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A History of French Literature by Edward Dowden

He had gallicised his own name Giunti


Comedy

in the sixteenth century, dating from Jodelle's _Eugene_, is either a development of the mediaeval farce, indicated in point of form by the retention of octosyllabic verse, or an importation from the drama of Italy. Certain plays of Aristophanes, of Terence, of Plautus were translated; but, in truth, classical models had little influence. Grevin, while professing originality, really follows the traditions of the farce. Jean de La Taille, in his prose comedy _Les Corrivaux_, prepared the way for the easy and natural dialogue of the comic stage. The most remarkable group of sixteenth-century comedies are those translated in prose from the Italian, with such obvious adaptations as might suit them to French readers, by PIERRE DE LARIVEY (1540 to after 1611). Of the family of the Giunti, he had gallicised his own name (_Giunti_, i.e. _Arrives_); and the originality of his plays is of a like kind with that of his name; they served at least to establish an Italian tradition for comedy, which was not without an influence in the seventeenth century; they served to advance the art of dialogue. If any comedy of the period stands out as superior to its fellows, it is _Les Contents_ (1584), by Odet de Turnebe, a free imitation of Italian models united with something imported from the Spanish _Celestina_. Its intrigue is an Italian imbroglio; but there are lively and natural scenes, such as can but rarely be found among the predecessors of Moliere. In general the comedy of the sixteenth century
is wildly confused in plot, conventional in its types of character, and too often as grossly indecent as the elder farces. Before the century closed, the pastoral drama had been discovered, and received influences from both Italy and Spain; the soil was being prepared for that delicate flower of poetry, but as yet its nurture was little understood, nor indeed can it be said to have ever taken kindly to the climate of France.

While on the one hand the tendencies of the Pleiade may be described as exotic, going forth, as they did, to capture the gifts of classical and Italian literature, on the other hand they pleaded strenuously that thus only could French literature attain its highest possibilities. In the scholarship of the time, side by side with the humanism which revived and restored the culture of Greece and Rome, was another humanism which was essentially national. The historical origins of France were studied for the first time with something of a critical spirit by CLAUDE FAUCHET in his _Antiquites Gauloises et Francoises_ (1579-1601). His _Recueil de l'Origine de la Langue et Poesie Francoise_, in spite of its errors, was an effort towards French philology; and in calling attention to the trouveres and their works, Fauchet may be considered a remote master of the school of modern literary research. ESTIENNE PASQUIER (1529-1615), the jurist who maintained in a famous action the cause of the University against the Jesuits, in his _Recherches de la France_ treated with learning and vigour various important points in French history--civil and ecclesiastical--language, literary history, and the foundation of universities. HENRI ESTIENNE (1531-98), who entered to the full into the intoxication of classical humanism, was patriotic in his reverence for his native tongue. In a trilogy of little treatises (1565-79), written with much spirit, he maintained that of modern languages the French has the nearest affinity to the Greek, attempted to establish its superiority to Italian, and much more to Spanish, and mocked the contemporary fashion of Italianised French.


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