability. There is another reason why the one-act form is well-suited to Dancourt's needs, a reason which is intrinsic to the form itself. Because the one-act play represents a continuous, uninterrupted time sequence, it allowed Dancourt to avoid any internal divisions which, by virtue of their presence alone, imply an internal structural or ordering principle. A division of a play into five or three acts establishes a temporal relationship between the acts. If a time sequence is blocked off into successive segments, an impression of a causal relationship between the segments is unavoidable. One act thus leads into and results from another act. A unitary time sequence avoids the impression of causality and this lack of causality is an important thematic, as well as structural, component of Dancourt's world.28

Borgerhoff, attempting to pinpoint the essential

nature of French classicism, offers an insight helpful to an understanding of how Dancourt differed from his predecessors: "this literature [classicism] was at the same

time animated by a desire for aesthetic purity, and individual works do not therefore possess the richness and the generality of expression that is found in other literatures. Density seemed more important than variety of tone, so that the hlendinq of which I have spoken results in an effect upon separate categories rather than in a






49


mixture of those categories."29 To the degree that classical literature can be said to bore into a single subject, to sound its depths, to penetrate profoundly a sharply delimited area of interest, to sacrifice breadth of focus for depth, Dancourt can be said to extend the range of his focus along a horizontal plane, to embrace a wide variety of tone and color, and to sacrifice depth of penetration for a broad scope of observation. In order to do so, he had to find a new way of organizing his plays. He had to develop a structural framework broad enough to encompass a wide range of disparate elements and still maintain an inner coherency. Unfortunately, he never found the formula which would permit him to achieve this, so that his dramatic career is a series of oscillations between these two poles.

La Mort d'Hercule, previously mentioned, is his first play and represents one of these polar extremes. This tragedy, along with three other comedies, La Trahison punie (1703), Les Enfans de Paris (1699) and Madame Artus (1708) are all unsuccessful attempts at serious or high drama in the classical tradition.30 They are in five 'acts and in verse. The dominant structure is a narrative plot which concentrates on the working out of one central problem. The

characters are limited in number and each affects and is affected by the central problem. The structure is carefully worked out. Technically these comedies meet the requirements of a well-made play. In all four cases, the influence of either Moliere or Racine can be shown. Unfortunately,






50


all four are also plagued by the same deficiencies: the action is slow and barely justifies the five-act length, the characters lack definition, and the dialogue is awkward and cumbersome. They tend toward the melodramatic, concluding on a ponderous, moralistic tone.

Intermittently, throughout his career, Dancourt attempted to write five-act, versified drama. Perhaps he felt that to be considered a first-rate playwright, he had to write in the classical mode. Sokalski, reviewing Dancourt's five dedicatory epistles and his three prologues, finds "an almost obsessive preoccupation with the doctrine of success."31 Starr has shown the influence of Moliere on many of his plays and, in an Epitre to Monseigneur le Duc de Mortemart in 1712, Dancourt places himself second only to Moliere:

Pr6s du Public je tcche a trouver grace,
C'est son goat qui forme le mien
Come il lui plait j'ajoute, change, efface
Dans tout ce que j'6cris, et je me trouve bien De ne m'6carter point du chemin qu'il me trace
Trdp heureux si par ce moien,
Quand Moliere est assis le premier au Parnasse,
Je pouvois prendre un jour mon rang si prds du sien,
Qu'entre nous deux aucun autre n'et place 32

Unfortunately, he had no talent for writing verse and even less for sustaining an intrigue through five acts. Le Chevalier la mode, his most successful play, was in five acts, but as Lancaster has said, Saint-Yon with whom Dancourt collaborated, is probably responsible for the fact that it is in five acts rather than in three or one.33

A brief review of one of these plays will demonstrate






51


the problems Dancourt encountered. Les Enfans de Paris centers on the father of the family, Harpin, who wishes to rid himself of his two children in order to gain their deceased mother's inheritance. Clitandre, the son, receives no money from his father and has started to gamble to support himself. Harpin hopes that Clitandre will be disgraced by the gambling so that he will be forced to leave home, or, even better, be arrested. As for his daughter, he intends to send her to a convent:

Faire enfermer mon fils, cloitrer ma fille,
M'assurer la succession,
Et m'acquerir ainsi la reputation
De brave pere de famille! (II, ii)

At the end, through the aid of Finette and their aunt, the two children evade Harpin's trap and lay one for him. They succeed in ridiculing him before his friends, and their triumph is complete when the commissioner of police, whom Harpin has bribed to arrest his son, arrests him instead. The aunt forces the father to concede the inheritance to the children, and the play ends with the commissioner walking Harpin off the stage.

Harpin is a thoroughly immoral character. With malice aforethought, he sets out to shut his children up and to take the money that rightfully belongs to them. He spreads rumors defaming the character of his son in hopes of disgracing him. His daughter is locked up in her room until she is to be taken to the convent. When he is exposed as the cruel father at the end, Madame Argante attributes the






52


triumph of virtue to providential justice:

Graces au Ciel, mes enfans, l'injuste traitement
Qu'il avoit dessein de vous faire
Tombe sur lui tr s-justement. (V, xiii) Finette offers the moral:

De cet exemple-ci faites un bon usage,
Profitez de sa honte, et de son chaitiment.
Quiconque veut preacher aux autres d'6tre sage,
Doit commencer par vivre sagement. (V, xiii)

Technically speaking, the plot is carefully worked out and centers entirely upon one character, Harpin, and his malicious schemes. The other characters are either his innocent victims (the two children) or agents acting to obstruct his plans (Finette and the aunt). The total number of characters is small, and all are related by blood or the love intrigue. The scenes proceed from one to the next in logical sequence, and the influence of L'Avare is obvious. However, despite the mechanical regularity and the centralization of action, the play lacks any vitality or.animation. It is much too long for the rather skimpy plot and the dialogue is encumbered by the stilted vers libres of 8, 10 and 12 syllables. But worst of all, the moralizing tone used as the characters band together to outsmart and to punish Harpin for his evil deeds weighs too heavily upon the play and smothers what little comique there is. This group of plays was all quite poorly received. Les Enfans de Paris played only six times when first produced and only 17 times in the period between 1704-40.






53


At the other end of the spectrum we find a group of plays equally unsuccessful but characterized by an extremely loose and fragmented structure. Les Nouvellistes de Lille, Dancourt's second play, already mentioned, falls into this category along with La Femme d'intrigues (1692, five acts), Sancho Panqa gouverneur (1712, five acts), Les Agioteurs (1710, three acts), La Gazette de Hollande (1692, one act), and La Loterie (1697, one act). Though of different lengths, the five plays have certain elements in common: an archetypal love plot which provides a skeletal structural support for the play and a place of business as the setting which provides the real focus for the play. There is a considerably larger dramatis personae comprised primarily of business clients. At the heart of the play are a series of short scenes in which characters, having no connection with the family-centered archetypal love plot, appear on stage in succession and allow for brief portraits of contemporary manners. The failure of these plays to receive a wide audience no doubt stems from the lack of integration of the parts into a whole. Though I, too, feel uneasy at the lack of a central focus, I judge these plays to be far superior to the former group which were mechanically well structured but unbearably dull. in this group, the succession of different

character types accelerates the pace of the plays, and provides brilliant sketches of the intriguing social history of the time.






54


La Loterie centers on Sbrigany, a Neapolitan

racketeer, who sells tickets in exchange for prizes. A love plot provides a connecting thread throughout the play. Sbrigany's daughter had been engaged to Eraste, the clerk of a customs official, whose professional contacts had been useful to the father in some earlier smuggling. But now that Sbrigany is firmly established in Paris, he engages his daughter to a police official, whose friendship is of more immediate value. However, the daughter remains faithful to Eraste, and, at the end, a financier appears who turns out to be Eraste's uncle and promises to help protect Sbrigany's business in exchange for permission for Eraste to marry the daughter. However, this love plot accounts for few of the scenes and very little of the humour.

The main interest in the play stems from the successive appearance of numerous clients who come to the lottery to exchange their tickets. These characters are not involved in the love plot and have no relation to one another except that they have all purchased tickets. Pure chance occasions their presence. Thus, at the core of the play, is a series of entries h effet, allowing clever portraitures of contemporary manners. The scenes are episodic and

static, with no connecting thread.






55


The first client is Flemish, a merchant from Brussels who suggests a deal: in exchange for displaying his wares at the lottery (watches, jewels, diamonds, etc.) and thus enticing people to buy tickets, he wishes to be allowed a share in the profits. Sbrigany refuses indignantly, exclaiming,"Je suis homme d'honneur" (sc. iii). A second visitor, Petronolli, attempts to bribe Sbrigany: "Que si non mi date la mia part de toutes les friponneries fattes et t fare, non posso en conscience empedir mi d'en fare confidenza au public et a la Justice" (sc. vi). Sbrigany rids himself of this intruder with a substantial bribe, A peasant, who has come from the country to cash in his tickets, is appalled to find that the prizes are useless to him: a pair of slippers ("j'aime morgu6 mieux une paire de sabots que Qa"), a mousetrap ("jons des chats cheux nous, que voulez-vous que je fassions d'une souriciere?"), a package of toothpicks ("c'est folie que de me bailler ca, je ne les cure jamais") and a bottle of eau de Cordoue ("la riviere passe au bas de cheux nous"). It is only the last prize that he finds a purpose for:

Un baton de bresil. Un baton! Ah palsangu4, bon
pour stilh. S'il est bien emmanch6, je vas m'en
sarvir, laissez-rIoi faire . je vous apprendrai
i vous gausser des gens de Courbevoie, avec votre
bouteille d'iau et vos souricieres. (sc. xi)

Besides simply selling tickets, Sbrigany allows his

house to be used as a discreet moans for lovers to exchange






56


gifts or notes. A baron's valet appears and leaves a note to be given to a young lady when she comes to collect on her ticket. There are seven other characters who make appearances either to collect their prizes or to exchange gifts.34

This technical device allows Dancourt to portray a large cross-section of contemporary types but at the expense of any narrative progression. The play is no more than a series of static tableaux with no ongoing action except the love intrigue which reappears intermittently.

Dancourt is at his finest in these brief sketches.

The dialogue, at which he excels, is extremely witty and gay. Differing cross-sections of seventeenth-century life are presented one after the other with no transitions or overarching connectives other than their existence in time. The sharp contrasts are allowed to clash with one another.

Unfortunately, on an aesthetic level, the plays are unsatisfying. The lack of integration of the parts into a whole leaves one discontent. The demand for a working out of a pattern or a rhythm within the work of art is not met.

The two groups we have analyzed show an antithetical

structuring pattern: the one concentrates its focus on a central intrigue and on a small, closely-related set of characters directly affected by the intrigue, the second






57


expands its focus to encompass a large number of characters related only by their chance appearances at a particular location. In the former group, the plot is revealed by a progressive series of actions connected by a causal relationship; in the latter there is only a series of independent and episodic actions.

These two groups represent extremes in Dancourt's

structuring techniques and are among his least successful plays. They include most of his five- and three-act comedies. Moving inward from these extreme positions, and looking solely at his one-act comedies on which his fame rests, we find that the bulk of the plays tends toward a fusion of the two prototypes. But the fusion is never complete. One group of plays is still dominated by a central intrigue (normally an amorous one) but as opposed to the ones just studied, these plays are more loosely constructed, shorter in length, written in prose, and they wander from the central plot at times to allow for some manners comedy. Another group tends toward the episodic, with the central interest of the play emanating from a location that allows for the appearance of a variegated cross-section of social types. But here the love plot, while still second in importance to the portrayal of manners, is usually

interwoven throauhout the play and maintains a larger role than was seen before. Thus the majority of Dancourt's one-act plays ar- a hybrid of the two prototypes, having





58


many elements in common, but maintaining a slight preference for the one or the other.

Le Galant Jardinier (1704), cited by de Curzon and Joannides as Dancourt's second most successful play in terms of number of performances, is dominated by a central love plot. Leandre, returning from the army at his father's request, has met Lucile in route and they have fallen in love. He has taken a position at the house of her father, Dubuisson, as an assistant gardener. He learns that Lucile's father has promised her to a very rich and thrifty man, Caton. Hoping to lower the father's opinion of Caton, Leandre has been sending men to Paris every day to buy extravagant presents and entertainment and delivering them to Dubuisson in Caton's name. The gardener, Lucas, finds a piece of paper which Leandre's father had printed offering a reward for information about the whereabouts of his son, and goes to Paris to collect the reward. Just as Dubuisson is becoming very unhappy with Caton's seemingly lavish spending, Leandre's father, Orgon appears, having been told by Lucas where his'son was. Then it is learned that Orgon and Dubuisson are old acquaintances, and had previously arranged for their children to marry, and this was why Leandre had been called home in the first place. Dubuisson is happy to be rid of Caton and the play ends with the lovers anticipating their marriage.






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The play is structured around a central love plot and the characters are limited in number and directly involved in the plot. In these essential aspects, the play is not far from classical comedy. But on the other hand, though most of the actions tend to relate to the working out of the intrigue, the play is by no means tightly constructed. For example, the denouement does not come from Leandre's plans to discredit Caton but is a deus ex machina provided by the timely arrival of Leandre's father, Orgon.

More importantly, the main interest in the play does not involve the working out of the plot. In fact, very little action occurs at all. The play is begun in media res and almost all of the plot is related orally through dialogue. We learn how the two lovers have met, how Leandre has bribed the gardener to gain access to the household, how he has had presents sent in Caton's name. Dubuisson describes his initial impression of Caton's thrift, and then how he has become disillusioned. Leandre's valet describes how worried Leandre's father is over his son's disappearance, and how he has published a poster offering a reward. The only real action that occurs is the gardener, Lucas, finding the poster, bribing Leandre in exchange for not telling his father where he is, and then going to Paris to collect the reward from the father.

The real int-rest in the play comes from comical






60


scenes occasioned more or less plausibly by the plot. For instance, there are two delightful scenes in which Leandre confesses his love for Lucile to his valet and in which Lucile confesses her love for Leandre to her maid. In both scenes, the romantic sentimentality of the lovers is juxtaposed to the pragmatic realism of the servants. One of the most humorous scenes in the play has nothing to do with the plot and introduces a character who never reappears. It involves Caton, and a cousin of Dubuisson. Both men stutter and think the other is mocking him:

M. Caton: Monsieur Ba bavardin, vous etes un mau mauvais plaisant, je vous en avertis.

M. Bavardin: Et vous un plat plat bou boufon, Monsieur Caton.

M. Caton: Vous poussez trop la la raillerie, Monsieur Bavardin.

M. Bavardin: Vous me tu tu turlupinez mal a
propos, Monsieur Caton. (sc. xvii) As is common with Dancourt, a number of scenes involve satire of contemporary manners though it is only slightly related to the plot. Lucas, the gardener, is elated when he finds the poster offering a reward for information concerning Leandre's whereabouts. lie can not read but is sure that the paper will lead him to riches. He and his wife fantasize about the new life they will be able to enjoy:






61


Titigue, que d'envieux, que de gens fichez dans
le. village, auand ils verront Mathureine et
Lucas dans un biau carosse ; car, vois-tu, je
ne sommes pas pour en demeurer-li. Si j'ai une
fois de l'argent, crac, je me boute dans les
affaires, je me fais Partisan, tu seras Partisanne
j'acheterons queque Charge de Noblesse ; et pis, et pis, on oublira ce que j'avons 6t6, et je ne
nous souviendrons morgud peut-etre pas nous-memes.
(sc. v)

Though the play has a dominate central plot, there is no unity of interest. The plot is related primarily through words, there is little working out of the intrigue in the play itself, and it culminates in a deus ex machina. The humor comes from a series of isolated scenes, complete unto themselves and only tangentially related to the intrigue. As compared to many of Dancourt's plays, Le Galant Jardinier impresses as well organized and limited in scope, but even so, it is still very loose in structure and episodic in many of its scenes.

Corresponding to the second group of plays we studied, which consisted 'of little more than a series of walk-on appearances by a large number of unrelated characters at a place of business, we find a number of one-act plays which exhibit the same characteristics. A physical setting provides the occasion for the assembling of a number of people. The love plot is interwoven throughout the play, although it is relegated to a secondary position. The main focus is on the appearance of characters drawn to the location and who represent a partial cross-section of seventeenth-century life. Social satire predominates as the means of producing humor.






62


The title of Les Eaux de Bourbon reflects the importance of the physical location as a structuring agent in the play. There are three groups of people in the play, defined by their relationship to the location: the first group (such as the doctor and the pharmacist) lives at the waters year round, the second group are the patients who come to be treated, (such as the baron and the prdsidente), the third group (such as the marquise and the chevalier) are parasites who follow the rich to the waters in hopes of winning their money.

The plot, in the sense of a logical progression of action in time, concerns Grognet, a doctor, who wishes to marry his daughter, Babet, to one of his rich patients, a baron. However, the daughter is already secretly married to the baron's son. At a ball given by the baron in celebration of his anticipated wedding, the two young people announce.that the baron's signature on the wedding contract only makes official their own marriage since the baron and his son share the same name. This traditional commedia dell'arte plot is very contrived but still amusing, and Dancourt skillfully juxtaposes the greed of the doctor and the ailing physique of the baron with the adolescent innocence and joic de vivre of the young couple.

The plot itself has obvious weaknesses. Since the couple is already married, there is no real conflict. A

device which Dancourt might have exploited would have been






63


to center the conflict on a dowry clause in the marriage contract, but he did not bother to do so. While logically the plot does not hold together, it is lively and animated. The weaknesses would probably not bother an audience upon presentation.

The main interest in the play lies in the satire of contemporary manners and in a number of clever portraits. A motif which runs through the play concerns the discrepancy between the proclaimed illness of the patients and their feverish social life. Dances, festivals, musical events, gambling tables, and the opposite sex pro-e a much stronger attraction than the healing waters. The peasant, B4lise, points this out in respect to the baron:

Il viant i.ci prendre des yaux pour se r6tablir
le foye, et il y deviant estropi.d par la Farvelle
les Medecins le guarissont d'une fagon, et les filles et les femmes le rendront malade d'une
autre. (sc. i)

A minor character, the pr6sidente, who reappears in a number of scenes, is not related to the plot in any respect, but serves as an example of the supposedly infirm patient who leads a very healthy social life-. At one point she exclaims:

je n'en puis plus ; les eaux me sont mortelles, et l'on m'enterrera ici, je pense. M. Grognet: J'ai pass chez vous ce matin sur los dix heures, Madame : Mais vous n'6tiez pas encore eveill6e. La Presidente: Je venoisde me coucher, Monsieur Grognet, nous avons joii' toute la nuit la basette.






64


M. Grognet: Jou6 toute la nuit, Madame la Prdsidente!

La Pr6sidente: Rien ne fait tant de bien. (sc. vii) The doctor is related to the plot as Babet's father. In that role he plays the traditional stubborn father who insists that his daughter marry an old man because he is "un homme riche, sans enfans, qui lui assure la moiti6 de son bien, et qui n'a pas deux mois a vivre" (sc. xv). More importantly, he serves as a vehicle with which to satirize the venality of doctors in general. For instance, when the pharmacist agrees to do him a favor, he promises to repay the kindness: "Tu as chez toi de vieilles drogues g~tees, je les ferai toutes consommer a mes malades, je t'en donne ma parole" (sc. xv).

The pharmacist is a very important person in the

play though she has no direct contact with the love plot. Dancourt has given her a central position in that, besides being a pharmacist, she is also a sort of femme d'intrigue and keeps abreast of all the happenings at the waters. She provides a means by which Dancourt can introduce other characters, because her establishment is a hoLel as well as a pharmacy. She plays the role of confidant to the young couple, and, once the setting of the play has moved to her house, characters can be introduced who are her guests. Thus, structurally, she serves as a link between the love plot and the satire of people coming to the waters.






65


Two of her guests, the marquise de Fourbanville, and the chevalier de la Bressandiere, play important roles in the play and represent the other group who come to the waters: parasites seeking rich invalids either to marry them or to trick them out of their money. The marquise has followed the baron from Paris in hopes of trapping him into marriage. The chevalier has come in search of money and also settles upon the baron as victim. As the marquise explains, there is a shortage of dupes this year. "Il ne s'y en est jamais moins trouv6, je pense, nous sommes tous deux obligez de nous attacher b la m~me personne" (sc. xxiii). However, there is no formulation of a scheme to pursue their goals. They simply provide a commentary on social types that prey on the weakness of others. Dancourt has justified their existence by having the baron be the object of their schemes, but in no real sense are they connected with the plot. There are a number of other characters who are simply guests at the hotel and provide sketches of aspects of society.

Thus the play is very loosely organized: There is no central focus which structures the play. A very slim plot is interwoven throughout but the main interest comes

from the momentary glimpses of a wide variety of characters providing commentary on contemporary manners. Instead of actions being arranged in a causal relationship, we have an unconnected series of social types and social commentary. Nor, even in the broadest sense, is there any unity of





66


action or interest. The satire ranges from doctors and pharmacists to gamblers and alcoholics.

We have seen two extremes in the way Dancourt structures his plays: a close-knit, concentrated study of one central problem, and a stringing together of unrelated characters making brief appearances on stage. The former was an attempt to imitate classical dramaturgy and to be considered a serious dramatist, the second, an attempt at actuality in a purely descriptive mode. Neither was successful. As we look at his one-act plays, to which he owes his fame, we see a fusing of the two extremes: one a centralized development of an intrigue which still allows for manners comedy, the other a study of manners into which is woven an intrigue.

Dancourt is at his finest as a satirist of contemporary manners. His ability to work out an intrigue is adequate, but shows no remarkable skill. lie needed a structure which would allow him to portray his comedy of manners, but which would still have a central focus. He attempted to meet this need for inner coherence by including a traditional love plot within his plays. However, there is no fusion between the love plot and the satire of manners. They are simply superimposed on one another.

The result is that most of his plots are asymmetrical, fragmented, and lack a central focus. As an observer of a society whose social order was breaking down, such






67


uneven and unordered structures reflect the lack of order and inner coherence which is his primary thematic concern. That Dancourt did not manage to unify his structures was somewhat a result of his own weaknesses as a dramatist, but it also indicates that his concerns were elsewhere. In a very real sense, the lack of unity does give structural strength to his thematic interests: the observation of a society marked by feverish movement but with little order or structure.

Clearly, on an aesthetic level, this lack of structure is not very satisfying. The closest Dancourt came to a structure proper for his manners comedy was the technique of using a physical location as a structuring device, as was seen in Les Eaux de Bourbon. Anderson signals out this technique for special mention: "in his best comedies, Dancourt had experimented with environment as a substitute for detailed intrigue or individual character in the production of dramatic tension. This is, without a doubt, the author's most significant development in the genre of manners comedy."35 Relating the characters to a setting, rather than to each other through a narrative plot, allowed him freedom to reflect in the structure of the play the lack of order and logic he saw in his society and still maintain some aesthetic coherence. Not having the

characters involved in a narrEtive plot, with all that such a structure implies--particularly the necessity of





68


causal relations and a logical progression of events in time--enabled him structurally to mirror a society which he felt was losing its inner coherency and its former logical structure and still produce an integrated work of art.

In the final analysis, Dancourt's structures must be

considered inadequate. He was groping for a new structuring model that would allow him to portray a society in a state of transition, that would allow him to capture in a theatrical illusion the moment after the breakdown of one order and before the emergence of another. The classical modes were insufficient, and he experimented with various formulas, oscillating between the use of a narrative plot

and static tableaux without ever finding a totally satisfying structure.

In many respects, Dancourt's plays can be compared to the realistic drama of the nineteenth century. In particular, Chekhov's Cherry Orchard, using a slice-of-life technique, shows many similarities: little action, the use of a large number of characters representing different social classes, sexes and ages and, primarily, the use of a physical location as a structuring device.36 But the difference in Chekhov is that the characters are all closely tied, emotionally and physically, to the location. The orchard is not just a pretext with which to assemble the people; it is itself a symbol replete with meaning for






69


the characters, though different for each one. Thus the multiplicity of viewpoints exists but it is contained under a single, overarching theme, the passing of the orchard. Chekhov achieved a fusion of forme and fond never attained by Dancourt. They were both interested in showing the breakdown of a society which had been based on a rigidly defined set of social classes and both saw that a static, episodic structure was needed to reflect the lack of order in the society.

Though Dancourt by himself was never able to produce

a single drama that could fuse an appropriate structure and subject, his essays were innovative, and as Anderson has shown, he made significant progress in the modernization of the one-act form. The large degree of critical attention given to Dancourt as a social historian of the latter years of the reign of Louis XIV has documented well Dancourt's interest in portraying contemporary manners, but it has overlooked his attempts to mirror the social phenomena in his form as well as his content.






70


Notes


1"Florent-Carton Dancourt (1661-1725): His Life and Dramatic Works," Diss. Johns Hopkins, 1937, p. 52.

2Lancaster notes that only the first edition (The
Hague: Foulque, 1696) gives this title. All subsequent editions list the latter. See A History of French Dramatic Literature in the Seventeenth Century, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1929-42), IV, ii, 579.

3See Appendix.

4Lucas, "Dancourt, Brueys et Palaprat, Dufresny,
Regnard," Histoire philosophique et litt6raire du th6itre fran ais depuis l'origine jusqu'a nos jours (Paris: Gros elin, 1843), pp. 172-81. Geoffroy, "Dancourt," Cours de litt6rature dramatique ou receuil par ordre de matiies,
(Paris: Blanchard, 1825), I1,231-69.

5 Le Th6dtre au XVII .icle : La Com6die (Paris: Oudin, 1892), p. 407.

6La Comsdie apres Moliere et le th6 tre de Dancourt
(1882; rpt. Paris: Welter, 1903), p. 96.

7La Com6die en France au XVIIe sicle (Paris: Hachette), p. 104.

8Starr, p. 282.

9Starr writes that "the fifty-odd comedies of the author present a host of types and situations, but the very number of the plays makes for a frequent repetition of both. For example, to extract the essence of the method, a typical comedy formed by a composite of some of the great successes would be somewhat as follows: The scene would be in a village; the young girl, Ang6lique, would be unhappy, for her elderly and miserly guardian has announced that they are to be married. Clitandre, a young noble, however, has seen Angelique while passing through the village on the way to the wars, has fallen in love with her, and she has admitted that she returns his affections. M. Robinet has a widowed






71


sister-in-law, Mme Thomas, an erratic, emotional bourgeoise with a longing for a title, and although she is on the unflattering side of middle age, she falls in love with Clitandre and his title. The young lovers, however, with the help of Lisette, Ang~lique's maid, of Merlin, Clitandre's valet, of the bribed Lucas, Robinet's gardener, and of a bribed bailli, make out a marriage contract whereby Robinet thinks to marry Angslique, and Mme Thomas thinks to marry Clitandre. The contract is manipulated, however, so that Robinet and Mme Thomas, Clitandre and Ang6lique are married. The play then concludes with a divertissement to celebrate the wedding arrangements." Ibid., p. 283.

10
Lancaster, IV, ii, 770.

11Ibid., IV, ii, 585.

12 'Esprit de la commedia dell'arte dans le theatre fran ais (Paris: Baconniere, 1950), p. 268.

13The Decline of the Age of Louis XIV (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1968), pp. 94-95.

14"The Dramatic Art of Dancourt and the Metaphor of Pretense," Diss. Yale, 1970, pp. 144-45.

15 (Naples: Istituto universitario orientale, 1970), pp. 22-23.

16"An Essay on the One-Act Play with Special Reference to the Theater of Dancourt," Diss. University of Wisconsin,
1973.

17Ibid.


18Anderson, pp. 77-78.

19Lancaster, IV, ii, 947.

20Au Lecteur to 'Le Deuil' in OEuvres de th6atre (Paris: Librairie associ6s, 1742), I, 425.


21Lancaster, IV, ii, 947.






72


22La Formation de la doctrine classique en France (Lucerne: Payot, 1931).

23The Freedom of French Classicism (Princeton: Princeton University, 1950).

24La Dramaturgie classique en France (Paris: Nizet, 1966).

25Borgerhoff, p. 243.

26Scherer, p. 103.

27Ibid., pp. 108-109.


28See chapter seven.

29Borgerhoff, p. 243.

30The original title was La Famille a la mode, then Finette, and finally Les Enfans de Paris. See Lancaster, IV, ii, 810.

31Sokalski, p. 29. In a dedicatory preface to
Les Enfans de Paris addressed to S. A. Electorale Monseigneur Le Duc de Baviere, Dancourt ends with "Ieureux si c6l6brant un nom tel que le tien,/ Des horreurs de l'oubli je puis sauver le mien.'"

32Dancourt, VIII, 121.

33
Lancaster, IV, ii, 587.

34According to Mongr~dien, Louis XIV was essential in
assuring the popularity of lotteries: "Louis XIV excite les passions des courtisans par des loteries, parfois toutes en billets noirs, c'est- -dire en billets gagnants. Lui-meme achete des billets et remet en jeu les lots qu'il gagne. C'est une maniere detournde pour le souverain de faire des cadeaux aux dames de la cour." See La Vie quotidienne sous Louis XIV (Paris: Hachette, 1948), p. 104.






73




35Anderson, p. 219.

36The Oxford Chekhov, trans. Ronald Hingley (London: Oxford University, 1964), III.














CHAPTER FOUR

CH1ARACTERI ZATION:
PSYCHOLOGICAL REALISM VERSUS SOCIAL REALISM


Dancourt's method of characterization has attracted

more critical attention than any other aspect of his drama. He has been acclaimed for opening the French stage to a wide variety of characters and, at the same time, censured for not developing them more extensively.

Critics have consistently pointed out that the impressively broad and comprehensive spectrum of contemporary society afforded by his characters had not hitherto been seen on the French stage and was unequalled by any of his contemporaries. Wogue, stressing breadth, refers to the plays as the "Etats gn6raux de la satire:"

Aucune cat~gorie sociale ne trouve gr~ice devant cet impitoyable persifleur; A la classe moyenne,
avide de titres nobiliaires, il d6coche les
Bourgeoises de qualit6; aux nobles besogneux, qui
vivent de quelques intrigues d'amour savamment menees de front, le Chevalier la mode (1687),
un Moncade exacerb6, pire que ]os chevaliers
de Regnard; aux paysans qui remplacent 'I'aimable
simplicit6 du monde naissant' par une tres moderne
apret6 au gain, le Galant Jardinier (1704).1

Lancaster, stressing originality, points out that Dancourt
2
was the first playwright to introduce an abb6 on stage.

With equal consistency, Dancourt's characterizations have been criticized for lacking psychological depth.
3
Attinger claims that not one of his characters is "puissant."


74






75


Lenient warns us not to look for any "profondes analyses de caractLres."4 And the most generous critical appraisals have seen the lack of significant psychological dimensions as an inevitable sacrifice which results from including such a large number of characters: "Ce que la comedie perd donc en profondeur, on peut dire qu'elle le regagne en 6tendue ou en diversity. Si le qain ne repare ni ne recompense tout a* fait la perte, il la rend moins sensible."5

The insistence of Dancourt's critics on looking for

psychological depth in his characters and then faulting him when they do not find it stems from the constant temptation to compare him by the standards set by Moliere. Psychological realism is not a necessary prerequisite of good drama and even less so of good comedy. Critical appraisals such as those cited result from the frequent confusion in dramatic criticism between reality and theatrical illusion, between characters and human beings. Characters can be nothing more than an author's creation, a dramatic convention. They share certain qualities with real people by which we recognize them as dramatic characters, but the similarity is only partial. A character is simply a dramatic agent and does not exis- outside of the events of the play.

Rather than viewing a lack of psychological depth as

an inherent flaw or at best a sacrifice in order to include a large number of characters, it is possible to see the coupling of these two components as a deliberate technique on Dancourt's part. Before proposing what I find to be a






76


positive and creative synthesis of these two components, let us look more closely at Dancourt's characters and the findings of his two major critics.

The only two critics to have dealt at length with Dancourt's characters are Lemaitre and Sokalski, and they have approached the subject from rather different viewpoints. Lemaitre uses a socio-historical approach to comment upon the description of contemporary society provided by Dancourt's plays.6 Sokalski examines the relationship of Dancourt's characters to comic archetypes handed

down from Roman comedy through the commedia dell'arte and studies their function as dramatic agents within the plot.7 Though their approaches are distinct and rarely overlap, a certain similarity in critical approach can be seen in both works. Each critic assumes a pre-existing structure and investigates the relationship between the assumed structure and its particular manifestation in Dancourt: Lemaitre looks at the social class structure and Sokalski at the traditional commedia dell'arte characters. Both studies suggest, explicitly in Lemaitre and implicitly in Sokalski, the existence of a once viable and orderly structure which is now being subjected to internally and externally destructive forces.


Social Class Structure

Lemaltre offers a critical analysis of the description

of late seventeenth-century society seen in Dancourt's plays,






77


emphasizing what he considers original with Dancourt: the description of the disintegration of the old social order brought on by the ascendant power of money. He maintains that Dancourt's uniqueness as a dramatist is a matter of scope rather than of specific innovation. Many contemporaries displayed equal interest in the social evolution occurring around them, but none attempted such a panoramic representation of the phenomenon. Only in Dancourt is the comprehensive dimension of the change so strongly stressed. Lemaitre begins by listing a few of the wide assortment of characters who parade through the works, pointing out that many of them were new to society as well as the stage:

. bourgeois de Paris, financiers, agioteurs, hommes de robe, paysans de Suresnes ou de SaintGermain, marchands, hoteliers : bourgeoises de
Pariset leurs filles, paysannes, grisettes, coquettes
jeunes et vieilles, femmes d'intrigue, officiers
viveurs, chevaliers d'industrie, joueurs et
joueuses . tous ces ersonnages (et j'en passe)
vont et viennent . .

He lays particular stress on the breaking down of the class structure: the destitution of the nobility, the social mobility of the wealthy bourgeoisie, and the rise of the peasant class into commercial and governmental positions. Secondly, he points out the importance of a new class of men who had not been part of the traditional order and were attacking it from without: the narvenus, men of commerce, and a hybrid qroup of opportunists and swindlers he calls

the monde interlope.

Let us look first at the characters defined by their social class: the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and the






78


peasants or servants. In the three cases, we find that their role in society is undergoing a transformation and that their principle concern is adapting to that change.

For the aristocracy, the social change has been disastrous. Formerly the undisputed financial and political leaders of the country, they are now described as heavily indebted, forced to sell their lands and family possessions, pursued by creditors, and reduced to flattering the vanity of their social inferiors. As Tilley has noted, Dancourt presents us with few members of the nobility, but those that are portrayed are hollow caricatures of their proud forebears. There is no nobility in character, speech, or action to accompany their lineage.9

The main character in Le Chevalier a la mode owns

nothing but his title.10 It is his only source of income and he is selling it dearly. Necessities of life which were once provided by the output of his lands are now furnished by women with whom he promises to share his title:

Il a, comme je vous ai dit, ordinairement cinq
ou six commerces avec autant de Belles : il leur promet tour a tour de les 6pouser, suivant qu'il
a plus ou moins affaire d'argent. L'une' a soin de
son equipage, l'autre lui fournit de quoi jouer,
celle-ci arrete les parties de son Tailleur,
celle-lU paie ses meubles et son appartement et
toutes ces Maitresses sont comme autant de fermes
qui lui font un gros revenue. (III, ii)

Amidst their financial ruin, the nobility is depicted as morally bankrupt. Their vices range from gambling and licentious behavior to an almost infantile preoccupation with

social privilege. In the same play, the aging baroness is






79


obsessed with a lawsuit regarding a grievance committed before the battle of Pavie. A neighbor, 150 years earlier, had planted a group of trees on the adjoining property which is now forming such a windbreak that her windmill will not rotate. She charges the accused party with malicious destruction of her property. Attesting to the nobility's lack of power, she must come to Migaud, a magistrate, in hopes of persuading him to speak on her behalf to the judge. Having been stripped of any real power, the nobility is seen as engaging in petty disputes to demonstrate that at least the outer trappings of their status still exist.

The social prestige still credited to the aristocracy and their continual loss of actual power is contrasted with the condition of the second group of Dancourt's characters, the wealthy bourgeoisie. Dancourt portrays the affluent middle class as having an embarrassement of material wealth, yet unable to buy their way into the social elite. Enormous establishments, luxurious attire, lavishly equipped coaches and a full assemblage of footmen allow them to display their wealth. They ape the nobility's taste in entertainments: the opera, the theater, and most of all gambling. Apparently, they take at face value La Bruyere's caustic remark that "il n'y a rien qui motto plus subitement un homme a la mode et qui le soulve davantage que le grand jeu : cela va de pair avec la crapule." In Les Bourgeoises la mode, Angelique seeks relief from the restrictions imposed upon her by being a mere bourgeois and opens her house to gambling:






80


Angelique:










Lisette:


Non vraiment, ma pauvre Lisette, je nose m6dire de personne, je ne puis risquer la moindre petite querelle avec des femmes qui me deplaisent, je suis priv6e du plaisir de me moquer de mille ridicules? enfin, Lisette, quand on a de l'esprit, il est bien facheux, faute de rang et de naissance, de ne pouvoir le mettre dans tout son jour.

H6 pourquoi vous contraindre? qui vous retient? abandonnez-vous toute a vbtre genie, commencez par donner a jojer, recevez grand monde : il y a mille Bourgeoises des plus roturieres qui n'ont pas d'autre titre pour faire les femmes de consequence. (I, v)


The irony in the relative advantage of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie is exploited fully. The former still retains great social prestige but is financially bankrupt while the latter has enormous fortunes but none of the


accompanying status.


In the following exchange, Lisette,


the servant of an enormously wealthy bourgeois, attempts to persuade her mistress that material fortune has more practical value than any title of nobility:


Lisette: Mrre Pat in: Lisette:


Eh! vous n'avez pas tout-a-fait sujet de vous plaindre : et si vous n' tes pas encore femme de quality, vous etes riche au moins, et comme vous scavez, on achete facilement de la quality avec.de l'argent mais la naissance ne donne pas toijours du bien.

11 n'importe, c'est toujours quelque chose de bien charmant qu'un grand nom.

Bon, bon Madame; vous seriez ma foi
bien embarass6e, si vous vous trouviez comme certaines grandes Dames de par le monde, qui tout manque, et qui malgre leur grand nom, ne sont connues que par un grand nombre de crdanciers, qui crient a leurs portes depuis le matin jusqu'au soir.






81


Mme Patin: C'est-la le bon air, c'est ce qui distingue
les gens de qualite.

Lisette: Ma foi, Madame, avanie pour avanie, il
vaut mieux, a ce qu'il me semble, en
recevoir d'une Marquise que d'un Marchand,
et croiez-moi c'est un grand plaisir de
couvoir sortir de chez soi par la grande
porte, sans craindre qu'une troupe de
Sergens vienne saisir le carosse et les
chevaux. Que diriez-vous si vous vous trouviez r6duite 9 gagner a pied v6tre logis, comme quelques-unes a qui cela
est arrive depuis peu?

Mme Patin: Plut au Ciel que cela me fuit arrive, et
que je fusse Marquise! (Le Chev. la m.,
I, iii)

Unlike Monsieur Jourdain, however, Madame Patin realizes that all the money in the world will not obtain for her that magical essence of nobility. Lisette's practical advice is lost on Madame Patin, who would gladly sacrifice her material possessions to become part of the favored class.

The peasants are the most comical and most ambitious of Dancourt's opportunists. He was the first dramatist to mount such a-wide variety of peasants on the stage and to deal with their social ambitions so realistically. He even mocks himself for the frequency of his use of peasants. One of the characters in the prologue to Les'Trois Cousines cites a poem which makes fun of the author's obsession with windmills:

Le Public est fou, Dieu me damne,
De trouver a l'Auteur un esprit drole et fin, Ce nest qu'un ignorant, je le garantis ane,
Puisqu'il est toujours au Moulin. (sc. v)

Like the bourgeoisie, the peasants are ambitious and quick to profit from the crumbling social order. But they are also less ridiculous than the bourgeoisie, for they are not






82


seeking empty titles but substantial advantages such as governmental appointments or commercial businesses.

Dancourt's peasants range from the naive country

boy, freshly arrived in Paris and full of dreams of instant success in the capital, to the peasant who has already arrived and has worked his way into a powerful position.

The first scene of Les Agioteurs contrasts these two types. Lucas has just arrived in Paris that day and is astonished at the vast city. He is amazed to find out that even though his cousin has lived there for six months, no one on the street knows her address:

Je te charche morguoi tout depuis hier que je
fis arrive ; et si par cas fortuit je ne t'avois
pas rencontre, je crois, Dieu me pardonne, que je te charcherois encore, et je me charcherois
peut-6tre itou moi-meme, car j'ai pense me pardre.
(I, i)

His rustic language and simple candor place him miles from the slick and sophisticated world of Paris. He is convinced that his fortune lies around the corner but his urbane cousin informs him that things are not quite that easy. One must know how to read and write and do computations. During the course of the play, Lucas hears how paper can be turned into money, and when he finds a piece of paper with writing on it, he is sure he has made his fortune.

Unfortunately, it only turns out to be a love letter.

He is contrasted with Trapolin, a peasant like Lucas who arrived six years ago in Paris from the country. However, he knew how to read and write. Starting out as a clerk, he has become an extremely wealthy man by lending






83


money. The devaluation of French money during the disastrous wars of this time had made speculation a lucrative profession and Trapolin excels at it. lie lends money at exorbitant rates and collects on it mercilessly. Though he has no official social status, he wields great power in Paris. Dancourt contrasts the two peasants, showing how quickly one can elevate oneself in society if the right opportunities are present.

Social mobility is not limited only to men. Claudine, in Les Agioteurs, hints at a way for peasant girls to become successful in Paris: "On dit que ce n'est pas par l'esprit que les filles faisont fortune dans ce Paris" (I,i).

All three classes are changing rapidly. Dancourt emphasizes this process of change by postulating the division of society into three clearly distinct categories and then showing that the division is no longer a viable model for the society as it now exists. The nobility is vainly attempting to keep their estates from ruin while the bourgeois and peasants are wildly scrambling to grasp any privileges or possessions that the nobles cannot retain. Dancourt's characters are engaged in a maddening race to build their fortune on the misfortunes of others. The society is in

a process of transition and the former social structure exists in name only.

