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Javier del Prado Biezma

Conquering, shouting, thinking: Dumas, Hugo, Vigny. Three attitudes towards the Battle of Hernani URL:

The speaker will try to address the topic of French romantic theatre through a triple perspective: in the first place, and due to what he unavoidably represents, the problematic figure of Victor Hugo, as the historical center and apparent winner of this adventure. Indeed,  thinking in French theatre of the first half of the 19th century, means thinking in Hernani (and the pitched battle that followed its representation) and thinking in the famous Cromwell Preface, a preface, most probably improvised, for an impossible work, due to its excess. In summary, it means thinking about Victor Hugo.

Nevertheless, if one goes back to historical data, we could see how the real winner of romantic theatre (in the way "winner" is currently understood) is, regardless of how surprising it may seem, Alexandre Dumas senior, the author of the Three Musketeers himself, and author of many other historical or adventure novels (depending on the view).

In the other side, if we consider the theoretical texts, like manifests or the prefaces that accompanied the publications or representations of these works, we can observe (always from a critical point of view, the point of view that could have been imposed by the New Critic in Europe along the second half of the 20th century) that the Cromwell Preface is not unique, it is not accepted by all, and does not defend the perspective of writing that could be considered most modern; and that regardless the symbolical elements that the work of the author contains, it is a "slave" text of the most realistic historicism, based on a deterministic notion of the artistic and literary creation.

Finally, it draws attention the fact that the works that better have survived the pass of time, are not the ones by Alexandre Dumas (the popular and economical winner), nor the ones of Victor Hugo (the introducer, in the practice, of Shakespeare's texts in France, and a good reasoner of the literary act), but certain secret works of an author who does not participate directly in the romantic battle, Alfred Musset, or the the discrete work in its perfection, separated from the historical drama of Vigny himself: I am referring to Chatterton.

All these circumstances introduce in the space of the French romantic theatre a sort of melodramatic pseudo-historicist mock, similar to the comedy in the Italian art, in which after the turmoil, almost no one ends up being who they were.

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