Melite ou les fausses Lettres
Finally we have arrived at Pierre Corneille and his first play, Melite ou Les Fausses lettres, which is a bit of a misnomer because by my count there is only one false letter. Two men are in love with Melite, but she only loves one. In revenge, the spurned lover sends a false letter from Melite to another man, who falls in love with Melite due to the passion of his letter, ruining both his and Melite's relationships, until it is revealed that the letter was fake and everyone is fine. One thing that I did enjoy about this play however is the strength and depth of the two female character's. Melite does not feel the need to behave in the style of a traditional heroine and she has no problem saying no to her suiters. When her lover asks her for a kiss as proof of her love, she says no, he should trust that her words are enough. Likewise, Cloris, whose lover is the subject of the false letter, when discovering that her lover has abandoned her, rather than despair, she becomes angry. When that lover comes crawling back, she does not embrace him with open arms, but instead spurns him for his disloyalty and mocks him. While there are many issues of gender in this play, as in most plays of the 17th century, I am impressed by the depth of Corneille's female characters.
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M.A. French Literature Florida State University