The strongest manifestation of the weakening social

structure is seen in the appearance of a new group of people outside the normal order. The traditional structure's






84


inability to fulfill the need of its society has necessitated the development of new roles and occupations, meeting the new demands of the changing society. Lemaitre refers to this group as le monde interlope. Dancourt's introduction of this new category onto the French stage is one of the highpoints of his social realism.

These people, though not officially recognized, were

playing an increasingly large role in the late seventeenthcentury society. Within the group one finds agioteurs, entremetteuses, femmes d'affaire, chevaliers d'industrie,

and many others. Their defining characteristics are, one, that they exist independent of their past and two, they do not belong to one of the three social orders. Little is known of whence they come, and usually, they either have no family or have repudiated it and live under false names. Their methods of making a living change from day to day as do their names. Usually, their business lies outside accepted conventions of society. These characters function as a dramatic metaphor for the entire society which was losing its ties with the traditions of the past.

The play, La Femme d'intrigues, provides us with

portraits of two members of this monde interlope. Madame Thibaut, to whom the title refers, is a native of Normandy and shares the cunning attributed to people of her province. She acts as an intercessor in a number of various intrigues, providing services which there are no established means of obtaining. Her main trade is selling second-hand clothing,






85


but that serves primarily as a pretext for other less routine commerce. She is assumed to have important contacts throughout Paris, and people come to request her intercession on a variety of affairs. A dramatist asks her aid in writing a Placet au Roy requesting that hissing be outlawed at the playhouse. Another man needs help in obtaining a patent for a new brand of make-up. Her services include arranging suitable marriages, settling inheritance disputes and family quarrels, selling furniture, coaches and even babies. She caters to the needs of the nobility as well as the bourgeoisie and maintains spies throughout the town who keep her informed on the latest events. The influence and power of this vast network is great but it is all done behind the scenes, for she has no standing in the community.

To remedy this, she has divided her apartment into two parts with different doors leading outside. Through one come her customers, but through the other she poses as a wealthy widow of a conseiller de Bretagne. She has attracted and made plans to marry La Ramde, who is himself posing as a captain. In reality, he is a soldier whose past is equally as scandalous as hers. He has enlisted in order to escape some undetermined prosecution. His Captain has sent him to town to recruit more soldiers, but he has spent the money on expensive clothes, a coach and lackeys, and has taken the name of his officer.

Both characters are living under assumed names, and

attempting to profit from the respectability and money that






86


comes with the name. They live in a world of pretense and fraud, denying their past and gambling on their future. At the end of the play both characters are unmasked but obviously will continue counterfeiting new identities.

In the shadows of the apparently well-ordered and hierarchically established social system exists a world whose inhabitants live in a state of transition. They have no fixed address, no fixed names and no real identity. They are in a constant state of change, assuming one identity only to discard it when no longer profitable. They glide in and out of different social groups, always at the margin of recognized society.

Dancourt's plays are studded with these transient

characters who chance identities at will, such as Leandre:

il a tented fortune par pltisieurs routes, il a 6t6 Ecolier en Droit, Aprentif Notaire, fagon
d'Abb6, R6gent de Sixi6me, Commis de la Dooanne,
Avocat, Maitre danser : il s'est fait depuis
peu Comddien. (La Com. des com.; I, i)

Falsifying identity has apparently become so commonplace that it is a sion of social awareness not to call someone by his given name. Jolicoeur assures his friend that he

should not embarass him by admitting of their acquaintance:

Me crois-tu assez indiscret pour appeller la
Ram~e, un home qui a un carosse et quatre laquais? Combien y a-t-il de gens a Paris, qui, comme toi, ont un bon equipage, et qui
seroient bien fich6z qu'on les appelt par leur
premier nom. (La Femme d'intr.; II, i)

This underworld of opportunists who float in and out of different identities and different social circles, who






87


change names and professions daily, is a portent of the final destruction of the ancien regime. As one of the servants says, "de condition ou en condition, c'est a peu prds la m~me chose" (Les Festes noct.; sc. xxi).


Structure of the Family

In his dissertation "The Dramatic Art of Dancourt and The Metaphor of Pretense," Sokalski analyzes Dancourt's characters according to what he terms the "underground architecture" of the plays. He divides the characters into three categories: those who love or are pursued for love, those who stand in opposition to love, and those who engineer a solution. Examining the relationship of Dancourt's characters to the classical Roman and Italian archetypes, he feels that the amount of criticism dealing exclusively with Dancourt's social satire has underrated Dancourt's borrowing from his predecessors. Structurally, he places Dancourt's plays in direct line with the earlier French and Italian comic tradition. But, so arguing, Sokalski also points up what innovations Dancourt has brought to the tradition and it is these innovations that I wish to investigate further.

Traditicnally, comedy is centered on the family structure. A young girl falls in love with a young man but her father (or guardian) is opposed to the marriage. Through the help of servants, the young couple overcomes the obstacles, marries, and thus another family is started. Though most of Dancourt's plays remain well within this structure, we






88


find interest focused upon the tension and pressures being exerted on that family structure. The structure is still intact, but it is being subjected to much internal and external pressure, and it is upon this tension that Dancourt builds his comedy. Using Sokaliski's categories (those in love, those opposed to love, and those who engineer a solution), let us look more closely at how they are related to the familial structure. In the main, those opposed to love are the fathers or the male guardians. In this first group we do not find much antifamily attitude. Though the fathers give few signs of affection toward the family, as a rule they do not attempt to divide the family either. Whether bourgeois or peasant (there are no nobles in the father role), they are usually avaricious with their newly acquired wealth and their opposition to the marriage is based on financial arguments. An antifamily attitude arises only when the family somehow presents an obstacle to gaining money. Harpin, in Les Enfans de Paris, demonstrates this well. In order not to share his deceased wife's inheritance, he wishes to rid himself of his children. Therefore, he plans to send his daughter to a convent and to have his son imprisoned as a thief. The five-act play is an elaboration of this plot and ends with him being outwitted by the children.

There are few women opposed to love; the reason being as Sokaliski points out, that usually the older females play a double role, for they are also in love themselves.12 In this category of the vieilles amoureuses we





89


find the main motivating force behind a strong antifamily attitude--concern for social status.

As Tilley has mentioned, although Dancourt's theater appears to embrace the whole range of social classes, it does tend to exclude the two extremes.13 There are few characters of high nobility and no really poor peasants. Dancourt's plays include some characters of lower nobility but primarily the plays concentrate on the middle class and affluent peasants. The predominant obsession of both of these groups is to profit from the weakening social hierarchy in order to elevate themselves. Class is based on birth, of course, an absolute that cannot be changed, but both groups hope to be accepted into the next level through the power of money.

Since women acquire their status from their husbands, it is easier for them to make the transition. Dancourt's vieilles amoureuses, as widows, have the money with which to attract a husband of higher society and are determined to do so. Thus, they wish to sever all ties with the family which is an embarassing reminder of their lesser status. The two most famous of these characters are Madame Patin in Le Chevalier la mode and La Greffiere in La Feste de village. They are both newly widowed and eager to start afresh.

In the former play, Madame Patin's dissatisfaction with her lot rests squarely with her name, a damning legacy of her dead husband branding her as a bourgeois.






90


After she has been insulted with a "taisez-vous, bourgeoise" from a marquise, Lisette tries to reassure her that only her name has been insulted:

Lisette: Au moins, Madame, il faut prendre cette
affaire-ci du bon cote. Ce n'est pas
a v6tre personne qu'ils ont fait insulte,
c'est a votre nom. Que ne vous
d6p~chez-vous d'en changer?

Mme Patin: J'y suis bien r6solue' et j'enrage contre
mon destine, de ne m'avoir pas fait
tout d'abord une femme de quality. (I, iii) La Greffiere is likewise obsessed with names. When her brother suggests that she marries Monsieur Narquart, she recoils in horror:

Un Procureur, Lisette? Monsieur Naquart! je
serois Madame Naquart moi? le joli nom que
Madame Naquart! C'est un plaisant visage que
Monsieur Naquart, de songer a moi. (I,iii)

Not only must they change their name, they also wish

to liberate themselves entirely from their family--the link that ties them to their bourgeois past. Madame Patin tells the niece not to refer to her as an aunt:

Mme Patin: D6faites-vous sur tout de ma tante.
et servez-vous du mot de Madame, je
vous prie, ou demeurez chez2votre pere.

Lucille: Mais ma tante, puisque vous 'Otes ma
tante, pourquoi faut-il que je vous
appelle autrement?

Mme Patin: C'est qu'etant femme de quality, et vous
ne l'6tant pas, je ne pourrois pas
honn6tement &tre v6tre tante, sans ddroger
en quelque facon. (II, iv)

La Greffiere likewise rejects the family and, though her brother-in-law attempts to remind her of her own humble upbringing, she is determined to erase the past:






91


Blandineau: Comment donc? H6 qui &tes-vous, s'il vous plait fille d'un Huissier que 6toit le pere de ma femme, ma bellesoeur moi que ne suis que Procureur au Chatelet, veuve d'un Greffier A la Peau, que vous avez fait mourir de chagrin. Je vous trouve admirable, Madame la Greffiere.

La Greffiere: Greffiere, Monsieur? Suprimez ce nom-la.
je vous prie. Feu mon maria est mort, la Charge est vendu6, je n'ai plus de titre, plus de quality, je suis une pierre d'attente, et destine, sans vanity, i des distinctions qui ne vous permettront pas avec moi, tant de familiarity que vous vous en donnez quelque fois . . Vous devez bien aussi vous attendre quand je serai Comtesse, et vous Procureur, que nous n'aurons pas grand commerce ensemble. (I, iii)

The false nobleman, another of Dancourt's more successful character types, also rejects his family. He preys

on women like Madame Patin, posing as a marquis or chevalier

in hopes of marrying a wealthy bourgeois. le must completely reject his family if he is to successfully portray

himself as a man of quality. Jannot, in Les Bourgeoises a

la mode, has been successfully courting Ang6lique, a wealthy

bourgeois, and has convinced her that he is a chevalier. In

a rather poignant scene, we find him disclaiming his mother,

a merchant woman, when he unexpectedly finds her in

Angelique's apartment:

Mme Amelin: Je ne me trompe point, c'est Jannot.
le! mon cher enfant, que viens-tu faire ici?

Le Chevalier: Quelle rernontre!




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AN AESTHETIC OF THE TRANSITORY. THE COMIC WORLD OF DANCOURT BY CAROLYN DIANE HERRINGTON A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 1977

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To my parents

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to express my appreciation to: Professor Claude Abraham who first suggested the topic of this study and who served as chairman of the doctoral committee. His careful reading and helpful suggestions greatly improved the final draft, Professor Douglas Bonneville and Aubrey Williams who deserve special mention for extending their assistance and time far beyond that which is required of secondary readers, Professor Ruthmarie Mitsch for reading and suggesting improvements in portions of the manuscript, and, most of all, to Professor Robert Bradley for his patience, encouragement, and kindness throughout the writing of the dissertation.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iii LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS OF DANCOURT S PLAYS V ABSTRACT vii CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION 1 Notes I 5 TWO: A TIME OF TRANSITION: FRANCE IN THE LATTER YEARS OF LOUIS XIV 17 Notes 36 THREE: NARRATIVE STRUCTURE: LINEAR VERSUS STATIC 38 Notes 70 FOUR: CHARACTERIZATION: PSYCHOLOGICAL REALISM VERSUS SOCIAL REALISM 74 Notes 105 FIVE: VERBAL COMEDY: LANGUAGE DISORDER AND SOCIAL DISORDER 107 Notes 141 SIX: MANIPULATION OF LANGUAGE AND MANIPULATION OF SOCIAL VALUES ...... 144 Notes 181 SEVEN: PERCEPTIONS OF REALITY: TEMPORAL SUPERFICIAL AND ALEATORIC 183 Notes 218 EIGHT: CONCLUSION 220 APPENDIX 225 REFERENCES 231 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 238

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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS OF DANCOURT S PLAYS* Les Agioteurs Les Bourgeoises a la mode Cephale et Procris Le Charivari Le Chevalier a la mode Colin-mail lard La Comedie des comediens Les Curieux de Compiegne La Deroute du pharaon La Desolation des joueuses Le Diable boiteux Les Eaux de Bourbon Les Enfans de Paris L'Este des coquettes Les Fees La Femme d' intrigues La Feste de village Les Festes nocturnes du cours La Foire de Besons La Foire Saint-Germain La Folle Enchere Les Ag. Les Bourg. a la m. Ceph. et Pr. Le Char. Le Che v. a la m. Colin-mail 1 La Com. des com. Les Cur. de C. Le Der. du ph. La Des des j Le Diable b. Les Eaux de B. Les Enf. de P. L'Este des coqu. Les Fees La Femme d'intr. La Feste de v. Les Festes noct. La Foire de B. La Foire St.-G La Folle En. *Adapted from the list of abbreviations in Nivea Melani's Motivi tradizionali e fantasia d e l "Divertissement nel teatro di Dancourt.

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Les Fonds perdus Les Fonds p. Le Galant Jardinier Le Gal. J. La Gazette La Gaz. L 1 Impromptu de Garnison L'Impr. de G. L' Impromptu de Livry L'Impr. de L. L' Impromptu de Suresnes L'Impr. de S. La Loterie La Lot. Madame Artus Mme Art. La Maison de campagne La Mais de c. Le Mary retrouve Le Mary retr. La Metempsicose La Met. Le Moulin de Javelle Le Moul. de J. L'Operateur Barry L'Oper. B. L'Opera de village L'Op. de v. La Parisienne La Par. Le Prix de 1 arquebuse Le Prix de l'a. Renaud et Armide Ren. et Ar. Le Retour des officiers Le Ret. des o. Sancho Panca, gouverneur Sancho P. Le Second Chapitre du Diable boiteux II Ch. du D.b. La Trahison punie La Trah. p. Les Trois Cousines Les Trois C. Le Tuteur Le Tut. Les Vacances Les Vac. Les Vendanges Les Vend. Les Vendanges de

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Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy AN AESTHETIC OF THE TRANSITORY: THE COMIC WORLD OF DANCOURT By Carolyn Diane Herrington August 1977 Chairman: Claude K. Abraham Major Department: Romance Languages and Literatures Florent Carton Dancourt (1661-1725) was preeminent among post-Molieresque dramatists. A thorough man of the theater, he was a prolific writer, a talented actor, and the spokesman for his troupe. During a career spanning over forty years, he provided his troupe with at least sixty plays and numerous divertissements He excelled in the oneact play which accounts for one-third of his total production. As late as 1920, he had a larger number of performances at the Comedie-Francaise than any other author except Moliere and Racine. With realistic detail and acerbic humor, his comedies of manner record the confusion and turmoil of the French society at the end of the seventeenth century. His plays mock the pretentions of the new monied bourgeoisie and the discomfort of the impoverished nobility as the hierarchy based on birth gives way to the new order based on wealth. Though critics traditionally have been quick to recognize the accuracy in his portrayal of the changing society of

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his day, they have argued that as a dramatist he was superficial in his characterizations, negligent in his plot development, and careless in his use of language. The unfavorable reaction of his critics to his plays is due in large part to a reluctance to consider postclassical drama on its own terms. Critics have taken the criteria emerging from their analysis of classical writers and have applied them indiscriminately to post-classical works. When judged by classical criteria, Dancourt's plays are highly "irregular." There is little unity of tone or subject manner, the plots are not symmetrical, his language often lacks refinement, and his characterizations are shallow. Wishing to portray an unsettled and unsettling social order, Dancourt had to diverge from the classical model of his predecessors. The concentration of subject matter, the rational presentation of events, the unity of tone, and the overall stability implied in classical aesthetics were unsuitable for a theater attempting to portray a time of confusing and distressing social evolution. This study argues that the very elements for which Dancourt has been criticized (shallow characters, loosely structured intrigues, and careless use of language) are not the result of Dancourt's inability to do "better," but are deliberate attempts to adapt the genre of comedy to the new subject matter — a society in a state of transition. Using the traditional division of drama into character, plot, and language, I have attempted to define the dramatic

PAGE 9

reality that Dancourt creates. Though his plays do not conform to the rules of classical dramaturgy, they do create an internally coherent aesthetic unity which I have termed an aesthetic of the transitory. This aesthetic emerges from Dancourt s methods of characterization, of verbal comedy and of plot development which are structured so as to diminish the integrity of their content. His characters are defined by their relationship to society; they do not have a cohesive personal identity. The sequential advances in his plots are often not causally related; there is little sense of an action being worked out in time. His verbal comedy emphasizes the arbitrary nature of language as a sign system; the ability of language to order reality is questioned. The result is a dramatic world with a transitory reality.

PAGE 10

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION The developments in French drama at the end of the seventeenth century form a crucial link between the classical drama of the midcentury and the bourgeois theater of the eighteenth. By the middle of the eighteenth century, French theater had become a platform for political and social reform which differed markedly from the classically inspired theater of Moliere, Corneille and Racine. To understand this evolution, it is necessary to explore the modifications in structure and content that developed in the comedies of the French theater during the second half of Louis XIV' s reign (1685-1715) This transitional period has been greatly overlooked, a surprising neglect considering the popularity of the theater and the large number of plays produced. The prominent dramatists--Duf resny Regnard, Lesage and Dancourt-have all received mention in theatrical histories but, with the sole exception of Lesage, they have not been studied in much depth by scholars. This neglect seems due in large part to the insistence upon approaching the drama through the artistic standards of the earlier, classical period. Transfixed by the achievements of the classicists,

PAGE 11

critics have been reluctant to consider post-classical drama on its own terms. Instead, they have taken the criteria emerging from their analysis of classical writers and have applied them indiscriminately to post-classical works. Inevitably the works have been judged inferior, or imitative. This problem is not new. In their own day, post-classical dramatists found themselves hung on the horns of a dilemma humorously characterized by Dufresny in 1692: Moliere a bien gate le theatre. Si 1 on donne dans son gout ; bon dit aussitot le critique, ct ec cela est pille, c'est Moliere tout pur ; s en ecarte-t-on un peu, Oh! ce n'est pas la Moliere. The situation has not changed much today. Moliere remains the ruler by which they are measured. Recently, however, certain critical works have forced us to re-examine the traditional view of the seventeenth century as promulgated by the nineteenth-century Romantics. It is now clear 'that qualities typically associated with the seventeenth century such as clarity, order, and symmetry do not suffice to describe the century as a whole or even the period known as classicism. Borgerhoff's The Freedom of French Classicism and Butler's Classicisme et baroque dans l'oeuvre de Racine have made us aware of the diversity of expression and the co-existence of conflicting currents of thoughts within the same century. Looking back over the first few decades following Moliere' s death, we see that the classical aesthetic began

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to lose some of its force. For the first ten years, the comedy of character did continue as the most successful of the comic genres. Moliere' s comedies continued to be produced more often than those of any other dramatist. By 1680, however, a new comic spirit began to emerge which was significantly different from the classical comic spirit. The comedies of character which had so delighted the public in the 1660 's attracted the theatergoer less than the new comedy of manners. As Lancaster notes, the new society 2 demanded a new interpretation. Though this new generation of dramatists published no manifestoes proclaiming a break with Moliere, they began to experiment more boldly with different forms. Caught in the dilemma of being compared constantly to Moliere, they did not seem to want to draw attention to their departure from the model he offered. In fact, we have to wait for Diderot to break from the myth of classicism, but, in truth, the classical spirit began to wane as early as the 1680 's. Audience tastes were changing in fact if not in theory. As Anderson has shown, "in concentrating their skills and talents on the subject matter and forms least developed by their great predecessor, they discovered that they were pleasing their audiences 3 more than ever before. None of the dramatists was more successful in pleasing his audience than Florent-Carton Dancourt (1661-1725). A thorough man of the theater, he was a prolific writer, a

PAGE 13

talented actor, and the spokesman for his troupe. During a career spanning over forty years, he provided his troupe with more than sixty different comedies and divertissements According to Lancaster, "he was unsurpassed among Moliere 's successors either in veracity, in . . 4 originality, or in the art of comic dialogue." As late as 1920, he had a larger number of performances at the Comedie-Frangaise than any other author except Moliere and t, 5 Racine. During his own lifetime, he was so successful that at the height of his career, during the 1695-96 season, more of his plays were performed than of any other dramatist, including Moliere. The time span of his writing career (1681-1725) the large number of plays he authored, and the warm reception given his plays, place him as the dominant force in the theater of his time. Dancourt has not received the critical interest that such a record wo.uld seem to merit. Since his death there have been only a few articles and books devoted to his theater. Despite some variance in the degree of warmth with which his works have been received, generally speaking critics have been very consistent in their evaluations. There are two main characteristics which virtually all his critics have emphasized: his skillful depiction of the society of his day and his lack of skill as a dramatist. In 1825, Geoffroy wrote: "les auteurs qui meritent peu

PAGE 14

d' attention, comme ecrivains me semblent toujours curieux 7 comme monuments." Almost a century later (1898), Petit de Julleville echoed the same view: "II ne faut pas s'etonner apres cela si les intrigues de ces pieces sont banales parfois et souvent semblables. Dancourt s'en preoccupe mediocrement Le principal est d'amuser par une vive et o fidele peinture de la societe." As late as 1968, Tilley repeated the same criticism and the same praise: "The plot [of Les Agioteurs ] as too often with Dancourt is very poor, indeed is barely existant . The chief interest [in Dancourt 's plays] is not so much for the individual plays as in the picture of contemporary society which they afford as a whole. Two book-length works on Dancourt, while offering much more detailed commentary on the plays, do not differ in their final conclusions. In 1882 Jules Lemaitre published La Comedie apres Moliere et Le Theatre de Dancourt primarily a study of character types. He relates them to contemporary social attitudes and notes how they represented social types new to French society, such as speculators, financiers, taxcollectors, ambitious peasants, impoverished nobles. He quotes liberally from contemporary observers, such as La Bruyere and Saint-Simon, to show the veracity of Dancourt' s social satire. Lemaitre views Dancourt very favorably and argues for his return from an unmerited obscurity. He praises Dancourt s ability to invoke the "mouvement endiable" of the frenetic society that foreshadowed the Regency,

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but he mentions only briefly Dancourt's use of language or development of plot. He makes no attempt to analyze the plays as works of dramatic fiction. For him, Dancourt is a social satirist whose worth lies primarily in his ability to provide the modern reader a description of French society during the turn of the century: "Cette periode de libre vie fera plus libre la pensee militante [des philosophies ] et parmi les ecrits du temps, c'est peut-etre le theatre de Dancourt qui nous en donne la plus vive et la plus fidele peinture . C'est par la,--et aussi par le mouvement et la gaite,--que vaut ce theatre beaucoup plus que par A 4." 10 1 invention dramatique. In 1937 Wilmorth Starr, working under Lancaster, wrote an unpublished doctoral dissertation, "Florent-Carton Dancourt (1661-1725): His Life and Dramatic Works." It is a thorough work of literary scholarship, treating each play in chronological order, describing characters, outlining the plot, and commenting upon the interesting historical references or dramatic innovations. It is primarily from this work that Lancaster compiled his articles on Dancourt in French Dramatic Literature of the Seventeenth Century. Starr advances no particular thesis except to insist upon Dancourt's use of actualities which portray the social climate of the period. He concludes: "But perhaps the Dancourt who is the observer and documenter of moeurs and of the innate psychology of society at a critical period of its evolution into the libertinage

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rationalism, and materialism of the century of the revolution is the most interesting of all .... In general Dancourt's plays are flimsily constructed and lack a carefully balanced plan of intrigue, but this fact does not prevent a consistent attitude toward manners that when it is considered in review, gives a colorful and vital picture of society and the social "11 structure. In the last few years there have appeared three new works on Dancourt, two dissertations and a book. In 1970, Alexander Sokalski presented his dissertation "The Dramatic Art of Dancourt and the Metaphor of Pretense." Through investigation of what he terms the internal structure (characters, plot, language) and the external structure (setting, costumes, liaison, monologue and asides), he argues that Dancourt's comedy does not mirror society but provides an illusion of reality through the metaphor of pretense. Sokalski writes that as a satirist, Dancourt allows the audience to break through the pretense of the dramatic illusion and thus see the pretense in their own society. "The real details preserve the illusion of reality and the audience is caught up in a web of actions. Whenever it [the audience] is directly forced to participate in this illusion, the illusion is shattered and shown up 12 in the dramatist's metaphor of pretense." His analysis of the different components of the drama show how the supposed realism of the plays is simply dramatic convention, i.e., the young lovers sometimes have never met each other,

PAGE 17

the peasant "patois" is stylized, etc. However Sokalski's conclusions are confusing. He claims that in the final assessment "the dramatist lacks a conscious view and a larger vision; his satire is not sufficient in itself to cause the public to question its own values. Too frequently his skill as a dramatist and his metaphor of pretense are 13 eclipsed by his more obvious subject matter." For me, Sokalski's work is more valuable for its analysis of the various components of the plays than for its purported thesis which I feel he never really proves. However, it is by far the most thorough work on Dancourt presently available, and it has the distinction of being the first work to approach Dancourt from aesthetic rather than sociological perspectives. Rather than assuming that Dancourt's plays "mirror" society, he treats Dancourt as a creative artist who chooses and selects his material from the world around him, molding it into a theatrical work of art. The same year, Nivea Melani published Motivi tradizionali e fantasia del "Divertissement" 'nel teatro 14 di Dancourt (1661-1725 ). Despite its title, the work offers little information on Dancourt's divertissements which remain a very fertile field of inquiry. Melani simply compiles the diver tis se ments in the final section of the book. However, she does provide a detailed analysis of characters (lovers, social types), structural motifs

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(misplaced letters, stolen jewels), and themes (love, time, coincidences). She also explores the realm of fantasy, a minor but significant element in Dancourt s theater. In general she provides little analysis of her topics but compensates by a thorough catalogue of repeated themes, character types, and motifs, making the book an excellent research tool. The latest dissertation on Dancourt is John Anderson's "An Essay on the One-Act Play with Special Reference to the Theater of Dancourt" (1973). As the title suggests, Anderson provides a brief history of the development of the one-act comedy in the seventeenth century, the development of the form by Dancourt and, furthermore, a study of his influence on Marivaux. Skillfully argued and researched, it provides a very thorough discussion of Dancourt 's structural innovations and his influence on the development of the one-act comedy in Western theater. "Symbolists, expressionists, absurdists--playwrights of all persuasions have come to exploit the one-act form for the intensity of situation it affords, and nearly all have demonstrated, through the structure of their works, the value of Dancourt' s ,,15 innovations These recent works have opened new vistas on Dancourt. Their analyses of the internal workings of the plays have restored Dancourt to the position of a man of the theater rather than a La Bruyere in dramatic clothing.

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10 Making abundant use of the insights provided by these new critics, I wish to return to the problem presented by the more traditional critics. Their stance has been that Dancourt is a good memorialist but a mediocre or even poor dramatist. This situation is problematical. There must be some relation between an author's subject matter and his writing skill. If he is capable of evoking a convincing picture of society, he must have some skill as a dramatist. The critics themselves are not consistent. They criticize Dancourt for a lack of control of his media, but also frankly admit to enjoying his plays very much. The fact that they choose to write about him is in itself, implicitly, a favorable appraisal. Furthermore, the tone of their articles as well as specific comments reflect a sincere appreciation of his works. Guy de Teramond states that Dancourt s plays were "ecrites par un homme qui connaissait toutes les 17 ressources de son double metier d'acteur et d'auteur.' Geoffroy writes: "Dancourt est plein d'esprit, d enjouement 1 8 de saillies vives et originales." Petit de Julleville, one of Dancourt 's harshest critics, admits that "l 1 esprit abonde : un esprit aise, facile, qu aiguillone souvent une pointe 19 d'observation. And Lemaitre concludes his book with the appraisal that Dancourt 's theater is "un des plus bruyants et des plus amusants ... en somme, le plus interessant ._ • „20 du XVIIIe siecle avec celui de Marivaux et de Beaumarchais. There is no doubt that these critics have enjoyed Dancourt and are sensitive to his comedy. But they hesitate

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11 to admit it. I feel this stems from an inability to free themselves from the critical models offered by classical aesthetics. The "irregularity" of Dancourt's plays make the critics reluctant to endorse him freely. Comments that his plots are poorly worked out, that his characters have no depth or that his language is crude are only unfavorable if one assumes that plots must be well balanced, characters profound and language elegant. These are classical criteria but not criteria binding to drama in general. The interesting question, which they beg, is precisely how Dancourt does please so well while breaking the rules. Instead of facing the question directly, they skirt the issue by stating that Dancourt's value comes from his social observations. But, as is obvious from their comments, Dancourt is not just interesting or informative, he is very amusing. To appreciate Dancourt fairly, a critic must rid himself of the classical model .and approach the plays on their own terms. It is difficult to assess exactly what criteria Dancourt presented for himself. He was not inclined toward critical pronouncements concerning his own methods. Thus it is practically impossible to state categorically any authorial intent. However, in one of the very few statements he does make, he affords an interesting apercu into his aesthetic criteria. In his Prologue des Trois Cousines (modeled after Moliere's Critique de l'Ecole des femmes) a number of characters are united in the foyer of

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12 the Theater-Francais preceding the performance of Les Trois Cousines Asked if he is acquainted with the dramatist (Dancourt) the Chevalier answers: Si je le vois Madame? Je travaille avec lui quand il a quelque ivrogne a mettre, c'est ordinairement moi qui sers de modele. Oh! ce garcon-la copie bien d'apres nature. II a besoin, dans une piece qu'il fait, d'un caractere de nigaud, de fat, d 1 imbecile ; 9 je veux lui donner ta connaissance. (sc. v) Dancourt 's "copie bien d'apres nature" differs little from Moliere's "peindre apres nature," but the two assurances of realism take distinct forms in their respective plays. While Moliere remains within the classical scheme of general psychological portraits, real in terms of an ideal model, Dancourt' s realism is much more direct. Rather than ideal models, he claims to copy from the living models found in the "livre du monde." Moliere's and Dancourt 's different concepts of realism show the mark of their different times. Moliere's realism was of a universal order, revealing an aspect of reality which was unchanging, and thus reflects the absolutism of the stable society of the 1660' s. Dancourt s realism consists of specific details, which are in constant flux indicative 22 of a more fluid and mobile society. Classical dramaturgy was no longer appropriate for the time that Dancourt was living in and writing about. As demonstrated in Paul Hazard's La Crise de la conscience europeenne the years between 1685 and 1715 were unsettling years for Europe as a whole. In France, the uncertainty

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13 seen in the philosophical queries of men such as Bayle and Fontenelle was matched by the daily uncertainty resulting from the social and economical ills that beset France during the last half of Louis XIV' s reign. The discontent produced by inflation and costly military campaigns appeared all the greater when contrasted with the stable years of the 60 's and 70 's, years when the Sun-King shone so brightly and Colbert's absolutism seemed to assure calm and order. As the eighteenth century advanced, such fears were allayed by the heady optimism of the Enlightenment reaching its peak in the Revolution. But in this transitional period, French society seemed suspended in an unsteady state, the old order was eroded and no new order rose to replace it. Wishing to portray an unsettled and unsettling social order, it was necessary that Dancourt diverge from the classical model of his predecessors. The concentration of subject matter, the rational presentation of events, the unity of tone, the overall stability implied in classical aesthetics were unsuitable for a theater attempting to portray a time of confusing and distressing social evolution. This dissertation will attempt to show that the very elements for which Dancourt has been criticized — loosely structured intrigues, shallow characters and negligent language — are not the result of Dancourt's inability to do "better," but are deliberate attempts to adapt the genre of comedy to the new subject matter.

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14 Dancourt has evolved what I term an aesthetic of the transitory. It is obvious that his subject matter deals with a society in a state of transition, but, more importantly, his style and structures converge to evoke a state of existence which might also be termed transitory. There is a temporary suspension of the normal order. Within the world created by the dramatic illusion, the characters, their actions, their language form a world in which the normal sequences of cause and effect, the sense of purposef ulness in action, the ability of words to signify are muted. It is on this level that Dancourt 1 s plays can justifiably be said to "mirror" his society. As the French society of his day, in the throes of a "crise de conscience," forms a transition between the classical period and the Enlightenment, so too does the dramatic illusion created by his plays form a world in which action and language create only a transitory reality.

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15 Notes Dufresny, Prologue to Le Negligent,' Theatre (Paris: Librairie generale, 1882). 2 A History of French Dramatic Literature in the Seventeenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1929-42), IV, ii, 818. 3 "An Essay on the One-Act Play with Special Reference to the Theater of Dancourt," Diss. University of Wisconsin, 1973, p. 3. 4 . Lancaster, IV, n, 817. 5 Ibid., IV, ii, 577. 6 Ibid. IV, ii, 768. 7 "Dancourt," Cours de littdrature dramatique ou receuil par ordre de matieres (Paris: Blanchard, 1825), II, 257. p Histoi re de la langue et de la litterature frangaise des origines a 19"00^ (Paris: Colin, 1898) IV, 568. q The Decline of the Age of Louis XIV (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1968), p. 101. Francisque Sarcey in a notice to an edition of Dancourt 's theater makes a similar comment: "Le seul et veritable agr^ment que nous puissions trouver a lire son theatre, puisqu'on ne le joue plus, c'est d apprendre a connaitre par ses pochades les moeurs, les mauvaises moeurs du temps, comme on suit le progres des modes d'une epoque en feuilletant un vieil album de caricatures." See Dancourt, Theatre choisi (Paris: Gamier, n. d. ) p. xviii 10 (1882; rpt. Paris: Welter, 1903), p. 234-35. i:L Diss. Johns Hopkins, 1937, p. 282. 12 Diss. Yale, 1970, p. 280.

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16 13 Ibid., "Summary." 14 (Naples: Istituto universitario orientale, 1970). 15 Anderson, p. 223. 1 6 Giedra Trocone has written a dissertation on Dancourt but it deals with only one play: "Dancourt 's Le Chevalier a la mode : A Critical Edition and a Commentary on the Play," Diss. St. John's, 1970. "Le Malade imaginaire : La Maison de campagne," Conferences de 1 Odeon 2eme serie, (1916-17) (Paris: Hachette, 1918) p. 122. Geoffroy, p. 244. 19 Petit de Julleville, p. 570. 20 Lemaitre, p. 240. 21 OEuvres 3eme edition (Paris: Ribou, 1729). All future references to Dancourt will be taken from this edition and will be cited in the text. The edition is not consistent in its orthography and the text contains numerous typographical errors. To avoid annoying the reader with the repeated use of sic I have simply reproduced the text as is, including all errors. 22 v A more detailed comparison of Moliere's and Dancourt' s theoretical comments can be found in Miiller's article "Dancourts 'Prologue des Trois cousines' : Probleme der Moliere-Imitatio in der Komodie der Friihauf klarung, Archiv fur das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen 196, No. 2-3 (November 1959), 113-44. ~

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CHAPTER TWO A TIME OF TRANSITION: FRANCE IN THE LATTER YEARS OF LOUIS XIV Dancourt was born in 1661, the year that Louis XIV reached adulthood and started his personal reign. He thus spent his childhood in a France bathed in the glorious light of the Sun King. He reached maturity and entered the theatrical world as the sun began to set over Versailles. Extending over a period of 44 years from 1681 to 1725, his plays document the economic and social plight of France during the last half of Louis XIV 1 s reign. To understand the social context of his theater, one needs to know the problems France encountered during this time. However, it is equally important to keep in mind the brilliance of the first half of Louis XIV's reign. Under Louis XIV France had become the political and cultural center of Europe. "For fifty years France would support and import geniuses in science and letters, build colossal palaces, equip immense armies, frighten and inspire half the world. It was a picture of almost unprecedented glory, painted in all the forms and colors of art, and in the blood of men." There is no doubt that France reached unparalled heights, politically and culturally, during Louis XIV's reign, though historians have yet to agree upon the 17

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extent of his achievements. But it is also clear that the myth of classical absolutism was every bit as important as the reality behind it. According to writers such as Houssaye, the myth was more important: La monarchic de Louis XIV, meme a 1 apogee de sa splendeur et de sa puissance, etait un grand corps avec tres peu d'appuis solides ; en un mot, un colosse aux pieds d'argile. Sa superiority consistait surtout dans le prestige dont 1 entouraient tant de victoires, tant de generaux naguere fameux, tant d'ecrivains repandant le rayon de la France sur le monde, tant de vertu et de genie, une si longue fortune sur les champs de bataille, une si valeureuse attitude dans la paix, une confiance aveugle dans la sagesse du roi, une majeste que l'infortune et la defaite respectaient jusque dans les fautes inseparables de la faiblesse humaine. The achievements of Louvois and Colbert made France the envy of Europe, as did the military victories in Flanders and Franche-Comte. The perceived glory of the reign, however, owes as much to such political and military accomplishments as to Louis XIV s foresight in surrounding himself with talented artists to proclaim his glory. Colbert's policy of centralizing the administrative arms of the government was echoed in the clustering of painters, architects, and writers around Versailles. According to Voltaire he gave greater encouragement to the arts than all his fellow kings combined. 3 Colbert poured French money into Italy to buy classical and Renaissance art. Everything was done to transfer the glory of the Roman emperors to the king and capital of France. The result amazed the world. But when the disillusionment came, the political and economical realities stood out all the more glaringly in contrast to the brilliance of the illusion.

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19 Louis XI V s reign is normally divided into two equal halves: the glorious years from 1661 to 1687 and the decline from 1688 to his death in 1715. The last half of the reign shows a steady weakening of his powers and the loss of the gifted men who had helped build his empire. By 1688 most of his great administrators had disappeared. Conde and Turenne were dead. Louvois died in 1691. Only Luxembourg and Villars remained. Many of the great classical writers had died or were ceasing to write. Moliere, Corneille, and La Rochefoucauld were dead. All but the last book of La Fontaine's Fables (1693) had been written. Only Boileau and Racine still had masterpieces to come. The rest of Louis XIV s reign was accompanied by a decline in the creative arts, but the illusion of grandeur continued to persist even after the reasons for its emergence had faded. In fact, Louis XIV seemed to have demanded more and more from his poets and painters as the military situation worsened. "A mesure que la monarchie s'absorbe dans son prestige et cesse d'incarner les espoirs et les interets de la nation, elle requiert une adhesion plus aveugle et plus inconditionnelle, une adulation plus servile et plus „4 vague. Perhaps the pivotal point of the reign can be seen in Louis XIV' s decision in September 1688 to invade Germany. 5 The result was a committment to a long and exhaustive series of wars against a Europe almost totally united against him. Though the French army was victorious

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20 for a number of years, the cost to the country in terms of life and resources was enormous and began to be felt immediately. The levying of strangling taxes and the loss of manpower drained the country physically and spiritually. By 1689 famine was rampant in diverse parts of the country. The national economy was stricken from within by the exhausting support needed for the huge armies. Foreign commerce was severely restricted by pirateering and enemy ships. Poverty, famine, and war reduced the population in France from around 23 million in 1670 to some 19 million in 1700. Economic and military decline continued reaching its nadir in the great famine of 1709. When the humiliating peace of Utrecht was finally signed in 1713, the country was wrecked. She had lost her dominance of the seas to England, and her economy was damaged almost irreparably. When Louis XIV died in 1715, Parisians rejoiced, remembering him only for the terrible toll taken on the country in terms of life and resources. Though Dancourt does not directly address the disturbing effects of the long succession of military campaigns, their social and philosophical repercussions form a basis for his comic structures. The two main subjects that dominate Dancourt' s plays are the decline of the aristocracy and the ascent of the monied bourgeoisie. Though these patterns are recognizable over the entire century, the unsuccessful and costly wars significantly accelerated their progress, bringing them into sharp focus at this time.

