Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/38

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our classic tragedies contain the necessary elements of melodrama, with the sympathetic character in danger, the sympathetic character triumphing in the end, virtue rewarded and vice punished. I have seen Phèdre and Athalie produced before popular audiences, and received respectfully and coldly. In Phèdre the audience cared only for the innocent victim, Hippolytus. They were not truly aroused until the discussion scene between Hippolytus and Theseus, in the fourth act, and Théramène's speech. Athalie was another matter. The only effect produced was of wonder. The popular audience was astonished, and again astonished, straight up to the end. Quite natural. What did the popular public do? What would you have them do? They looked for the sympathetic character, and found it not, as Racine has neglected or scorned to introduce one. They said to themselves: 'I see: Joad is an old rascal, but clever; Athalie is an old harradan; Abner is a fool pure and simple. But with whom may I sympathize? When is he coming on? I am waiting for him to stir me!' And the popular public waited for him to the end of the last act; they cared not a jot about Athalie's murder, Joad's triumph, or Joas' coronation. And neither did I, because I had become one of the people, and I gradually concluded: 'This play is admirable, but admirable and interesting are two different things; as regards dramatic interest, the people are right; it is not an interesting play!'"

I call your attention to these last lines, so lucid