Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/32

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tuffe denounced the eternal enemy, declaring that the struggle ought to continue, and that it was more necessary at present than ever before." As one critic naïvely expressed it: "The man in black is an object of horror to the French public. We never tire of denouncing and hating him."[1] Such considerations are, of course, foreign to art, and I have cause for believing that if Tartuffe had been left to stand or fall on its own merits, it would have proved much less successful. In spite of its savor and its vigorous power, the form of the play is not sufficiently free; it smacks of its century; long speeches abound, and a vast amount of topical religious discussion, which is quite lost on the people. They despise religious hypocrisy, of course, but I doubt whether they understand it, especially under the disguise it assumed in the days of Les Provinciales.

But let us not quibble over the worth of Molière: he has contributed generously. From one or the other aspects of his comic genius he has succeeded in pleasing all classes for two centuries, and he often resembles them by reason of his fraternal joyousness. This is a rare phenomenon, practically unique on our stage. Molière's style is not rare in France, but no matter how great the talent of the successors of that great man, not one of them possessed his opulent mixture of opposed temperaments; he had two natures, as it were, one that analyzed life with ironic finesse, another that reveled gaily in it. Ob-

  1. In Le Temps, Nov. 24, 1902.