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21 The struggle between the aristocracy and the crown for power had been a continuing phenomenon over the last few centuries. In the seventeenth century, Richelieu's restructuring of the central government had given a marked impulse to the process. He significantly increased the responsibilities of the office of intendants which previously had attended only to the local functions in the different provinces. Under his governance, the intendants became the supervisors of local governments, of legal decisions, of administration, and above all of taxation, which beforehand had been the exclusive provenance of the 7 noble governors and the Parlements. Under Louis XIV, the centralization of power under the crown was a conscious decision from the beginninq. Starting from his childhood amidst the chaos of civil war, Louis XIV was determined to wrest as much control as possible from the nobles. He would delegate positions of authority only to commoners, as he explains in a letter written to his Dauphin: Pour vous decouvrir meme toute ma pensee, il n'etait pas de mon interet de prendre des sujets d'une qualite plus eminente. II fallait, avant toutes choses, etablir ma propre reputation, et faire connaitre au public, par le rang meme d'ou je les prenais, que mon intention n'etait pas de partager mon autorite avec eux. Little by little the power of the nobility diminished. Following Richelieu's lead, the king strengthened the administrative and taxing powers of his intendants in the provinces. The Estates General had not been convoked since

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22 1614. The ordinance of 1667 and the letters patent of 1673 deprived the noblesse de robe of almost all powers to interfere in the legislative sphere which was at the 9 heart of the nobility's traditional source of power. Their dominance of the military weakened, too. Louvois expanded the system of commutation payments from the nobility, encouraging the nobles in effect to hire substitutes, military men being in less demand than money to fill the state's coffers. Ennobling citizens through the purchase of letters patent was another attack on the noble's status. Again this practice had been used as far back as the sixteenth century, but never to the degree seen under Louis XIV. This provided the treasury with not only an initial sum of money, but, through a series of revocations, with continuing payments. The final insult to the nobility was the capitation in 1695, or head tax, payable by every French subject according to rank. This was the first time that the crown had overridden the nobility's immunity to taxation. And this was followed in 1710 by the dixieme a taxing of 10% on all gross income regardless of status--thus equalizing everyone under the law. Looking backward from 1715 across the long expanse of the preceding reign, French noblemen thus saw their class excluded from civil offices, reduced to a breathless reliance on the king's pleasure, cowed by an initial show of royal power, prevented from exerting group pressure on high policy, diluted and degraded by wholesale commerce in titles, and squeezed for military commutation payments, for confirmation fees and

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23 latterly--horrendous innovation --for taxes. Yet the class survived as a privileged stratum of the population. It survived because the sponsor of all these humiliating and crippling measures had never for a moment entertained the thought that it could or should be liquidated. Louis XIV compensated the nobility for their loss of real power by increasing the appearances of prestige. Real control was replaced with the inanity of pageantry and ceremony. He gathered the noblemen under his roof by convincing them that to live at Versailles was to be at the hub of the universe. By evolving a complex set of formal rituals at Versailles which consumed their energies and flattered their vanity, he chained them to the crown while his administrators spread throughout the country. Thus emerged two separate hierarchies: one of grandeur for the nobles, one of power for the administrators. The second social phenomenon important to an understanding of Dancourt's plays is the rise of the upper bourgeoisie, particularly the financiers. This was not new either to Louis XIV' s reign nor to the seventeenth century. The process had been continuing for centuries as the growth of trade and light industry had spread over Europe. But certain circumstances in particular encouraged the process during Louis XIV' s reign. The growth of trade in France, both foreign and domestic, increased considerably in the seventeenth century, creating a new class of wealthy wholesale merchants who did not actually produce anything themselves but bought their products from artisans at

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24 piece-rates. Secondly, there was another group of wealthy middle-class citizens who grew up in the seventeenth century under the centralization of the government and its growing need for management. These were the high-level administrators of whom the most famous example was Nicolas Fouquet. His grandfather was a merchant of Nantes yet when Fouquet acquired the post of S urint endan t des Finances the great lords and ladies of the court were at his call. Not as powerful as the great ministers were other public-servants such as the fermiers-generaux or tax collectors. Some of them acquired enormous fortunes and the literature of the seventeenth century is full of outrage at their unscrupulous methods of obtaining money and their enormous personal fortunes This rise of the middle class accelerated during Louis XIV s reign. France along with the rest of Europe suffered a general depression in the seventeenth century. 12 When Louis took office the treasury was already bankrupt. Through Colbert's reform efforts, the treasury was almost doubled by 1667, but when the wars of the reign started, taxation increased and general prosperity declined. The king found himself more and more dependent upon middleclass financiers from whom he borrowed money to support his disastrous military expansions. The result was that while almost all of France from the treasury down to the peasants was undergoing a severe financial crisis, the

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25 financiers were actually increasing their wealth. The more desperate the crown became for their services, the more the financiers were able to extract from the treasury. They acquired enormous personal wealth, bought and furnished sumptuous houses, and married their daughters to impoverished noblemen. But society refused to accept them. For all their money, they could not acquire posts outside of finance. Their sons and grandsons quit the profession once the family fortune had been made. Though they blatantly aped the nobles in lifestyle, there was a constricting in the ranks of the nobility with deliberate intent to exclude the financiers. As Julian Dent shows, this elevation of a new superior class should have been seen as a natural phenomenon, a replenishing and renewing of the older aristocracy: Noble genealogies of the period in which two or even three -sons were killed in action or died of wounds are depressingly common. Many of these men were junior officers who died before they had had time to get married let alone beget children. As if this were not enough to limit the fecundity of noble families, very large numbers of the sons of nobility who did not enter the army went into the Church. For these reasons there was a continuous rarefaction of the atmosphere at the apex of society. 13 Reasons explaining the hostility displayed toward financiers' are difficult to pinpoint. One no doubt was envy of their material fortunes, a sentiment aggravated by the financiers' often gaudy display of their wealth while other sections of society were suffering financially.

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26 Also there was the traditional disdain of those who acquired wealth through commerce. But there seems to have been something else which perhaps explains the degree of the resistance, and that was the speed with which the financiers amassed their fortunes. Enormous wealth was sometimes acquired within one generation. Perhaps it was the social instability implied by these tremendous changes that frightened people. For example, the rise of parlementaires which had also been occurring throughout the century did not seem to bother anyone, but it was done 1 14 much less conspicuously. Dent finds the denunciation of the financiers disproportionate to the harm they were causing society. As he argues, if the financiers were parasites it is difficult to see how "this quality distinguished them markedly from other groups in French society during the period of the 1 5 ancien regime "' What did distinguish them from other groups was that they seemed to represent an unstable segment in a society which felt itself to be in a state of crisis : Very large sectors of the population (though unable, as most people in the grips of a crisis are, to evaluate the precise nature of their suffering) experienced fear and anguish, and even the most calm would have produced some reaction to a more or less cruel fate. There was a closing of the ranks among groups that felt themselves threatened. Amongst long established groups proud of a certain stability in membership, there was even some hysteria about persons who moved around socially, and who appeared to weaken the precarious equilibrium which seemed to be all that prevented social collapse. 15

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27 The financiers became a focal point for much of the general social unrest in France at the turn of the century. Dancourt's humour finds its source in the ambivalent social positions of the bourgeoisie. Their pretentious airs, the opulent display of wealth, and their vulnerability to mockery by their social betters is fully exploited by the dramatist. An understanding of the economic, political and social climate of France at this time is essential to an appreciation of Dancourt's drama, for he makes many explicit references to contemporary events, such as the military campaigns and the rise of the wealthy financiers. But Dancourt not only describes the events of the time, he evokes in his theater the sense of unrest that was in the air. He captures on a poetic level the feelings of uncertainty and inquietude experienced by the population. The society was not just undergoing structural changes; it was redefining its very nature. What we now look back upon and call the emergence of the modern era was not recognizable as such by the people of the time. But the awareness of a profound change was there and Dancourt evokes the concept of being in a transitional period in his plays. To place his plays in their full contemporary setting, we must look beyond the visible social and political changes and see what the philosophers thought of their society.

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28 The more immediate signs of social convulsions, such as the military defeats, the economic changes, and the unsettling class divisions were mirrored on the philosophical levels by the disturbing treatises being written by the intellectuals of the day. Paul Hazard has detailed what he calls a crisis of the European conscience in his famous work of 1935. He finds between 1685 and 1715 a whole continent in a period of questioning and re-examination of the tenets of its philosophical and social order. The era is characterized by a new and very modern critical attitude toward all aspects of received knowledge. The inception of this critical attitude may be traced back to Descartes and the Discours de la methode in which he insisted on the exposition of clear and distinct logical arguments. Exactly how strong his influence was on later generations has never been agreed on entirely. Hazard's claim that by the end of the century Descartes was king might be overly simplistic, but nonetheless it is true that by this time Descartes was being widely read by the intellectural elite and his name and philosophy were well known even to those who had not 1 8 read him personally. In an article written in 1688, Fontenelle credits Descartes with radically changing the way that his contemporaries approached philosophical quest ions. The passage is interesting on a number of levels. For one, it is a contemporary testimony to the influence of Descartes. Secondly, Fontenelle perceives

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29 very clearly the difficulties that lay ahead for Descartes' intellectual heirs. The exigence that all knowledge be rigorously examined and accepted only when proven clearly and distinctly necessitated the rejection of much conventional wisdom leaving men without the comfort and support of tradition and authority. And, thirdly, Fontenelle acknowledges the importance of Descarte's methodology not just as applied to physical or even metaphysical problems but to problems of theology and ethics as well: Sur quelque matiere que ce soit, les anciens sont assez sujets a ne pas raisonner dans la derniere perfection. Souvent de faibles convenances, de petites similitudes, des jeux d'esprit peu solides, des discours vagues et confus, passent chez eux pour des preuves ; aussi rien ne leur coute a prouver : mais ce qu'un ancien demontrait en se jouant, donnerait, a l'heure qu'il est, bien de la peine a un pauvre moderne ; car de quelle rigueur n'est-on pas sur les raisonnements? On veut qu'ils soient intelligibles on veut qu'ils soient justes, on veut qu'ils concluent. On aura la malignite de demeler la moindre equivoque, ou d'idees, ou de mots ; on aura la durete de condamner la chose du monde la plus ingenieuse, si elle ne va pas au fait. Avant Descartes, on raisonnait plus commodement ; les siecles passes sont bien heureux de n' avoir pas eu cet homme-la. C'est lui, a ce qu'il me semble, qui a amene cette nouvelle methode de raisonner, beaucoup plus estimable que sa philosophie meme dont une bonne partie se trouve fausse ou incertaine, selon les^propres regies qu'il nous a apprises. Enfin il regne non seulement dans nos bons ouvrages de physique et de metaphysique, mais dans ceux de religion, de morale, de critique, une precision et une justesse qui, jusqu'a present, n'avaient ete guere connues. Fontenelle s reference to the "pauvre moderne" is a little tongue-in-cheek no doubt, but it does suggest the sense of dispair that man must inevitably feel when he realizes

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30 that he is losing confidence in his ability to perceive accurately the reality around him. The new tool of the mind, the critical method, was quickly applied to all aspects of conventional wisdom, resulting eventually in the flood of new ideas from the philosophes of the eighteenth century. But already in the seventeenth century the reappraisal of knowledge had begun. Galileo's heliocentric theory and Harvey's theory of the circulation of the blood, just to name the most famous, overturned the collective wisdom of centuries of pagan and Christian thinkers. More important for the social history of the time was the appearance in the last half of the century of numerous popular treatises on recent scientific discoveries. Written in the language of the honnete homme learned but not pedantic, these writings aided enormously in the dissemination of science to the nonprofessionals, and, more importantly, in the dissemination of the new critical spirit. Fontenelle's Entretiens sur la pluralite des mondes (1686) exposes the latest astronomical discoveries in the context of an after-dinner promenade by an urbane couple admiring the beauty of the evening sky. The appearance of more and more theories refuting the traditional concepts of the past triggered a profound malaise in respect to the very notion of the past. According to Hazard, the overly famous Quere lle of the ancients and the moderns was only a symptom of a much more

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31 serious problem which he terms the failure of history. Spurred by increasing contact with the New World and the Orient, the historians of the day were forced to reexamine their own history in a new light. Attempts to reconcile the chronologies of Western history with those of other historical traditions only produced an increasing confusion. The deeper the researchers delved into the past, the more remote the possibility of finding reliable answers became. Paul Pezron, in 1687, admits to the increasing pessimism: Le temps, qui consume toutes choses et qui semble vouloir tout mettre dans un oubli eternel, a presque ravi a 1 homme la connaissance de sa duree et de son antiquite. Cela est si vrai, qu'apres tous les soins qu'on a pris de nos jours pour decouvrir son etendue, et pour savoir combien de siecles se sont ecoules depuis l'origine du monde jusqu'a la venue du Messie, non seulement 1 on n'a point trouve la verite, • ^ on 1 on s'en est meme beaucoup eloigned 1 Along with other institutions of the past the Church was not exempt from this re-examination. It had never fully recovered from the rediscovery of pagan philosophers during the Renaissance, and the Counter-Reformation was only a partial success. By the time of the reign of Louis XIV, the Church was confronted with a multitude of problems: a continuous battle against Protestantism, Jansenism and other divisive sects, the continuous stream of anticatholic propaganda from the north, the desertion by a notable segment of the working class, refusal of the younger sons and daughters of nobility to enter the religious life,

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32 and a moral laxity brought on by the exhausting wars and 21 the trying economic conditions. The same spirit that attacked the scientific and historical traditions of knowledge turned its critical tool on the Church. Fontenelle, in Histoire des oracles applies the sword of reason to undermine the Church's teaching concerning the existence of miracles. Though he restricts himself to pagan miracles, he allows his scepticism of the historical sources to slip over into Christian authority as well. Like many of his contemporaries, he denies that he is attacking the Church outright, but, by insisting that one apply critical and rational standards to questions of faith, he breaks the ground for the wholesale onslaught that the eighteenth century will witness. In Chapter IV, for example, he questions the accuracy of certain Christian writers in the first few centuries of Christianity. He criticizes them for not using sufficiently rational processes in supporting their suppositions: "Quelques grands hommes de l'Eglise ont ete quelquefois trompes aux suppositions des heretiques .... lis n'ont pas toujours examine d'assez pres ce qui leur semblait favorable a la religion." And even more dangerously, he calls on the moderns to accept and reject, according to their own rational discretion, what the authorities have written : On ne pretend point par la affaiblir l'autorite, ni attaquer le merite de ces grands hommes. Apres qu'on aura remarque toutes les meprises ou

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33 ils peuvent etre tombes sur un certain nombre de faits, il leur restera une infinite de raisonnements solides, et de belles decouvertes, sur quoi on ne les peut assez admirer. Si avec les vrais titres de notre religion ils nous en ont laisse d'autres qui peuvent etre suspects, c'est a nous a ne recevoir d'eux que ce qui est legitime, et a pardonner a leur zele de nous avoir fourni plus de titres qu'il ne nous en faut. Pierre Bayle, the Calvinist philosopher exiled in Rotterdam, dared to go much farther. Believing that errors were none the better for being old, he attacked directly the very notion of authority. Ultimately all knowledge must be verifiable by one's own senses and this applies to theological questions as well as scientific ones: . nos sens doivent etre les juges de nos controverses et decider de nos doutes. Si done la lumiere naturelle et metaphisique si les principes generaux des sciences, si ces idees primitives qui portent elles-memes leur persuasion, nous ont ete donne'es pour nous faire bien juger des choses, et pour nous servir de regie de discernement il est de toute necessity qu'elles soient notre juge souverain, et que nous soQmettrions a leur decision tous les differends, que nous aurons sur les connoissances obscures ; de sorte que si quelcun s'avise de soiltenir que Dieu nous a revele un precepte de Morale directement oppose aux premiers principes, il faut lui nier cela, et lui soutenir qu'il donne dans un faux sens, et qu'il est bien plus juste de rejetter le temoignage de sa Critique et de sa Grammaire, que celui de la Raison." Perhaps, more than any other writer, Bayle incorporated the critical spirit of the time. "Bayle is no mere Renaissance philologist, no emancipated Benedictine. He is critical curiosity incarnate." His mind, encyclopedic in reach and iconoclastic in temperament, attempted to

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34 assess critically all aspects of traditional knowledge. His most famous work, the intellectual precursor of the Encyclopedic of the eighteenth century, was the Dictionnaire critique (1696-97), an unorganized mass of notes on contemporary theological disputes. Its real import lies in the voluminous and detailed footnotes to each entry. The footnotes juxtapose contradictory authorities, resulting in the destruction of the very notion of authority. By amassing quotations, arguments, counter-arguments, references, and cross-references, the very possibility of certain knowledge is destroyed in the multitude of conflicting theories. The strength and growing acceptance of the new critical spirit can be gauged not only by the strength of its advocates but also by the rage of its opponents. Bossuet, the inveterate defender of the French Catholic tradition, perceived very clearly the danger in the new writings. God was being forced out of a central position of command in the daily events of mankind. The mechanistic, rational system of cause and effect was reducing God to a general First Cause, a passive observer. Bossuet lashed back at the unmeasured pride of these men: Que je meprise ces philosophies, qui, mesurant les conseils de Dieu a leurs pensees ne le font auteur que d un certain ordre general d ou le reste se developpe comme il peut! Comme s'il avait a notre maniere des vues generales et confuses, et comme si la souveraine Intelligence pouvait ne pas comprendre dans ses desseins les choses particulieres qui seules subsistent veritablement 25

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35 But man's faith in Providence had been irreparably damaged and Bossuet's anger was only the final cry of a defeated man. Dancourt's plays embrace a period whose main accomplishment was to sow the seeds of the destruction of a worldview which had defined man and his place in the world for over a millennium. The past was discredited, authority and tradition were found to be unworthy, God was reduced to impotence. No new philosophies were offered to fill the void except an all-encompassing scepticism which could easily degenerate into despair: Au profond des consciences, l'histoire fit faillite ; et le sentiment meme de 1 historicite tendit a s'abolir. Si 1 on abandonna le passe, c'est qu'il apparut inconsistant impossible a saisir, et toujours faux. On perdit confiance dans ceux qui pretendaient le connaitre ; ou bien ils se trompaient, ou bien ils mentaient, apres lequel on ne vit plus rien de certain, sinon le present : et tous les mirages durent refluer vers 1 avenir

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36 Notes Will and Ariel Durant, The Age of Louis XIV (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963), p. 3. 2 La Regence (Paris: Dentu, 1875), p. 14. 3 Le Siecle de Louis XIV (Berlin: Weidmannsche 1878), p. 203. Butler, Cla ssici sme e t baroqu e dans l'oeuvre de Racine (Paris: N iz eT7~T 9 5 9 ) p. 251. Guerard in The Li fe and Death of an Id eal: F rance in the Classi cal Ag e, (New York: Scribner's, 1928) dates the beginning of the decline at 1685, Tilley in The Decline of the Age of Lo uis XIV, (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1968) suggests 1688. Durant, p. 695. Wedgwood, R ichelieu and the Frenc h Monarchy (New York: Collier, 1962), p. 99. "" "~ 8 Memoire s pou r les annees 1661 et 1666 (Paris: Bossard, 1923) p. 76. 9 -I Ford, Ro be a nd Sword (19 53; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University, 196 8)", p. 12. 10 Ibid. p. 15. i:L Ibid., pp. 18-19. As Ford points out, Louis XIV actually took measures to increase the nobility's prestige. "This was no Hobbesian sovereignty, equalizing all subjects through the equality of their subjection. Complaining, potentially dissident, in many respects parisitic, the nobility still received flattering mention in royal writs as the chief support of the throne . When in 1963 he established the military order of Saint Louis, it was to supply additional prestige and monetary rewards to those whose individual acts had best accorded with the nobility's fighting past.

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3 7 12 Lough A n Introduction to Seventeenth Century France (New York: McKay, 1954), p. 153. 1 3 Crisis in Finance (New York: St. Martin's, 1973), p. 236. Dent claims that this upward mobility had been a constant phenomenon in French history, though never to such an extent. "The original Frankish aristocracy of birth died out very rapidly right at the beginning of the feudal period, its demise accelerated by the violence of the age. In periods of relative peace both internal and external the rate of disappearance would tend to fall; but it is not to be doubted that the centuries from 1300 to 1700 were sufficiently lethal for the process to continue apace." See Dent, p. 236. 14 Ibid. p. 239. 15 Ibid. p. 243. 16 Ibid. p. 237. 17 + La Crise de la conscience europeenne (1680-1715 ) 2 vols. (Paris: Bovin, 1935). 18 Ibid. I, 171. 19 IT "Digression sur les anciens et les modernes, Pages choisies (Paris: Colin, 1909), pp. 87-88. Quoted by Hazard, op. cit., II, 61-62. Saint-Germain, La Vie quotidienne en France a la fin du grand siecle (Paris: Hachette, 1965), p. 247. 22 Fontenelle, op. cit. "Histoire des oracles," p. 71. OEuvre s diverse s, "Commentaire philosophique (n.p. n d ) II, 3 7 24 Guerard, p. 217. 25 OEuvres (Gallimard: Paris, 1960), p. 110. 26 Hazard, I, 39-40.

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CHAPTER THREE NARRATIVE STRUCTURE: LINEAR VERSUS STATIC Dancourt's dramatic structures defy classification. Since he wrote more than fifty plays over a span of forty years, one would expect a large variety of structural patterns and organization. The structures of Dancourt's three initial essays in drama, the first two written while he was a novice playwright touring the provinces, reveal considerable interest in experimenting with different structures. Though his first play, La Mort d'Hercul e (163 3) betrays the inexperience of its author, it is an attempt at serious drama in the classical tradition. The tragedy comprises five acts, in verse, and the subject matter stems from classical mythology Starr has shown the possible influence of Racine in the structuring of a love quadrangle similar to the one in Andro maque Dancourt was not to attempt another tragedy, but his interest in serious theater in the classical mold will reappear in his later productions. His second play, Les Nouvell ist es de Lille (1683) is a one-act comedy of manners, satirizing people interested in and willing to pay for news of recent events. Though a slight love plot runs through the play, it serves mainly to occasion humorous scenes mocking contemporary manners and thus results in a dramatic structure that is loose and episodic. The third 3 8

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39 play, Le Notaire obligeant (1685) later called Les Fonds perdus, is a comedy of intrigue built, around a conventional 2 love plot. The parents attempt to thwart a young couple's plans for marriage, but, with the help of clever servants, the obstacles are overcome. There is some satire on manners, but the play is essentially the working out of a clever intrigue. Such thumbnail sketches of his plays show the broad range of his interests. One play aspires to serious comment on the essential nature of man, another attempts to satirize the temporary fashions of a particular society, and still another is a variation on the timeless theatrical types of Western comedy, old fools and young lovers. Two of them are written in verse and one in prose. One is in five acts, another in one, and the last in three. In two of them, the narrative plot provides the structural support; the scenes are well linked, and the action progresses in a linear fashion determined by a cause and effect relationship between the different subordinate parts. In the third, there is only a very weak narrative plot. "any of the 'scenes are not subordinated to this central action nor are they linked to it by a causal relationship. The structure is loose, the action fragmented, and the presentation of subject matter episodic Throughout his writing career, Dancourt would continue to experiment with different lengths and structures for his plays. Of his ensemble of known works, thirty-nine are in

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40 one act, one in two acts, nine in three acts, and eleven in five acts. As regards structure, he would vacillate between the classical demands for unity and balance and his own need for a new, freer structure better suited to his brand of manners comedy. Dancourt never seemed satisfied with his structures. He was criticized during his lifetime for his weak plots and later critics have repeated the charge. His failure to be a first-rate dramatist lies partially in his inability to find a structure that would reconcile the aesthetical demands for unity in an artistic creation and a subject matter which demanded a unity other than that of classical aesthetics. The difficulty critics have experienced trying to assess Dancourt 's structures is evident in a brief review of Dancourt criticism. Until recent years, interest in Dancourt has been limited to his role as a social historian rather than as a playwright. Authors of substantial articles on Dancourt in the nineteenth century, such as Geoff roy (1825) and Lucas (1843) attempt no analysis or even judg4 ment of his dramatic structures. Fournel (1892) dismisses his plots as either meager or simply nonexistant. The author of the first book-length study of Dancourt, Lemaitre (1882), adds only that his intrigues are "legeres, parfois un peu confuses, avec un desordre qui a son charme'' and devotes the rest of the book to the study of character and 6 social satire. Lenient (1883) is the only critic who actually praises Dancourt's structures: "Pour conduire et

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41 filer une action, il s'y entend aussi bien et mieux que Moliere lui-meme." In a 1937 dissertation on Dancourt, Starr writes: "Dancourt' s plays are flimsily constructed g and lack a carefully balanced plan of action or intrigue." Interestingly, he does suggest a model for a typical Dancourt comedy "formed by a composite of some of his great successes," but it is too general to be of much worth and, 9 even so, does not account for many of Dancourt 's plays. Lancaster assesses at least some of Dancourt' s structures favorably: "Dancourt 's five-act plays, except those in which he was assisted by Saint-Yon, show lack of constructive ability, but his one-act comedies are usually built with 10 great skill." He is also the first critic to suggest the substitution by Dancourt of a unity of subject even in plays that do not observe unity of action.' However, the general nature of Lancaster's work precludes any detailed analysis ,of the structure. As late as the 1950's a lack of interest is demonstrated by Attinger's dismissal of the question with the comment that "la charpente de ses 12 intrigues n apporte rien de neuf." Moreover, a good deal of confusion about his structure is seen in Tilley's comment that Le Chevalier a la mode "has no real plot" which he contradicts on the following page with the statement that "the plot, though it drags in the last two acts, is fairly well worked out." Only in the last few years has serious interest been shown in Dancourt s structures and a certain consistency in

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42 methodology been applied. Sokalski, defining plot in the broad sense of the term, finds all of Dancourt's plays to share a binary structure: one part is a minimal love story and the other, which he feels to be the more important, "deals with reputation and concentrates on in14 ..... cidents having to do with appearance." Sokalski s division illuminate? the aspect of Dancourt's work which most interested him, the working out of a dramatic metaphor of pretense as a dominant theme in the plays, but it fails to deal with the specific narrative structures of the plays. In Motivi tradizio nali e fantasia del "Divertissement" nel teatro di Dancourt, Melani divides the plays according to subject matter. She lists three categories: commedie tradizionali (comedies of intrigue, manners, or characters), c ommedie ali a moda (comedies of actuality), and commedie mitologiche (comedies emoloying mythological characters). Anderson, in a dissertation which concerns plot structure specifically, but only in one-act plays, divides them into three categories: comedies of intrigue, comedies of manners, and— a division which admits many of the disparate elements of Dancourt's structures --plays which include the three elements of intrigue, manners study, and musical spectacle. This division reveals how problematic Dancourt's structures are. The third category, a melange of the other two, is a particularly unwieldly mixture. Furthermore, the division is limited to his one-act plays and excludes thereby twentyone others

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43 While these last three examples of Dancourt criticism illuminate essential aspects of the plays, they also show exactly how wide and disparate are the comic structures. Melani ends her categorization with a warning of the danger of such attempts to catalogue: "Va da se che questa distribuzione e assolutamente fittizia e che molti titoli potrebbero benissimo figurare in tutti e tre i gruppi ; il che sta a dimostrare, ancora una volta, la pericolosita dei compartimenti stagni." The sixty-odd plays cannot be neatly catalogued without sacrificing essential differences between them. Lemaitre's comment that the intrigues are "un peu confuses" is not very helpful but might well be the most accurate of the critical assessments. The problem lies on two levels. Sokalski has pointed out the danger of critics evaluating Dancourt by the standards of the Scribean piec e b ie n faite an anachronism which does Dancourt an injustice. But the confusion is not simply in the minds of the critics. Dancourt himself, writing less than twenty-five years after the publication of d'Aubignac's Prati que du theatre, seemed confused about the kind of structure needed for his plays, and more specifically, about how to reconcile the demands of classical dramaturgy with his interest in actuality as a subject matter. He needed a structure that was freer and more malleable than that offered by his classical predecessors. After his first unsuccessful attempt at writing

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44 a five-act tragedy, he turned to the one-act form. It was here that he would be most successful A look at the history of the one-act form in the seventeenth century might help explain its appeal for Dancourt, and, by comparison, we can better appreciate the dramaturgical innovations he brought to French comedy. Though the one-act farce had been revitalized during the sixteenth century by the arrival of Italian actors and the commedia dell 'arte it had fared less well during the first part of the seventeenth century. Anderson notes that "as the vogue of the longer and more regular comedy began to catch on, the farce, because of its length and its lack of refinement, slipped temporarily into oblivion. Though it never totally relinquished its place as curtain-raiser or afterpiece, the farce attracted the attention of playwrights less and less, and thus underwent little of the modernization accorded at the time to threeand five-act 1 8 plays." However, around the midcentury, a new interest in the one-act play appeared. In particular, Moliere's successful presentation of Les Precieuses ridicules and La Comtesse d Escarbagnas displayed the possibilities inherent in the form for modern comedv. Thus, toward the latter part of the century, the one-act comedy increased in popularity. Though Dancourt is not solely responsible for this growth of interest, he, more than any other playwright, was able to forge it into a viable and accreditable form, worthy of serious attention. Lancaster, documenting the marked

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45 increase in production of the one act, states that "out of 84 comedies that have survived [in the period between 1689-1700] 48 are in one act" and almost half of these 19 (22) were authored by Dancourt. In choosing the one-act form, Dancourt was entering an area that had received little critical definition by the classical playwrights and had been virtually ignored by classical theorists. This lack of critical interest can be clearly perceived in a 1672 preface by the dramatist, Hauteroche, in which he states that the one-act play should adhere to the same rules of dramaturgy as the five-act play concerning the unities, the bie nseances and the requirements of vraisemblance His statement implies that the one-act comedies were not being subjected to such regularization. Lancaster affirms that despite Hauteroche 's appeal for regularization, authors of comedies continued to allow themselves much .freedom with the b ienseanc es linking, and the unities (except that of time) He states that violation of the unity of action occurred in a majority of 21 late seventeenth-century comedies. I suggest that it was precisely the freedom allowed by the one-act comedy that appealed to Dancourt. His brand of comedy was so unsuited to classical theory that he needed a form which had not been subjected to classical regularization. The pressure of contemporary critical theories and the accompanying beliefs in the fixity of certain genres would not have permitted his brand of comedy

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46 in the established five-act form. The one-act play offered him a flexible and malleable structure which he could shape to fit his own comic ends. Dancourt's comic vision is in direct opposition to the most fundamental of classical precepts--the concept of dramatic unity. As Rene Bray has shown, unity of action was more than just one of the many classical rules; it was the very soul of aesthetic sensibility. Its reach encompassed not only dramaturgy but all genres. It was an understood "loi de l'esthetique litteraire . c'est que l'unite d'action convenait essentiellement au temperament ~ 22 classique, disons meme au temperament francais." Of course, more recent criticism has suggested that Bray's L a Formation de la doct rine cl assiqu e perhaps overstated the influence classical theoreticians had on contemporary playwrights and on the tastes of the audience. Borgerhoff has substantially documented the importance placed on artistic freedom and individuality which co-existed with 2 3 the more rigid classical theories. Scherer has shown that during the very height of the classical period, the playwrights themselves liberally abused the dictums of Chapelain and d'Aubignac. However, certain general characteristics consistently observable during the classical era warrant its being designated as a distinguishable literary movement. Borgerhoff, the most adamant of critics in insisting upon the freedom allowed under classicism,

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47 accepts the general standards of "unity, symmetry, clarity and simplicity" as representative of the movement as a 25 whole. Scherer, who finds that the unity of action as defined by the classical theoreticians was contradicted consistently by the finest of the classical playwrights, also states that a more generalized theory—never verbalized by the critics or the playwrights— which he calls the unite d'interet was, in practice, observed by nearly all the classical playwrights. The unite d' interet insisted that "1' attention soit concentree sur un heros ou sur un probleme vital." Moliere's plays are exemplary in this respect, Scherer argues, for often they are poorly developed and poorly linked. There may be no principal intrigue or even necessarily any rapport between all the actions, but the plays do succeed in concentrating the attention of the spectateur on a certain object, vaguely defined though it 2 7 may be. It is precisely this concentration on one object that is lacking in Dancourt's plays. Or, to use Borgerhoff's standards, Dancourt's plays are neither unified, symmetrical, clear or simple. It would not be necessary to point out that a post-classical playwright specializing in one-act plays did not adhere to the classical rules, but it is important to realize that Dancourt radically severed himself from the very spirit of classicism. His plays are fragmented, episodic, loosely organized, and lack a central focus.

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48 The fact that the one-act play was outside the governance of classical rules made it very appealing for Dancourt, but that explains only its availability. There is another reason why the one-act form is well-suited to Dancourt' s needs, a reason which is intrinsic to the form itself. Because the one-act play represents a continuous, uninterrupted time sequence, it allowed Dancourt to avoid any internal divisions which, by virtue of their presence alone, imply an internal structural or ordering principle. A division of a play into five or three acts establishes a temporal relationship between the acts. If a time sequence is blocked off into successive segments, an impression of a causal relationship between the segments is unavoidable. One act thus leads into and results from another act. A unitary time sequence avoids the impression of causality and this lack of causality is an important thematic, as well 2 8 as structural, component of Dancourt s world. Borgerhoff, attempting to pinpoint the essential nature of French classicism, offers an insight helpful to an understanding of how Dancourt differed from his predecessors: "this literature [classicism] was at the same time animated by a desire for aesthetic purity, and individual works do not therefore possess the richness and the generality of expression that is found in other literatures. Density seemed more important than variety of tone, so that the blending of which T have spoken results in an effect upon separate categories rather than in a

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49 29 mixture of those categories." To the degree that classical literature can be said to bore into a single subject, to sound its depths, to penetrate profoundly a sharply delimited area of interest, to sacrifice breadth of focus for depth, Dancourt can be said to extend the range of his focus along a horizontal plane, to embrace a wide variety of tone and color, and to sacrifice deoth of penetration for a broad scope of observation. In order to do so, he had to find a new way of organizing his plays. He had to develop a structural framework broad enough to encompass a wide range of disparate elements and still maintain an inner coherency. Unfortunately, he never found the formula which would permit him to achieve this, so that his dramatic career is a series of oscillations between these two poles. La Mort d'Hercule, previously mentioned, is his first play and represents one of these polar extremes. This tragedy, along w.ith three other comedies, La Trahison punie (170 3) Les En fans d e Pari s (16 99) and Ma dame Artus (1708) are all unsuccessful attempts at serious or high drama in the classical tradition. They are in five 'acts and in verse. The dominant structure is a narrative plot which concentrates on the working out of one central problem. The characters are limited in number and each affects and is affected by the central problem. The structure is carefully worked out. Technically these comedies meet the requirements of a well-made play. In all four cases, the influence of either Moliere or Racine can be shown. Unfortunately,

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„31 50 all four are also plagued by the same deficiencies: the action is slow and barely justifies the five-act length, the characters lack definition, and the dialogue is awkward and cumbersome. They tend toward the melodramatic, concluding on a ponderous, moralistic tone. Intermittently, throughout his career, Dancourt attempted to write five-act, versified drama. Perhaps he felt that to be considered a first-rate playwright, he had to write in the classical mode. Sokalski reviewing Dancourt's five dedicatory epistles and his three prologues, finds "an almost obsessive preoccupation with the doctrine of success. Starr has shown the influence of Moliere on many of his plays and, in an Epitre to Monseigneur le Due de Mortemart in 1712, Dancourt places himself second only to Moliere: Pres du Public je tache a trouver grace, C'est son gout qui forme le mien ; Comme il lui plait j'ajoute, change, efface Dans tout ce que j'ecris, et je me trouve bien De ne m'ecarter point du chemin qu'il me trace : Trdp heureux si par ce moien, Quand Moliere est assis le premier au Parnasse, Je pouvois prendre un jour mon rang si pres du sien, Qu'entre nous deux aucun autre n'eut place ; 32 Unfortunately, he had no talent for writing verse and even less for sustaining an intrigue through five acts. Le Chevalier a l a mode his most successful play, was in five acts, but as Lancaster has said, Saint-Yon with whom Dancourt collaborated, is probably responsible for the fact 33 that it is in five acts rather than in three or one. A brief review of one of these plays will demonstrate

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51 the problems Dancourt encountered. Les Enfans de Paris centers on the father of the family, Harpin, who wishes to rid himself of his two children in order to gain their deceased mother's inheritance. Clitandre, the son, receives no money from his father and has started to gamble to support himself. Harpin hopes that Clitandre will be disgraced by the gambling so that he will be forced to leave home, or, even better, be arrested. As for his daughter, he intends to send her to a convent: Faire enfermer mon fils, cloitrer ma fille, M'assurer la succession, Et m'acquerir ainsi la reputation De brave pere de famille! (II, ii) At the end, through the aid of Finette and their aunt, the two children evade Harpin 's trap and lay one for him. They succeed in ridiculing him before his friends, and their triumph is complete when the commissioner of police, whom Harpin has bribed to arrest his son, arrests him instead. The aunt forces the father to concede the inheritance to the children, and the play ends with the commissioner walking Harpin off the stage. Harpin is a thoroughly immoral character: With malice aforethought, he sets out to shut his children up and to take the money that rightfully belongs to them. He spreads rumors defaming the character of his son in hopes of disgracing him. His daughter is locked up in her room until she is to be taken to the convent. When he is exposed as the cruel father at the end, Madame Argante attributes the

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52 triumph of virtue to providential justice: Graces au Ciel, mes enfans, l'injuste traitement Qu'il avoit dessein de vous faire Tombe sur lui tres-j ustement (V, xiii) Finette offers the moral: De cet exemple-ci faites un bon usage, Profitez de sa honte, et de son chatiment. Quiconque veut precher aux autres d'etre sage, Doit commencer par vivre sagement. (V, xiii) Technically speaking, the plot is carefully worked out and centers entirely upon one character, Harpin, and his malicious schemes. The other characters are either his innocent victims (the two children) or agents acting to obstruct his plans (Finette and the aunt) The total number of characters is small, and all are related by blood or the love intrigue. The scenes proceed from one to the next in logical sequence, and the influence of L Avare is obvious. However, despite the mechanical regularity and the centralization of action, the play lacks any vitality or .animation It is much too long for the rather skimpy plot and the dialogue is encumbered by the stilted vers libres of 8, 10 and 12 syllables. But worst of all, the moralizing tone used as the characters band together to outsmart and to punish Harpin for his evil deeds weighs too heavily upon the play and smothers what little comique there is. This group of plays was all quite poorly received. Le s Enfans de Paris played only six times when first produced and only 17 times in the period between 1704-40.

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5 3 n s At the other end of the spectrum we find a group of plays equally unsuccessful but characterized by a extremely loose and fragmented structure. Les Nouvelliste de Lille, Dancourt's second play, already mentioned, falls into this category along with La Femme d' intrigues (1692, five acts), San cho Pan ca gouverneur (1712, five acts), Les Agioteurs (1710, three acts). La Gazette de Hollande (1692, one act), and La Loterie (1697, one act). Though of different lengths, the five plays have certain elements in common: an archetypal love plot which provides a skeletal structural support for the play and a place of business as the setting which provides the real focus for the play. There is a considerably larger dramatis personae comprised primarily of business clients. At the heart of the play are a series of short scenes in which characters, having no connection with the family-centered archetypal love plot, appear on stage in succession and allow for brief portraits of contemporary manners. The failure of these plays to receive a wide audience no doubt stems from the lack of integration of the parts into a whole. Though I, too, feel uneasy at the lack of a central focus, I judge these plays to be far superior to the former group which were mechanically well structured but unbearably dull. Tn this group, the succession of different character types accelerates the pace of the plays, and provides brilliant sketches of the intriguing social history of the time.

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54 La Lo terie centers on Sbrigany, a Neapolitan racketeer, who sells tickets in exchange for prizes. A love plot provides a connecting thread throughout the play. Sbrigany 's daughter had been engaged to Eraste, the clerk of a customs official, whose professional contacts had been useful to the father in some earlier smuggling. But now that Sbrigany is firmly established in Paris, he engages his daughter to a police official, whose friendship is of more immediate value. However, the daughter remains faithful to Eraste, and, at the end, a financier appears who turns out to be Eraste' s uncle and promises to help protect Sbrigany 's business in exchange for permission for Eraste to marry the daughter. However, this love plot accounts for few of the scenes and very little of the humour. The main interest in the play stems from the successive appearance of numerous clients who come to the lottery to exchange their tickets. These characters are not involved in the love plot and have no relation to one another except that they have all purchased tickets. Pure chance occasions their presence. Thus, at the core of the play, is a series of entrees a effe_t, allowing clever portraitures of contemporary manners. The scenes are episodic and static, with no connecting thread.

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55 The first client is Flemish, a merchant from Brussels who suggests a deal: in exchange for displaying his wares at the lottery (watches, jewels, diamonds, etc.) and thus enticing people to buy tickets, he wishes to be allowed a share in the profits. Sbrigany refuses indignantly, exclaiming, "Je suis homme d'honneur" (sc. iii). A second visitor, Petronolli, attempts to bribe Sbrigany: "Que si non mi date la mia parte de toutes les friponneries fattes et a fare, non posso en conscience empedir mi d'en fare confidenza au public et a la Justice" (sc. vi). Sbrigany rids himself of this intruder with a substantial bribe, A peasant, who has come from the country to cash in his tickets, is appalled to find that the prizes are useless to him: a pair of slippers ("j'aime morgue mieux une paire de sabots que ca"), a mousetrap ("jons des chats cheux nous, que voulez-vous que je fassions d une souriciere?" ) a package of toothpicks ("c'est folie que de me bailler ca, je ne les cure jamais") and a bottle of eau de Cordoue ("la riviere passe au bas de cheux nous"). It is only the last prize that he finds a purpose for: Un baton de bresil. Un baton! Ah palsangue, bon pour stila. S'il est bien emmanche je vas m'en sarvir, laissez-moi faire . je vous apprendrai a vous gausser des gens de Courbevoie, avec votre bouteille d'iau et vos souricieres. (sc. xi) Besides simply selling tickets, Sbrigany allows his house to be used as a discreet means for lovers to exchange

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56 gifts or notes. A baron's valet appears and leaves a note to be given to a young lady when she comes to collect on her ticket. There are seven other characters who make appearances either to collect their prizes or to u **. 34 exchange gifts. This technical device allows Dancourt to portray a large cross-section of contemporary types but at the expense of any narrative progression. The play is no more than a series of static tableaux with no ongoing action except the love intrigue which reappears intermittently. Dancourt is at his finest in these brief sketches. The dialogue, at which he excels, is extremely witty and gay. Differing cross-sections of seventeenth-century life are presented one after the other with no transitions or overarching connectives other than their existence in time. The sharp contrasts are allowed to clash with one another. Unfortunately, on an aesthetic level, the plays are unsatisfying. The lack of integration of the parts into a whole leaves one discontent The demand for a working out of a pattern or a rhythm within the work of art is not met. The two groups we have analyzed show an antithetical structuring pattern: the one concentrates its focus on a central intrigue and on a small, closely-related set of characters directly affected by the intrigue, the second

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5 7 expands its focus to encompass a large number of characters related only by their chance appearances at a particular location. In the former group, the plot is revealed by a progressive series of actions connected by a causal relationship; in the latter there is only a series of independent and episodic actions. These two groups represent extremes in Dancourt's structuring techniques and are among his least successful plays. They include most of his fiveand three-act comedies. Moving inward from these extreme positions, and looking solely at his one-act comedies on which his fame rests, we find that the bulk of the plays tends toward a fusion of the two prototypes. But the fusion is never complete. One group of plays is still dominated by a central intrigue (normally an amorous one) but as opposed to the ones just studied, these plays are more loosely constructed, shorter in length, written in prose, and they wander from the central plot at times to allow for some manners comedy. Another group tends toward the episodic, with the central interest of the play emanating from a location that allows for the appearance of a variegated cross-section of social types. But here the love plot, while still second in importance to the portrayal of manners, is usually interwoven throughout the play and maintains a larger role than was seen before. Thus the majority of Dancourt's one-act plays are a hybrid of the two prototypes, having

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many elements in common, but maintaining a slight preference for the one or the other. Le Galant Jardinier (1704) cited by de Curzon and Joannides as Dancourt's second most successful play in terms of number of performances, is dominated by a central love plot. Leandre, returning from the army at his father's request, has met Lucile in route and they have fallen in love. He has taken a position at the house of her father, Dubuisson, as an assistant gardener. He learns that Lucile 's father has promised her to a very rich and thrifty man, Caton. Hoping to lower the father's opinion of Caton, Leandre has been sending men to Paris every day to buy extravagant presents and entertainment and delivering them to Dubuisson in Caton' s name. The gardener, Lucas, finds a piece of paper which Leandre' s father had printed offering a reward for information about the whereabouts of his son, and goes to Paris to collect the reward. Just as Dubuisson is becoming very unhappy with Caton' s seemingly lavish spending, Leandre' s father, Orgon appears, having been told by Lucas where his • son was. Then it is learned that Orgon and Dubuisson are old acquaintances, and had previously arranged for their children to marry, and this was why Leandre had been called home in the first place. Dubuisson is happy to be rid of Caton and the play ends with the lovers anticipating their marriage

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59 The play is structured around a central love plot and the characters are limited in number and directly involved in the plot. In these essential aspects, the play is not far from classical comedy. But on the other hand, though most of the actions tend to relate to the working out of the intrigue, the play is by no means tightly constructed. For example, the denouement does not come from Leandre's plans to discredit Caton but is a deus ex machina provided by the timely arrival of Leandre's father, Orgon More importantly, the main interest in the play does not involve the working out of the plot. In fact, very little action occurs at all. The play is begun in me dia res and almost all of the plot is related orally through dialogue. We learn how the two lovers have met, how Leandre has bribed the gardener to gain access to the household, how he has had presents sent in Caton 's name. Dubuisson describes his initial impression of Caton s thrift, and then how he has become disillusioned. Leandre's valet describes how worried Leandre's father is over his son's disappearance, and how he has published a poster offering a reward. The only real action that occurs is the gardener, Lucas, finding the poster, bribing Leandre in exchange for not telling his father where he is, and then going to Paris to collect the reward from the father. The real interest in the play comes from comical

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le 60 scenes occasioned more or less plausibly by the plot. For instance, there are two delightful scenes in which Leandre confesses his love for Lucile to his valet and in which Lucile confesses her love for Leandre to her maid. In both scenes, the romantic sentimentality of th< lovers is juxtaposed to the pragmatic realism of the servants. One of the most humorous scenes in the play has nothing to do with the plot and introduces a character who never reappears. It involves Caton, and a cousin of Dubuisson. Both men stutter and think the other is mocking him: M. Caton: Monsieur Ba bavardin, vous etes un mau mauvais plaisant, je vous en avertis M. Bavardin: Et vous un plat plat bou boufon, Monsieur Caton. M. Caton: Vous poussez trop la la raillerie, Monsieur Bavardin. M. Bavardin: Vous me tu tu turlupinez mal a propos, Monsieur Caton. (sc. xvii) As is common with Dancourt, a number of scenes involve satire of contemporary manners though it is only slightly related to the plot. Lucas, the gardener, is elated when he finds the poster offering a reward for information concerning Leandre 's whereabouts. He can not read but is sure that the paper will lead him to riches. He and his wife fantasize about the new life they will be able to enjoy:

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61 Tatigue, que d'envieux, que de gens fachez dans le village, auarid ils verront Mathureine et Lucas dans un biau carosse ; car, vois-tu, je ne sommes pas pour en demeurer-la. Si j'ai une fois de l'argent, crac, je me boute dans les affaires, je me fais Partisan, tu seras Partisanne ; j'acheterons queque Charge de Noblesse ; et pis, et pis, on oublira ce que j avons ete, et je ne nous souviendrons morgue peut-etre pas nous-memes. (sc. v) Though the play has a dominate central plot, there is no unity of interest. The plot is related primarily through words, there is little working out of the intrigue in the play itself, and it culminates in a deus ex machina The humor comes from a series of isolated scenes, complete unto themselves and only tangentially related to the intrigue. As compared to many of Dancourt's plays, Le Gal ant Jardin ier impresses as well organized and limited in scope, but even so, it is still very loose in structure and episodic in many of its scenes. Corresponding to the second group of plays we studied, which consisted 'of little more than a series of walk-on appearances by a large number of unrelated characters at a place of business, we find a number of one-act plays which exhibit the same characteristics. A physical setting provides the occasion for the assembling of a number of people. The love plot is interwoven throughout the play, although it is relegated to a secondary position. The main focus is on the appearance of characters drawn to the location and who represent a partial cross-section of seventeenth-century life. Social satire predominates as the means of producing humor.

