III Espaces littéraires : théâtre, narration, poésie
Joseph Harris Cultural/Common Places: The Unity of Place and the Struggle over Spectatorship It has long been something of a critical commonplace that the rise of ‘the rules’ in early-seventeenth-century French theatre marked the triumph of the cultural elite over the unruly tastes of the theatregoing masses. Certainly, the main advocates of dramatic regularity – to whom I shall refer here as the ‘regulars’ – do little to dispel such an impression. Chapelain, La Mesnardière, and later d’Aubignac all show at times quite a haughty dis- taste for the common people, alongside a professed desire to transform the theatre into a site of high culture. Chapelain, for example, ends his foundational – if unpublished – ‘Lettre sur la règle des vingt-quatre heures’ (c. 1630) by insisting that regularity and vraisemblance are the cornerstones of dramatic success, and pours scorn on those dramatists who simply indulge the tastes of the lowest common denominator: ‘[je] ne conseillerai jamais à mon ami de se faire Tabarin plutôt que Roscius, pour complaire aux idiots et à cette Racaille qui passe en apparence pour le vrai peuple et qui n’est en ef fet que sa lie et son rebut’.1 If dramatic irregularity could of fer any pleasure at all, he insists, ‘ce serait un plaisir extrêmement rustique et du tout incapable de toucher les esprits nés à la politesse et à la civilité’ (p. 233). An appreciation of dramatic regularity, then, is a sign of cultural, urban sophistication; orderliness is necessary if the theatre is to become...
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