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absurdity, to a feeling of respect. More remarkably still is Molière's portrayal of the eminence of the human spirit in the case of Tartufe. Here it is vice in its meanest and most repulsive forms which has become endowed with an awful grandeur. Tartufe, the hypocrite, the swindler, the seducer of his benefactor's wife, looms out on us with the kind of horrible greatness that Milton's Satan might have had if he had come to live with a bourgeois family in seventeenthcentury France.
Molière's genius was many-sided; he was a master not only of the smile, but of the laugh. He is the gayest of writers, and his farces, in their wild hilarity, their contagious absurdity, are perfect models of what a farce should be. He has made these light, frivolous, happy things as eternal as the severest and the weightiest works of man. He has filled them with a wonderful irresponsible wisdom, condensing into single phrases the ridiculousness of generations:-“Nous avons changé tout cela”-“Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère?”_"Vous êtes orfèvre, Monsieur
So effectually has he contrived to embalm in the spice of his humour even the momentary affectations of his own time that they have come down to us as fresh as when
they first appeared, and the Précieuses Ridicules—a skit upon the manners and modes of speech affected by the fops of 1650-still raises to-day our inextinguishable laughter. This is the obvious side of Molière; and it is hardly in need of emphasis.
It is the more remote quality of his mindhis brooding melancholy, shot through with bitterness and doubt-that may at first sight escape the notice of the reader, and that will repay the deepest attention. His greatest works come near to tragedy. Le Tartufe, in spite of its patched-up happy ending, leaves an impression of horror upon the mind. Don Juan seems to inculcate a lesson of fatalistic scepticism. In this extraordinary play-of all Molière's works, the farthest removed from the classical ideal—the conventional rules of religion and morality are exposed to a withering scorn; Don Juan, the very embodiment of the arrogance of intellect, and his servant Sganarelle, the futile and superstitious supporter of decency and law, come before us as the only alternatives for our choice; the antithesis is never resolved; and, though in the end the cynic is destroyed by a coup de théâtre, the fool in all his foolishness still confronts us when the curtain falls.
Don Juan—so enigmatic in its meaning and so loose in its structure-might almost be the work of some writer of the late nineteenth century; but Le Misanthrope-at once so harmonious and so brilliant, so lucid and so profound—could only have been produced in the age of Louis XIV. Here, in all probability, Molière's genius reached its height. The play shows us a small group of ladies and gentlemen, in the midst of which one manAlceste--stands out pre-eminent for the intensity of his feelings and the honesty of his
houghts. He is in love with Célimène, a brilliant and fascinating woman of the world; and the subject of the play is his disillusionment. The plot is of the slightest; the incidents are very few. With marvellous art Molière brings on the inevitable disaster. Célimène will not give up the world for the sake of Alceste; and he will take her on no other terms. And that is all. Yet, when the play ends, how much has been revealed to us! The figure of Alceste has been often taken as a piece of self-portraiture; and indeed it is difficult not to believe that some at any rate of Molière's own characteristics have gone to the making of this subtle and sympathetic creation. The essence of Alceste is not his misanthropy (the title of the play is somewhat
And. English Toste & French Drama in The Clamust
French Piete, a nine studies in the Sealer Meuch Perts din folul... THE AGE OF LOUIS XIV Buildiga M.21-43
tonian Sustále 1907- 313.
Englishmen have always loved Molière. It
of fashion with full-bottomed wigs and never wrote a line of true poetry. Yet in France Racine has been the object of almost universal admiration; his plays still hold the stage and draw forth the talents of the greatest actors; and there can be no doubt that it is the name of Racine that would first rise to the lips of an educated Frenchman if he were asked to select the one consummate master from among
all the writers of his race. Now in literature, no less than in politics, you cannot indict a whole nation. Some justice, some meaning, France must have when she declares with one voice that Racine is not only one of the greatest of dramatists, but also one of the greatest of poets; and it behoves an Englishman, before he condemns or despises a foreign writer, to practise some humility and do his best to understand the point of view from which that writer is regarded by his own compatriots. No doubt, in the case of Racine, this is a particularly difficult matter. There are genuine national antipathies to be got over-real differences in habits of thought and of taste. But this very difficulty, when it is once surmounted, will make the gain the greater. For it will be a gain, not only in the appreciation of one additional artist, but in the appreciation of a new kind of artist;