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62 The title of Les Ea ux de Bourb on reflects the importance of the physical location as a structuring agent in the play. There are three groups of people in the play, defined by their relationship to the location: the first group (such as the doctor and the pharmacist) lives at the waters year round, the second group are the patients who come to be treated, (such as the baron and the presidente ) the third group (such as the marquise and the chevalier) are parasites who follow the rich to the waters in hopes of winning their money. The plot, in the sense of a logical progression of action in time, concerns Grognet a doctor, who wishes to marry his daughter, Babet, to one of his rich patients, a baron. However, the daughter is already secretly married to the baron's son. At a ball given by the baron in celebration of his anticipated wedding, the two young people announce that the baron's signature on the wedding contract only makes official their own marriage since the baron and his son share the same name. This traditional commedia del] arte plot is very contrived but still amusing, and Dancourt skillfully juxtaposes the greed of the doctor and the ailing physique of the baron with the adolescent innocence and j oie de vivr e of the young couple. The plot itself has obvious weaknesses. Since the couple is already married, there is no real conflict. A device which Dancourt might have exploited would have been

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63 to center the conflict on a dowry clause in the marriage contract, but he did not bother to do so. While logically the plot does not hold together, it is lively and animated. The weaknesses would probably not bother an audience upon presentation The main interest in the play lies in the satire of contemporary manners and in a number of clever portraits. A motif which runs through the play concerns the discrepancy between the proclaimed illness of the patients and their feverish social life. Dances, festivals, musical events, gambling tables, and the opposite sex pro"e a much stronger attraction than the healing waters. The peasant, Belise, points this out in respect to the baron: 11 viant ici prendre des yaux pour se retablir le foye, et il y deviant estropie par la carvelle : les Medecins le guarissont d'une f aeon et les filles et les femmes le rendront malade d'une autre. (sc. i) A minor character, the presidente who reappears in a number of scenes, is not related to the plot in any respect, but serves as an example of the supposedly infirm patient who leads a very healthy social life-. At one point she exclaims: je n en puis plus ; les eaux me sont mortelles, et 1 on m'enterrera ici, je pense. M. Grognet: J'ai passe chez vous ce matin sur les dix heures, Madame : Mais vous n'etiez pas encore eveillee. La Presidente: Je venois'de me coucher, Monsieur Grognet, nous avons joue toute la nuit a la basette.

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64 M. Grognet : Joiie toute la nuit, Madame la Presidente La Presidente: Rien ne fait tant de bien. (sc. vii) The doctor is related to the plot as Babet's father. In that role he plays the traditional stubborn father who insists that his daughter marry an old man because he is "un homme riche, sans enfans, qui lui assure la moitie de son bien, et qui n'a pas deux mois a vivre" (sc. xv) More importantly, he serves as a vehicle with which to satirize the venality of doctors in general. For instance, when the pharmacist agrees to do him a favor, he promises to repay the kindness: "Tu as chez toi de vieilles drogues gatees, je les ferai toutes consommer a mes malades, je t'en donne ma parole" (sc. xv) The pharmacist is a very important person in the play though she has no direct contact with the love plot. Dancourt has given her a central position in that, besides being a pharmacist, she is also a sort of femme d intrigue and keeps abreast of all the happenings at the waters. She provides a means by which Dancourt can introduce other characters, because her establishment is a hoLel as well as a pharmacy. She plays the role of confidant to the young couple, and, once the setting of the play has moved to her house, characters can be introduced who are her guests. Thus, structurally, she serves as a link between the love plot and the satire of people coming to the waters

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65 Two of her guests, the marquise de Fourbanville and the chevalier de la Bressandiere play important roles in the play and represent the other group who come to the waters: parasites seeking rich invalids either to marry them or to trick them out of their money. The marquise has followed the baron from Paris in hopes of trapping him into marriage. The chevalier has come in search of money and also settles upon the baron as victim. As the marquise explains, there is a shortage of dupes this year. "II ne s'y en est jamais moins trouve, je pense, nous sommes tous deux obligez de nous attacher a la meme personne" (sc. xxiii). However, there is no formulation of a scheme to pursue their goals. They simply provide a commentary on social types that prey on the weakness of others. Dancourt has justified their existence by having the baron be the object of their schemes, but in no real sense are they connected with the plot. There are a number of other characters who are simply guests at the hotel and provide sketches of aspects of society. Thus the play is very loosely organized.' There is no central focus which structures the play. A very slim plot is interwoven throughout but the main interest comes from the momentary glimpses of a wide variety of characters providing commentary on contemporary manners. Instead of actions being arranged in a causal relationship, we have an unconnected series of social types and social commentary Nor, even in the broadest sense, is there any unity of

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6 6 action or interest. The satire ranges from doctors and pharmacists to gamblers and alcoholics. We have seen two extremes in the way Dancourt structures his plays: a close-knit, concentrated study of one central problem, and a stringing together of unrelated characters making brief appearances on stage. The former was an attempt to imitate classical dramaturgy and to be considered a serious dramatist, the second, an attempt at actuality in a purely descriptive mode. Neither was successful. As we look at his one-act plays, to which he owes his fame, we see a fusing of the two extremes: one a centralized development of an intrigue which still allows for manners comedy, the other a study of manners into which is woven an intrigue. Dancourt is at his finest as a satirist of contemporary manners. His ability to work out an intrigue is adequate, but shows no remarkable skill. He needed a structure which would allow him to portray his comedy of manners, but which would still have a central focus. He attempted to meet this need for inner coherence by including a traditional love plot within his plays. However, there is no fusion between the love plot and the satire of manners. They are simply superimposed on one another. The result is that most of his plots are asymmetrical, fragmented, and lack a central focus. As an observer of a society whose social order was breaking down, such

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67 uneven and unordered structures reflect the lack of order and inner coherence which is his primary thematic concern. That Dancourt did not manage to unify his structures was somewhat a result of his own weaknesses as a dramatist, but it also indicates that his concerns were elsewhere. In a very real sense, the lack of unity does give structural strength to his thematic interests: the observation of a society marked by feverish movement but with little order or structure. Clearly, on an aesthetic level, this lack of structure is not very satisfying. The closest Dancourt came to a structure proper for his manners comedy was the technique of using a physical location as a structuring device, as was seen in Les Eaux de Bo urbon Anderson signals out this technique for special mention: "in his best comedies, Dancourt had experimented with environment as a substitute for detailed intrigue or individual character in the production of dramatic tension. This is, without a doubt, the author's most significant development in the genre of 35 manners comedy." Relating the characters to a setting, rather than to each other through a narrative plot, allowed him freedom to reflect in the structure of the play the lack of order and logic he saw in his society and still maintain some aesthetic coherence. Not having the characters involved in a narrative plot, with all that such a structure implies—particularly the necessity of

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68 causal relations and a logical progression of events in time—enabled him structurally to mirror a society which he felt was losing its inner coherency and its former logical structure and still produce an integrated work of art. In the final analysis, Dancourt's structures must be considered inadequate. He was groping for a new structuring model that would allow him to portray a society in a state of transition, that would allow him to capture in a theatrical illusion the moment after the breakdown of one order and before the emergence of another. The classical modes were insufficient, and he experimented with various formulas, oscillating between the use of a narrative plot and static tableaux without ever finding a totally satisfying structure. In many respects, Dancourt's plays can be compared to the realistic drama of the nineteenth century. In particular, Chekhov's Cherry Orch ard using a slice-of-lif e technique, shows many similarities: little action, the use of a large number of characters representing different social classes, sexes and ages and, primarily, the use of a physical location as a structuring device. But the difference in Chekhov is that the characters are all closely tied, emotionally and physically, to the location. The orchard is not just a pretext with which to assemble the people; it is itself a symbol replete with meaning for

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69 the characters, though different for each one. Thus the multiplicity of viewpoints exists but it is contained under a single, overarching theme, the passing of the orchard. Chekhov achieved a fusion of forme and fond never attained by Dancourt. They were both interested in showing the breakdown of a society which had been based on a rigidly defined set of social classes and both saw that a static, episodic structure was needed to reflect the lack of order in the society. Though Dancourt by himself was never able to produce a single drama that could fuse an appropriate structure and subject, his essays were innovative, and as Anderson has shown, he made significant progress in the modernization of the one-act form. The large degree of critical attention given to Dancourt as a social historian of the latter years of the reign of Louis XIV has documented well Dancourt' s interest in portraying contemporary manners, but it has overlooked his attempts to mirror the social phenomena in his form as well as his content.

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70 Notes "Florent-Carton Dancourt (1661-1725) : His Life and Dramatic Works," Diss. Johns Hopkins, 1937, p. 52. 2 Lancaster notes that only the first edition (The Hague: Foulque, 1696) gives this title. All subsequent editions list the latter. See A History of French Dramatic Literature in the Seventeenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1929-42) IV, ii, 579. See Appendix. 4 Lucas, "Dancourt, Brueys et Palaprat, Dufresny, Regnard," Histoire philosophi qu e et litteraire du theatre francais depuis l 'origine jusqu'a nos jours (Paris: Grosselin, 1843), pp. 172-81. Geoffroy, "Dancourt," Cours de litterature dramatique ou receuil par ordre de matX eres (Paris: Blanchard, 1825), II, "231-69. " Oudin, 1892) p. 407 La Comedie apres Moliere e t le th eatre de Dancourt (1882; rpt. Paris: Welter, 1903), p. 96. n La Comedie en France au XVIIe siecle (Paris: Hachette) p. 104. 8 Starr, p. 282. Q Starr writes that "the fifty-odd comedies of the author present a host of types and situations, but the very number of the plays makes for a frequent repetition of both. For example, to extract the essence of the method, a typical comedy formed by a composite of some of the great successes would be somewhat as follows: The scene would be in a village; the young girl, Angelique, would be unhappy, for her elderly and miserly guardian has announced that they are to be married. Clitandre, a young noble, however, has seen Angelique while passing through the village on the way to the wars, has fallen in love with her, and she has admitted that she returns his affections. M. Robinet has a widowed

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71 sister-in-law, Mme Thomas, an erratic, emotional b our g eoise with a longing for a title, and although she is on the unflattering side of middle age, she falls in love with Clitandre and his title. The young lovers, however, with the help of Lisette, Angelique 's maid, of Merlin, Clitandre 1 s valet, of the bribed Lucas, Robinet's gardener, and of a bribed bailli make out a marriage contract whereby Robinet thinks to marry Angelique, and Mme Thomas thinks to marry Clitandre. The contract is manipulated, however, so that Robinet and Mme Thomas, Clitandre and Angelique are married. The play then concludes with a divertissement to celebrate the wedding arrangements." Ibid., p. 283. Lancaster, IV, ii, 770. 1:L Ibid. IV, ii, 585. 12 /s L' Esprit de la comme dia dell 'arte dans le theatre f rancais (Paris: Baconniere 1950), p. 268. i -> The Decline of t he Age of Lou is XIV (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1968), pp. 94-95. "The Dramatic Art of Dancourt and the Metaphor of Pretense," Diss. Yale, 1970, pp. 144-45. (Naples: Istituto universitario orientale, 1970), pp. 22-23. 16 "An Essay on the One-Act Play with Special Reference to the Theater of Dancourt," Diss. University of Wisconsin, 1973. 17 T ,., Ibid. 1 8 Anderson, pp. 77-78. 19 Lancaster, IV, ii, 947. 20 Au Lecteur to Le Deuil' in OEuvres de theatre (Paris: Librairie associes, 1742), I, 425. 21 Lancaster, IV, ii, 947.

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72 22 La For mation de la doctr ine classi que en France (Lucerne: Payot, 1931). 2 3 The Freedom of French Classicism (Princeton: Princeton University, 1950). La Dramaturgie classique en France (Paris: Nizet, 19 66). 25 Borgerhoff, p. 243. Scherer, p. 103. 27 Ibid. pp. 108-109. 2 8 See chapter seven. 29 Borgerhoff, p. 243. 30 The original title was La Fa mille a la mode then Finette, and finally Les Enfans de Paris See Lancaster, IV, ii, 810. 31 Sokalski, p. 29. In a dedicatory preface to Les Enfans de Pa ris addressed to S. A. Electorale Monseigneur Le Due de Baviere, Dancourt ends with "Heureux si celebrant un nom tel que le tien,/ Des horreurs de l'oubli je puis sauver le mien.' 1 32 Dancourt, VIII, 121. 3 3 Lancaster, IV, ii, 587. 34 According to Mongredien, Louis XIV was essential in assuring the popularity of lotteries: "Louis XIV excite les passions des courtisans par des loteries, parfois toutes en billets noirs, e'est-a-dire en billets gagnants. Lui-meme achete des billets et remet en jeu les lots qu'il gagne. C'est une maniere detournee pour le souverain de faire des cadeaux aux dames de la cour." See La Vie quotidienne so us Louis XIV (Paris: Hachette, 1948), p. 104.

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73 35 Anderson, p. 219. The Oxford Chekhov trans. Ronald Hingley (London Oxford University, 1964) III.

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CHAPTER FOUR CHARACTERIZATION: PSYCHOLOGICAL REALISM VERSUS SOCIAL REALISM Dancourt s method of characterization has attracted more critical attention than any other aspect of his drama. He has been acclaimed for opening the French stage to a wide variety of characters and, at the same time, censured for not developing them more extensively. Critics have consistently pointed out that the impressively broad and comprehensive spectrum of contemporary society afforded by his characters had not hitherto been seen on the French stage and was unequalled by any of his contemporaries. Wogue, stressing breadth, refers to the plays as the "Etats generaux de la satire:" Aucune categorie sociale nc trouve grace devant cet impitoyable persifleur; a la classe moyenne avide de titres nobiliaires, il decoche les Bourgeoi ses de qualite ; aux nobles besogneux, qui vivent de quelques intrigues d' amour savamment menees de front, le C hevalier a la mode (1687), un Moncade exacerbe ,~pire que les chevaliers de Regnard; aux paysans qui remplacent 'l'aimable simplicite du monde naissant' par une tres moderne aprete au gain, le Galant Jardinie r (1704) .1 Lancaster, stressing originality, points out that Dancourt 2 was the first playwright to introduce an abbe on stage. With equal consistency, Dancourt s characterizations have been criticized for lacking psychological depth. Attinger claims that not: one of his characters is "puissant." 7 4

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75 Lenient warns us not to look for any "profondes analyses > 4 de caracteres. And the most generous critical appraisals have seen the lack of significant psychological dimensions as an inevitable sacrifice which results from including such a large number of characters: "Ce que la comedie perd done en profondeur, on peut dire qu'elle le regagne en etendue ou en diversite. Si le gain ne repare ni ne „5 recompense tout a fait la perte, il la rend moins sensible. The insistence of Dancourt's critics on looking for psychological depth in his characters and then faulting him when they do not find it stems from the constant temptation to compare him by the standards set by Moliere. Psychological realism is not a necessary prerequisite of good drama and even less so of good comedy. Critical appraisals such as those cited result from the frequent confusion in dramatic criticism between reality and theatrical illusion, between characters and human beings. Characters can be nothing more than an author's creation, a dramatic convention. They share certain qualities with real people by which we recognize them as dramatic characters, but the similarity is only partial. A character is simply a dramatic agent and does not exist outside of the events of the play. Rather than viewing a lack of psychological depth as an inherent flaw or at best a sacrifice in order to include a large number of characters, it is possible to see the coupling of these two components as a deliberate technique on Dancourt's part. Before proposing what I find to be a

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76 positive and creative synthesis of these two components, let us look more closely at Dancourt s characters and the findings of his two major critics. The only two critics to have dealt at length with Dancourt 's characters are Lemaitre and Sokalski, and they have approached the subject from rather different viewpoints. Lemaitre uses a socio-historical approach to comment upon the description of contemporary society proc vided by Dancourt 1 s plays. Sokalski examines the relationship of Dancourt 's characters to comic archetypes handed down from Roman comedy through the commadia dell arte and 7 studies their function as dramatic agents within the plot. Though their approaches are distinct and rarely overlap, a certain similarity in critical approach can be seen in both works. Each critic assumes a pre-existing structure and investigates the relationship between the assumed structure and its particular manifestation in Dancourt: Lemaitre looks at the social class structure and Sokalski at the traditional comme dia dell' arte characters. Both studies suggest, explicitly in Lemaitre and implicitly in Sokalski, the existence of a once viable and orderly structure which is now being subjected to internally and externally destructive forces. So cial Class St r ucture Lemaitre offers a critical analysis of the description of late seventeenth-century society seen in Dancourt's plays,

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77 emphasizing what he considers original with Dancourt: the description of the disintegration of the old social order brought on by the ascendant power of money. He maintains that Dancourt 's uniqueness as a dramatist is a matter of scope rather than of specific innovation. Many contemporaries displayed equal interest in the social evolution occurring around them, but none attempted such a panoramic representation of the phenomenon. Only in Dancourt is the comprehensive dimension of the change so strongly stressed. Lemaitre begins by listing a few of the wide assortment of characters who parade through the works, pointing out that many of them were new to society as well as the stage: . bourgeois de Paris, financiers, agioteurs, hommes de robe, paysans de Suresnes ou de SaintGermain, marchands, hoteliers : bourgeoises de Paris et leurs filles, paysannes, grisettes, coquettes jeunes et vieilles, femmes d' intrigue, officiers viveurs chevaliers d'industrie, joueurs et joueuses . tous ces personnages (et j'en passe) vont et viennent ... He lays particular stress on the breaking down of the class structure: the destitution of the nobility, the social mobility of the wealthy bourgeoisie, and the rise of the peasant class into commercial and governmental positions. Secondly, he points out the importance of a new class of men who had not been part of the traditional order and were attacking it from without: the parvenus, men of commerce, and a hybrid group of opportunists and swindlers he calls the monde inte r lope Let us look first at the characters defined by their social class: the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and the

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peasants or servants. In the three cases, we find that their role in society is undergoing a transformation and that their principle concern is adapting to that change. For the aristocracy, the social change has been disastrous. Formerly the undisputed financial and political leaders of the country, they are now described as heavily indebted, forced to sell their lands and family possessions, pursued by creditors, and reduced to flattering the vanity of their social inferiors. As Tilley has noted, Dancourt presents us with few members of the nobility, but those that are portrayed are hollow caricatures of their proud forebears. There is no nobility in character, speech, or 9 action to accompany their lineage. The main character in Le Chevalier a la mode owns nothing but his title. It is his only source of income and he is selling it dearly. Necessities of life which were once provided by the output of his lands are now furnished by women with whom he promises to share his title: II a, comme je vous ai dit, ordinairement cinq ou six commerces avec autant de Belles : il leur promet tour a tour de les epouser, suivant qu'il a plus ou moins affaire d' argent. L'une a soin de son equipage, l 1 autre lui fournit de quoi joiier, celle-ci arrete les parties de son Tailleur, celle-la paie^ses meubles et son appartement et toutes ces Maitresses sont comme autant de fermes qui lui font un gros revenu. (Ill, ii) Amidst their financial ruin, the nobility is depicted as morally bankrupt. Their vices range from gambling and licentious behavior to an almost infantile preoccupation with social privilege. In thesameplay, the aging baroness is

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79 obsessed with a lawsuit regarding a grievance committed before the battle of Pavie. A neighbor, 150 years earlier, had planted a group of trees on the adjoining property which is now forming such a windbreak that her windmill will not rotate. She charges the accused party with malicious destruction of her property. Attesting to the nobility's lack of power, she must come to Migaud, a magistrate, in hopes of persuading him to speak on her behalf to the judge. Having been stripped of any real power, the nobility is seen as engaging in petty disputes to demonstrate that at least the outer trappings of their status still exist. The social prestige still credited to the aristocracy and their continual loss of actual power is contrasted with the condition of the second group of Dancourt s characters, the wealthy bourgeoisie. Dancourt portrays the affluent middle class as having an embarrassement of material wealth, yet unable to buy their way into the social elite. Enormous establishments, luxurious attire, lavishly equipped coaches and a full assemblage of footmen allow them to display their wealth. They ape the nobility's taste in entertainments: the opera, the theater, and most of all gambling. Apparently, they take at face value La Bruyere's caustic remark that "il n'y a rien qui mette plus subitement un homme a la mode et qui le souleve davantage que le grand jeu : cela va de pair avec la crapule." In Les Bourgeoises a la mode Angelique seeks relief from the restrictions imposed upon her by being a mere bourgeois and opens her house to gambling:

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80 Angelique: Non vraiment, ma pauvre Lisette, je n'ose medire de personne, je ne puis risquer la moindre petite querelle avec des femmes qui me deplaisent, je suis privee du plaisir de me moquer de mille ridicules? enfin, Lisette, quand on a de l'esprit, il est bien facheux, faute de rang et de naissance, de ne pouvoir le mettre dans tout son jour. Lisette: He pourquoi vous contraindre? qui vous retient? abandonnez-vous toute a v6tre genie, commencez par donner a joiier, recevez grand monde : il y a mille Bourgeoises des plus roturieres qui n'ont pas d' autre titre pour faire les femmes de consequence. (I, v) The irony in the relative advantage of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie is exploited fully. The former still retains great social prestige but is financially bankrupt while the latter has enormous fortunes but none of the accompanying status. In the following exchange, Lisette, the servant of an enormously wealthy bourgeois, attempts to persuade her mistress that material fortune has more practical value than any title of nobility: Lisette: Eh! vous n'avez pas tout-a-fait sujet de vous plaindre : et si vous n'etes pas encore femme de qua lite, vous etes riche au moins, et comme vous scavez, on achete facilement de la qualite avec .de 1' argent : mais la naissance ne donne pas toujours du bien MmePatin: II n'importe, c'est toujours quelque chose de bien charmant qu'un grand nom. Lisette: Bon, bon Madame; vous seriez ma foi bien embarassee, si vous vous trouviez comme certaines grandes Dames de par le monde, a qui tout manque, et qui malgre leur grand nom, ne sont connues que par un grand nombre de creanciers, qui crient a leurs portes depuis le matin jusqu'au soir.

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Mme Patin: C'est-la le bon air, c'est ce qui distingue les qens de qualite. Lisette: Ma foi, Madame, avanie pour avanie, il vaut mieux, a ce qu'il me semble en recevoir d'une Marquise que d'un Marchand, et croiez-moi c'est un grand plaisir de pouvoir sortir de chez soi par la grande porte sans craindre qu'une troupe de Sergens vienne saisir le carosse et les chevaux. Que diriez-vous si vous vous trouviez reduite a gagner a pied votre logis, comme quelques-unes a qui cela est arrive depuis peu? Mme Patin: Plut au Ciel que cela me fut arrive, et que je fusse Marquise! ( Le Chev. a la m. I, iii) Unlike Monsieur Jourdain, however, Madame Patin realizes that all the money in the world will not obtain for her that magical essence of nobility. Lisette's practical advice is lost on Madame Patin, who would gladly sacrifice her material possessions to become part of the favored class. The peasants are the most comical and most ambitious of Dancourt's opportunists. He was the first dramatist to mount such a -wide variety of peasants on the stage and to deal with their social ambitions so realistically. He even mocks himself for the frequency of his use of peasants. One of the characters in the prologue to Les Trois Cousines cites a poem which makes fun of the author's obsession with windmills : Le Public est fou, Dieu me damne, De trouver a l'Auteur un esprit drole et fin, Ce n'est qu'un ignorant, je le garantis ane Puisqu'il est toujours au Moulin. (sc. v) Like the bourgeoisie, the peasants are ambitious and quick to profit from the crumbling social order. But they are also less ridiculous than the bourgeoisie, for they are not

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82 seeking empty titles but substantial advantages such as governmental appointments or commercial businesses. Dancourt's peasants range from the naive country boy, freshly arrived in Paris and full of dreams of instant success in the capital, to the peasant who has already arrived and has worked his way into a powerful position. The first scene of Les Agioteurs contrasts these two types. Lucas has just arrived in Paris that day and is astonished at the vast city. He is amazed to find out that even though his cousin has lived there for six months, no one on the street knows her address: Je te charche morguoi tout depuis hier que je fis arrive ; et si par cas fortuit je ne t'avois pas rencontre, je crois Dieu me pardonne, que je te charcherois encore, et je me charcherois peut-etre itou moi-meme, car j'ai pense me pardre. (I, i) His rustic language and simple candor place him miles from the slick and sophisticated world of Paris. He is convinced that his fortune lies around the corner but his urbane cousin informs him that things are not quite that easy. One must know how to read and write and do computations. During the course of the play, Lucas hears how paper can be turned into money, and when he finds a piece of paper with writing on it, he is sure he has made his fortune. Unfortunately, it only turns out to be a love letter. He is contrasted with Trapolin, a peasant like Lucas who arrived six years ago in Paris from the country. However, he knew how to read and write. Starting out as a clerk, he has become an extremely wealthy man by lending

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83 money. The devaluation of French money during the disastrous wars of this time had made speculation a lucrative profession and Trapolin excels at it. He lends money at exorbitant rates and collects on it mercilessly. Though he has no official social status, he wields great power in Paris. Dancourt contrasts the two peasants, showing how quickly one can elevate oneself in society if the right opportunities are present. Social mobility is not limited only to men. Claudine, in Les Agioteurs hints at a way for peasant girls to become successful in Paris: "On dit que ce n'est pas par l'esprit que les filles faisont fortune dans ce Paris" (I,i). All three classes are changing rapidly. Dancourt emphasizes this process of change by postulating the division of society into three clearly distinct categories and then showing that the division is no longer a viable model for the society as it now exists. The nobility is vainly attempting to keep their estates from ruin while the bourgeois and peasants are wildly scrambling to grasp any privileges or possessions that the nobles cannot retain. Dancourt 's characters are engaged in a maddening race to build their fortune on the misfortunes of others. The society is in a process of transition and the former social structure exists in name only. The strongest manifestation of the weakening social structure is seen in the appearance of a new group of people outside the normal order. The traditional structure's

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84 inability to fulfill the need of its society has necessitated the development of new roles and occupations, meeting the new demands of the changing society. Lemaitre refers to this group as le mon d e interlope Dancourt's introduction of this new category onto the French stage is one of the highpoints of his social realism. These people, though not officially recognized, were playing an increasingly large role in the late seventeenthcentury society. Within the group one finds agioteurs, entremetteuses femmes d'affaire, chevaliers d'industrie, and many others. Their defining characteristics are, one, that they exist independent of their past and two, they do not belong to one of the three social orders. Little is known of whence they come, and usually, they either have no family or have repudiated it and live under false names. Their methods of making a living change from day to day as do their names. Usually, their business lies outside accepted conventions of society. These characters function as a dramatic metaphor for the entire society which was losing its ties with the traditions of the past. The play, La Femme d' intrigues provides us with portraits of two members of this monde interlope Madame Thibaut, to whom the title refers, is a native of Normandy and shares the cunning attributed to people of her province. She acts as an intercessor in a number of various intrigues, providing services which there are no established means of obtaining. Her main trade is selling second-hand clothing,

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85 but that serves primarily as a pretext for other less routine commerce. She is assumed to have important contacts throughout Paris, and people come to request her intercession on a variety of affairs. A dramatist asks her aid in writing a Placet au Roy requesting that hissing be outlawed at the playhouse. Another man needs help in obtaining a patent for a new brand of make-up. Her services include arranging suitable marriages, settling inheritance disputes and family quarrels, selling furniture, coaches and even babies. She caters to the needs of the nobility as well as the bourgeoisie and maintains spies throughout the town who keep her informed on the latest events. The influence and power of this vast network is great but it is all done behind the scenes, for she has no standing in the community. To remedy this, she has divided her apartment into two parts with different doors leading outside. Through one come her customers, but through the other she poses as a wealthy widow of a conseiller de Bretagne She has attracted and made plans to marry La Ramee, who is himself posing as a captain. In reality, he is a soldier whose past is equally as scandalous as hers. He has enlisted in order to escape some undetermined prosecution. His Captain has sent him to town to recruit more soldiers, but he has spent the money on expensive clothes, a coach and lackeys, and has taken the name of his officer. Both characters are living under assumed names, and attempting to profit from the respectability and money that

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86 comes with the name. They live in a world of pretense and fraud, denying their past and gambling on their future. At the end of the play both characters are unmasked but obviously will continue counterfeiting new identities. In the shadows of the apparently well-ordered and hierarchically established social system exists a world whose inhabitants live in a state of transition. They have no fixed address, no fixed names and no real identity. They are in a constant state of change, assuming one identity only to discard it when no longer profitable. They glide in and out of different social groups, always at the margin of recognized society. Dancourt's plays are studded with these transient characters who change identities at will, such as Leandre : il a tente fortune par plusieurs routes, il a ete Ecolier en Droit, Aprentif Notaire, fapon d'Abbe, Regent de Sixieme, Commis de la DoUanne Avocat, Maitre a danser : il s'est fait depuis peu Comedien. (La Com, de s com. ; I, i) Falsifying identity has apparently become so commonplace that it is a sign of social awareness not to call someone by his given name. Jolicoeur assures his friend that he should not embarass him by admitting of their acquaintance: Me crois-tu assez indiscret pour appeller la Ramee un homme qui a un carosse et^quatre laquais? Combien y a-t-il de gens a Paris, qui, comme toi ont un bon equipage, et qui seroient bien fachez qu'on les appelat par leur premier nom. (La Fem me d' intr ; II, i) This underworld of opportunists who float in and out of different identities and different social circles, who

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change names and professions daily, is a portent of the final destruction of the ancien regime As one of the servants says, "de condition ou en condition, c'est a peu pres la meme chose" ( Les Festes noct ; sc. xxi). Structure of the Family In his dissertation "The Dramatic Art of Dancourt and The Metaphor of Pretense," Sokalski analyzes Dancourt 's characters according to what he terms the "underground architecture" of the plays. He divides the characters into three categories: those who love or are pursued for love, those who stand in opposition to love, and those who engineer a solution. Examining the relationship of Dancourt s characters to the classical Roman and Italian archetypes, he feels that the amount of criticism dealing exclusively with Dancourt 's social satire has underrated Dancourt' s borrowing from his predecessors. Structurally, he places Dancourt' s plays in direct line with the earlier French and Italian comic tradition. But, so arguing, Sokalski also points up what innovations Dancourt has brought to the tradition and it is these innovations that I wish to investigate further. Traditionally, comedy is centered on the family structure. A young girl falls in love with a young man but her father (or guardian) is opposed to the marriage. Through the help of servants, the young couple overcomes the obstacles, marries, and thus another family is started. Though most of Dancourt' s plays remain well within this structure, we

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find interest focused upon the tension and pressures being exerted on that family structure. The structure is still intact, but it is being subjected to much internal and external pressure, and it is upon this tension that Dancourt builds his comedy. Using Sokaliski's categories (those in love, those opposed to love, and those who engineer a solution) let us look more closely at how they are related to the familial structure. In the main, those opposed to love are the fathers or the male guardians. In this first group we do not find much anti family attitude. Though the fathers give few signs of affection toward the family, as a rule they do not attempt to divide the family either. Whether bourgeois or peasant (there are no nobles in the father role) they are usually avaricious with their newly acquired wealth and their opposition to the marriage is based on financial arguments. An antifamily attitude arises only when the family somehow presents an obstacle to gaining money. Harpin, in Les Enfans de Paris demonstrates this well. In order not to share his deceased wife's inheritance, he wishes to rid himself of his children. Therefore, he plans to send his daughter to a convent and to have his son imprisoned as a thief. The five-act play is an elaboration of this plot and ends with him being outwitted by the children. There are few women opposed to love; the reason being as Sokaliski points out, that usually the older females play a double role, for they are also in love them12 selves. In this category of the vieilles amoureuses we

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89 find the main motivating force behind a strong antifamily attitude--concern for social status. As Tilley has mentioned, although Dancourt's theater appears to embrace the whole range of social classes, it does tend to exclude the two extremes. There are few characters of high nobility and no really poor peasants. Dancourt's plays include some characters of lower nobility but primarily the plays concentrate on the middle class and affluent peasants. The predominant obsession of both of these groups is to profit from the weakening social hierarchy in order to elevate themselves. Class is based on birth, of course, an absolute that cannot be changed, but both groups hope to be accepted into the next level through the power of money. Since women acquire their status from their husbands, it is easier for them to make the transition. Dancourt's vieilles amoureus es as widows, have the money with which to attract a husband of higher society and are determined to do so. Thus, they wish to sever all ties with the family which is an embarassing reminder of their lesser status. The two most famous of these characters are Madame Patin in Le Chevalier a la mo de and La Greffiere in La Feste de village. They are both newly widowed and eager to start afresh. In the former play, Madame Patin' s dissatisfaction with her lot rests squarely with her name, a damning legacy of her dead husband branding her as a bourgeois.

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90 After she has been insulted with a taisez-vous bourgeoise" from a marquise, Lisette tries to reassure her that only her name has been insulted: Lisette: Au moins, Madame, il faut prendre cette affaire-ci du bon cote. Ce n'est pas a votre personne qu'ils ont fait insulte, c'est a votre nom. Que ne vous depechez-vous d'en changer? Mme Patin: J'y suis bien resolue et j 'enrage contre mon destinee, de ne m' avoir pas fait tout d'abord une femme de qualite. (I, iii) La Greffiere is likewise obsessed with names. When her brother suggests that she marries Monsieur Narquart, she recoils in horror : Un Frocureur, Lisette? Monsieur Naquart! je serois Madame Naquart moi? le joli nom que Madame Naquart! C'est un plaisant visage que Monsieur Naquart, de songer a moi. (I, iii) Not only must they change their name, they also wish to liberate themselves entirely from their family--the link that ties them to their bourgeois past. Madame Patin tells the niece not to refer to her as an aunt: Mme Patin: Def aites-vous sur tout de ma ta nte. et servez-vous du mot de Madame je vous prie, ou demeurez chez votre pere. Lucille: Mais ma tante, puisque vous 'etes ma tante, pourquoi faut-il que je vous appelle autrement? Mme Patin: C'est qu'etant femme de qualite, et vous ne l'etant pas, je ne pourrois pas honnetement etre votre tante, sans deroger en quelque facon. (II, iv) La Greffiere likewise rejects the family and, though her brother-in-law attempts to remind her of her own humble upbringing, she is determined to erase the past:

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91 Blandineau: Comment done? He qui etes-vous, s'il vous plait fille d'un Huissier que etoit le pere de ma femme, ma bellesoeur a moi que ne suis que Procureur au Chatelet, veuve d'un Greffier a la Peau, que vous avez fait mourir de chagrin. Je vous trouve admirable, Madame la Greffiere. La Greffiere: Greffiere, Monsieur? Suprimez ce nom-la. je vous prie. Feu mon mari est mort, la Charge est vendue, je n ai plus de titre, plus de qualite, je suis une pierre d'attente, et destinee, sans vanite, a des distinctions qui ne vous permettront pas avec moi, tant de familiarite que vous vous en donnez quelque fois .... Vous devez bien aussi vous attendre quand je serai Comtesse, et vous Procureur, que nous n'aurons pas grand commerce ensemble. (I, iii) The false nobleman, another of Dancourt's more successful character types, also rejects his family. He preys on women like Madame Patin, posing as a marquis or chevalier in hopes of marrying a wealthy bourgeois. He must completely reject his family if he is to successfully portray himself as a man of quality. Jannot, in Les Bourgeoises a la mode has been successfully courting Angelique, a wealthy bourgeois, and has convinced her that he is a chevalier. In a rather poignant scene, we find him disclaiming his mother, a merchant woman, when he unexpectedly finds her in Angelique' s apartment: Mme Amelin: Je ne me trompe point, e'est Jannot. He! mon cher enfant, que viens-tu faire ici? Le Chevalier: Quelle rencontre

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92 Mine Amelin: Comme le voila brave! Tu as beau faire Jannot, je suis ta mere ; et quoique tu sois un mechant enfant, bon sang ne peut mentir, je t'aime toujours Jannot, mon pauvre Jannot. Le Chevalier: He! ne m'apellez point ici de ce nom, je vous en conjure. Mme Amelin: Quoi qu'est-ce a dire? n'est-tu pas mon enfant? ne voudrois-tu point que je t'apellasse Monsieur? Ecoute, je scai les contes que tu fais, tu as hdnte de m'appeller ta mere. (I, x) Dancourt has constructed his plays to show that the widely recognized disintegration of the social hierarchy is not only affecting the class structure of society but is also affecting the nucleus of that society--the family structure. The two are inextricably linked because class is based on birth, and in order to change class one must reject the family. The pernicious results of this two-fold disintegration are seen most vividly in the young people. The young lovers of traditional comedy have always represented the good in society. Their marriage at the end is seen as the successful completion of the play. As Northrop Frye writes, "the final society reached by comedy is the one that the audience has recognized all along to be ,.14 the proper and desirable state of affairs. In French comedy, particularly in Moliere, the young lovers are such exemplary idealizations of innocence and virtue that they often threaten to become colorless. Dancourt breaks radically with that tradition and presents worldly and self-interested lovers who enter their sentimental

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93 affairs cautiously and rationally. The young men and women are products of the more cynical and materialistic era and are not easily led into an emotional affair which might hinder their social ambitions or pursuit of pleasure. Many of Dancourt's critics have faulted him for portraying young women who lack sentimentality. Lemaitre states flatly: il n'y a plus d 1 amour. Ce n'est que caprice, desir de l'inconnu, gout du plaisir et de la liberte . Les moeurs de l'epoque, en dispensant les femmes de la pudeur, finissent par oter toute profondeur a 1' amour. 1* Such statements are perhaps a little severe, for one finds such criticism levelled only at the young women when in truth it is equally applicable to all of Dancourt's characters. Given the changing mores and the decay of traditional values it is not surprising that the young women would be more cautious and level-headed before entering into a binding marriage. There are several instances of such pure love on the part of Dancourt's women as is expressed in Lucile's statement in Le C he valier a la mod e: "le Bien n'est pas ce qui me touche le plus ; et pourvu qu'on m'aime, c'est assez"(III, ix) But these are exceptions. More often, one finds a general enthusiasm for men and marriage but the enthusiasm is generated less by love for the particular man than by an anticipated liberation from the father's overprotective control and a vague curiosity about the pleasures of marital life. Both reasons are found in the young lover in Les Enfans de Paris. When her servant asks if she would be willing to

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94 disobey her father in order to be with her lover, she seems to relish the idea of deceiving her father: Moi? point du tout, au contraire vraiment : Mais trompons-le si finement, Emploions-y tant d' artifice, Que desormais sans trouble je joiiisse Du plaisir de voir mon amant Et que jamais ce plaisir ne finisse. (I, vi) While such scenes are highly comic, they do introduce serious concern. The marriages the young women are to embark upon appear to be based not on love but on caprice. In Colin Maillard the young girl is motivated by a desire to escape from the man chosen by her guardian rather than by any real love for Eraste, her own choice. Eraste's servant assures him that: Si elle ne vous aime pas, elle hait Monsieur Robinet du moins, voila ce qu'il y a de sur. (sc. vi ) Cidalise's interest in marriage stems from curiosity over the physical pleasures of marital life, though her servant warns her not to expect too much: Madame, vous avez envie de vous marier ; vous songez les nuits de mariage : cela vise furieusement a la folie. ( Les Festes noct. ; sc. iii) For Mariane marriage is the means to achieve freedom to do as she pleases. Her step-mother manipulates her father completely, and Mariane deduces that husbands are better propositions than fathers: Mariane: Ma belle-mere . vit heureuse. Lisette: Sa destinee vous fait done envie? Mariane: Oiii je te 1 avoue ; et si elle vouloit, au hazard d'etre tous les jours grondee de mon pere, je lui promettrois de ne la quitter de ma vie.

