This play includes a prologue in which the sun and the dramatic muse discuss the glory of Louis the 14th's reign, who at the time of the performance, would have been around 13 years old, and 8 years into his reign. Two things strike me as interesting about the play, the first being the almost flagrant pandering to the 13 year old king. The play includes sumptuous details of decoration, with each act requiring different scenery. Multiple characters, gods for the most part, fly in from above. The play ends with almost a complete pantheon of Roman gods flying in on suspended thrones to give their blessing to the marriage. In Act III, Perseus flies in on his Pegasus to defeat the sea monster in battle onstage. This is all a sharp contrast from the other types of drama that Corneille would write, that focused on politics, clemency, the role of the monarchy, etc. All topics that wouldn't be as interesting to a thirteen year old boy as a flying sea monster battle. The moral of the story also seems to be that because Perseus is descended from gods, he therefore deserves whatever he wants, which in keeping with the ideas of divine right to rule, would be a desirable moral for the boy king.
The second striking aspect of the play is the amount of liberty that Corneille took in altering the original plot. To our contemporary eyes, changing a classic story for dramatic purposes is quite common, but this choice will contrast with Racine's writing in which he insists on how little of the original plot he changes. The prevailing idea of the neoclassicists (which Corneille often differed opinions with) was that one should take the forms and the concepts of antiquity and render them palatable for a contemporary Catholic audience. Racine would insist that his plays were little more than translations, despite the many changes that he made to the plotlines to accommodate the Catholic faith. All this is to say that this play is unique amongst its contemporaries, and reads more like a contemporary Avengers film than a neoclassical drama.
10/20/2022 09:32:37 am
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M.A. French Literature Florida State University