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A History of Literary Criticism in the Renaissance

De Laudun follows the Italian scholars


In

the _Art Poetique francois_ of Pierre de Laudun, Sieur d'Aigaliers, published in 1598, these distinctions reappear in a more or less mutilated form. In the fifth and last book of this treatise, De Laudun follows the Italian scholars, especially Scaliger and Viperano. He does not differ essentially from Scaliger in the definition of tragedy, in the division into acts and the place of the chorus, in the discussion of the characters and subjects of tragedy, and in the distinction between tragedy and comedy.[364] His conception of tragedy is in keeping with the usual Senecan ideal; it should be adorned by frequent _sentences_, allegories, similitudes, and other ornaments of poetry. The more cruel and sanguinary the tragic action is, the more excellent it will be; but at the same time, much that makes the action cruel is to be enacted only behind the stage. Like Pelletier, he objects to the introduction of all allegorical and invented characters, or even gods and goddesses, on the ground that these are not actual beings, and hence are out of keeping with the theme of tragedy, which must be real and historical. De Laudun has also something to say concerning the introduction of ghosts in the tragic action; and his discussion is peculiarly interesting when we remember that it was almost at this very time, in England, that the ghost played so important a part in the Shakespearian drama. "If the ghosts appear before the action begins," says De Laudun, "they are permissible; but if they
appear during the course of the action, and speak to the actors themselves, they are entirely faulty and reprehensible." De Laudun borrowed from Scaliger the scheme of the ideal tragedy: "The first act contains the complaints; the second, the suspicions; the third, the counsels; the fourth, the menaces and preparations; the fifth, the fulfilment and effusion of blood."[365] But despite his subservience to Scaliger, he is not afraid to express his independence of the ancients. We are not, he says, entirely bound to their laws, especially in the number of actors on the stage, which according to classic usage never exceeded three; for nowadays, notwithstanding the counsels of Aristotle and Horace, an audience has not the patience to be satisfied with only two or three persons at one time.

The history of the dramatic unities in France during the sixteenth century demands some attention. That they had considerable effect on the actual practice of dramatic composition from the very advent of the Pleiade is quite obvious; for in the first scene of the first French tragedy, the _Cleopatre_ of Jodelle (1552), there is an allusion to the unity of time, which Corneille was afterward to call the _regle des regles_:--

"Avant que ce soleil, qui vient ores de naitre, Ayant trace son jour chez sa tante se plonge, Cleopatre mourra!"

In 1553 Mellin de Saint-Gelais translated Trissino's _Sofonisba_ into French, and the influence of the Italian drama became fixed in France. But the first distinct formulation of the unities is to be found in Jean de la Taille's _Art de Tragedie_ (1572). His statement of the unity is explicit, "Il faut toujours representer l'histoire ou le jeu en un meme jour, en un meme temps, et en un meme lieu."[366] Jean de la Taille was indebted for this to Castelvetro, who two years before had stated them thus, "La mutatione tragica non puo tirar con esso seco se non una giornata e un luogo."[367] The unity of time was adopted by Ronsard about this same time in the following words:--

"Tragedy and comedy are circumscribed and limited to a short space of time, that is, to one whole day. The most excellent masters of this craft commence their works from one midnight to another, and not from sunrise to sunset, in order to have greater compass and length of time. On the other hand, the heroic poem, which is entirely of a martial character (_tout guerrier_), comprehends only the actions of one whole year."[368]


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