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95 Lisette: Quoi pas meme pour etre mariee? Mariane: Oh! c'est autre chose. Quand je serai mariee, ne serai-je pas la maitresse, et ne ferai-je pas comme elle tout ce que je voudrai? ( Les Bourg. a l a m ; II, viii) Dancourt's young women have observed keenly the marriages around them and have formed cynical opinions which are not conducive to marital bliss. La Femme d' intrigues offers one of the most dramatic scenes of marital discord, and such examples have not been lost on the upcoming generation. Melinde and Dorante are two not uncommon examples of disharmony in marriage. The couple has been separated but now Dorante is asking his wife to move back in the house: Melinde: Je scai vos vues, de concert avec mes parens, vous voulez me contraindre a retourner avec vous, ou a choisir un Convent Dorante: Assurement. Melinde: Et quel parti croiez-vous que je prendrai Monsieur? Dorante: Celui du Convent ; votre bizarerie et vos travers ne me permettent pas d'en douter. Melinde: Tout au contraire. Dorante: Comment vous reviendrez avec moi? Melinde: Avec vous. Dorante: Avec moi! Melinde: Oiii avec vous, avec vous, mais pour vous faire enrager plus que jamais. Je crierai nuit et jour ; je chasserai vos valets, j engagerai vos meubles, je dechirerai^ vos papiers, je mettrai le feu dans votre logis, et peut-etre je ferai pis encore. Voila sur quel pied, Monsieur, je veux retourner avec vous.

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96 Dorante: Le ciel m'en preserve ; demeurons plutot comme nous soiraies. (IV, vii) At best, marriage is shown as a manipulation of one spouse by the other, and at worst, as total warfare. The young male lovers entertain even fewer romantic illusions about married love than their female counterparts. "Generally the attitude towards love of a Dancourt lover is cavalier, nonchalant, almost cynical .... Often times his interest appears to be more with the dowry in1 7 volved. Courting a woman is reduced simply to a means to procure money. In Le Vert-Galant the servant reproaches his master for expending his youthful charms in exchange for only a few months of financial support: Vous etes jeune, assez bien fait, hardi, entreprenant, et insolent meme quelquefois : mais cela ne vous a encore mene qu'a la connoissance de quelques coquettes de frontiere, et a deux ou trois mois^ de credit, que nous avons attrapez par-ci par-la de vos hotesses. (sc. i) Dancourt exploits thoroughly the comic possibilities offered him by this society in which marriage and courtship are not based on love or even compatibility, but are designed to fulfill the other basic needs of life: . le plaisir, l'interet, 1' ambition ; voila les mobiles du commerce du monde : on feint d 1 aimer une Dame, parce qu'elle est riche : on en aime ef f ectivement une autre parce qu'elle est amiable, et 1 on en epouse une troisieme^par raison de famille : on menage celle-ci par interet, on voit celle-la par plaisir, et on prend 1' autre par convenance. ( Les Festes noct. ; sc. xviii) The increasing fluidity of the social structure, the impoverished finances of the aristocracy, and the opportunities

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97 for bourgeois and peasants to make considerable fortunes in a very short time, reduces marriage to the level of commercial bartering. In an atmosphere of greed and opportunism, sincere passions have little hope. The traditional candor and innocence of the younger generation becomes tainted by the corruption of the society in which they operate. Sokalski's third category of characters, those who engineer a solution, includes primarily the servants of the household. They, too, have not been unaware of the new fluidity in the social structure and are determined to profit from it. They share the traditional characteristics of servants seen earlier in the century; astute, practical level-headed, and clever in devising plots to help the young people. But another dimension has been added to the stock type. They are no longer satisfied simply to serve others, but hope to use the family they serve to better their own condition. Throughout the latter part of the seventeenth century, the role of the servant had been changing. Recent criticism has documented the now well-known evolution of the servant role beginning with Moliere's Toinette and continuing through the eighteenth century, culminating in the eloquent spokesman for the proletariat, Beaumarchais s Figaro. In his dissertation, "The Valet in French Comedy from 1670 to 1730," Kreiss has described the parodoxical relationship of the servant to the rest of society:

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98 The public was attracted and fascinated by the strange position which the valet occupied in society. He was a second-class citizen before the law, but a social and economic force to be reckoned with in actual life. He was inferior in social status, but in his manners, demeanor, speech, edcuation, and perhaps even in appearance, since he wore his master's clothes, he was almost the equal of his master. All these correspondences had their equivalents in actual life, but they contrasted sharply with what conventions were willing to concede. It is this ambivalence which furnished much of the comic in the seventeenth century. 18 The servants became more aware of opportunities open to them and the occasion to branch out on their own to different professions. In Le Second Chapitre du Diable boiteux Simon recounts how he started his career as a page in the residence of a merchant. From there he became a doorman. By adroitly manipulating his control over who gained entry to the household, he was able to save over 8,000 pounds. Through careful investments he builds up his fortune and eventually becomes the business associate of his former master and then blackmails him into allowing him to marry the daughter, hence becoming his social equal (sc. i) The once straightforward relationship between master and servant has become complex. The servant -no longer feels himself an intrinsic part of the family but rather sees his position in the household as a means to advance his own career: . the bonds of affection which made the servant a member of the family are disintegrating. His loyalty to the family begins to waver as he no longer feels a part of the intimate circle of

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99 this old established social unit. The temptation to shift for himself and to capitalize on the debris of so many shattered fortunes is almost irresistible. 15 The cunning of the servants is now employed to their own benefit. In Les Bourgeoises a la mode Lisette encourages her mistress in a ruinous affair with the chevalier and also encourages her frivolous spending, thereby hoping to build her own career from the fall of her mistress: Lisette: (seule) A Dieu Madame Amelin. Nous aurons done de 1' argent comptant, et nous donnerons a^jouer, Dieu merci. Tout se dispose a merveilles pour ma petite fortune. La passion du Chevalier, l'humeur de ma maitresse, qui ne songe qu'a ruiner^ son mari : ^elle achete cher, vend a bon marche, met tout en gage : je suis son Intendante. Voila comme les mattresses deviennent soubrettes, et comme les soubrettes deviennent quelque fois maitresses a leur tour. (I, xiii) The servant is not above ruining her own family also. Frosine, in La Foire de Besons has disposed of her entire family in order to advance her own position. A friend recites a list of the ignoble crimes: Tu baisses f urieusement je ne te connois plus, moi qui te parle ; et ou est ce feu, cette vivacite, cette ardeur exempte de scrupule que je t'ai toujours vue jusqu'a present?^quoi cette illustre Frosine, qui a elle-meme enrole son mari pour avoir le plaisir d'etre plutot veuve, cette heroine, qui pour s aproprier le petit bien de sa famille a fait mettre son frere aux petites Maisons, et envoie son oncle aux galores. Je ne parle point de sa niece qu 'elle a tres-avantageusement mariee a un riche Magistrat, qui n'est pourtant pas veuf encore . cette meme Frosine . (sc. xv) On all levels, there is found a general breakdown of the

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100 family unit primarily motivated by desire for social status or money. The family has become either an embarrassement to be avoided at all costs or a potential tool to be used for personal gain. Perhaps the most pernicious example of the dissipation of familial bonds is in a short scene from La Femme d' intrigues A husband approaches Madame Thibaut, stating that his wife has died in childbirth and that the baby has also died only a few hours ago. He solicits help from Madame Thibaut so that he will not be forced to return his wife's dowry to her parents. Madame Thibaut has just had a newborn child dropped on her doorsteps that very day under unpleasant circumstances and is desperate to be rid of it. She tells the husband that she has an acquaintance who, because of extreme poverty, might be persuaded to sell her child. She returns in a few hours and tells the husband that, only with much difficulty, has she been able to convince the mother to part with the child: Deux mille ecus 1 ont emue les sept mi lie francs l'ont ebranlee, et les huit cens pistoles ont acheve de la determiner. (IV, xii) In Dancourt's plays, the social unit of the family remains, as in traditional comedy, the basis for the plot structure, but the pressures, internal and external, being exerted on the structure and threatening to destroy it, provide much of the comic of his plays. The parents, the young lovers, and the servants are no longer intimately

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101 tied to the familial structure. Their greed and ambition take precedence over any sentimental attachment. Whether Dancourt's characters are analyzed as commedia dell' arte stock types or as representatives of the social structure of seventeenth-century France, from both perspectives we find Dancourt postulating a clear and well defined structure and then using the disruptive forces being brought to bear upon that structure as a starting point for his comedy. By showing the traditional family of classical comedy weakening as the individual members work for their own ends independently of the family, Dancourt brings into relief the dominate theme in his plays — a society in a state of transition. The same is true with his use of the social class structure. He postulates the existence of a wellordered tripartite division and then shows how the members of each class are redefining their relationship to the structure. In both cases, the structures are being undermined by the same historical forces: the weakening of the correlation between actual power and birth and the everincreasing power of money regardless of birth. This is not social realism, of course, in any absolute sense. The social structure of France was never so rigidly defined as Dancourt's plays imply, and there was certainly no breakdown of the family unit in late seventeenth-century France. But Dancourt has used both structures to portray metaphorically the transition, on political, social and religious levels, which he did perceive as a reality of the society.

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102 Let us return now to the question raised at the beginning of this chapter concerning critical reactions to Dancourt's method of characterization: the wide range of characters presented in his plays and their lack of psychological depth. The former has generally been seen as praiseworthy, because it provides such a detailed look at the new groups of people on the social forefront. From just the few characters mentioned in this chapter, one can perceive somewhat the breadth of character types that Dancourt presents: the indebted aristocrat, the ostentatious bourgeois, the ambitious peasant, the dishonest magistrate, the grasping financier, the corrupt lawyer, the avaricious merchant. Not only are his characters varied, they are also large in number, some plays having as many as twenty. Even the titles denote this tendency: L'Este des coquettes Les Bourgeoises a la mode Les Curieux de Compiegne Les Agioteurs Les Enfans de Paris But the lack of psychological depth has always been viewed as an inherent flaw in his works. It is true that his characters do not rise above their stereotype. They lack psychological depth and nuance. They do not continue to live in the imagination of the viewer as do Moliere's. Dancourt's method of characterization might well be termed descriptive as opposed to narrative. He assigns a few characteristics to a personage which provide a satire of some social phenomenon. Not surprisingly Dancourt excels

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103 at the cameo sketch. With a few brief strokes, he can sketch an amusing and vivid portrait. Such is the one of Madame de Saint Blaise: C'est une fort bonne femme, la fille d un Grainier, on l'appelle Madame la Marquise, elle fait la jeune et elle passe pour veuve d'un Capitaine de Vaisseau, qui^fut tue au bombardement de Genes. La verite est que son mari est encore au monde, il a une petite Commission du cote de ce Canada ; et comme c'est 1' autre monde que ce pais-la, en attendant qu^il en revienne, elle a epouse en secondes noces un vieux garcon de Robe avec qui elle n'est pourtant pas tout a fait mariee : mais elle^le trompe comme un vrai mari, et c'est ce qui la decrie un peu dans le monde. (Prologue to Les Trois C. ; sc. i) But characters who exist throughout a five-act play, rarely fill out any more than do the ones who are only briefly sketched. Dancourt is capable of drawing substantial characters as is seen in Madame Patin of Le Ch evalier a la mode Here, Dancourt uses v/hat might be called a narrative technique. Her personality is deduced from actions rather than simply described by other characters or herself. In the famed opening scene, we see her character through her physical exhaustion and her near incoherent rambling. However, she is the one exception. The rest of the dramatic personages are nothing more than an accretion of specific character traits. But given that Dancourt 's major thrust throughout his plays is the description of a society in a state of transition, these two characteristics, a lack of psychological depth and a large number of characters, work together to

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104 achieve this end. The number of diversified characters give an impression of a very energetic but fragmented society where everyone pursues his own ends independently of the rest of society. And the shallowness of the characters reflects a society which has lost its inner coherence. It has lost touch with the traditional structures which gave it depth, cultural roots and a sense of continuity. As the fluid social system based on money replaces the more stable one based on birth, the very principles of continuity and tradition are replaced by those of flux and change. Thus Dancourt's characters exist only momentarily for the time they are on the stage and then disappear from sight and from memory. They are shallow and transient as is the society they represent.

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105 Notes La Comedie au XVIIe et XVIIIe siecle (Paris: Paulin, 1905), p. 18. 2 A History of French Dramatic Literature in the Seventeenth Century, 5 pts. in 9 vols. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1929-42) IV, II, 77 4. 3 L'Esprit de la commedia dell 'arte dans le theatre francais (Paris: Baconnierej 1950)^ p~. 272 La Comedie en France au XVIII e siecle (Paris: Hachette, 1888), p. 105. Brunetiere, "Autour de 'Turcaret'," Les Epogues du theatre francais (1636-1850 ), Conferences de l'Odeon (Paris: Levy, 1892) p. 190. La Comedie apres Moliere et le theatre de Dancourt (1882; rpt. Paris: Welter, 1903). "The Dramatic Art of Dancourt and the Metaphor of Pretense," Diss. Yale, 1970. 8 Lemaitre, p. 96. 9 The Decline of the Age of Louis XIV (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1968) p. 101. 10 There is some question as to the legitimacy of the Chevalier's title. No details are given about his background and his manner and speech lack aristocratic refinement as well as does the familiar relationship he maintains with his servant. However I agree with Lancaster's assessment that, given the fact that the question of legitimacy is never brought up by Dancourt as he would do in later plays coupled with the information provided that the Chevalier is regularly seen at court, it would tend to indicate that his title is valid. See Lancaster, IV, ii, 591.

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106 Les Caracteres (Paris: Gamier, 1962), p. 400. 12 There are a few women in the role of being opposed to love. Sokalski mentions Madame Thomas in L e Retour des officiers and Madame Olimpe in La Parisienne In both cases their opposition is couched in terms of concern for their daughter. It is the "rich bourgeoise who desires to see her family well-off." See Sokalski, pp. 96-97. 13 Tilley, p. 101. 14 Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton: Princeton Press, 1957) p. 164. 15 Lemaitre, p. 125 and 127. 16 Sokaliski writes: "For her love begins as a caprice, a desire to experience the unknown and finally to taste both pleasure and freedom. In her mind love becomes completely associated with the idea of freedom, more so than with that of unreserved affection for a lover." See Sokalski, p. 92. 17 Sokalski, p. 68. 18 "The Valet in French Comedy from 1670 to 1730," Diss. Northwestern, 1969, p. 657. 19 Ibid. pp. 942-43.

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CHAPTER FIVE VERBAL COMEDY: LANGUAGE DISORDER AND SOCIAL DISORDER A dramatist's foremost tool of expression is his language. Through a study of how a dramatist constructs his character's dialogue, one can hope to gain insight into the integrity of the dramatic world he creates. It can be suggested that Dancourt uses language and its structure to comment metaphorically on society: a loss in man's faith in language is symptomatic of a society weakened by a loss of faith in itself. Three techniques can be isolated which bring this problem into focus. The first and most far-reaching in its application > is the manner in which the characters express themselves. An analysis of the structural components of Dancourt' s dialogue suggests that the characters are uneasy with their own speech and attempt to compensate by treating language very casually. Secondly, an analysis of the use of verbal fantasy-comedy based on the structure of words-suggests that Dancourt is deliberately pointing out the artificial nature of language. This technique serves as a reminder that language is but an arbitrary 107

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108 convention. If a society does not have a clear and accurate perception of itself, language can only reflect the confusion and ambiguity experienced by its speakers. Thirdly, an analysis of the comique de mots -comedy based on the meaning of words suggests that Dancourt structures his character's speech to show how language can manipulate and distort one's perception of reality. Language does not simply reflect reality; it can conceal as well as reveal meaning. Through his construction of the dialogue in general as well as with his use of the techniques of verbal fantasy and comique de mots Dancourt uses the breakdown of language as a metaphor for the internal disarray of a society disoriented by social, political, and religious change Dancourt 's skill in writing dialogue has been noticed by all of his critics. One quality appears repeatedly in their appraisals; namely, his ability to imitate the rhythm of natural speech. Barthelemy refers to his "incroyable facilite qui fait le charme de ses comedies." 2 For Tilley, it is the "natural ease of his dialogue." 3 Lancaster terms it "realistic" and for Pomeau, it is a 4 "langage pris sur le vif." Lemaitre attempts to explain how this effect is achieved: Voila le ton ordinaire--le style est exactement et pour la premiere fois au theatre (du moins avec cette continuite) celui de la conversation

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109 courante, avec ses negligences, ses repetitions de mots, ses anacoluthes, ses incorrections ses tours a la mode ^ It is not surprising that critics have consistently pointed out the realistic character of Dancourt's dialogue, because, above all other factors, it seems to account for the overall tone produced by his plays and also because it is probably his foremost innovation as a dramatist. In this respect, Dancourt heralds a more relaxed attitude toward written language which would become even more prevalent in the eighteenth century. The drive for unity and purity in the French language which is seen throughout the seventeenth century begins to wane toward the century's end as the language becomes more stable. Though the classical authors become and remain for a long time the supreme model of linguistical perfection, the restrictive attitude of the grammarians and the precieux of the earlier part of the century relaxes somewhat. This is particularly true in respect to technical and professional jargon which had been abhorrent to the earlier ideal of honn etete As we shall see, Dancourt does not hesitate to use highly technical terms, particularly when describing the world of commerce. But this same relaxation can also be seen in matters of style. La Bruyere and La Fontaine witness to an increasing sensitivity to fluidity and naturalness in style as well as to an increased appreciation for briefer pieces of literature. As Lough remarks, books "which one can dip

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110 into for half an hour or even a few minutes" become more popular. In matters of style, "a la fin du XVIIe siecle, une phrase plus courte semble appreciee," writes Chaurand in his study on the French language. Such changes in style are subtle and their importance easily exaggerated, but there is no doubt that Dancourt s prose style is much more relaxed and conversational than that of any other serious dramatist of the seventeenth century, and this change in style must have affected the way an audience would react to the characters' speech. This "naturalness" would be consciously felt by the audience as different from what they were accustomed to hearing on stage. The adjective, nat ural must be used carefully when applied to an artistic style. Larthomas notes in his study of dramatic language that no matter how realistic a dialogue may seem, real conversation and dramatic dialogue are never the same. "II y a toutefois deux differences essentielles : les paroles echangees n'ont rien de spontane ce sont des repliques, au sens le plus technique du terme et un auteur les a ecrites. Ensuite les personnages ne sont en realite, pas seuls. Le public est la pour les Q voir et les ecouter." Dancourt has imitated natural, conversational style by borrowing certain of its components, but his creation is a stylized rendition of the original. It is concentrated and more controlled, and, in that sense,

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Ill it is not truly natural Dancourt has produced an air of naturalness, and has done so deliberately. It is an artistic technique purposefully contrived to achieve a 9 desired effect. Close analysis of his dialogue reveals two dominant qualities which account for this natural tone: informal use of semantics and syntax, and a rapid progression of the dialogue. Like his contemporaries, Dancourt wrote most of his plays in prose rather than in verse. The more malleable framework of prose is essential to the informal style of his dialogue. But it is more than just informal; at times, it appears almost negligent. As Lemaitre has suggested, Dancourt has carefully imitated the inaccurate grammar and redundant speech patterns found in everyday conversation. Rhetorical devices such as repetition, anacoluthons ellipses, interjections, and colloquialisms imply a negligent attitude toward words. The effect is compounded by the characters' loquaciousness. They seem to delight in hearing their own voices. They interrupt one another at will, maintaining a constant chatter. The second element is a very smooth and rapid progression of the dialogue based on a closely linked succession of repartees. A character will repeat words and phrases used by the previous speaker, causing the dialogue to build upon itself in successive steps. While this makes for very

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112 natural and smooth transitions, it also causes the dialogue to appear to be constantly accelerating as one character's statement adds to the previous one. This impression of an accelerating pace introduces a note of tension. Let us examine a typical passage from one of Dancourt's plays. Note the informal syntax and semantics as well as the manner in which the dialogue builds upon itself: Lepine: Qu'est-ce que c'est done, Monsieur Chariot, vous me paroissez bien fier aujourd hui? Chariot: Parguenne comme de coutume, et si ca ne vous convient pas, je m'en gausse ? je ne vous charchons pas, laissez-nous en repos. Lepine: Vous avez quelque chose dans la tete, a ce qu'il me semble? Chariot: C'a est vrai il vous semble bian, j'y ai la volonte de vous paumer la gueule, Monsieur de Lepine. Lepine: A moi? Chariot: Oui palsanguenne a vous : vous etes un debaucheux de filles. Je sis garde-moulin le Meunier n'y est pas, vous en voulez a la niece ; mais si vous me faites prendre un gourdin . Lepine: Qu'est-ce a dire un gourdin? Chariot: Je ne parle pas pour a stheure, c'est une maniere d avertissement pour en cas que vous y reveniais. Lepine: J'y reviendrai quand il me plaira, Monsieur Chariot. Chariot: Quand il vous plaira, Monsieur de Lepine? Lepine: Assurement, quand il me plaira.

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113 Chariot: He bian revenez-y, ce sont vos affaires, vous etes le maitre. Lepine : Et si vous vous avisez de faire le raisonneur, scavez-vous bien que vous vous attirerez mille coups de ha* ton, mon petit ami? Chariot: Mille coups de baton! c'est beaucoup, Monsieur de Lepine. Lepine: Vous les aurez si vous raisonnez. Chariot: He bian je ne raisonnerai point, vela qui est fini. ( Le Mary retr sc. x) In this short scene, representative of many in Dancourt's plays, the basic action is simple and obviously contrived to produce a comic effect. The situation is of vintage commedia dell 'arte stock: a peasant character boldly declaims his intention of pursuing his present action only to cower at the first threat of physical violence. On the substantive level, the humor lies in the reversal of Chariot's original stance. The comic, however, would be minimal were nob the situation verbalized in a clever and lively manner. The informal word usage provides color and animation. Words flow with ease from the characters. There is an abundance of words which are both superfluous to the action as well as redundant and the effect is one of spontaneity and laxity. Insignificant fillers such as "a ce qu'il me semble," or "c'a est vrai," colloquialisms such as "palsanguenne a vous" and "je m en gausse," interjections such as "he bian," "assurement all serve

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114 to create an atmosphere where words are used easily, without deliberation and with little real significance attached to them. The second element, the tightly constructed set of repartees, can be clearly seen in this excerpt: Lepine : J'y reviendrai quand il me plaira, Monsieur Chariot. Chariot: Quand il vous plaira, Monsieur de Lepine? Lepine: Assurement, quand il me plaira. Chariot: He bian revenez-y .... Deloffre terms this process "1 enchainement des repliques An impression of speed is contrived by the careful construction. The dialogue builds upon itself by repetition achieving a rapid progression from one repartee to the next. This speed introduces a note of tension because one suspects that it is forced and cannot be maintained. The combination of these two elements, informal word usage and rapid progression, produces a suggestion of nervous superficiality. The characters engage in lively but meaningless conversations. The closely linked repartees give the dialogue a forward progression which borders on frenzy at times. The informal word usage separates the characters from any emotional commitment to their words, making their use of language appear inauthentic. And, yet, the characters continue to talk in a compulsive manner. There is a stronq undercurrent of desperation as the characters feel an obsession to talk yet cannot produce 11

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115 anything meaningful. In his study on the notion of the absurd in seventeenth-century literature, Carlo Francois has pointed out that the weakening of verbal skills in literary characters is never gratuitous. "Le langage n'est jamais le premier a se disloquer ; son demembrement renvoie a une dislocation anterieure ou simultanee des valeurs qu il transporte. Through the dialogue, Dancourt creates a verbal metaphor for the loss of meaning in his characters 1 lives. Their verbalizations reflect the bustle and activity of a society in the throes of political and social change. The constant and animated chatter mirrors the charged atmosphere of the rapidly evolving society, and, on another level, the characters' inability to use words effectively reflects their own feeling of loss as they attempt to adapt to a society which is changing too rapidly. The remainder of this chapter will deal with the same question of word usage, but, instead of focusing on the style of the dialogue as a whole, there will be a close textual analysis of specific statements by the characters which produce the same result, that of questioning the effectiveness of their verbal communication. Dancourt' s use of verbal fantasy has been appreciated by his critics, but, like most other stylistic elements in his plays, there has been little analysis of its structure. Dancourt makes liberal use of some of the most basic and farcical types of verbal fantasy, but he does so in a manner

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116 that not only produces laughter, but that also implies a collapse in verbal communication. In La Fantaisie verbale et le comique dans le theatre f rancais Garapon defines verbal fantasy very simply as "l'exercise du langage pour lui-meme," in which the emphasis on language shifts from the meaning of words to the words 13 themselves. In the section on seventeenth-century drama, Garapon details the decline of verbal fantasy following Moliere's success with the comique de caracteres Before Moliere became the standard for comedy, verbal fantasy was used widely, in an uninhibited and farcical manner. With the elevated rank that comedy achieved through Moliere's success, however, the new respect attributed to psychological realism limited the role of verbal fantasy. Dialogue became primarily a means of portraying character, and verbal fantasy was relegated to a secondary role. Though one finds much use of verbal fantasy in Dancourt, it is far removed from the burlesque of a Scarron, and it is not marked by the exuberance and vitality found earlier in the century. By reducing the range of verbal fantasy which had been characterized by gross exaggeration, its function also changed. Employed in a burlesque context with comic fools chattering nonsensically, verbal fantasy does become, as Garapon states, a liberating force: la fantaisie verbale par la gratuite meme qu'elle implique, entraine, dans la meilleure hypothese, un certain flou ou une certaine

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117 convention dans les personnages : disons-le plus nettement, la fantaisie verbale convient surtout a des fantoches, a des personnages stereotypes ou depourvus de toute verite psychologique : un fou, un sot, un badin, un pedant, un soldat fanfaron, un personnage aussi falot que Don Japhet d'Armenie pourront en user a ravir, puisque leur destination est uniquement de faire rire le spectateur par tous les moyens et non de le faire rire en lui presentant une image de 1 homme partielle sans doute, caricaturale souvent, mais essentiellement veridique et ressemblante 14 Dancourt's characters obviously fall in the latter category, Like other post-Moliere dramatists, Dancourt uses verbal fantasy in a restricted manner, but when it does appear in his works, it stands out more clearly. In a character who is supposed to represent a contemporary social type, verbal fantasy marks a more exaggerated gap between the speaker and the words spoken. When a character is attempting to say something meaningful and only nonsense emerges, there is a communication failure. Verbal fantasy then becomes a means to highlight the void between words and meaning and it is no longer simply a gratuitous comic element. That is not to say that the humor in verbal fantasy is no longer present, but one also becomes aware of a loss in the power of words to communicate as emphasis shifts from the meaning to the form of words. In Les Vendanges when a character says, Tu m'apelles Madame, et tu en tutayes d'autres a ma barbe, barbare? (sc. xiii) the phonological sequence a ma barbe, barbare is verbal fantasy at its finest. There is no morphological relationship between the two words, barbe and barbare Their

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118 juxtaposition draws attention from the meaning to the form of the words and emphasizes the arbitrary nature of the phonological similarity. The pun becomes more meaningful when one remembers the Greek origin of the word barbare pgpjSapqs referred to people who babbled or spoke nonsense and thus was generalized to refer to foreigners whose language was unintelligible. The discrepancy between the form and the meaning of the words is further brought out by having the illiterate husband of Margot exclaim in bewilderment: "Barbe, barbare! ou prend-elle tout ce qu'elle dit, cette masque-la?" This discrepancy between the phonological similarity and the unrelated morphology is even more pronounced in a sentence found in another play: La Police n'est pas polie. ( La Per, du ph. sc. xvi) The humor derives from the implication that the police should be polie because of the phonological relationship. Dancourt is satirizing man's tendency to assume an underlying order of logic in such a similarity though, of course, the phonological resemblance is purely coincidental. The tendency to imbue words with additional meanings because of a grammatical resemblance also occurs with morphological similarities. A character attempts to explicate his previous comment and begins by saying, J'avois cru, Madame . but is interrupted by the reply, Vous etes un malcreant. (La Feste dev. II, vi)

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119 The force of the accusation of being a malcreant comes from the man's use of the verb croire The transformation of croire into malcreant with the accompanying echoes of the medieval recreant is overburdening the original word under the pretext of morphological similarity. Excessive repetition is another technique used by Dancourt to undermine the correspondence of words to exterior reality. In Le Galant Jardinier Dancourt consciously underlines this process by contrasting the process of repetition and its accompanying devaluation of words with a character's stated intention to communicate: L' eclaircissement vous eclaircira si . (sc. ii) The contrast between the meaning of the word eclaircir and its repetition puts form and content in direct opposition. Nothing is being clarified; to the contrary, the repetition serves only to obsfucate the meaning of the statement. The following passage, a burlesque coq-a-1' ane is produced through the repetition of one word: II est vrai pour cela, que la reputation de Monsieur Lucas est extremement en reputation et Monsieur Lucas a la reputation d' avoir tou jours le meilleur vin de France. ( Les Vend. sc. iii) Any meaning associated with reputation has been eroded by repetition. Words do not always become meaningless through repetition; sometimes they can assume an exaggerated importance. A widow in La Feste de village dreams of marrying into nobility, and when her brother-in-law suggests she marry

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120 "un vieux garcon fort riche : Monsieur Narquart, Procureur de la Cour," she exclaims indignantly: Un vieux garcon a moi : Un Procureur, Lisette? Monsieur Narquart! je serois Madame Narquart moi? le joli nom que Madame Narquart! C'est un plaisant visage que Monsieur Narquart, de songer a moi. (I, iii) Due to the repetition, the relatively innocuous phonemes in the name, Narquart, suddenly seem offensive. The same accumulation of exaggerated significance occurs with the word petit A Gascon suspects the owner of a lottery of offering little in the way of gifts for those who buy his lots : Je les scai, Monsieur, je devine : petit etui, petite porcelaine, petit mouchoir, petite souriciere. Vous etes un petit mignon qui faites de petites Loteries en mignatures, hem? ( La Lot. sc. xxiii) The humor is increased by the discrepancy between the meaning of petit and the implication of gross deceit on the part of the merchant. Verbal repetition has a relative--the technique of accumulation — which produces the same result, a loss of meaning. The technique is one aspect of the comic technique of hyperbole; as the repetition of exaggerated expressions increases, the impact of the words decreases. Words lose their serious intent and become comical: Je suis perdue, je suis trahie, je suis ruinee, je suis assassinee. ( La Lot sc. xxvi) Ah! mon cher Monsieur, vous voiez une femme outree, vexee, transported, excedee, possedee. ( Les Ag .,II, xii)

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121 Peasant jargon is one of Dancourt's most successful applications of verbal fantasy. A large number of his characters are peasants, and many of his plays are set in the countryside. Lucas states that in his own day Dancourt was criticized for mounting peasants on the stage of the Comedie Francaise. In the Prologue des Trois Cousines probably in response to such criticism, Dancourt has one of his own characters say: "Qu'il (the playwright) fasse done voir quelque chose de nouveau, et qu'il ne tourne pas autour de lui-meme, comme sur un pivot : tou jours des Procureurs des Bourgeoises ridicules, des nigauds, des Paysans, des Meuniers, des Meunieres. Cet homme-la est ne pour le moulin, il ne le peut quitter" (sc. v) However, as time has shown, Dancourt's use of patois has been very successful. The colorful language adds much verve to his plays. Lucas, among many other critics, has praised Dancourt's innovative use of the technique: "Personne n'a su prefer aux paysans un langage plus vrai et n'a mieux caracterise cette finesse melee de bons sens qui perce sous une enveloppe grossiere." He also points out Dancourt's imitation of Moliere in this respect. However, more recent research has shown that Dancourt's peasant jargon is, in fact, less realistic than Moliere' s. In his dissertation, "Das Bauern-Franzosisch in Dancourts Lustspielen, Brutting concludes that Dancourt concocted 17 his own type of "Buhnenbauernsprache Sokalski, still

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122 more recently, has shown that Dancourt s orthography of peasant speech lacks precision and consistency; not only is the orthography not consistent in the overall work, it even varies within one character's speech. The phonological indications are almost exclusively those approximating the patois of peasants living in the surroundings of Paris, regardless of the origin of the particular peasant character, while Moliere's peasant jargon remains much more consistent with the patois of the province of origin. As Sokalski concludes, Dancourt s peasant jargon is only a conventional literary creation attempting to represent a Parisian theatergoer's preconception of peasant patois rather than an accurate or realistic transcription of the patois. "It is a kind of linguistic shorthand, a verbal disguise capable 1 8 of providing the character with a mask." Thus, the peasant jargon is another way in which Dancourt demonstrates the manipulation of language. The patois is not a realistic trait as Lucas would have it, rather it serves to diminish the meaning of words by placing the emphasis on their form. The following use of patois demonstrates how the truth of a statement is undermined by the language in which it is couched. The reliability of the statement is diminished by the incorrect grammar and the rambling tone: Accoutez, faites-la moi voir avant que de la prendre, je vous en dirai ce qui en fera tout a la franquette. Voyez-vous, nous autres Paisans des environs de Paris, je nous connoissons mieux en femmes que personne, j en voions tant de toutes les f aeons. C'est morgue une marchandise bian trdmpeuse. (Les Vend, de S. sc. i)

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123 The speaker's assertion that he has valuable knowledge concerning the female sex is disregarded since the spectator's attention is directed to the comical use of the language. The attempts to convince (je nous connoissons mieux en femmes que personne") and the assurances of truth ("a la franquette") are not taken at face value. The language makes them suspect. Besides dialects, Dancourt also uses other languages as a device for verbal fantasy. In La Loterie we find two Italians speaking to one another in a mixture of French and Italian. The result is very comical though anything but realistic: Sbrigany: Ques-ce que cest quhavete, Signor Petronillo? Petronillo: E niente, Signor, e niente una bagatelle. Sbrigany: Que cosa e que vol dire una bagatelle? Petronillo: II m'a pris un remords de conscience, Monsir, j ai paour. Sbrigany: Et de quoi paour? Petronillo: D'etre pendu, Signor. Sbrigany: Ah, 1' animal! et perche pendu? Petronillo: Perche, perche? voi siete un furbo, Monsiu. Sbrigany: Moi un fourbe? Petronillo: Si Signor, un fripon autrement, tutt'il munde il dice labas, et mi que sabbi ben qui e la verita, non posso dire il contraire. ( La Lot sc. vi) Many examples of Dancourt 's use of verbal fantasy could

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124 be listed to demonstrate his techniques, but these few should give an adequate feeling for his artful manipulations of language. It must be remembered that these jeux de mots occur in the midst of ongoing conversations, and thus their presence acts upon the conversation and subtly modifies the meanings conveyed. Verbal fantasy weakens the intended transmission of thought, and attention reverts to the form of the words. By their sheer numbers, they form an undercurrent which erodes the contextual intent of the conversations. Unlike the verbal fantasy of the comedies in the first part of the century, here we find verbal fantasy in conflict with the characters' intentions. They wish to communicate, but the words they employ reduce their intended meanings For Dancourt, verbal fantasy is not only a means to evoke humor but, in addition, it forms an integral part of his metaphor relating the use of language to a society's self -concept. As a society's perception of itself becomes vague and confused, language also becomes vague and ineffective. By focusing attention on the form of words, rather than on their meanings, one is reminded that on the most basic of levels language is but an arbitrary sign system which cannot in and of itself produce meaning. Meaning must come from the users of the language, and, if they are unsure of their own values, language cannot operate convincingly or effectively.

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125 Comique de mots like verbal fantasy, is a verbal comic technique, but while verbal fantasy is a play on the form of words, comique de mots is a play on meaning. Through unusual arrangements of words, a surprising, new meaning arises not normally conveyed when the same words are used conventionally. Just as verbal fantasy may be a liberating force when used "uniquement [pour] 19 faxre rire le spectateur par tous les moyens," so comique de mots may, through a synthesis of the new meaning with the old, produce an illuminating or transcendent truth. But in the hands of a social satirist, attempting to demonstrate metaphorically a society's internal disorder, the two meanings collide with one another, and the result is a collapse in meaning, a mutual negation, and, as was the case with verbal fantasy, the technique thus registers a failure in communication. Puns are the most obvious and simple manifestations of such manipulation. In La Folle Enchere there is a pun on the word cher involving its two meanings of either emotional endearment or monetary value. In the play, Angelique, disguised as a boy, urges her pretended fiancee, Madame Argante, to increase the dowry. Making one last plea, Angelique says: Si jamais je vous fus cher, Madame, il est tems de vous declarer. (sc. xxii) Madame Argante assumes the word refers to her love for

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126 the disguised Angelique, while Angelique means it to refer to the largesse of the dowry. Just as the relationship between Angelique and Madame Argante is predicated on a false assumption (Madame Argante believes Angelique to be a boy) the equation of emotional value and monetary value in the word cher is an equally false value judgment. The two mutually exclusive meanings implied in the word cher destroys any real meaning and the pun registers only a failure in communication. In Renaud et Armide a distressed father, upon learning that his son has supposedly gone mad, asks: Et comment ce malheur-la lui est-il arrive? and the servant replies: II lui est arrive par la poste, Monsieur, dans vos dernieres lettres. (sc. xvii) The servant deliberately refuses to accept the contextual meaning of arriver and substitutes another. The servant uses language not to communicate but as a psychological weapon to outsmart the father who becomes an object of ridicule for the audience. The servant has asserted his control of the situation by manipulating the language. The misuse of professional or social jargon is another technique used successfully by Dancourt. He is able to employ it frequently because he introduces such a varied assortment of social types into his plays. Its success as a comic technique is based on the misapplication of set

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127 words or phrases in a given situation. A forced correspondence is set up between two realms of activity which are not usually seen in the same light. In Le Moulin de Javelle we find two wives who have been surprised by their husbands while waiting for their lovers. Convincing their husbands to leave, they have a valet call for the lovers to return: La Fleur, va dire a ces Messieurs gu'ils viennent, les ennemis sont decampez, nous sommes maitresses du champ de bataille. (sc. xxii) The use of military jargon equates the battle between the sexes with a military battle. It is humorous precisely because it is an exaggeration; the implied metaphor does not illuminate a truism concerning men and women but rather distorts by means of exaggeration. In Les Vendanges de Suresnes a gardener gives professional advice to the father of a young girl: Quand une poire est mure, si on ne la cueille, alle tombe d'elle-meme, comme vous scavez. (sc. i) The implied equation of the maturation of a pear to that of a young girl is forced and strained. The fact that they both fall is based on two possible meanings of the word fall But the two meanings do not overlap: the fall of a young girl has no relationship to that of a pear. The proverbial form of the statement of course raises echoes of the Ronsardian motif which compares the mortality of a rose to that of a young girl's beauty. But in the latter example the comparison is valid and a synthesis of the two components

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128 of the metaphor is achieved, culminating in a transcendent truth: beauty must be enjoyed when present because it will quickly disappear. But there is no such similarity in the fall of a pear and a young girl except the word fall itself. Analyzing Dancourt's use of puns, it can be seen that his orientation is towards a negative, reductive use of the technique. Rather than producing constructive communication, the linguistical manipulations of his characters yield only contradictions and impasses. Punning operates by semantical ambiguity but Dancourt also achieves the same purpose through syntax. Note this statement by one of his characters: J'ai perdu ma femme, et puis j'avons cette annee bon vin, et bonne recolte. ( La Feste de v. II, i) Though logically the two events are not related, the syntactic ambiguity in the placement of the word puis implies a direct cause and effect relationship. In La Feste de village we find La Greffiere talking as if marriages were stepping stones for social advancement. She details her plans to climb the social ladder, one husband at a time: Feu mon mari est mort, la Charge est vendue, je n'ai plus de titre, plus de qualite, je suis une pierre d'attente, et destinee sans vanite, a des distinctions qui ne vous permettront pas avec moi, tant de familiarite que vous vous en donnez quelque fois. She continues explaining how she will soon be a countess,

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129 but that is only a beginning: Je debute par-la, c'est assez pour un commencement : mais cela augmentera dans la suite ; et de mari en mari, de doiiaire en doiiaire, je ferai mon chemin, je vous en repons et le plus brusquement qu'il me fera possible. ( La Feste de v. I, iii) In this situation, the humor lies in the discrepancy between the traditional concept of marriage as a lifetime undertaking and La Greffiere's anticipation of having a score of marriages, one more socially distinctive than the other. Using language to imply an equation between such concepts as careers and marriage, or social status and money, is not comic solely because it is illogical. It is funny because there is some truth to the statements. The ambivalence resides not only on the linguistic level, but in the society's own ambivalent attitude toward the increased social mobility afforded by marriage or money. Conduct which was unheard of in the earlier part of the century (buying titles and charges, for instance) is now attaining a certain degree of legitimacy r though still widely condemned. Within the passage just cited, the comic disparity is reflected in the attitudes of a society which continues its traditional condemnation of such practices while simultaneously being forced to recognize their ever-increasing presence. The comique de mots is a reflection of the society's own confusion. In the same play, we find an implied equation between two ideas which are on totally different levels and thus not comparable. The subjects in question are professional

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130 status and ethical standards. The humor comes from implying that the two have a direct relationship, i.e. the greater the professional status, the higher the ethical standards: M. Narquart: Cela ne recoit pas la moindre difficulte, Monsieur le Tabellion, et des que toute la famille en est d' accord avec moi, cette petite supercherie n'est qu'une bagatelle. La Tabellion: He! bian soit, vous le voulez commenca je le veux itou : vous etes Procureur de Paris, et je ne sis que Tabellion de Village ; comme votre Charge vaut mieux que la mienne, je serois un impertinent de vouloir que ma conscience fut meilleure que la votre. (I, i) This comparison results in the degeneration of ethics to the level of commercial expediency. Again, the semantical ambiguity reflects the society's ambiguous attitude toward such practices. In all of these examples, an analogy is set up between two things which cannot realistically support comparison. They represent attempts to redefine objects by the use of verbal modifications. The speaker tries to restructure reality through words so that it coincides with his own subjective desires, and the humor comes from the false logic employed to achieve this end. It is in this latter example that the potential evil in verbal manipulations can be most clearly seen. The tabellion (lawyer) is justifying his immoral actions by falsely equating two concepts. It is such casuistry in thought

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131 and action which Dancourt is attempting to expose by his comique de mots Repetition is probably at the heart of most comic techniques and of course is essential to comique de mots It imparts a significance to one statement or idea simply because it parallels in some manner a first, more reasonable one. Repetition forms the very core of Bergson's theory of the comic which states that comedy is produced when a certain rigidity in human action sets in. A character's actions become automatic and are repeated after the action has lost its effectiveness. Observing this technique at its most farcical level, we find the antics of the servant mocking a man of superior social standing. L' Olive encounters an older man and questions him concerning a young woman in the following manner: [Elle est] la soeur d'un Monsieur Grognac, qui est un grand imbecile, a ce qu'on dit. The man replies: Parle done, he maraut, sgais-tu bien que e'est moi qui suis Monsieur Grognac? and L'Olive exclaims: Monsieur Grognac 1' imbecile? Je vous demande pardon, je ne vous connoissois que de reputation. (Ren et Ar sc. xvii) Dancourt is parodying human reasoning patterns which tend to remain within a certain structure once that structure has been established. L'Olive's automatic response is an exaggeration of a very common tendency to allow structure,

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132 in this case, the structure of language, to overcome context. In a time of rapid change, it is flexibility and adaptability that are necessary for survival. A more involved use of the same process can be seen in this character appraisal from Les Curieux de Compiegne : la Dame est eprise du Gascon, le Gascon est fort epris de trente mille ecus. (sc. v) The humor lies in the parallel syntactical structure of the sentence. There is an assumption that the two sentiments are of equal value because of the parallel word structure; but of course one sentiment is noble, the other base. The technique of echo is one of the most successful uses of the process of repetition. By having one character echo the statement of a previous character, both seem to lack sincerity and spontaneity. The result is a loss in meaning and communication has been reduced to barren mimicry. In La Loterie a character says: Cela commence mal ma pauvre Lisette, cela commence mal. And Lisette responds: Cela finira de meme, Monsieur, cela finira de meme. (sc. xvii) The servant's mocking of the original statement makes both seem comical and insignificant. The foreboding tone of the first statement cannot sustain the repetition and appears ridiculous when mocked.

