Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/35

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A great to-do has been made over the success of certain productions; for example, Andromaque at Ba-ta-clan. This is what led M. Bernheim and his friends to declare that classic tragedy was a popular form. Let us inquire a little more closely.

"The experiment tried out at Ba-ta-clan," writes M. Larroumet, a champion of M. Bernheim, "was a brilliant success. Andromaque aroused unheard-of enthusiasm. The three thousand spectators lost not a single detail of the action, not a word of the dialogue. They caught and appreciated the elegance of Racine, his choice of words, his use of general terms, his delicate shades—everything."[1]

For my part I cannot imagine an "audience of three thousand" proletarians appreciating the "choice of words" and the "delicate shades" of Racine, like so many professors of rhetoric. He who wishes to prove too much, proves nothing. Again let us look into the matter and see under what conditions the play was produced. This time the play was not presented to the public by an anticlerical journalist, but a counsel of the assizes. Why a counsel? The critic of Le Temps tells us:

"Maître Félix Decori, the celebrated counsel, ought by reason of his position to be able to obtain a clear view of the art of Racine. There is not a theme in Racine's plays which does not appear on some page of the Gazette des Tribunaux. And the theme of Andromaque in particular is no other than a crime of passion. The adventure of Orestes and

  1. In Le Temps, Oct. 27, 1902.