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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Rostand, Edmond

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ROSTAND, EDMOND (1869–), French dramatist, was born on the 1st of April 1869, the son of Joseph Eugene Herbert Rostand (b. 1843), a prominent journalist and economist of Marseilles. His first play, a burlesque, Les romanesques, was produced on the 21st of May 1894 at the Théâtre Français. He took the motive of his second piece, La Princesse lointaine (Théâtre de la Renaissance, 5th April 1895), from the story of the troubadour Rudel and the Lady of Tripoli. The part of Mélissande was created by Sarah Bernhardt, who also was the original Photine of La Samaritaine (Théâtre de la Renaissance, 14th April 1897), a Biblical drama in three scenes taken from the gospel story of the woman of Samaria. The production of his “ heroic comedy ” of Cyrano de Bergerac (28th December 1897, Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin), with Coquelin in the title-rôle, was a triumph. No such enthusiasm for a drama in verse had been known since the days of Hugo's Hernani. The play was quickly translated into English, German, Russian and other European languages. For his hero he had drawn on French 17th-century history; in L'Aiglon he chose a subject from Napoleonic legend, suggested probably by Henri Welschinger's Roi de Rome, 1811–32 (1897), which contained much new information about the unhappy life of the duke of Reichstadt, son of Napoleon I. and Marie Louise, under the surveillance of Metternich at the palace of Schonbrunn. L'Aiglon, in six acts and in verse, was produced (15th March 1900) by Sarah Bernhardt at her own theatre, she herself undertaking the part of the duke of Reichstadt. In 1902 Rostand was elected to the French Academy. His Chantecler, produced in February 1910, was awaited with an interest (enhanced by considerable delay in the production) hardly equalled by the enthusiasm of its reception. Lucien Guitry was in the title-rôle and Mme. Simone played the part of the pheasant, the play being a fantasy of bird and animal life, and the characters denizens of the farmyard and the woods. Rostand's wife, née Rosemonde Étienette Gérard, published in 1890 Les Pipeaux, a volume of verse crowned by the Academy.

See a notice by Henry James in vol. 84, pp. 477 seq. of the Cornhill Magazine.