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133 If there is a note of pretension in the original statement, the effect of the echo is even more devastating: Eraste: Avec quelle durete, avec quelle prevention ma mere a refuse de consentir a mon mariage . Merlin: Mais en revanche, Monsieur, avec quelle fermete, avec quelle grandeur d ame vous etes-vous resolu a la fourber? ( La Folle En sc, ii) Merlin's sarcastic echo has turned Eraste 's plaint into self-pity. The master-servant echo is particularly conducive to this repetitive effect because of the differing social status of the two characters. The humor is enhanced by the universal pleasure of seeing an underdog besting a superior. As Kreiss has pointed out, "in most instances where there are corresponding couples on the master and servant levels in the seventeenth century, the comic does not fall upon the valet, but more often upon the characters addicted to some vice or extravagance which needs to be iA i i A .,20 ridiculed. In La Foire de Besons Frosine pretends that she does not see Monsieur Griffard, who, experiencing the pangs of love, is talking out loud to himself: Est-il possible que je ne puisse etre un seul moment sans songer a cette inhumaine de Cidalise. Frosine echoes: Est-il possible que parmi tant de monde je ne trouverai point quelqu'un qui puisse me dire ou est la maison de Monsieur Griffard. (sc. xxii)

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134 The repetition of a similar phrase which the second time refers to a very banal subject deflates the serious original statement. A deep affair of the heart has been demoted to the level of a request for directions. The device is also effective when the servant's comments echo a base, selfinterested version of the master's comments which are supposedly noble and disinterested: Eraste: Ah! que les enfans sont malheureux, dont les peres sont deraisonnables L'Olive: Que les valets sont miserables, dont les maitres sont amoureux Eraste: Quelle extravagance de m'etre eloigne de Paris pour m'en aller a l'armee! L'Olive: Quelle sagesse d'avoir quitte l'armee pour revenir a Paris! ( La Par. sc. iii) The echo effectively cancels out the sincerity of the first statements. The destructive implications of Dancourt's negative use of comique de mots is crystallized in his frequent use of elaborate metaphors which reduce human beings to the level of animals or inanimate objects. Here one finds oneself at the heart of the social problem that Dancourt addresses. When the philosophical and/or religious definitions of man promulgated by a leading segment of society prove inadequate, it becomes all too easy to redefine man along more simplistic lines, in particular, to concentrate on his animal nature which is readily observable and fairly constant. Of course, this type of solution is no solution.

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135 By exaggerating this tendency to a ridiculous degree, Dancourt underscores the need at least to face the problem regardless of the difficulty of coming to a satisfactory answer. Simultaneously, he also demonstrates the danger when society aspires to such a low and undemanding level of conduct for its members. In Les Trois Cousines a peasant, De Lorme, compares the behavior of women to that of sheep, with the implication that women are incapable of forming their own standards of conduct, and, like sheep, will blindly follow the lead of whoever acts first: La Meuniere bronchera, prenons-y garde, et si alle bronche une fois, ses filles et la mienne broncheront itou peut-etre ; car les filles et les femmes c'est les moutons, voiez-vous ; dres que 1 une a saute le fosse, crac, vela les autres apres ; et la Meuniere est une sauteuse, je vous en avartis. (I, vii) In Le Mary retrouve a human being is reduced to a means to an end by comparing a person to a health remedy. Madame Julienne, who suspects her husband to be dead, announces that, being very cautious, she has already selected his replacement: Des que je suis menacee de queuque accident, je songe d'abord au remede, voiez-vous. The servant asks: C'est fort prudemment fait. Et quel heureux mortel, Madame Julienne, seroit 1' antidote de voire veuvage. (sc. iii)

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136 The process of depersonif ication uses the structure of language to reduce man to simplistic categories. The depersonif ication of people accords with one of Dancourt's principal themes: the replacement of a personal moral system with a mechanized, capitalistic value system in which all things (people included) are judged according to their monetary worth. These three passages rank among the finest in Dancourt's writings for their humor, their precision, and their ability to evoke in capsule form some of the more important ethical questions posed by the changing social structure of his day. When Angelique bemoans the loss of her lover of whom she has had no news for three months, her aunt offers a quick solution: Trois mois trois mois! II le faut faire afficher, Amant perdu, dix pistoles a gagner, vous le retrouverez, j'ai retrouve ma chienne. ( Ren, et Ar sc. ix) Notice how the brevity and economy of style reduces an affair of the heart to the level of a cut and dried commercial transaction. In La Foire de Bes ons, young men are compared to domestic animals put on display at a fair. Older women select the one they prefer and take him home to keep them warm during the cold winter months to come:

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137 L'Olive: Est-ce que vous ne scavez pas que c'est a la Foire de Besons que les curieuses de Paris se fournissent pour l'Automne, en attendant le retour de la campagne . II y a des Foires pour les chevaux, et pour les betes a cornes Madame, il est bien juste qu'il y en ait une pour les soupirans. Les Dames qui veulent faire emplettes viennent ici dans la prairie voir danser, sauter, gambader, trotter, galoper ce qu'il y a de jeunes gens : et quand il s'en trouve quelqu'un beau, bien fait, et de bonne mine . Je me donne au diable, je l'ai echape belle moi qui vous parle, la bonne_ marchandise est de defait en ce pais-ci. Madame Argante inquires about the particular man she has her eyes on: L'Olive: Justement, Madame, ce garcon-la est d une belle encolure et il ne trotte pas mal comme vous scavez. Elles sont cinq ou six curieuses a qui il a donne dans la vue. Mme Argante: Cinq ou six, ma pauvre Frosine! Frosine: Voila un grand nombre de rivales On vous disputera ce mari-la, je vous l'avois bien dit. L'Olive: Oh! pour cela oiii, je vous en reponds L une veut le mener a Clichy, 1 autre a Nanterre, celle ci a Asnieres, celle-la a Colombes ; il y a la femme d'un Sous-f ermier qui est une connoisseuse confirmee celle-la, qui veut a toute force qu'il aille souper a Argenteiiil avec elle. Cidalise: Il faut que vous rompiez ces parties-la, ma charmante. (sc. xii) The use of words common to horses, such as gambader " trotter and encolure imply that men, like horses, may be bought and sold.

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138 In the final passage, the intermediary step of simply comparing a human being to an object to be bought has been dropped and man himself becomes the object; the only question is how much money he is worth: Champagne: (disguised as a marquise) Je lui donne soixante mille ecus, en faveur de ce mariage Lisette: Soixante mille ecus! Angelique: (disguised as a man) Si jamais je vous fus cher, Madame, il est terns de vous declarer. Merlin: Allons, a soixante mille ecus ce jeune homme. MmeArgante: Et moi je donne deux cens mille francs a Eraste. Eraste: Que j'ai de graces a vous rendre! Merlin: A deux cens mille francs, une fois, deux fois; a deux cens mille francs. Eraste: Allons, Monsieur de Bonnefoi, remplissez du nom de Madame ; et marquez bien les deux cens mille francs. Champagne: k II me reste pour deux mille ecus. Merlin: Attendez, Monsieur, voici une enchere. He bien, Madame? Champagne: Oiii, j'ai encore pour deux mille ecus de pierreries, que je m'oblige'de donner a votre fille. Lisette: Allons, ferme, Madame, il ne faut point laisser aller un si bon marche pour si peu de chose. Merlin: A deux cens six mille six cent livres, a cause de la passe des ecus. MmeArgante: J 'en ai pour plus de vingt mille livres, dont je lui donne la moitie.

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139 Merlin: A deux cens dix rnille livres, une fois, deux fois, a deux cens dix mille livres. Ecrivez, Monsieur de Bonnefoy, ajuge a la plus offrante. ( La Folle En. sc. xxii) Thus Dancourt's dialogue is more than just a skeletal framework on which to hang his plots, and his verbal comedy is more than just a means of evoking laughter. His dramatic language carries within it certain elements which hinder communication. It has been carefully structured by the dramatist to focus attention on first, the relationship of the characters to the words they use, and, secondly, how language itself can distort thought as well as express it. We have seen how the dialogue is constructed so that it distances the speakers from their words by an artificial "naturalness" superimposed on their thoughts, as if they were ill at ease or unsure about their ability to communicate, The use of verbal fantasy has been shown to be an indicator of the basically arbitrary nature of language, and, by turning attention to the form of words rather than their meanings, it impedes the intended transmission of thought. It acts as a warning that meaning will not come from language itself. The speaker of the language must make of it an effective communication system. In the last section, we have seen how Dancourt, through his comique de mot demonstrates the distortion of meaning by semantic or syntactic modification. A clever pun or a misapplied metaphor can imply meanings which are not necessarily truthful. Language can be subtly modified to distort the

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140 perception of reality. Dancourt is not concerned with language itself, but is using language as a mirror of the internal social disorder and the confused value systems of the society. As one's language use becomes weakened and ineffective, as one's language blocks, impairs or distorts meaning, one is deprived of one of the basic tools of social order, communication. By having his characters no longer able to use language in its most crucial aspect, that of naming reality, of making order out of chaos, Dancourt is reflecting the mental chaos and disorientation that occurs when a society is suffering a breakdown of its established norms

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141 Notes La Comedie de Dancourt, 1685-1714 : Etude historique et anecdotique (Paris: Charpentier, 1882), pp. 23-24. 2 T he Decline of the Age of Louis XIV (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1968), p. 106. 3 A History of French Dramatic Literature m the Seventeenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1929-42), IV, ii, 768. 4 L'Age Classique III (1680-1720) (Paris: Arthaud, 1971), p. 100. La Comedie apres Moliere et le theatre de Dancourt (1882; rpt. Paris: Welter, 1903), p. 228. Bedier and Hazard also note the same qualities, but for them, the conversational tone of the dialogue does not justify the imprecision in the use of language: "Dancourt ecrit facilement, et meme ses vers ont de l'aisance ; mais sa langue gaie, naturelle, alerte a de la conversation la negligence, la trivialite, parfois 1 incorrection. See Histoire de ^La litterature francaise illustree (Paris: Larousse, 1924), II, 59. h r An Introduction to Seventeenth Century France (London: McKay, 1969), p. 266. 7 Histoire de la langue francaise (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1969), p. 87. Q Le langage dramatique (Paris: Colin, 1972), p. 249. g This distinction has also been mentioned in two more recent works on Dancourt. Anderson has written: "it is clear that the author's dialogue is in no way the direct transcription of everyday speech; like all good playwrights he sought to heighten the effect of language through stylization. See "An Essay on the One-Act Play with Special Reference to Dancourt," Diss. University of Wisconsin, 1973, p. 249. Sokalski writes: "the dialogue is brilliantly calculated to convey the impression of spontaneity." See

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142 "The Dramatic Art of Dancourt and the Metaphor of Pretense," Diss. Yale, 1970, p. 173. Only ten of Dancourt 's plays are in verse. Moliere's success with prose no doubt aided the transformation from poetry to prose. But, as Robert Anderson points out, this change came gradually and it was only after Moliere's death that prose firmly replaced poetry among most comic dramatists Referring to the period between 1659 and 1671, he writes: "The association of the one-act comedy of manners with the medium of prose is not consistent during this period, however. Many plays dealing with the varied social types and phenomena were composed in alexandrines sacrificing to polished prosody the additional realism of observation available in prose. Even Moliere's increased interest in prose, reflected by his use of that medium in a large number of his later works, would appear to have had little sway on his contemporaries and on his immediate successors." Anderson gives the date of 1680 and the presentation of La Chapelle's "preface" to Les Carrosses d'Orleans as marking the onset of the period in which prose would dominate. See Anderson, pp. 99-102. In his work on le marivaudage Deloffre suggests that Marivaux' wide usage of this process probably came from his familiarity with Dancourt s plays, Dancourt being "presque le seul auteur comique vivant qu'un debutant puisse se proposer pour modele." See Deloffre, Une Preciosite nouvelle : Marivaux et le marivaudage (Paris: Belles-Lettres, 1955), p. 130. 12 La Notion de l'absurde dans la litterature francaise du XVIIe siecle (Paris: Klincksieck, 1973), p. 129. 13 (Paris: Colin, 1957), p. 344. 14 Ibid. p. 339. Dancourt, Histoire philosophigue et litteraire du theater francais depuis l'origine jusqu'a nos jours (Paris: Grosselin, 1843), p. 178. "' Ibid. 17 (Altenburg: Geibel, 1911), p. 121.

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143 Sokalski, pp. 153-62. 19 Garapon, p. 344. 20 Kreiss, The Valet xn French Comedy from 1670 to 1730," Diss. Northwestern, 1969, p. 664.

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CHAPTER SIX MANIPULATION OF LANGUAGE AND MANIPULATION OF SOCIAL VALUES Asked why "ce discours est plus clair que celui de tantot," Finette replies, "c'est qu'il est plus naturel et plus vrai" (III, i) As seen in the last chapter, Dancourt's dialogues form a carefully constructed undercurrent of commentary on the nature of language and its use by man. Language is shown to be a highly subjective tool of communication easily manipulated by the speaker. It does not simply translate meaning, but by its structure, can amplify, reduce, and modify meaning. The two qualities of naturalness and sincerity, presented by Finette as a model for proper language use, are rarely found in the speech of Dancourt's characters. Their language is devious and pretentious. It distorts reality and hinders true communication as often as it elucidates or aids communication. Many of the verbal techniques Dancourt employs are stock stylistic components used by comic and satirical writers of all ages, such as the ones discussed in the last chapter: puns, repetition, false equation, etc. But there are others that are specific to the period of time that he satirizes. Literary tastes were changing in the late seventeenth century. As Lancaster has documented, tragedy was in a 144

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145 decline during the latter decade. "In 1673-78 about as many tragedies were performed as comedies, but, after the effect of Racine's retirement had been felt, it was little more than a third of the number of comedies, even if the plays of the Theatre Italien are not counted." In her study of Dramatic Parody in Eighteenth Century France Valleria Grannis discusses more generally the changes that occurred in the philosophical and artistic tastes of the audiences between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, attempting to account for the increasing popularity of parody : The high devotion to a knightly code of honor, to a Cornelian sense of duty, was finding fewer adherents; there were fewer who were ready to sacrifice all for a noble and beautiful ideal, or who were even in sympathy with such an attitude. In this eighteenth century, men were becoming more practical, reasonable, critical and were examining the tragic situations and pronouncing them often mere grandiloquent poses and meaningless mouthings of fine sentiments. There have been doubtless in all ages a certain number of persons of sufficient levity of spirit to see the ridiculous side of any serious or solemn situation: this number seems to have increased as the eighteenth century became more and more frivolous, less inclined to reverence anything, to hold anything sacred. 2 One can detect the beginning of these new attitudes in Dancourt's plays. Much of his verbal humor comes from such parody of specific literary styles of classical and popular genres. Though literary parody has always existed from Aristophanes' time to the present, the late seventeenth century seemed particularly receptive to its humor. On the one hand, the

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146 highly acclaimed and widely read works of literature written during the midcentury provided a source for parody familiar to the audience, an essential prerequisite for parody. Also, it was a humorous means by which to juxtapose the new and the old. Indications that attitudes toward literature were changing can be found in comical references in Dancourt's plays to the classical rules of drama. He parodies the fundamental concept of a priori rules which define the quality of a piece of literature. The semi-official status of the pronouncements of critics such as Boileau or Chapelain are made to seem either simplistic or hopelessly pedantic. In L'Opera de village M. Thibaut, momentarily put in charge of the village opera, asks how he should organize his play. A magistrate, the voice of authority, replies : II faut commencer par le commencement, Monsieur Thibaut, nous finirons par la fin. (sc. xi) Elsewhere, a valet, explaining a plot he has devised to outsmart his master, parodies the Horatian twin imperatives Ne vous mettez pas en peine, je vais toujours en me divertissant preparer un petit regale de Foire, qui finira peut-etre agreablement notre intrigue. Songez au denouement vous autres . je vous laisse le soin de l'utile et du necessaire, et je ne me charge que de l'agreable .... ( La Foire St. -G. sc. xviii) The most humorous parody of the formalism of classical criticism is also found in L'Opera de village.

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147 Galoche: Voyons d'abord votre Prologue. Thibaut: Qu'est-ce que c'est que le Prologue? m'est avis que je n'avons point de ca, Monsieur le Magister? Galoche: Vous n'avez point de Prologue? Thibaut: Non palsangue, et qu'est-ce qu un prologue? Galoche: C'est l'essentiel d un divertissement, qui suit immediatement l'ouverture, et qui sert de base a plusieurs Actes qui sont melez d intermedes ou d'especes de fetes qui conviennent au sujet. Thibaut: Vela morgue bien des affaires qui j'avons oubliees. (sc. xii) The witty repartee is carefully prepared by a long scene in which the characters express themselves in the usual peasant dialect, replete with colorful idioms, rambling sentences and negligent grammar. The scene is thus set when the conversation turns to prologues. The naturalness and spontaneity of the peasant dialect is juxtaposed to the cold and formal styles of Galoche' s definition of a prologue, making the latter appear artificial and pedantic. In literary parody, Dancourt spares none of the classical or popular genres familiar to his audience; the grandiloquent style of Corneille, the precieux style of the adventure novels such as Le Grand Cyrus the noble and elevated style of the operas, and the idealistic style of the tragi-comedies The entire play Ren a ud et Armide is a parody of Lully's popular opera by the same name. In L'Este des coquettes, Dancourt attacks the central

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148 theme of the Cornelian canon, the conflict between love and duty. The countess, asked why her lover has been delayed in his departure for the battlefield, explains: 1' amour l'a retenu long-tems aupres de moi . to which her friend sarcastically replies: c'est un peu sacrifier sa gloire a son amour. (sc. xiv) The inversion of the Cornelian dialectic does not deny the view of man expressed in Corneille's works but uses it to illuminate the present situation. The humor is based on the audience's recall of the lofty concepts embodied in Corneille's two terms, gloire and amour which are then debased by the ignoble actions of the young man in question. Not only is his pretended gloire cowardice, his amour is equally fraudulent. Though unknown to the countess, the other woman on stage and the audience know that his interest in the countess is purely mercenary. His pretended amour is only greed. Thirty years earlier, the words gloire and amour were well delineated terms, but in the new era with its changing values the words take on new meanings. The chivalric value system symbolized in the words gloire and amour has been supplanted by a new ethical system where money replaces gloire and amour is used to acquire money. Dancourt uses literary parody to comment metaphorically upon the changes in the society of his day. Preciosite is an obvious target for literary parody, and of course Dancourt was preceded by Moliere a generation

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149 earlier in mocking the abuses of the artificial language of the precieuses In Dancourt s play, the sex roles are reversed, and a Monsieur des Soupirs precieux language is ridiculed by two sophisticated young women. After he has read them one of his poetic creations, they exclaim in sarcastic terms : Qu'il y a de delicatesse dans tout ce qu'il dit, and: Ah! voila du plus tendre et du plus delicat. and again: Ah que cela est joliment tourne. ( L'Este des coqu sc.vii) The sarcasm escapes Monsieur des Soupirs, because for him precieux language is still a viable mode of communication. Dancourt is not just mocking an overly affected and contrived manner of speaking. Moliere had done that years before. As Medlin has pointed out, by the end of the seventeenth century, preciosite had lost its ability to 3 connote any real emotion at all. The emphasis therefore shifts from the particular literary phenomenon of preciosite to a more general comment on the caprice of verbal fashions. A viable and evocative mode of speaking becomes lifeless simply because of the passage of time. In Renaud et Armide the plot centers on a parody of the romantic idealization found in opera and, in particular the opera Armide. In the previously mentioned study entitled Dramatic Parody in Eighteenth Century France Grannis devotes a whole chapter to parody of opera. She

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150 notes that "of some seven hundred parodies now known to have been composed during the eighteenth century, over „4 two hundred were based on operas. As Grannis states, opera lent itself easily to parody: "Neither then nor later have operas been noted for reasonable, consistent intrigues. The endeavor to astonish by the grandeur of the spectacle was carried too far and grew frankly ridiculous and the whole effect became overloaded and banal Dancourt uses the cliches of operatic conventions to demonstrate the inadequacy of such a worldview by concentrating specifically on word usage. Lancaster shows that Dancourt quotes directly from the opera as well as paraphrases parts. The main character, Madame Jacquinet, has transferred the operatic view of life into her own daily existence. Like her predecessor Belise, she lives in a world of fantasy where the logic of the opera prevails Her dreams are realized verbally. The house becomes a palace, and she and her lover call each other Renaud and Armide. Unfortunately, calling a lover Renaud does not make him faithful, and her dream world collapses at the end of the play when he leaves her for a sweet young niece. Her final words, tragic in the original opera, announce here the comic collapse of the monument that she has created with words alone: L'espoir de la vangeance est le seul qui me reste Demons, demons, detruisez ce Palais, Detruisez ce Palais. (sc. xxiii)

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151 There was never any palace, and what is destroyed is only her illusion that romantic language is sufficient to produce romance. Perhaps the most important barometer of the evolution in taste can be seen in Dancourt's parody of the stylistic technique of reduction, which was an essential part of the earlier classical style. This technique, which attempted to reduce the complexity of man's experience to a limited number of universal qualities, was no longer adequate to express the new ethos of change and uncertainty. Reduction is at the very heart of the classical mode of writing. In the hands of Corneille or Racine, it is a powerful tool capable of bringing into sharp focus questions of universal importance. The compression of a cosmic confrontation of values into a few brief alexandrines forges the explosive tension of the classical tragedy. The positing of antithetical values within a single concise statement simply and powerfully portrays the impasse which forms the tragic nucleus. Don Diegue s assertion that "Nous n'avons qu'un honneur, il est tant de maitresses," crystallizes the conflict between honor and mistress which for Rodrigue will be insoluble. Likewise, Phedre's cry that "Graces au ciel, mes mains ne sont point criminelles ./ Plut aux dieux que mon coeur fut innocent comme elles!" posits the conflict between temporal and absolute values which Phedre must face in her tragic isolation.

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152 However the same technique, reduction, when used in comedy to describe trivial subjects is stripped of its force and becomes a potential source for humor.' Dancourt makes liberal use of this technique, primarily for its comic effect, but also to remind the audience of the former classical tradition and the ordered view of the world it framed. In her study on Dancourt, Melani cites a number of examples of antithetical statements from Dancourt s plays which illustrate the use of reduction. She lists over thirty of them, of which the following are just a few: Tu n'as que des idees confuses : mais comme les miennes sont certaines . ( Les Vac sc. xiii) Amour me defend ce que tu m'ordonnes . ( L Oper B. sc. ii) Paris voit trouble, et je vois clair. ( Les Enf de P I, iv) Je 1 ai trouve : mais je crois que vous l'avez perdu . ( Colin-maill sc. xvi) II a bien fait de mourir, je n'y pouvais plus vivre. ( Le Char. sc. xi) Though I agree that Dancourt s frequent use of this technique suggests a purpose beyond simply provoking laughter, I disagree with the conclusion. She states that besides the comic function of the technique, there is: un fine che trascende le necessita comiche della piece ; sono cioe un'occasione di riflessione, cosi come lo si deduce dalla loro capacita di sintesi, revelatrice di una tendanza a cogliere i fatti nella loro essenzialita e, nello stesso tempo, adattamento complice ad un gusto che respinge ogni superfluity.

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153 She does not seem to perceive the ironic intent of Dancourt. Such antitheses are humorous precisely because of their rigidity and reductionism. Instead of affirming "i fatti nella loro essenzialita, Dancourt is ironically commenting on the insufficiency of such simplistic statements. He is pointing out the end of the classical era, the end of a time in which man could believe, even temporarily, that the essence of reality could be so neatly captured and defined. The increasingly complex and fluid society of Dancourt 's day, defies such classification and mocks the character's attempts to impose order on it. Maxims or aphorisms are a more specific application of the general technique of reduction and it is not surprising that the seventeenth century placed such value on them. Inspired by the classical Roman authors, French classical drama is replete with detachable alexandrines which attempt to distill a universal truth in a neat, concise package. The theater of Racine, Corneille, and Moliere has furnished France with an abundance of maxims which schoolchildren have memorized ever since. And, of course, La Rochefoucauld gained immortality by mastering this form. The assumption that human truth may be summarized in a brief statement is not just distinctive of the literary style of the classical age but is a mark of its singular optimism in man's potential to achieve perfection through form. In The Novel in France Martin Turnell takes issue with the literary style as well as

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154 with the philosophical implications of that optimism. Referring to La Rochefoucauld, Turnell writes: It is one of the illusions of the Latin mind that truth can be reduced to a set of simple propositions and our unruly desires and emotions enclosed in a few neat formulas. The aim of the Maximes is to prove that selfish impulses are the motives of nearly all human actions and to reveal the element of self-interest which lurks behind the most altruistic sentiments. La Rochefoucauld was an extraordinary artist in words, but we may doubt whether he is altogether the master that he is usually said to be; he was a very talented writer who had behind him the weight of a great tradition. It is not surprising that he should have possessed something of the psychological insight which distinguished the greatest of his contemporaries or that this insight should have enabled him to shed a brilliant but distorting light on the workings of the human mind. We may suspect, however, that his art was not completely the product of rational analysis as he liked to pretend. It was very largely the systematization of a personal mood whose shortcomings were concealed by the classic perfection of form and are revealed by the word melancolique His vision was partial and incomplete; he had grasped one facet of the truth with great clarity and tried to erect it into a philosophy. 8 By Dancourt's day, many of the philosophical assumptions of the classical age were being held up to the light of reason and were found lacking, and nowhere is the classical viewpoint more vulnerable to attack than in the form of the maxim. Its tight structure based on reduction and simplification implies a confidence in man's ability to see transcendent and universal truths beyond the complexity of day-to-day life. Such confidence was waning rapidly in Dancourt's day, and he uses the form of the maxim as a

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155 comic device to call into question the adequacy of any simple statements to untangle man's complicated nature. Dancourt substitutes serious comment on man's essential nature for a satirical comment on contemporary mores. As we have seen before, the shift is from the essential to the transitory. Le chagrin et 1 argent comptant ne doivent point loger en meme maison. ( La Foire de B sc. iv) The parallel structure ( chagrin and argent comptant ) the economy of words, and the use of abstract nouns ( chagrin ) imitate the usual form of a classical aphorism. However, stylistic and contextual differences make this statement unlike classical maxims. Stylistically, chagrin is proper for a maxim, but argent comptant is striking by its concreteness: wealth or riches would be the expected abstraction. The substitution of a specific object, money, reduces the normal metaphysical dimension of a maxim. The saying does not provide any new perception of man's nature, but, to the contrary, only repeats in a cynical manner a very commonly held fallacy, namely, that money makes men happy. Thus, the function of a maxim has been inverted; instead of offering an enlightened insight into man's nature, it reiterates a short-sighted and shallow value system which 9 proves ultimately worthless. Such stylistic and contextual inversions of the conventional aphoristic form are primarily a device for evoking laughter, but just as Dancourt' s inverted maxims are seen

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156 to be superficial and unreliable codes to live by, so also by extension their counterpart, the maxims of classical literature, suffer from the new cynicism. Attempts to capture and categorize human truths are met with doubt and skepticism in this new age which sees human nature as increasingly unpredictable and elusive. Besides parodying specific literary styles, Dancourt also pokes fun at the classical bienseances governing the type of diction proper to the social class of the character. In Les Vacances the valet pleads with his master not to punish him for having stolen the master's money. The meaning of the words jars with the form of expression: He misericorde, Monsieur, ne me perdez pas, je suis un enfant de families ; mon grand-pere est Sergent, mon pere Cabaretier, mon oncle Fripier, et ma mere Sage-femme ; ne deshonorez pas notre maison, je vous le demande en grace. (sc. xiii) The humor lies in the disparity between the common lineage of the valet and a form of speech appropriate for a nobleman's recitation of his illustrious ancestry. This example in particular vividly brings to mind the deteriorating social order in which the separation of social classes was becoming less clear. In La Fo ire Saint-Germain we find Dancourt mixing two styles of language, the literary and the familiar, within one speech. The chevalier is praising the virtues of a certain Madame Bardoux. She has appeared at the appointed hour for a rendez-vous but fears that the chevalier might assume that she is accustomed to meeting young men unchaperoned.

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157 He reassures her that her behavior is beyond reproach: Je me donne au diable, Madame, si je scai rien de plus louable que cette regularite dont vous faites profession. Pudeur sur le visage, sages discours sur les levres, politique dans la conduite, deguisement dans 1' amour propre, simplicite dans la coeffure, modestie dans l'ajustement ; vous etes un modele accompli de perfections morales, ou la peste m'etouffe. (sc. xxv) The chevalier's speech employs the conventional style of French classicists: economy of expression and parallel syntactic structure. But the entire statement is undermined by the first and last phrases. "Je me donne au diable" and "la peste m'etouffe" encase the speech and destroy its credibility. The juxtaposition of the two antithetical styles, literary and familiar, cancels the impact. For comic ends, Dancourt seems to be doing what Vaugelas specifically condemns, the mixing of tones: il faut que le genre d'escrire responde a celuy de parler, le genre bas au bas, le mediocre au mediocre, et le sublime au sublime, de sorte que si i'employois une phrase fort basse dans un haut stile, ou une phrase fort noble dans un stile bas, ie me rendrois egalement ridicule . 1" Dancourt is toying with the conventional bienseances which regulated the correspondence between the tone of dramatic diction and the content being expressed. So much of classical literary theory was postulated on the belief that style was intrinsically connected with a certain content. One need but glance at Boileau's Art poetigue to see the degree to which this concept was implanted in the classical theories of aestheticism. Auerbach feels that

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158 the French went even further than their models in this respect: "The separation of style in French classicism is far more than mere imitation of the ancients as the sixteenth century humanists meant it. The antique model is transcended, and there is a sharp break with the millennial popular and Christian tradition of mixed styles." The classical vision of an ordered universe, with its predetermined correspondences, reflects the stable social order of the midcentury. On the most elemental of linguistic levels, Dancourt challenges the continued existence of these assumed correspondences. In a world where a former valet may become an all-powerful financier, the conventional separation of style along social 1 ines is quickly becoming an anachronism. The common thread running through all of Dancourt 's parodying of particular and general styles of language is a call for clarity in speech. La Bruyere, who published his Caracteres at the same time that Dancourt was achieving his first dramatic successes, makes a similar appeal for plain-speaking: Que dites-vous? Comment? Je n'y suis pas ; vous plairait-il de recommencer? J'y suis encore moins. Je devine enfin : vous voulez, Ac is me dire qu'il fait froid ; que ne disiez-vous : "II fait froid"? Vous voulez m'apprendre qu'il pleut ou qu'il neige ; dites : "II pleut, il neige." Vous me trouvez bon visage, vous desirez de m'en feliciter ; dites : "Je vous trouve bon visage. --Mais, repondez-vous cela est bien uni et bien clair ; et d'ailleurs qui ne pourrait pas en dire autant? -Qu'importe, Acis? Est-ce un si grand mal d'etre entendu quand on parle, et de parler comme tout le monde? 12

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159 In Les Fees an overly stilted and formal style becomes completely unintelligible and demands translation. The situation at hand concerns two suitors that the king has summoned for his daughters' inspection: Astur: Enfin, mes filles nous les verrons, et vous en jugerez par vous-memes. Tout ce que je vous recommande, c'est de les recevoir f aborablement et de leur faire un fort bon accueil. Cleonide: Mes sentimens, Seigneur, seront toujours soumis aux votres. Si le choix de la Fee se trouve contraire a mes desirs, votre volonte suffira pour me determiner a les vaincre, et je sacrifierai le bonheur de ma vie, a celui de vous marquer une parfaite soumission. Astur: Hem, comment? Ineglide: Pour moi, Seigneur, je mets toute ma gloire a vous obeir : je me sens incapable de manquer au respect que je vous dois ; et si vos ordres m'imposent la necessite d' accepter un epoux, pour qui mon coeur ait de la repugnance, la mort ne tardera pas a me delivrer de la violence que mon devoir aura scu me faire. Astur: Cela me paroit fort bien dit : mais je n'y comprens pas grand chose. Tant que j'ai vecu Berger, je me suis si fort accoutume a des manieres simples et a des discours naturels, que le langage de ma Cour ne m'est presque point intelligible : l'entens-tu mieux que moi? dis, Finette, Que m'ont-elles voulu repondre? Finette: Que le mariage ne leur deplait pas : mais que les maris pouroient ne leur pas plaire. Astur: He bien cela est clair, j entens cela. (I, ix) The language the daughters use is a form so dense and concentrated of the noble diction that it becomes unintelligible.

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160 The servant's response is an example of a more universal language, intelligible to all. Renaud et Armide provides a similar demonstration of the inefficiency of certain elevated styles. Clitandre is attempting to explain to his mistress that appearances are deceiving and that the situation is not as compromising as it might appear. Angelique accuses him of wrongdoing: Vous m'avez trahie, Monsieur, le hasard vous trahit a votre tour : je suis fachee que votre procede . Clitandre interrupts to insist on his innocence: Faites-moi la grace de m'ecouter un moment, Madame, et vous verrez . From this weak beginning, Clitandre 's servant realizes that it may be a while before the situation is cleared up and so interjects forcibly and convincingly: Je me donne au diable nous ne sommes point coupables, il n'y a point dequoi fesser un chat, ou la peste m'etouffe. (sc. xiv) If a man is to communicate effectively it is essential that he speak clearly and plainly. The same rule applies in respect to oneself. If man is to view his own actions lucidly, he must not disguise them by describing them in language which distorts the truth. For example, self-serving actions may appear selfless when couched in language reserved for heroic actions. Leandre uses this technique to explain his reluctance to answer the call of duty and return to Paris as his father has ordered, when he would rather remain in the country near his beloved:

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161 Leandre: II est d'un sexe a qui les plus grands hommes font gloire de ceder. La Montagne: Bon, les plus grands hommes! morale d'Opera, Monsieur, fades discours. On ne se rend que quand on veut bien ne pas resister. ( Le Gal. J. sc. vi) The same technique is used in a slightly altered fashion in a scene from Renaud et Armide The servant paraphrases his master in a more realistic if less elegant style. Clitandre is attempting to explain to his mistress that he is seeing another woman only because she is rich, and being poor himself, he needs to establish himself financially before he will be worthy of her love: Clitandre: Dans la seule vue de vous plaire, Madame, de me rendre digne de vous, et de vous aimer toute ma vie. L 1 Olive: Voila le fait, Madame : pour vous aimer toute sa vie, il faut vivre ; pour vivre il faut de 1 argent . (sc. xiv) The servant reduces Clitandre' s flowery protestations to the plain fact that money is necessary to life and life is necessary for love. Eloquence is only eloquent when comprehensible and language is meant to communicate thoughts, not to dress them up. The form of words is often more powerful than the meaning of words. In the following exchange, there is no disagreement about what the words mean, only the choice of words to be used to describe that meaning. One person speaks euphemistically, the other plainly. A chevalier

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162 is engaged in the attempted seduction of a fausse prude: Le Chevalier: Or sus venons au fait, et ne barguignons point, Madame, vous avez du gout pour moi 1 on me l'a dit. Mme Bardoux: La vertu la plus austere, Monsieur le Chevalier, n'est point a 1 epreuve de certains merites triomphans, et je veux bien vous avoiaer que le votre a fait sur mon coeur . Le Chevalier: Qui j 'en ai, j en conviens, passons Le Chevalier: Vous avez done du gout pour moi, Madame, et j en ai pour vous, Dieu me damne, tout ce qu'on en scauroit avoir ; mais sur quel pied nous aimons-nous? epouserons-nous ou non? decidez, vous n'avez qu a parler. Mme Bardoux: Je ne crois pas, Monsieur, que vous pensiez que je puisse avoir d'autres vues que celles . Le Chevalier: Je m'explique, Madame, entendons-nous de grace. Pour epouser il faut connoitre, et nous ne nous connoissons pas encore. En attendant le contrat de mariage, ne peut-on pas faire un bail de coeur a certaines clauses? Mme Bardoux: Une personne come moi ne devroit pas etre exposee a entendre des discours si peu respectueux ... Le Chevalier: Peu respecteux! vous vous cabrez, vous prenez mal la chose, vertueuse, et reguliere comme vous etes ; je veux donner le terns a votre pudeur de se resoudre a convoler en secondes noces, et par exces de regularite vous voulez precipiter les evenemens He! bien soit, parlons de mariage, et supprimons le bail de coeur ; e'est une espece de contrat qui est pourtant bien a la mode.

