Many of the themes that are present in other plays throughout the 17th century can be found in this text : passion and its consequences, clemency, vengeance, and the role of the king. However, rather than looking at its content, I'd like to take this time to examine the development of plot structure at this moment in theatre history. This play is a long ways from the renaissance tragedies who completely eschewed plot in favor of a emotional poetry, but it has not reached the clean-cut form that will be perfected in Racine's plays. The neoclassical rules were developed as a response to these plays of the first half of the century, with their meandering plots, undeveloped characters, and sometimes bizarre resolutions. Venceslas is a transitional text, where the plot have been streamlined but still lacks the rigid structure that characterize later dramas. The first three acts are purely exposition, and what most would assume to be the climax based on its position, the death of Alexandre, the younger brother, truly should be the inciting incident which sets the play in motion. The climax of the clemency of the king is undercut by its lack of time to develop. The most moving parts of this play are the king's lamentations over his duties as a king and his duties as a father. I was truly moved by the king's plight, which made its lack of development all the more disappointing. This play has a good story, but its plot structure renders it ineffective, demonstrating the need for the neoclassical rules to provide that structure.
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M.A. French Literature Florida State University