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163 Mme Bardoux: Si vous avez pour raoi les sentimens que je souhaite, vous pouvez compter, Monsieur . ( La Foire St.-G sc. xxv) We find here an inversion of social roles shown through the language. The chevalier speaks like a financier: his language is cold, factual, and calculated. He talks in terms of clauses and contracts, reducing love to the level of a financial transaction. Madame Bardoux, a bourgeois, answers him in lofty and refined phrases, full of vague and airy sentiments. Neither one directly addresses himself to the question of love. The chevalier reduces it to a totally materialistic level and Madame Bardoux idealizes it into a complete abstraction. But there is an even more important misuse of language. Madame Bardoux attempts to redefine her position through her words. Notice in the first few lines Mme Bardoux translation of the chevalier's "vous avez du gout pour moi into "la vertu la plus austere, Monsieur le Chevalier, n'est point a l'epreuve de certains merites triomphans ; et je veux bien vous avoiier que le v6tre a fait sur mon coeur . Obviously ill-at-ease with having agreed to meet this man, she hopes that the impropriety of her forward actions can be altered simply by changing the words used to describe them. Dancourt castigates this self-deception through wordplay. Playing with words and making puns are innocent pastimes but distorting reality by subtle and devious tricks

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164 with words is a dangerous practice. To convince oneself that an action's moral consequences have been altered if it is couched in euphemistic language is to be blind to one's moral responsibility. In a world of changing values where ethical assumptions are being attacked, only a clear and honest view of the world can insure moral and intellectual responsibility. The new issues must be faced clearly, and one must not hide behind conventional maxims or rules of conduct which are no longer applicable. The contradictions of the changing times must be looked at hard without resorting to worn-out, dated terms, no matter how convenient and comfortable. Terms such as "la vertu la plus austere" and "merites triomphans" no longer ring true when coming from the lips of a woman very eager to enjoy the physical attributes of her young man. Dancourt forces the audience to realize that the old words cannot adequately describe the new situations, and that to face them honestly, the trappings of the older conventions will have to be discarded. Irony is the verbal comic technique that most directly brings into relief the potential gulf between language and meaning. Irony is often defined as a disparity in understanding: a given comment or action is understood differently by different people. This definition is applicable to the use of irony as a narrative device where one character knows more than another or where the audience

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165 knows more than a character on stage. However, as a verbal dramatic device, irony refers to the disparity between what is explicitly spoken and an implied meaning. G. G. Sedgewick, in his study on the use of irony in drama, defines irony as follows: "in essence it is a pretense — TrpoaTroinoi J dissimulatio simulatio --the purpose of which is mockery or deception of one sort or another; and its force derives from one of the keenest and oldest and least transient pleasures of the reflective mind — the pleasure in contrasting Appearance with Reality. The proper signification of the words constitutes the ap] 3 pearance; the designed meaning is the reality." The verbal techniques discussed deal with the misapplication of various styles of language: a contrast of two different styles of speech. In irony, it is the two different meanings that are at odds with one another— the implied meaning and the apparent meaning. We have moved out of the realm of simple manipulation of words into the realm of manipulation of meaning. Irony is more complex than simple falsehood. It involves two meanings which are transposed to a new plane that negates both previous meanings and leaves a void, a noncommunication. In Dancourt's world the characters are so tangled in a web of deceit, both external and internal, that they themselves no longer perceive the boundary between truth and lies. Communication is therefore at best partial and

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166 often erroneous. It is a world full of uncertainties where simple statements have become complex, motives inscrutable, and the familiar strange. Irony is the poetic incarnation of this restlessness and uncertainty. It forms the basic fabric of Dancourt's dramatic vision. The most simple of his characters' utterances are pierced through with ironic play. Trickery and deceit may be hidden in the most innocuous statements. An example of the ubiquity of irony, even in the simplest of statements, can be drawn from La Folle Enchere Merlin, disguised as a nobleman, greets a woman saying: Bonjour, Madame, votre valet. (sc. xiii) The most commonplace conventions of social behavior become tainted with double meanings. In La Loterie in one of the most traditional of commedia dell 'arte scenarios, Eraste hides in a trunk to avoid an unpleasant encounter with his beloved's father. When the father arrives, Lisette engages him in a conversation to find out if he approves of Eraste as a suitor. He declares himself steadfastly against the union: Non, je ne prevois pas que j en fasse mon gendre. Lisette replies: Le pauvre garcon! Je ne voudrois pas etre a sa place. ( sc xxii) In La Fol le Enchere, a very complicated situation results in Angelique disguising herself as a boy to court her lover's mother. The sex-switching opens the door to a

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167 number of humorous comments: some deliberate, such as Lisette's vow to the mother that je mettrois ma main au feu, qu'il ne vous fera jamais d inf idelite and some unintentional, such as the mother saying to Angelique : vous n'auriez pas de gloire a me tromper. (sc. xi) Irony is also seen when a speaker unconsciously reveals more than he intends. Two levels of meaning exist between the intended meaning produced by the subjective qualities he assigns to his words and the second meaning that is revealed by the facts in the words themselves. A young lord has had an accident in his carriage and he complains about the rudeness of the young lady traveling with him: Tenez, parce qu'en arrivant je l'ai versee sur un tas de pierres, qu'elle a peut-etre la hanche meurtrie les coudes ecorchez, et quelque bosse a la^tete, et qu'en me relevant je lui ai appuie mon talon un peu ferme sur le visage, a ce qu'elle dit, elle m'appelle mal adroit, cheval de carosse: 6 dame je l'ai plantee-la, je n'aime pas qu'on me rudoye moi ( Le Moul de J. sc. xxxi) The speaker misrepresents the situation to his benefit. His rude behavior is transferred to the young girl by his choice of words and the values he places on them. Dancourt is comically portraying how men use words, not to communicate the truth but to present a subjective and often erroneous view of an event.

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168 The power of words to recreate a new reality is one of Dancourt's recurring themes. Perhaps nowhere is it more succinctly demonstrated than in an event in one of his plays where the same situation is described twice with differing connotations. A certain Monsieur le Chevalier de la Bressandiere has appeared at the waters of Bourbon to heal a broken leg. One of the other guests repeats the story of how his accident occurred: il est ici pour une jambe qu'il a eu cassee en Catalogne par un parti de Miquelets, a ce qu'il dit, a la descente d'une montagne : mais . This guest is interrupted by the Marquise who knows the true facts: II ne ment que dans les circonstances La jambe cassee n'est pas un conte : mais ce fut a Paris, dans la rue de 1 Universi te par un parti de laquais, a la descente d'une fenetre, par ou les maitres l'avoient prie de sortir. ( Le s Eaux de B. s c x ) When the Marquise states that "il ne ment que dans les circonstances," she is recognizing the power attributed to words simply by their form and structure. She repeats the original story, paralleling the syntax and lexical items used in the former, and indeed it does appear, at least superficially, that he lied only in the details. In an article entitled "Mots en esclavage et mots en liberte : Moliere devant les theories linguistiques de son temps," Carre discusses the seventeenth-century vision of the accord between parole and pen see Both the Jansenists

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169 and the Cartesian writers of the day taught that the word was a tool in the service of reason; the correspondence between the two was direct and linear. She quotes passages from Antoine Arnauld and Claude Lancelot, in particular, and then enlarges her thesis to include the whole period, stating that this belief was fundamental to the society: "Les bases philosophiques d'une definition aussi categorique que celle d'Arnauld et Lancelot font partie integrante de 14 la conscience de 1 epoque The idea of the Word as divine revelation, a legacy of the Hebraic and Christian philosophies, was very much alive in the seventeenth century. The word as an emblem of universal order and social stability was a cornerstone of Cartesian and Jansenist thought. Boileau was to reaffirm this religious and philosophical concept in one of his last works, Satire XII or L Equivoque First published in 1712, it treats "le verbe et sa divinite." As Antoine Adam has stated, toward the later years of his life the inveterate defender of French classicism saw the once familiar world changing around him. In particular, he perceived the religious precepts of Jesuit casuistry to be undermining the truths of Christianity as revealed through the ages. He believed that the Jesuit theory of probable opinion diluted Christian dogma to a point where it was becoming indistinguishable from worldly ethical systems. One could say and do anything and, merely

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170 through skillful verbal manipulations, the actions become acceptable. In L' Equivoque Boileau enlarges upon the basic ambiguity pervading an ethical system where an evil can be represented as a good. In the Apologie which precedes the poem, he defines equivoque exactly as I have defined irony-a misrepresentation of the truth — and puts it in a religious context. . je n'ai pas pris ce mot dans toute l'etroite rigueur de sa signification grammaticale ; le mot d'Equivoque, en ce sens-la, ne voulant dire qu'une ambiguite de paroles, mais que je 1 ai pris, comme le prend ordinairement le commun des hommes, pour toutes sortes d'ambiguitez de sens, de pensees d' expressions et enfin pour tous ces abus et ces meprises de 1' esprit humain qui font qu'il prend souvent une chose pour une autre. . J'ajouterai a cela, que la Providence divine, ainsi que je l'etablis clairement dans ma Satire, n'ayant permis cet horrible aveuglement, qu'en punition de ce que leur premier pere avoit prete l'oreille aux promesses du Demon, j ai pu conclure inf ailliblement que l'idolatrie est un fruit, ou pour mieux dire, un veritable enfant de 1' Equivoque. 16 In the first section of the poem in which he opposes the creative Logos of God with the ambiguity of the Devil, he addresses Equivoque: Parlons des maux sans fin que ton sens de travers Source de toute erreur, sema dans 1 Univers : Et pour les contempler jusque dans leur naissance, Des le temps nouveau ne, quand la Toute-Puissance D'un mot forma le ciel, l'air, la terre et les flots, N'est-ce pas toi, voyant le monde a peine eclos, Qui par 1' eclat trompeur d une funeste pomme Et tes mots ambigus, fis croire au premier homme Qu'il alloit en goutant de ce morceau fatal, -,., Comble de tout savoir, a Dieu se rendre egal? Antoine Adam describes this poem as a desperate cry of an

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171 old man seeing his world being transformed ineluctably into something strange and unknown: C'est que 1 Equivoque etait comme le manifeste de la vieille France traditionnelle et chretienne contre le regime que les Jesuites etaient en train d'instaurer en France, contre un christianisme ou les Francais de vieille formation ne se reconnaissaient plus. Boileau avait su, dans ses vers, degager le sens de ce grand conflit : la lutte eternelle de la lumiere et des tenebres, la fausse sagesse des hommes opposee a l'ordre veritable voulu par Dieu. Ce qu'il avait mis dans 1 Equivoque c' etait 1 echo de la Cite de Dieu de Saint-Augustin, des Provinciales de Pascal, du Discours sur 1'Histoire universelle de Bossuet.18 There is no question that Dancourt is not consciously concerned with theological questions in his comedies, but it is no less true that the source of his comedy is related to the changes in religious and philosophical thought of his day. In her article on Moliere, Carre considers Tartuf fe with its theme of hypocrisy the first work to blatantly demonstrate the discrepancy that can exist between parole and pensee She attributes the harsh censureship of the play to the fact that it undermined the conventional belief that parole and pensee were tightly linked. Moliere dared to show how huge a gulf could divide the two. "C'est dans les regions interieures ou se forment les rapports entre la chose et le mot qu'il [Moliere] fait porter le doute. Ceux que 1 on croyait fixes pour toujours, il les revele mouvants et incertains. S'il y a un ideal de la vie, il n'est pas de formule pour y atteindre, car la verite est a la merci des hommes, et les hommes sont a la merci des mots

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172 In Dancourt's verbal comedy, the failure of accord between parole and pensee becomes the basis of his satire on a society caught in a transitional state between two conflicting ethical systems. The clash of the old traditional value system with a new emergent one is poetically recreated by the clash between speech and thought. Dancourt's characters continue to speak with the language of the old system while basing their actions on the logic of the new. The two main themes of Dancourt's social satire are the breakdown of the rigid social class distinctions based on birth, and the new morality based on a capitalistic economic system. The next two passages to be discussed show how Dancourt uses the techniques of verbal comedy to show the clash between the old and the new system. His successful fusion of form and content accounts for the unanimous recognition he has received for his artful control of dialogue. L'Olive, playing the role of clever servant, has conceived a devious plot to help his master win the affections of the young lady in question. He is amazed when Frosine refuses to aid him in the deception: Tu baisses f urieusement je ne te connois plus, moi qui te parle ; et ou est ce feu, cette vivacite, cette ardeur exempte de scrupule que je t'ai toujours vue jusqu'a present? quoi cette illustre Frosine, qui a elle-meme enroll son mari..pour avoir le plaisir d'etre plutot veuve, cette heroine, qui pour s'aproprier le petit bien de sa famille a fait mettre son frere aux petites

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173 Maisons, et a envoie son oncle aux galeres? Je ne parle point de sa niece qu'elle a tresavantageusement mariee a un riche Magistrat, qui n'est pourtant pas veuf encore . cette meme Frosine . Frosine capitulates under such praise: Oh, oh, oh, tais-toi done Lolive, si tu me piques d'honneur tu me feras faire tout ce que tu voudras ; voila qui est fini, tu n'as qu'a parler. (La Foire de B., sc. xv) The linguistic manipulations working in this passage occur on a number of different levels. The person being addressed in such noble terms is only a servant. The tone of speech is one of great urgency, as if the subject at hand were of dire importance, yet only a trivial favor is being requested. But, also, language is being used to give a veneer of respectability to disreputable actions. Words normally associated with valorous actions are employed to describe villainous conduct. The structure of the dialogue parallels the structure of heroic literature in which the noble achievements of a great hero are catalogued to incite him to even greater feats It is interesting to compare this passage to a similar one from Moliere. In Monsieur de Pourceaugnac Nerine offers a similar list of heroic achievements: Madame, voila un illustre ; votre affaire ne pouvait etre mise en de meilleures mains, et e'est le heros de notre siecle pour les exploits dont il s'agit : un homme qui, vingt fois en sa vie, pour servir ses amis, a genereusement affronte les galeres, qui, au peril de ses bras,

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174 et de ses epaules, sait mettre noblement a fin les aventures les plus difficiles ; et qui, tel que vous le voyez, est exile de son pays pour je ne sais combien d' actions honorables qu'il a genereusement entreprises 20 (j ; -^jj In both plays the humor comes from the inversion of speech and meaning, the use of heroic terms to describe immoral actions. Claude Abraham's comment concerning Moliere's wordplay might apply equally well to Dancourt : "careful reading of the scene reveals that, far from being sarcasm, the above are a deliberate destruction of normal values, the genesis of a world in which neither words nor actions 21 can be trusted." But while Moliere's play is imaginative and fanciful, evoking an "aura of irreality that has not stopped growing since the opening scene," Dancourt s play occurs in a contemporary setting and is full of allusions 22 to contemporary events. Though of course in both plays, the verbal comedy is one of great exaggeration, the more realistic nature of Dancourt 's play makes such comments appear to partake of some grain of truth. All of Dancourt's characters seem quite capable of sacrificing their family to pull themselves up the social ladder. Through the inversion of normal linguistic usage, the troubling changes in the society are brought indirectly to the forefront. The question of social class division and the threatening new mobility of the lower classes is suggested by the reference to a servant as illus tre and as a heroine The chivalric concept of hero is replaced by the new definition

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175 of hero as someone skilled in acquiring money from others. The concept of honor is interpreted as an ability to manipulate other people for one's own benefit. What might seem nothing more than a burlesque parody of heroic style actually raises crucial ethical questions concerning the society's new directions. What do terms such as nobility or noble actions mean in a time when the aristocracy is prostrating itself at Versailles and titles of nobility are sold to merchants? In Les Agioteurs we find Dancourt directly addressing the question of ethics under an emerging capitalistic system. The conversation takes place between Trapolin and Durillon, experienced financiers, and Cangrene, a newcomer to the business who seeks advice on how to handle a problem: Cangrene: Un de mes intimes amis, fort galant homme et que je me suis fait un plaisir d'obliger, a eu besoin de six cens francs de papier pour une affaire pressante, je les lui ai pretez sans interet. Trapolin: Ce n'est pas la la source du scrupule? Durillon: Sans nantissement et sans billet peut-etre ; et c'est cela qui chagrine le beau-pere? Cangrene: Point du tout, il m'a fait une lettre de change de place en place, payable en especes a trois usances. Trapolin: Cela est bon. Cangrene: Et m'a remis entre les mains un contrat de constitution sur un particulier, au principal de deux mille livres, que j'ai eu la complaisance de prendre, comme pour plus grand surete.

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176 Durillon: Voila une conduite reguliere. Trapolin: Et une dette bien assuree, il n'y a point de risque la-dedans. Cangrene: Les trois mois passent, j envoye chercher de l'argent, il ne s'en trouve point. Durillon: Assignation pour en avoir? Sentences des Consuls? Cangrene: Non. Ce ne sont point la mes allures, assignation a mon ami a un honnete homme! je le vais trouver : vous n'avez point d'argent, je ne veux point de proces, accommodons-nous si vous m'aviez paye six cens livres, j en aurois fait pour mille francs de papier, vous en auriez besoin, je vous les preterois, vous me feriez un billet de pareille somme en especes encore, dans trois mois, comme 1 autre Trapolin: Cela est clair et net, cela ne souffre point de difficulte. Cangrene: Aussi mon homme n'en fait-il point, tout se passe en douceur, je rends le premier billet, on en fait un autre, le terns s'ecoule, l'echeance arrive, point d'argent encore. Trapolin: .Oh! voila qui est impatien tant ce debiteur-la abuse de vos bonnes manieres. Durillon: Poursuites alors, Sergens en campagne? Cangrene: Voila ce qui vous trompe? autre facilite de ma part, nouvel accommodement : peut-on avoir de mauvais procedez avec un ami? Trapolin: En verite cela est trop honnete. Cangrene: Je ne hai's rien tant que de faire de la peine, et a des personnes qui en usent bien sur-tout ; je n'ai jamais ete processif. II m'est di'i mille francs, j'ai entre mes mains un contrat double, compensons la chose, faites-m'en un transport, je rends le billet.

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177 Durillon: Cela est fort accommodafit vous donnez le surplus? Cangrene: Qu'est-ce a dire le surplus? je demande du retour, et on m'en donne ; je prens le contrat pour huit cens livres, sur le pied de 1 estimation qui en est faite par d'honnetes gens de la profession. Trapolin: C'est tout ce que cela vaut, c'est estimer juste. Cangrene: Mon ami qui est honnete home et qui n'aime pas plus le bruit que moi, donne deux cens livres sans barguigner ; le contrat me reste, et nous demeurons quittes. Durillon: Comme cela gagne Monsieur Cangrene, comme cela gagne Trapolin: Et le beau-pere le Caissier trouve a redire a cela? voila un grand imbecile. Cangrene: II y a petit article secret qui lui fait peine : la rente du contrat a couru pendant les six mois que je 1 ai garde, le beau-pere veut que j en tienne compte a mon ami : cela est-il juste? Trapolin: Eh, fi, fi, le contrat etoit vous, la rente a couru entre vos mains vous en avez eu la peine, il faut que le profit .vous demeure; il n'y a pas un de nos confreres qui fit la chose autrement. Durillon: Les meilleurs Jurisconsultes du metier ne decideroient pas d' autre maniere. Cangrene: Vous me mettez l 1 esprit en repos cela me rassure. Trapolin: Avoir ete inquiet de cela, pauvre homme on voit bien que la Cour vous gate, et que vous vous eloignez du commerce. Cangrene: Ce n'est pas faute de trouver de bonnes dupes dans ce pais-la : mais je m'y remettrai, laissez-moi faire. Trapolin: En attendant, adressez-moi vos pratiques, je negocierai les contrats sur le meme pied que vous, pour achever de guerir vous scrupules.

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178 Cangrene: Vous m'avez tranquilise, je n'en ai plus : en vous remerciant, Messieurs, je vous baise les mains. Durillon: II est bon d'avoir des amis fermes, et entendus, Monsieur Trapolin ; voila un homme qui se seroit gate si nous avions adhere a ses foiblesses. (II, viii) The passage is crowded with financial jargon which would overwhelm all but the most astute financiers. To find such detailed, realistic, commercial jargon on the French stage is in itself astounding. Nevertheless, the most interesting part of the passage is to be found in the speaker's implicit moral and ethical assumptions. Dancourt shows how easily realistic facts and details can take precedence over moral questions because one loses perspective. The humor comes from the wordplay, the juxtaposition of words signifying noble (and therefore moral) qualities and the mercenary actions to which they refer. The much more important theme demonstrated in this scene is not the immorality of the financial schemes but the deceit and hypocrisy shown in the language. Language is used to transform the moral implications of such actions. This travesty of the logos marks a collapse in man's ability to correctly judge his own actions, a prerequisite for moral responsibility. In the midst of an aseptic description of financial transactions, one finds a quantity of words imbued with moral overtones. The business deal is subtly justified by certain ethical assumptions. Notice the contextual definitions

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179 of a few of these words: le scrupule — mental chagrin brought on by generous behavior le chagrin — sorrow induced by a loss of money la complaisance --doing something for one's own benefit etre tr o p honnete — being sympathetic to a friend les bonnes manier es — not consigning a friend to prison les foibles s es --not extracting every penny possible in a financial transaction un ami intime — someone not sent to prison as long as payment can be extracted in coin. Notice also the introduction of law as an ethical standard. Conduite regulier e is acting within legal boundaries, not ethical ones. It is the opinion of confreres and Juris consul tes that decides what is proper or improper behavior. Keeping one's esprit en rep os means adhering to the rules of law, not to one's conscience. There is an abdication of personal morality and ethical responsibility as exterior law becomes the standard of ethical conduct. Verbal manipulation is the vehicle with which Dancourt demonstrates his most important thematic concerns. His plots and characters are concerned primarily with the overt changes manifested in the society. These have been carefully chosen to represent specific changes and the problems which resulted at the turn of the century. But it is through language that he addresses the question of how society has reacted to these changes.

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180 Given the backdrop of the traditional philosophical and religious beliefs of the close communion between parole and pensee Dancourt demonstrates two main points. The first is that words and thought can no longer be assumed the same. The creative power of the logos is still verymuch alive, but man is doing the creating. The logos can be manipulated to misrepresent the truth as well as to represent it. The words themselves have no moral content. Secondly, Dancourt shows that the changes in the society have invalidated the ethical code of the early part of the century. The chivalric notions of gloire, devoir, and honneur were based on the idea of generosite — a concept which equated social standing with moral rectitude. But such an idea was becoming less and less valid. The new society of social mobility and capitalistic ethics demanded a new language if it were to become authentic. The hierarchical structure of the chivalric system in which wealth and title were designated at birth was becoming an anachronism and the egalitarian and democratic concepts of the Enlightenment had not yet provided an ethical justification for the new system. Thus the old concepts, exemplified in words like gloire and de voir were still used as ethical justifications. By juxtaposing the old language with the new ethical system, Dancourt is poetically recreating the conflict between an avowed value system and the underlying reality.

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181 Notes A History of French Dramatic Literature in the Seventeenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1929-42), IV, ii, 941. (New York: Institute of French Studies, 1931), p. 29. 3 The Verbal Art of Jean-Francois Regnard (New Orleans: Tulane University, 1966), p. 60. 4 Grannxs, p. 116. 5 Ibid. Lancaster, IV, ii, 584. 7 Melani, pp. 73-77. 8 (New York: Random, 1951), p. 29. q Dancourt's parody of the aphoristic form is also demonstrated in the following sentence: "II n'est point de deguisement pour les yeux d un amant," ( La Com, des Com. II, i) As a maxim it seems to be restating the romantic notion that lovers can communicate on a sympathetic level due to the affinity and harmony of the spirits. But within the context of the play, it operates on a literal level: the two lovers have put on Spanish dress to appear in a play. Remarques sur la langue francoise (1647; rpt. Paris: Droz, 1934) p. 510. % Mimesis trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton: Princeton University, 1953), pp. 392-93. 12 (Paris: Gamier, 1962), p. 149. 181

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182 13 O f Irony Especia lly in Drama (Toronto, University of Toronto, 1948), p. 149. 14 Carre, D ix-Septieme Siecle 104 (1974) 61. "Introduction," OEuvre s completes de Boileau (Paris: Gallimard, 1966), pp. ix-xxvii. 16 Ibid. p. 91. 17 Ibid., p. 92. 18 T ,., Ibid. p. xxvi 19 n -7-7 Carre, p. 77. 20 OEuvres completes (Garnier-Flammarion Paris: 1965), III, 396. 21 Illusion and Reality in 'Monsieur de Pourceaugnac Romance Notes 16, No. 3 ( 1975), 644. 22 "ibid.

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CHAPTER SEVEN PERCEPTIONS OF REALITY: TEMPORAL, SUPERFICIAL AND ALEATORIC The previous chapters have argued that the three formal aspects of Dancourt's comic structures--his organization of plot, his method of characterization, and his use of verbal comedy--forge a dramatic reality which may be characterized as transitory. This chapter will explore more closely the word transitory and the worldview that it implies. The Temp o ral Sur l'aile du terns Tous nos instans Se dissipent comme un nuage (Divertissement, III La Met ) The O.E.D. defines transitory as "having the quality of passing away ; not lasting; fleeting, momentary, brief; transient." The most important element is the idea of time and the awareness of its passing. As a temporal art, drama is particularly well-suited to deal with this mode of perception. As we look at Dancourt's plays, we find that he has exploited the temporal dimensions of drama on a number of different levels in order to intensify the experience of time passing. 183

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184 As almost all critics have pointed out, Dancourt's plays concern the "menus faits de la vie courante." The use of actualities as subject matter and the explicit references made to contemporary events place his plays squarely in a particular period of time. La Desolation des joiieuses chronicles the distress of a group of card players following a governmental decree forbidding the playing of lansquenet. L'Este des coquettes portrays the difficulty of finding suitable men during summertime when the French army is engaged in military campaigns. The popularity in Paris of Lully's opera Armide is directly satirized in Renaud et Armide Moreover, not only does Dancourt locate his plays in a specific period of time but that time period itself is characterized as a period of transition from one time to another — specifically, the transformation of the France of the Fronde to that of the Regency. Thus, the plays not only refer externally to a definite time period, but the period itself is one marked by change, a period in which the society is consciously aware of being in the midst of an evolution. Titles such as Le Chevalier a la mode or Les Bourgeoises a la mode draw attention to the fact that the plays deal with recent changes in social manners. Dancourt's satirical jabs at contemporary mores further reinforces the idea of change. The satire is often explicitly couched in temporal terms, measuring the present

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185 by assumed standards of the past. The new mores are notable precisely because they differ from those of the past: Frontin: Est-ce que tu ne scais pas que pour epouser des filles de Bourgeois, ce n'est point aux peres que de jeunes gens de condition s'adressent a present. Lisette: Non? Frontin: Non vraiment, cela etoit bon autrefois ; mais aujourd'hui les manieres sont bien differentes, on prend seulement l'aveu de la petite fille de chambre, et quand on ne peut plus cacher la chose, on en informe la famille. ( Les Bourg. a la m. I, iii) More often the standard of measure, the past, is implied: Et croiez-vous qu'un homme de Cour puisse etre riche au temps oti nous sommes (Le Chev. a la m. III, ix) By having a character remark on the changes that have occurred within his own lifetime, Dancourt shows the passing of time as phenomenon consciously experienced by the characters. The observation j ai vu le terns qu'une bagatelle comme celle-la n'auroit pas tenu vingt-quatre heures . ( Les Eaux de B sc. x) situates the passing of time within the scale of human cognizance The future is used as a measure of the transitional quality of the present as well. Characters see the future as being different from the past and expect it to bring change. This is particularly true for the aspiring bourgeoisie and peasants who see in the future an opportunity to climb the social ladder. In La Feste de village written at the turn of the century (1699), Madame Narquart seeks to marry

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186 a man of quality and sees new promise for achieving her goal as the seventeenth century cedes to the eighteenth: C'est la saison des revolutions que la fin des siecles, et tu vas voir d'assez jolis changemens dans ma destinee. (II, ii) Even the characters of nobility see the future in terms of change. When asked why, as a man of quality, he would enter business, a count replies: Pourquoi non? Les gens d'affaires achetent nos terres ; ils usurpent nos titres et nos noms meme ; quel inconvenient de faire leur metier, pour etre quelque jour en etat de rentrer dans nos maisons et dans nos Charges. (La Feste de v., Ill, iv) Dancourt exploits differing perspectives on time in order to relate the experience of being within the flow of time, be it from one generation to another, or from the early period of a character's life to a later one. The most dramatic method he uses, however, is to juxtapose the past with the present simultaneously. Thus the awareness of the passing of time becomes immediate within a given moment. Nowhere is this seen more vividly than in the first scene of Le Chevalier a. l a mode one of the finest scenes in all French comedy. An anguished Madame Patin describes the ignominy of having been forced to yield the right of way to a femme de qua li te. The mental picture painted of a vieux Carosse, traine par deux chevaux etiques [and] des laquais tout deguenillez belonging to the marquise and Madame Patin 's grand carosse dore qui roule la premiere fois, deux gros chevaux gris-pommelez a longues queues, un cocher a barbe retroussee, six grands laquais plus chamarez de galon, que les Estafiers d'un Carousel

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187 strikingly concretizes the coexistence of conflicting and competing social systems-the monied wealth but social insecurity of the bourgeoisie and the impoverished finances but elevated social status of the aristocracy. And literally one of the two has to yield. For the moment the bourgeoisie yields the right of way but it will be only a matter of time until the marquise's coach will completely fall apart and Madame Patin can ride freely the streets of Paris. Time is the determining variable. The concept of the transitory is reinforced on the structural level by the use of temporal segmentation within the plays. As discussed in chapter three, the segmentation f time into acts and scenes tends to be sequentially rather than causally ordered. Narrative progression is replaced by a set of sequentially ordered tableaux which operate relatively independently one of the other. In this sense, the temporal framework of the plays is open rather than closed. As a temporal medium, all dramas structure time but the structuring may be achieved in a variety of ways. Within a play, virtual time may be expanded or contracted. In Racine, for example, time is brought to a near standstill. For the duration of the play, time almost ceases to flow as the characters vainly attempt to forestall the inevitable tragedy. But as the play ends, time reasserts its dominion and brings with it the tragic ending and the internal time o

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of the play is brought to a definite close. In Moliere's works, as in most comedies, dramatic time is very close to actual time, but still the internal time tends to bring the play to a close. For instance, in Le Misanthrope the impending lawsuit weighs upon Alceste and forces him to make a decision within a limited timespan. The internal time forces some sort of definitive action which completes or terminates the dramatic time. Such tends not to be the case in most of Dancourt's plays. There is little internal temporal pressure indigenous to the plot of the play. The addition or subtraction of a few scenes would not necessarily interfere with the dramatic time sequence. As mentioned previously, Dancourt's endings do not tend to resolve anything. Sokalski stresses the fact that they do not tie up loose threads or necessarily resolve imbroglios developed 2 earlier. The plays simply end at the discretion of the author. Time flows through the plays but it is not an active dramatic agent. Thus, one is aware of its existence but as that of time passing and not of time accomplishing. Increased physical activity, also, communicates this awareness of the passing of time. The plays tend to be divided into a large number of very short scenes. This, of course, means that characters are constantly entering and exiting on the stage. Time is perceived through motion, and, by increasing the physical activity, an impression is given of an accelerated passing of time. This

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189 to and fro motion of the characters has an effect similar to that produced by the accelerated motion of silent film characters. Guy de Teramond has compared this activity perhaps more aptly to a "vaste guinguette," in which the characters "s'y agitent" and "s'y bousculent." The impression of perpetual activity is particularly strong in the one-act plays. One of Dancourt's contemporaries, Hauteroche, in the "Au Lecteur" to Le Deuil (1672) addresses this point directly: J'aurois pu mettre cette Piece en trois Actes et il ne m'en auroit pas coute cinquante vers, mais j ai mieux aime presser un peu les incidens et donner de la chaleur a 1 'action, que de la rallentir par.le terns qu'il auroit fallu pour les entres Actes. Verbal activity is likewise increased. The characters express themselves in short, quick exchanges. Rarely will one character speak more than three sentences at a time; to the contrary, most of the dialogue consists of incomplete sentences of only a few words. This quick verbal motion, like the physical activity of the characters, gives an impression of time flowing quickly. Increased physical motion is seen in the use of crowds of people. Many plays occur in open-air settings where large numbers of people have gathered. Though these people are not physically present on stage, their presence is implied by numerous comments. Phrases such as "la foule paroit si grande qu'on n'y peut aborder" ( Les Festes noct sc. 1) interspersed at various spots in the dialogue retain

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190 the image of the crowd in the mind of the audience. At times the crowds are described in the dialogue: Le bourg est plein de monde, an ne scait ou les loger, il y a morgue plus de deux cens Tireux, qui ont presque tous amenez chacun leur Tireuse, et ces Tireuses-la avons apres elles d'autres Tireux qui les suivons par bandes, et qui avons amene avec eux des Menestriers, des Violons, des Hautbois, des Flutes, depuis la cave jusqu'au grenier, tout est rempli dans les Cabarets, ansy devartit bian, an fait bonne chere, et an ne manquera pas si tot de provision, ni pour la panse, ni pour la danse. ( Le Prix de 1 a. sc. iii) In La Maison de campagne the agitation of crowds of people is itself one of the movers of the plot. A proprietor of a country house, bought with the hope of escaping the crowds in Paris finds himself besieged by uninvited guests who liberally avail themselves of his kitchen, wine cellar, and hunting grounds. Most of the play consists of brief entrances by the different guests and descriptions of their irritating activities. The image is drawn of a large group of people not momentarily visible but capable of materializing at any instant. The use of large crowds makes the plot seem to be only a small part of a larger, ongoing real-life drama. Characters seem to be simply members of a larger scene who have been arbitrarily singled out. As mentioned previously in chapter III, one is reminded of nineteenthcentury realists who center on a few characters while retaining the image of a large background of activity. The implied crowds of people coupled with precipitous

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191 endings give the impression that, though the play ends, the activities of the crowd continues. This, of course, is particularly effective when the play uses a public gathering as its setting. The play becomes only an instant in time, arbitrarily selected and momentarily stylized theatrically, but in essence only a small part of a larger, continuous timespan. The awareness of the passing of time is also brought out by characters making explicit references to it. As direct statements show, Dancourt's characters are acutely and even painfully aware of being caught within the flux of time. Their perception of the passive nature of time, its ineluctable continuity, causes a sense of loss and helplessness. In the Intermede of La Comedie des comediens a Dame cigogne rhetorically asks why man must be governed by time and how happy he might be were he not: Tout passe avec le temps, C'est la loi naturelle. Mais tous les ans Le doux Printemps, Se renouvelle, Pourquoi la beaute passe-t-elle Sans revenir? Quel sort heureux que celui d'une belle? Si comme le printemps on pouvoit rajeunir. ( Intermede II) Le Second Chapitre du Diable boiteux centers on the foolishness of wasting time when life is so short. Simon has spent his life in arduous pursuit of money and privilege to the exclusion of recreation. The devil chides him for having wasted his youth and health and further drives home

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192 the point by showing how his wife has been entertaining herself in the company of a young chevalier during his absences. The play ends with a Divertissement exhorting the assembled group to enjoy life while young: Pendant le cours du bel age, Aimons, buvons nuit et jour, On trouve assez les momens d'etre sage, Mais il n'est qu'un terns pour 1' amour. Melani has shown how frequently Dancourt s characters comment on the pressure of time. She lists over fifty different phrases from the dialogues in which the characters express impatience or nervousness because some action is taking too much time. From one play alone, La Gazette she cites the following lines: va m'attendre au logis, va vite (sc. i) il y a quinze jours que nous devrions etre au Regiment et vous ne songez point a tout cela (sc. ii) je ne tarderai pas a revenir (sc. iii) je ne serai pas long-terns a trouver ce qu'il te faut (sc. v) ne vous hatez point tant de mourir, vous aurez toujours pour cela du terns de reste (sc. vii) ne perdez point de terns, allez vite (sc. ix) dans une heure ou deux nous irons vous trouver ensemble (sc. svi) il vous fera Capitaine en moins d'un moment (sc. xiv) The frequency of these exclamations reveals a weakly veiled anxiety on the part of the characters. A fear of wasting or losing irretrievable moments obsesses them. Their concern about the passing of time is not perceived as a

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193 general or metaphysical abstraction but as a preoccupation with each individual moment: "come se il tempo fosse vissuto non nella sua universality, ma in una scomposizione „5 successiva e mmuziosa. This decomposition of human time into discontinuous units results in an obsession with the present. The painful awareness of the transitory nature of exterior reality is somewhat attenuated by concentrating on the present moment, the only assured possession. The past is irretrievably lost and the future uncertain: Le terns ainsi de moment en moment Dans 1 incertitude se passe . ( Ceph et Pr II, xii Refuge is taken by limiting oneself to the present. Poulet's study of human time in French literature characterizes the seventeenth century conception of time as a duration, but only a duration conceived in terms of a successive ensemble of moments. Separee de la duree des choses et de celle meme des modes de son existence, la conscience humaine se trouve reduite a une existence sans duree. Elle est toujours au moment present." In La Feste de village Narquart makes an impressive argument for the primacy of the present. His companion, Blandineau, has been complaining about his wife whose ambitions and expenditures are far above their rank and salary, as he is only a "simple Procureur du Chatelet." He feels that one should behave as befits one's rank, as

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194 was done "autrefois." "Autrefois," replies Narquart, "on se gouvernoit comme autrefois. Vivons a present comme dans le terns present." When Blandineau continues to protest, saying, "je suis ennemi des superfluitez ; je me contente du necessaire, et je ne scache rien au monde de si beau, que la simplicite du terns passe," Narquart returns with the hard evidence that accepting the new way is inevitable. One can not hold on to the past: "Oui : mais si comme au terns passe on vous donnoit trois sols parisis, ou deux carolus pour des ecritures que vous faites aujourd'hui paier trois ou quatre pistoles, cette simplicite-la vous plairoit elle." Blandineau admits that "ce ne sont pas nos droits que je veux simples, ce sont nos depenses," (I,i). Blandineau' s nostalgia for the simplicity of the past is shown to be an impractical and unattainable wish. The realistic approach of Narquart is the stance taken by most of Dancourt s characters, as is his aggressive determination to profit from the present and to sever any unproductive ties with the past. This repudiation of what has been, replaced with the reality of the present, is echoed by Robinet, in Colin-maillard His wife has just died and he is eagerly making plans to marry a young girl placed under his tutelage. When asked if still in mourning for his deceased wife, he replies, "la mort efface tout, et je ne prens sur mon compte que le present" (sc. i).

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195 One can rely no more securely on the future than on the past. In Le Moulin de Javelle Madame de Rollet sums up the philosophy of living for the moment, since one can not depend on the future: "au hasard d un f^cheux avenir, profitons du terns present, puisque nous y sommes" (sc. xxii) The simple logic of Madame de Rollet 's statement seems to ring true for most of Dancourt s characters. The feelings of uncertainty and loss caused by the experience of the transitory are translated into a pragmatic philosophy of living for the present moment. Conscious of the inconstancy of the world, the permanent loss of the past and the impossibility of knowing the future, an obsession with the present becomes a refuge from uncertainty. The characters learn to rely only on the empirically evident, the visibly present. This is seen in their cynicism towards traditional morality and virtue. Transcendental values become suspect and, though not denied, are simply ignored. They are replaced with utilitarian thought and actions designed to obtain immediate goals. The frenetic verbal and physical activity of the characters betrays their restlessness, as they' try to profit as much as possible from each passing moment. The Superficial Ne perds point de tems en reflexions. (La Femme d'intr., I, i)

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196 The superficial is a logical if not necessarily mandatory extension of the experience of the transitory. Recognition of the transitional nature of the present argues against a deep or prolonged involvement with that present. Given the transitional mode as a dominate way of perceiving reality, the superficial becomes a corollary mode governing the degree of interaction desirable or possible with that reality. As noted earlier, the dimension of time is experienced as a linear succession of separate instances. The consciousness of the impermanence of the present means that there is little interest in experiencing fully a particular instant, or, in other words, in experiencing the qualitative dimensions of time. Caught in the onward sweep of time, one only skims the surface of the experience provided by each moment. Stripping the term momentarily of its pejorative connotations, and employing it as an aesthetic mode, let us see how it is realized in the various dramatic components of Dancourt's plays. Dancourt's narrative structure might well be described as superficial. As a playwright he does not become closely involved with his plots. Sokalski terms his denouements "cold" and "impersonal" and his plays appear written in haste. The plots do not always progress in a logical manner, his dramatic resolutions are often embarassingly

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197 contrived, characters are introduced never to be seen again, and often situations are presented which are never accounted for or even referred to later in the play. This superficial relationship between the playwright and his plot is carried over and affects the way the audience responds to the plays. Likewise, the subject matter of most of Dancourt s plays, actualities and faits divers of the day, are superficial signs of that time period. Almost all of Dancourt's plays have as a starting point the comic portrayal of either a contemporary event or an aspect of contemporary manners. And, for the most part, the subject is very specific in regards to time and place. For instance, La Gazette de Hollande is a satire on the recent popularity of the Dutch newspapers of the same name. L es Eaux de Bourbon refers to a specific spa which was very popular at the time when French soldiers were returning from the military campaign. Le Mary retrouve was inspired by an actual event of a wife issuing a death certificate for her husband while he was still living. A royal decree prohibiting gambling in Paris prompted La Desolation des r joiieuses Fads or novelties are the dramatic incarnation of the idea of the superficial. They are, by definition, transitory in nature and are considered of little intrinsic value. Passing fads might be symptomatic of a more profound feature of a society, but, undeveloped as they are in Dancourt's works, they remain notable precisely for

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198 their superficiality. Lemaitre's qualification of Dancourt as a "bon observateur des superficies" is indeed correct. Critics have been quick to point out Dancourt s role as a social historian but always with the lingering implication that as a dramatist he failed to deal with the more universal problems of mankind as did his famous predecessor, Moliere. It is not so much that Dancourt refused to come to grips with such problems as that he saw the obsession with superficialities as the problem. His plays are replete with characters frenetically engaged in activities which do not warrant the energy or time expended. Their value system consists of shallow and transitory pleasures such as gambling or wearing expensive clothes. The many plays that are structured around locations demonstrate this particularly well. The environments are almost all locations that provide entertainment. Le Moulin de Javelle, La Foire de B esons, Les Vendanges de Suresnes Les Vacances Les Eaux de B o urbon Les Festes nocturnes du cours La Feste de vill age, Les Curieux de Compiegne represent popular places of entertainment where one can pass time in trivial and temporary pleasures. The characters compulsively flock to places where they can be seen by others and not be forced to entertain themselves. They shun any personal introspection. The superficial is seen in Dancourt 's monomaniacs just as it was in the fads and novelties. His characters

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199 are obsessed with specific and temporally defined obsessions, such as a desire to marry a foreigner or to marry a man of the sword rather than of robe or to go to the opera everyday. Unlike Moliere, where the mania tends to be a mental distortion in focus which warps one's view of reality and to some degree is a universal personality trait, Dancourt's characters are involved in narrowly focused, specific obsessions, not necessarily symptomatic of a larger disorder. Dancourt is concerned with "the behavior of his characters rather than their faulty thought-processes." Thus the manias are very trivial preoccupations, implying by analogy a superficial value system. The humor comes precisely from the disparity between the superficiality of the mania and the passion with which the characters manifest their desire. The highly praised opening scene from Le Chevalier a la mode has Madame Patin rushing into her foyer out of breath physically and unhinged mentally from the humiliation of having had to yield the right-of-way to a "marquise de je ne sais comment." She calls immediately for a chair and collapses into it. Her physical energy has been drained by the humiliation. The excesses of her mental and physical distress contrast sharply with the insignificance of the incident. Likewise, in contrast to Moliere 's process which consists of focusing the mania upon one person ( Le Misanthrope Le Malade imaginaire ) in Dancourt's plays the mania is a

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200 collective one dispersed among a number of characters. "Cela consiste a diviser, a repartir, a distribuer inegalement entre plusieurs personnages la somme des ridicules qui sont ceux de leur age, on de leur condition, ou d'une facon de penser commune . 10 One does not have the penetrating psychological analysis found in the works of Moliere, but rather a description of the ease in which a mania spreads from one member of society to the next. For at least that moment, the mania becomes the focal point for all the energy, aspirations and dreams of happiness of the people contaminated by it, even though it might be discarded the following day by a new one. In La Feste de v illage, there is a delightful scene in which La Greffiere announces to her sister and a cousin that she is about to marry a count. The news is almost fatal to them: Mme Blandineau: Comtesse, vous? vous Comtesse, ma Soeur? La Greffiere: Dites, Madame, Madame Blandineau, et Madame tout court, entendez-vous? Mme Blandineau: Madame tout court! ah! je n'en puis plus, Ma soeur Comtesse, et moi Procureuse! Un siege, et tot, depechez, Lisette. L'Eleue: Vous seriez Comtesse, vous, ma cousine la Greffiere? La Greffiere: Ah! plus de cousinage, Madame l'Eleue, plus de cousin age. L'Eleue: Un fauteuil aussi tot du secours, a moi, Lisette . Je m'affoiblis, je

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201 suffoque, j'agonise, et je m'en vais mourir de mort subite. (II, iii) The final humiliation arrives when a Madame Carmin appears and announces that she is quitting her clothshop, has bought her husband an appointment, and will soon be a presidente : Mme Blandineau: Vous Presidente, Madame Carmin? Mme Carmin: Moi-moi. L'Eleue: Madame Carmin Presidente! Mme Carmin: Oui, Madame. La Greffiere: Et moi Comtesse, Madame Carmin. Mme Carmin: Vous Comtesse, Madame? La Greffiere: Oui Madame la Presidente. Mme Carmin: J'en suis ravie, Madame la Comtesse. Mme Blandineau: Et moi je suffoque, je n en puis plus. (II, iv) The whole society appears to be catching the contagion. The scene ends with Madame Blandineau and L'Eleue furious and swearing either to find a charge for their husbands or to find new husbands. Dancourt's characters are full of energy and vitality, as can be seen in this last scene. They talk quickly, there is much activity on stage, but the energy is funneled into superficial activities. Time passes quickly (or appears to) because of the feverish activity but the passage measures no real accomplishment. Les Bourgeoises a la mode gives a description of a typical day in the life of a

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202 bourgeois woman attempting to act like nobility. She wants to open her house to gambling and thus make her name known among the beau monde As her husband protests futilely, she offers her modest plan of entertainment: Mais, Monsieur, il me faut de la musique trois jours de la semaine seulement, trois autres apresdinees on jouera quelques reprises d' ombre et de lansquenet, qui seront suivies d'un grand souper, de maniere que nous n'aurons qu'un jour de reste, qui sera le jour de conversation ; nous lirons des ouvrages d' esprit, nous debiterons des nouvelles, nous nous entretiendrons des modes, nous medirons de nos amies ; enfin nous emploierons tous les momens de cette journee a des choses purement spirituelles. (IV, vi) A similar passage from L'Este des coquettes ridicules the petty pretensions of a society in which the superficial has taken precedence over the substantial. A young abbe, who "n'a pris le petit colet, que pour ne point marcher a 1 'Arriere-ban, is seen arriving at the front door of the young woman's house. As she hurries to make ready for him, her servant assures her that there is no need to rush: Bon, bon, Madame, avant qu'il ait consulte son petit miroir de poche, mordu ses levres, arrange les boucles de sa perruque, et pris l'avis de tous ses laquais sur sa parure, il en a pour un bon quart-d heure sur l'escalier. (sc. ix) A number of anecdotes in Dancourt's plays have as a common denominator the outpouring of an extravagant amount of activity with little or no change resulting from it. In La Femme d' intrigues there is a long and complicated story of a wife who, upon separating from her husband, takes the family's silver plates with her and then sells them for new ones. The son steals the new ones from the

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203 mother and through a third person sells them to the father. Thus the original situation has been maintained: the father owns the sole set of dishes. Nothing has changed except that a lot of money has changed hands. (Needless to say, this is also a very ironic statement about the new capitalistic ethic in which work does not necessarily produce anything.) It is a microcosm of the little results engineered by a frenetically active society. Everything becomes a game as people jockey for position in an eternal game of musical chairs. The superficial becomes more important than the substantial. This is true not simply for the actions of Dancourt s characters but for their very identity. Whether one wishes to appear a pr ecieux or a member of nobility, appearances become more important than reality, or even indistinguishable from reality. In an article entitled "The Faux Devot .from Moliere to Marivaux," Koppisch traces the relationship between characters and their masks. Unlike Moliere's Tartuffe, the characters of La Bruyere and Marivaux "no longer have a well-established identity that can be relied upon to sustain itself behind a mask originally intended to deceive others. In a world of growing social and political instability they are not possessed of a self 12 . firmly grounded in hard reality." Though Koppisch did not include Dancourt in his study, the observation holds true. Sokalski's dissertation, "The Theater of Dancourt

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204 and the Metaphor of Pretense" deals with the dichotomy between etre and paraitre which Sokalski sees as a constant thematic concern. Being seen by others becomes itself a manner of being. The mask becomes affixed to the face and the character's true personality shrinks and finally disappears behind its covering. C'est comme tout le monde est aujourd'hui. On veut paroitre ce qu'on n'est pas. ( Les Bourg. a la m I, viii) J'aime a paroitre, moi, c'est-la ma folie. ( La Feste de v. II, i ) C'est la manie du siecle, chacun veut faire ce qui ne lui convient point. (L es Eaux de B sc. xxx) The paraitre supersedes the etre. Introspection or personally defined values are rejected in preference for the fashionable and the externally visible. The superficial becomes an end unto itself. The Aleator ic il arrive quelquefois des certaines choses a quoi 1 on ne s'attend point du tout. ( Ren, et Ar sc. x) The aleatoric is a third mode through which reality is perceived. If time is passing and passing continuously, the passage can only be noticed by change and in Dancourt's plays it is clear that this change is meant to be seen as haphazard, as possessing no clear purpose or goal. The state of transition that characterizes Dancourt's world is not seen as a purposeful transition leading from a known past to a predictable future, but a momentary state of

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205 uncertainty where only the haphazard reigns. The aleatoric, of course, is a conventional component of comedy. Arbitrary plots and implausible coincidences have always dominated the comic mode, but, comedies have usually followed a certain logic prescribed by the givens of the plot. Careful dramatists, particularly in the classical period, attempted at least to lay some ground work to help explain surprise twists or developments in the plot. Dancourt simply does not bother to attenuate the implausible or arbitrary nature of his imbroglios. I do not mean to suggest that Dancourt is attempting to construct a militant image of a world in the grips of anarchy as might be found in the works of some twentieth-century playwrights. However, there is a strong sense of randomness to his dramatic structures. Lemaitre registers the same impression writing that the plays "semblent avoir ete ecrites a la hate." 13 As shown in chapter three, the internal construction of Dancourt' s plots is often very loose. For one, his plays tend to commence rather arbitrarily. Beginning plays in media res stems from a long tradition going back to the Greek theater. It has many functions, the most obvious being to draw the audience into the action immediately. But, also, as Sokalski has pointed out, it helped solve one of the major problems facing seventeenth-century dramatists, namely the need to create a dramatic illusion immediately upon a stage which was quite large and rarely

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206 had opening curtains. The problem of the empty stage was attenuated by "having a group of two or more personages enter somewhat precipitously, engaged in a conversation seemingly begun backstage." Dancourt's most successful use of this technique is in the opening scene of Le Chevalier a la mod e in which Madame Patin comes rushing on the stage in a rage at having been publicly humiliated by a marquise. Of course this technique was used by Moliere as well as Dancourt's contemporaries but, as Sokalski has shown, Dancourt made especially frequent use of it. The plays thus appear to begin rather randomly. The endings of Dancourt's plays are equally arbitrary. Seldom is there any inner logic which demands the termination of a play at a certain point. When Dancourt exhausts the satire of manners, he abruptly terminates the play with a reconciliation of any opposing groups and usually a marriage. Likewise, within the plays one finds abandoned subplots, poorly justified entrances and exits, and minor characters whose pertinence to the main plot is questionable at best. It is impossible to say to what degree Dancourt intended such loose construction (and the time limits imposed on his prodigious output must be considered a significant factor) but likewise he certainly was not unaware ^ •*. 15 of it. Indeed, to the contrary, he uses it as a comic technique. His characters make frequent references to the role of chance,

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207 poking fun at the improbable coincidences. One of the mainstays of comedy is the fortuitous arrival of a character whose presence is direly needed at that precise moment. Rather than attempting to somehow justify the coincidence, Dancourt stresses its implausibility In Les Vendanges de Suresnes Madame Dubuisson says: Si nous avions quelque habile fourbe qui put nous aider encore, je repondrois bien . Oh! par ma foi vous etes nee coeffee, en voici un que le hasard nous adresse le plus a propos du monde. (sc. vi) The image created is that of a capricious world where the accidental and the haphazard are the only ordering principles. As the rapidly changing social conventions resulted in change becoming the rule, the future was assumed to be unpredictable: II arrive tous les jours les choses plus extraordinaires . ( La Gaz sc. x) In La Foire Saint-Germain the entire plot is attributed to the caprices of chance: Mile Mousset: La compagnie est bien votre servante Monsieur Le Chevalier: La voila bonne, qui la ressemble? est-ce l'estime, l'amitie, l'interet, le plaisir, les affaires, la conversation, ou le hazard seul qui s en mele? he, done? Lorange: Oh! parbleu le hazard y a plus de part que le reste : et voila Mademoiselle Nicole, qui est la soeur de Monsieur le Breton, par exemple. Le Chevalier: Comment sa soeur?

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208 Le Breton: Oui, Monsieur, je l'ai recontree par hazard, elle a fait fortune par avanture, il se trouve par accident que ces deux Princesses ont le rneme adorateur de leurs charmes. Ce galant homme par cas fortuit est d' autre part rival de mon maitre, nous voudrions bien le berner de dessein forme ; et comme le hazard vous conduit ici, vous ferez, si vous voulez, de la partie. (sc. xxiii) Because of the exaggerated significance that Dancourt gives to chance, there remains an unsettling feeling that there is no permanent order to life, and that the capricious and the haphazard have replaced the purposeful and the structured. In one of the few relatively serious comments by Dancourt' s characters, a sense of restlessness and uncertainty caused by such a precarious reality is revealed behind a typical cynical pose: La fatigante chose que le moindre moment d inquietude. ( Les Bourg. a la m. II, iii) A sense of inquietude haunts many of his characters. Because they live in a world of the transitional, they feel themselves to be at the mercy of fate. And thus they retreat from any precise plans or long-range goals and live only for the present moment. The temporal, the superficial and the aleatoric are three defining features of the world view implied in the term transitiona l Given these features of the perception of reality as expressed in Dancourt 's plays, how does this affect the actions of the characters? What are the motivating ethical principles upon which they base their

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209 actions? Assuming a world in which there exist no predetermined or transcendental values, in which the dominant essence of things is only their transitoriness in which the accidental takes precedence over the purposeful, and in which there is a lack of any metaphysical principles giving form or meaning to daily realities, the ethical system that emerges is one which likewise is assumed to be transitional. It extends its reach no farther than the present moment. Postulated on the assumption that the future is uncertain, prudence dictates a defensive rather than aggressive ethical posture. If anything might happen, it is safest to expect the worst and make plans accordingly. In Les Festes nocturnes du cours Cynoedor, the genie du bal explains to young Celide: a present on met tout au pis : on s attend a tout ; on compte la-dessus, et on ne peut etre dans l'erreur, comme vous voiez. Celide is aghast: Voila des moeurs bien perverties! But, as Cynoedor replies: Elles sont a la mode, il faut s'y faire. (sc. xix) The result of this minimal attitude toward ethics is that all moral abstractions become suspect. Spiritual and metaphysical reflections are avoided as man's activities are assumed to be motivated by the material. The scope of man's active moral principles shrinks to the pursuit of the visible. There is a singular lack of philosophizing among Dancourt's characters. One finds no raisonneurs as

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210 in Moliere. There is little questioning -; of values or formulation of abstract or symbolic ethical codes. Mental processes are limited to forming strategies for obtaining short-term, specific goals. Morality is neither vaunted nor offended, it is ignored. A moral tabula rasa exists. If there is no immediate reason for prohibiting a certain action, one is justified in doing it. Situational ethics become acceptable and moral myopia sets in, since there are no overriding moral principles. In Le Moulin de Javelle being asked to send a young girl to a rendez-vous with an older man, Madame Bertrand first refuses stating that she will not be responsible for the seduction of an innocent. But when ten pistoles are offered as a thank you for the service, her husband reasons : il m'est avis qu'en bonne conscience il n'y a pas de mal a ca ; si tu ne le fais pas un autre le fera : la petite fille ne viendra pas moins et tu n 1 auras pas les dix pistoles. ( Le Moul de J. sc. x) Similarly, in L'Opera de village Louison is debating whether she should meet a young man in the woods, Martine warns her: il t'ameneroit . But, Louison replies: He! bien ce ne sera pas ma faute ; car je n'irois moi que pour lui parler ; et s il me faisoit quelque violence, on n'est pas responsable de cela, ma cousine. (sc. ix)

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211 Such casuitry is a refusal to formulate one's own moral principles or to assume responsibility for one's actions. Instead, externalities are allowed to dictate behavior and one can pretend not to be responsible. Love, as in all traditional Western comedies, is the dominant emotional involvement of the characters. And, like his predecessors, Dancourt's plays end in marriages, often multiple marriages. But one finds a singular expression of that emotion in his plays. Unlike Moliere's young people who accept love wholly and sincerely, Dancourt's characters display the same cynicism toward love that they do toward all abstractions. A fear of being led astray, of becoming vulnerable, is detected behind a mask of cynical detachment: Je ris des sentimens humains, Dans quel aveuglement 1 aparence les jette. ( Ceph. et Pr I, ii) As far as possible, love remains a game. The sentimental is pushed aside and a posture of materialism is adopted. The following dialogue shows a young lady refusing to abstract a symbol of love from the gift of a portrait. She insists on acknowledging only the material worth : Cidalise: Je lui ai renvoie son Portrait. Marton: Mais vous avez garde le boete? Cidalise: Elle est garnie de brillans, Marton. Marton: Fort bien, vous n'etes curieuse que de bijoux, et vous n'aimez pas les Tableaux. (Les Festes noct. sc. ii)

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212 When sentimental interest is aroused, Dancourt's characters refuse to acknowledge it as such and feign a detached, intellectualized objectivity: Oh! bien pour rnoi, je te l'avoue, j ai plus de curiosite que d'amour. ( La Gaz sc. iv) A fear of emotional involvement marks all of Dancourt's characters. Sentimental attachments are approached warily and defensively. The characters prefer to remain independent of other people and fear the vulnerability that comes with love. Happiness is frequently defined by his characters as a freedom from emotional attachments. Young lovers are advised to keep their independence at all costs. Tranquilite here is used much as repos is used in La Princesse de Cleves : pour la tranquilite de votre coeur, et pour le bien de vos affaires, il ne faut prendre de 1' amour pour personne, et faire bonne mine a. tout le monde. ( La Lot. sc. i) The main character in L e Diable boiteux has learned her lesson well. She receives men frequently but never allows her emotions to dictate her actions. When questioned as to why she is spending so much time with two men in particular, she explains that it is only to amuse herself, to pass the time: Mais en Zste comment mieux faire? les gens de Robe raisonnables sont si rares les Financiers si brutaux, et les Abbez si fades. Un Clerc et un Ecolier sont sans consequence, il faut s'amuser, cela vaut mieux que rien. (sc. vi )

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213 Love is something to receive, never to give: je souffre qu'on m'aime et quand je ne me fache point de me 1 entendre dire, je pretends qu'on m'a grande obligation. ( L'Este des coqu sc.v) Love is an ephemeral, intangible quality which can offer no security. It is not accessible to reason, its actions can not be explained. The transitory character of love is emphasized frequently by Dancourt. There are many incidents in his plays in which the young women reflect on the loveless marriages of their parents and fear that they too, will be caught in a loveless relationship. In Les Bourgeoises a la mode the comments of the daughter Mariane concerning the lack of love between husbands and wives are so cynical and disillusioned that Lancaster refers to her as a 17 pathetic figure." Sokalski has shown that where love does occur, it 1 8 appears as an "explosion." It is not reasoned; it is "instantaneous." Otherwise there could be no love among these cynical, cool people. It is primarily a dramatic convention which Dancourt uses to propel his plots. When reasons are given why a couple love each other, then the reasons tend to be very worldly: the women wish freedom from the convent or their guardian's foyer and the men are interested in social advancement or a large dowry. Remarkable for their rarity are a small number of statements by Dancourt s characters which momentarily illuminate the emotional vulnerability normally veiled by a

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214 cynical stance. In Les Festes nocturnes du cours a young man comes forward and admits that he is indeed in love and that he is fearful of losing his independence by slipping under the control of his lover: Je sens 1 inconvenient qu'il y a d' aimer quelqu'un, et j apprehende de m'y livrer. (sc. ii) The term l ivrer reveals his view of love as a force which will enslave or dominate him. Oronte, an elderly gentleman, admits the same: Ah! que c'est une terrible chose que d 1 aimer. ( Les Fonds p. II, ii) Though most of the characters never drop their cynical mask, it is obvious that they, too, recognize the force of love and fear it. Dancourt's characters are bereft of any real emotional attachments. They see themselves as living in a world with no religious or philosophical underpinnings with which to fashion purpose to their existence. What emerges to fill the emptiness created by this metaphysical void is a vague pleasure principle. Dancourt does not define it as such, but, empirically, it is a matter of making the present moment pass by filling it with superficial and meaningless activities. It is the immersion of one's consciousness in a torrent of games, dances, operas, salons and gossip. Any deeper human needs are ignored and any real involvement with others refused. Happiness becomes defined as a combination of independence from others and the freedom to pursue one's pleasures. The following passage describes

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215 well the ideal of Dancourt's characters: il ne tient qu'a vous d'etre parf aitement heureuse ; belle, jeune, bien-faite, spirituelle, vous etes aimee de tous ceux qui vous voient, et vous avez le bonheur de n 1 aimer personne que votre mari, que vous n'aimez gueres ; vous etes sans aucune passion dominante que celle de vos plaisirs. (L es Bourg. a la m. I, v) Pleasure is the only goal Dancourt's characters pursue. This vague pleasure principle, articulated in the preceding passage, is basically antirational and anti-intellectual, a rejection of the seventeenth-century ideals of reason and duty. It is also anti-emotional. The characters chase their pleasure independently of one another, seeing emotional involvement as a loss of freedom. The social fragmentation that results from their lack of emotional involvement is replaced by the pursuit of communal pleasures such as dancing and gambling. The communal interaction is based on a sensual foundation rather than an intellectual or emotional one. Lemaitre compares one of Dancourt's characters to an early Helvetius. A belief in the primacy of the sense is precisely what motivates Dancourt's characters. With no overriding philosophical or theological principles to order reality, to provide a sense of being in time, it is through the senses that his characters know that they live, that they feel the flux of life. To escape the metaphysical void, the emotional emptiness, they rush to make their nerve endings interact with life, the way their minds and hearts refuse to.

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216 Thus most of Dancourt's comedies end in some sort of divertissement As Northrop Frye writes, comedy has always tended to end in "some kind of party or festive ritual which either appears at the end of the play or is assumed 19 to take place immediately afterward. With Dancourt however, this general movement toward "resolution and conversion" of all the characters in the play is made very explicit. His plays end not only with marriages but with singing, dancing and drinking. Often complete festivals are performed with organized singing, musical instruments and choreographed dancing. This social, communal experience is an attempt to reach beyond the alienation of the individual and to establish a pre-conscious primitive oneness within society. It is an attempt to escape from the rational responsibilities that accompany behavior and to bathe in a spontaneous flow of the nonrational, where the fragmentation of thought can be drowned in the unifying immediacy of sensual pleasures. Sokalski sees the festive endings of Dancourt's plays as an attempt to "attenuate the abruptness and the coldness 20 of his denouements." I think Dancourt was also trying to show the lack of any profound or responsible commitment to life by his characters and by his society. Such superficial social interaction as one finds at the end of his plays is not sufficient to hide the isolation of his characters from life. The image that remains is that of a confused and fragmented society, a society composed of

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217 lonely and shallow people whose feverish activities do not successfully mask the superficiality of their values or the ethical void in which they operate.

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218 Notes Sarcey, in "Notice" to Dancourt, Theatre choisi (Paris: Gamier, n.d.), Pxv. 2 Sokalski, "The Dramatic Art of Dancourt and the Metaphor of Pretense," Diss. Yale, 1970. 3„ Le Malade imaginaire : La Maison de campagne," Conferences de l'Odeon 2eme serie (1916-17), (Paris: Hachette, 1918), p. 129. 4„ „ Au Lecteur to Le Deuil in OEuvres de theatre (Paris: Libraires associes 1742), I, 427. Melani, Motivi tradizionali e fantasia del "Divertissement" nel teatro di Dancourt (1661-1725) (Naples: Istituto universitario 1970), p. 153. Etudes sur le temps humain (Paris: Plon, 1949) p. xv. 7 Sokalski, p. 125. 8 La Comedie apres Moliere et le theatre de Dancourt (1882; rpt. Paris: Welter, 1903), p. 95. 9 Howarth, Life and Letters in France: The Seventeenth Century (Great Britain: Nelson, 1965), p. 172. Brunetiere, "Autour de 'Turcaret'," Les Epoques du theatre francais : 1683-1850 Conferences de l'Odeon (Paris : Hachette, 18<32), p. 189. Other anecdotes include one from Les Bourgeoises a la mode in which the two wives, unable to extract any more money from their own husbands, mutually agree to seduce the other's husband and thus get the money.

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219 12 Moliere and the Commonwealth of Let ters: Patrimony and Posterity (Jackson: University of Mississippi, 1975) p 6 5 13 T Lemaitre, p. 95. 14 Sokalski, p. 125. 15 In the year 1692, to cite one example, five new comedies were staged by Dancourt, two in five acts and three in one act. Sokalski has investigated rather thoroughly Dancourt's use of entrances and exits in his dissertation. He correctly asserts that though Dancourt does attempt to justify his entrances and exits, they are most often only "justifications par hasard as when a character comments upon the fortuitous arrival or exit of another character. See Sokalski, p. 254. 17. Lancaster, A History of Fr ench Dramatic Literature in the Seventeenth Cen tury (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1929-42), IV, ii, 784. 1 8 Sokalski, p. 72. 19 T he Anatomy of Critic ism (Princeton: Princeton University, 1957), p. 163. 20 Sokalski, pp. 130-33.

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CHAPTER EIGHT CONCLUSION Dancourt's position in post-Molieresque studies has been constant over the years. As a writer, he has been praised for the gaiety of his verbal comedy and for his wit as a satirist, but he has also been faulted for negligent and hasty construction. As a social observer, he has been praised for his realistic depiction of contemporary manners but criticized for his failure to provide anything more than a superficial account of the society's activities. The consensus has been that Dancourt did not strive for and certainly did not succeed in creating serious works of art. Like his contemporaries, Dancourt has suffered by constant comparison to Moliere. In this study, I have attempted to analyze Dancourt's plays by the critical criteria his own works suggest and, in so doing, I feel he emerges a more talented craftsman of his art and a more profound observer of his age than he has been generally considered. This study has concentrated almost entirely on Dancourt's aesthetic structures-the interaction of the components of his plays so far as they are organized for aesthetic purposes. First, I have attempted to show that the three major components of his plays--the method of characterization, the use of verbal comedy, and the narrative development — 220

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221 converge to form an expressive aesthetic unity which merits study in and of itself and independent of the plays' worth as historical documents. Secondly, I have argued that Dancourt's drama does not simply reflect the actions of the society he portrays. His structures give shape and force to the underlying currents of thought which characterize his age and of which the specific activities (the subject matter of his plays) are only manifestations. Exploring the way Dancourt develops his characters, his plots, and the use of language, one finds a stylistic unity which I have termed an aesthetic of the transitory. These three components are structured so that the integrity of their content is diminished, or, in other words, so that they appear to have only a transitory import. Dancourt's characters never rise above their stereotype. Their identity is not formed from an internal set of personality traits, rather it is defined externally by the character's position in society. Thus, the characters have little depth. Likewise, because there is often little causal relation between succeeding scenes, his plots do not advance sequentially. As such, one does not have a sense of an action being worked out in time. Finally, Dancourt's use of verbal comedy shows how language can distort thought and hinder communication becoming emblematic of a society which is unable to formulate a coherent sense of its own identity. The result of Dancourt's creation is that his dramatic world seems to have only a transitory reality.

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222 For precisely these reasons, Dancourt has been considered a negligent craftsman. The dramatic illusion that he creates is elusive and insubstantial. But it can be argued that this elusive reality is the result of a deliberate dramatic technique. The world Dancourt was portraying on stage, the France of the late seventeenth century, was itself inherently unstable and contradictory. The values associated with the hierarchical social order based on birth failed to hold as the more fluid and complex order based on money appeared. Thus, contradictory value systems arose. The confusion resulted in a negation of any predetermined or overriding metaphysical order. The society evidenced a general crise de cons cience in which purposeful activity ceased to exist because there were no guidelines by which to measure it. What does it mean to be noble if nobility is sold to the highest bidder? Conversely, what does it mean to be wealthy if birth is still a prerequisite for social status? However, none of these questions is confronted overtly in Dancourt' s plays. Moliere, for example, would often have his characters debate a particular issue on stage. His thematic concerns would thus be reified in the dialogue between the characters. But Dancourt has no rais onneurs The social problems that form the thematic concerns for Dancourt are never consciously analyzed by the characters. As a result, Dancourt has been thought a superficial

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223 observer of his society. And because his characters are always petty, vain, pretentious and often immoral, he has been accused of tacitly condoning the moral laxity of his characters and the society they represent. Yet, I feel Dancourt was aware of the problems facing his society and concerned about their ethical repercussions. Rather than attacking the problems overtly, he allows the superficiality and irresponsibility of his characters to be seen through his aesthetic structures. His characters are ambitious social-climbers and greedy materialists. The plays show them in feverish activity as they strive to attain their shallow and mercenary goals. But the import of the characters' activities is significantly altered when placed within the dramatic world created by Dancourt 's aesthetic structures. Though the characters are anxiously trying to better themselves, the reality within which they exist--the reality formed through the structures--undermines and belies their efforts. The shallow characterizations, the rambling plots, and the destructive use of language imply that the characters' activities are superficial and ultimately without purpose or issue. Though engaged in a continual race for advantage, they never succeed in making an impact upon the world. As a social observer, Dancourt was aware not just of the overt changes occurring as his society moved from the stability of the classical period to a period of evolution,

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224 he also showed particular insight into the ramifications of these changes: the new society was losing its ethical and philosophical supports and its members were drifting in a moral vacuum. Furthermore, as a dramatist, Dancourt saw that the stability of the classical aesthetic was not adequate to express the new ethos of change and uncertainty. A new aesthetic was required that could address itself to a situation of unresolved conflict and prolonged instability. Attempting to recreate the sense of loss and confusion experienced by a society in a state of transition, he forged a new dramatic reality characterized by its transitional essence.

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APPENDIX A LIST OF DANCOURT'S PLAYS The following table is a list of all Dancourt* s plays known to date. It includes the title, the date of first performance, the date of first publication, the number of acts, and whether in verse or prose. The information has been gathered primarily from Lancaster's A History of French Dramatic Literature in the Seventeenth Century and Sunset: A History of Parisian Drama in the Last Years of Louis XIV (1701-1715) Additional information has been found in the works of Wilmorth Starr, Spire Pitou and Sylvie Chevalley, 2 Head Librarian of the Comedie Francaise. This list does not include numerous divertissements, prologues and ballets 3 written by Dancourt. According to this list, Dancourt wrote sixty plays: one tragedy in five acts, ten comedies in five acts, nine comedies in three acts, one comedy in two acts, thirtyeight comedies in one act and one comedy whose length is not known. All but two of these plays were performed at the Comedie Francaise fLe s Nouvellistes de Lille and La 4 Deroute du phar aon) Thus the list accords with Chevalley' s statement that fifty-eight of Dancourt 's plays were shown at the Comedie Frangaise. 225

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230 Notes The date of performance is the first known date, not necessarily the date first performed at the Comedie Francaise, 2 Starr, "Florent-Carton Dancourt (1661-1725) : His Life and Dramatic Works," Diss. Johns Hopkins, 1937. Pitou, "Dancourt 's Regency Plays," Public ati ons of the Modern Language Association 86 (1971), 90-99. Chevalley, "Rendre a Dancourt. . Note sur Merlin Dragon Merlin la chacone et le ^Brutal de sang froid ," Revue de la Societe d'histoire du theatre 21eme annee, No. 2 (avril-juin 1969) 148-50. 3 Starr has compiled a list of all of Dancourt' s works known at the time he wrote his dissertation (1937) See Starr, pp. 297-300. 4 It is not known if Les Nouvellistes de Lille was ever performed. If so, it was probably shown at Lille in 1683. See Lancaster, IV, ii, 578. It seems rather certain that La Deroute du pharaon was never performed. It was accepted and then rejected by the players at the Comedie Francaise Pitou suggests that perhaps the subject matter was politically sensitive. See Pitou, p. 96. Chevalley, p. 148. r Lancaster surmises that the comedy was in three acts, arguing that since it was produced along side the threeact Le Notaire obligeant it would need be longer than one act and three would be the most probable length'. See Lancaster, IV, ii, 597. Chevalley disagrees with Lancaster's supposition because it appears that the comedy was accompanied with singing and dancing and thus one act might be a sufficient length. See Chevalley, p. 149.

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REFERENCES Abraham, Claude. "Illusion and Reality in 'Monsieur de Pourceaugnac Romance Notes 16, No. 3 (1975), 641-46. Adam, Antoine. Histoire de la litterature francaise au XVII e siecle 5 vols. Paris! Domat, 1948-56 Anderson, Robert E. "An Essay on the One-Act Play with Special Reference to the Theater of Dancourt. Diss. University of Wisconsin, 1973. Attinger, Gustave. L' Esprit de la commedia dell 'arte dans le theatre francais Paris : Baconniere 1950. Aubignac, Abbe d' 'La Pratique du theatre' und andere Schriften zur Doctrine classiq ue. Mit einer einleitenden Abhandlung von Hans-Jorg Neuschaf er 1715; rpt. Geneve: Slatkine, 1971. Auerbach, Eric. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature Trans. Williard Trask. Princeton: Princeton University, 1953. Barthelemy, Charles. La Comedie de Dancourt, 1685-1714 : Etude historique et anecdotique Paris: Charpentier, 1882. Bayle, Pierre. OEuvres diverses N.p. n.d. Becker, Carl. The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers 1932; rpt. New Haven: Yale University, 1970. Bedier, Joseph et Hazard, Paul. Histoire de la litterature francaise illustree. Paris: Larousse, 1924. — ,. Benichou, Paul. Morales du grand siecle Paris: Gallimard, 194 8. Bergson, Henri. Le Rire; essai sur la signification du comigue Paris: Alcan, 1925. Boileau-Despreaux, Nicholas. OEuvres completes Ed. Antoine Adam. Paris: Gallimard, 1966. 231

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232 Borgerhoff, Elbert. The Freedom of French Classicism Princeton: Princeton University, 1950. Bossuet, Jacques. QEuvres Paris: Gallimard, 1960. Bray, Rene. La F ormation de la doctrine classique en France Lucerne: Payot, 1931. Brehier, Emile. The Seventeenth Century Trans. Wade Baskin, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1966. Brunetiere, Ferdinand. "Autour de 'Turcaret'," Les Epoques du theatre fran cais ( 1636 -1850 ) Conferences de l'Odeon. Paris: Calmann Levy, 1892, 169-91. Briitting, Joseph. Das Bauern-Franzosisch in Dancourts Lustspielen Altenburg, Geibel, 1911. Butler, Philip. Classicisme et baroque dans 1'oeuvre de Racine Paris: Nizet, 1959. Carre, Marie-Rose. "Mots en esclavage et mots en liberte : Moliere devant les theories linguistiques de son temps." Dix-Septieme Siecle 104 (1974), 61-77. Chaurand, Jacques. His toire de la lan gue f rancaise Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1969. Chefs-d'oeuvre comiques des successeurs de Moliere Notice et annotations par Georges Roth. 2 vols. Paris: Larousse, n.d. Chekhov, Anton. The Oxford Chekhov Trans. Ronald Hingley. London: Oxford University, 1964, III. Chevalley, Sylvie. "Le Costume de theatre de 1685 a 1720 d'apres le theatre de Dancourt," Revue de la Societe d'histoire du theatre 16eme annee, No. ,1 (janviermars 1964) 25-39. "Rendre a Dancourt . Note sur Merlin dragon Merlin la chac one et le Brutal de sang froid ." Revue de la Societe d"' histo ire~~~du" thea tre^ 21eme annee No. 2 (avril-juin 1969) 148-50. Dancourt, Florent Carton. QEuv res 3eme edition. Augmentee de plusieurs comedies qui n'avoient point ete imprimees. 9 vols. Paris: Chez la Veuve de Pierre Ribou, 1720.

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233 OEuvres de theatre. Nouvelle edition revue et corrigee. 12 vols. Paris: Libraires associes, 1760. Theatre choisi. Nouvelle edition, notice par Francisque Sarcey. Paris: Gamier, n.d. Deloffre, Frederic. Une Preciosite nouvelle : Marivaux et le marivaudage Paris: Belles-Lettres 1955. Dent, Julien. Crisis in Finance: Crown, Financiers and Society in Seventeenth-Century France New York: St. Martin's, 1973. Desvignes, Lucette. "Dancourt, Marivaux et 1 education des filles." R evue d'Histoire litteraire de la France 63, No. 3 (1963) 394-414. Dufresny, Charles. Theatre Ed. Georges d'Heylli. Paris: Librairie generale, 1882. Durant, Will and Ariel. The Age of Louis XIV New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963. Emelina, Jean. Les Valets et les servantes dans le theatr e comique en France de 1610 a 1700 Grenoble: PUG, 1975, Fontenelle, Bernard Le Bovier de. Pages choisies Paris: Colin, 19 09. Ford, Franklin. Robe an d Sword: The Regrouping of the French Aristocracy after Louis XIV 19 5 3; rpt. Cambridge:Harvard University, 1968. Forkey, Leo. T he Role of Money in French Comedy during the Reign~of Louis XIV Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1947. Fournel, Victor. L es Con tem porains de Moliere : Receuil d e comed ies r ares ou peu connues, joue es de 1650 a 1680 avec 1 hi s toire de chaque thea tre, des notes et notices ~biogr a"phiques bibliographiques et critiques 3 vols. Paris: Firmin-Didot 1863-75. Le Theatre au XVIIe siecle : La Comedie. Paris: Oudin, 1892. Francois, Carlo. La Notion d e l'absurde dans la litterature francaise du XVIIe" siecle. Paris: Klincksieck, 1973.

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234 Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism Princeton: Princeton University, 1957. Gaiffe, Felix. Le Rire et la scene francaise Bibliotheque de la revue des Cours et Conferences'. Paris: Boivin, 1931. Garapon, Robert. La Fantaisie verbale et le comique dans le theatre frangais Paris! Colin, 1957. Geoffroy, Julien. "Dancourt." Cours de literature dramatique ou receuil par ordre de matieres. Paris: Blanchard, 1825, II, 231-69. Goubert, Pierre. Louis XIV and Twenty Million Frenchmen Trans. Anne Carter. New York: Pantheon, 1970. Grannis, Valleria. Dramatic Parody in Eighteenth-Century France New York: Institute of French Studies, 1931. Guerard, Albert. The Life and Death of an Ideal: France in the Classical Age New York: Scribner's, 1928. Hauteroche, Noel le Breton. OEuvres de theatre 3 vols. Paris: Librairies associes, 1742. Hazard, Paul. La Crise de la conscience europeenne (1680-1715) 2 vols. Paris: Boivin, 1935. Houssaye, Arsene. La Regence Paris: Dentu, 1875. Howarth, W. D. Life and Letters in France: The Seventeenth Century Great Britain: Nelson, 1965. Jal, Auguste. Dictionnaire critique de biographie et d'histoire ; errata et supplement pour tous les dictionnaires historiques, d'apres des document's authentiques inedits "! 2eme edition, corrigee et augmentee d'articles nouveaux. Paris: Plon, 1872. Joannides, A. La Comedie-Fran gaise de 1680 a 1900 ; dictionnaire general des pieces et des auteurs. Avec une preface de Jules Claretie. 19 01; rpt. Geneve : Slatkine, 1970. Jourdain, Eleanor. Dramatic Theory and Practice in France (1690-1808) 1921; rpt. New York: Blom, 1968. Koppisch, Michael. "The Faux-Devot from Moliere to Marivaux." Moliere and the Commonwealth of Letters : Patrimony and Posterity Jackson: University of Mississippi, 1975, pp. 57-67.

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235 Kreiss, Paul. "The Valet in French Comedy from 1670 to 1730." Diss. Northwestern, 1969. La Bruyere. Les Caracteres de Theophraste traduits du Grec avec Les Caracteres ou Les Moeurs de ce siecle Paris: Gamier, 1962. Lancaster, Henry. The Comedie-Francaise (1680-1701) : Plays, Actors, Spectators, Finances Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1941. A History of French Dramatic Literature in the Seventeenth Cent ury. 5 pts. in 9 vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1929-427 Sunset: A History of Parisian Drama in the Last Years of Louis XIV (1701-1715) Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1945. La Porte, Joseph de. Dictionnaire dramatique 3 vols. Paris : n .p. 1776 Larthomas, Pierre. Le Lang age dramatique Paris: Colin, 1972. Lemaitre, Jules. La Co medie apres Moliere et le theatre de Dancourt 1882; rpt. Paris: Welter, 1903. Lenient, Charles. La Comedie en France au XVIIIe siecle Paris: Hachette, 1888. Livansky, Karel. "L'Element novateur introduit par les comedies de Dancourt." Romanistica Pragensia I (1959), 23-28. Lough, John. An I n troduction to Seventeenth Century France New York: McKay, 19 54. Paris Theatre Audiences in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries London: Oxford, 1957. Louix XIV. Memoires pour les annees 1661 et 1666 Paris: BossardT 1923. Lucas, Hippolyte. "Dancourt, Brueys et Palaprat, Dufresny, Regnard. Histoire philo sophigue et litteraire du theatre fra nc ais depuis l'origine jusqu'a nos jours Paris: GrosseTfnT 1843, 172-207. Medlin, Dorothy. The V erbal Art of Jean-Francois Regnard New Orleans: Tulane, 1966.

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236 Melani, Nivea. Motivi tradizion ali e fantasia del "Divertissements" nel teatro di Dancourt (T6~61-1725 ) Naples: Istituto universi tario orientale, 1970. Melese, Pierre. R epertoire analytique des documents contemporains d i n formation et de critiqu e concernant le theatre ~a~Paris sous Louis xTv" (1659-1715) Paris : Droz, 1934. Moliere, Jean Baptiste Poquelin. OEuvres completes 3 vols, Paris: Garnier-Flammarion 1965 Mongredien, Georges. La Vie quotidienne sous Louis XIV Paris: Hachette, 1948. Miiller, Franz. "Dancourts 'Prologue des Trois Cousines': Probleme der Moliere-Imitatio in der Komodie der Friihaufklarung Archiv fur das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen 196, No. 2-3 (November 1959), 113-44. Petit de Julleville, Louis. Histoire de l a langue et de la litterature francaise des origines a 1900 Paris: Colin, 1898. IV. ? Pitou, Spire. "Dancourt 's Regency Plays." Publications of the Modern Language Association 86 (1971), 90-99. "Moliere, Dancourt, and Valentin." Modern Language Quarterly 23, No. 2 (June 1962), 115-19. "Observations on Dancourt's L Eclipse '. Modern Lan guage Q ua rterly 22, (June 1961), 149-52. Pomeau, Rene. L'Age classigue III (1680-1720 ). Paris: Arthaud, 1971. Poulet, Georges. Etudes sur le temps humai n. Paris: Plon, 1949. Ranum, Orest. P aris in the Age of Absolutism New York: Wiley, 19 68~ Rothkrug, Lionel. Oppos ition to Louis XIV Princeton: Princeton University, 1965. Saint-Germain, Jacques. La Vie quotidienne en France a la fin du gran d siecle Paris: Hachette, 1965. Scherer, Jacques. La Dr amaturgie classigue en France Paris: Nizet, 1966.

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237 Sedgewick, Garnett. On Irony, E specially in Drama Toronto: University of Toronto, 1948. Sokalski, Alexander. "Dancourt injurie : episode inconnu." Revue de la Societe d'histoire du theatre 28dme anne"e, No. 3 ( juillet-septembre 1976), 220-28. "The Dramatic Art of Dancourt and the Metaphor of Pretense." Diss. Yale, 1970. Starr, Wilmorth. "Florent-Carton Dancourt (1661-1725) : His Life and Dramatic Works." Diss. Johns Hopkins, 1937. Teramond, Guy de. "Le Malade imaginaire : La Maison de campagne." Confe rences de 1 Odeon 2eme serie (1916-17). Paris: Hachette, 1918, 104-30. Tilley, Arthur. The Decline of the Age of Louis XIV, or French Literature 1687-171 5. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1968. Trocone, Giedra. "Dancourt's Le Chevalier a la mode': A Critical Edition and a Commentary on the Play. Diss. St. John's, 1969. Turnell, Martin. The Novel in France New York: Random, 1951. Vaugelas, Claude. Remarques sur la langue francoise 1647; rpt. Paris: Droz, 19~T4~ ? Voltaire, Arouet de. Le Siecle de Louis XIV Berlin: Weidmannsche 1878. Watts, George. "Was Dancourt a Plagiarist?" MLN 49, No. 1 (January 1926), 34-35. Wedgwood, Cicely. Riche lieu and the French Monarchy New York: Collier, 19 62. Wogue, Jules. La Comedie au XVIIe et XVIIIe siecle Paris: Paulin, 1905.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Carolyn Diane Herrington was born in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1949. She was graduated from Heidelberg American High School in 1967. She attended the University of Florida and received her Bachelor of Arts in English in 1971. During her junior year she studied at the Universite de Dijon in France. In 1973, she received her Master of Arts in French Literature from the University of Florida. Her thesis was entitled "Mother-Son Incest and the Bienseances : A Conflict in Seventeenth-Century French Tragedy." She now teaches French and Humanities at Richland College in Dallas, Texas. 238

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I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Claude K. Abraham, Chairman Professor of French I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. / y X // Douglas A. Bonneville Professor of French I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. /? i iA1 •, / . £ -r ^j^p-f^z^— ^ Aubrey L. Williams ~ Professor of English This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures in the College of Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate Council, and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. August 1977 Dean, Graduate School

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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 3 1262 08666 325 8