Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/39

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and so frank. And they are true not only of Athalie, but of the great majority of our classic masterpieces. The fact that Racine is not popular proves nothing against the people, nor against Racine. They belong to two different worlds, and there is no reason for bringing them together. The great art of Racine is serenely impersonal; at the base of it, seen as through limpid water, appear human souls and emotions—especially weak souls and feminine emotions. The author does not take sides; he seems scarcely to care about the events which are to ruin his heroes; he does nothing for them; he merely allows them passive submission in the face of a superior and dominating power. He is not The Master whose thought the crowd, especially the French crowd, loves to feel dominating them; nor does his gospel particularly move them. The plays of Racine are the work of a dilettante of genius, a disciple of art for art's sake, who is in no wise interested in action, and who in consequence can exert no influence—unless it be upon artists like himself, the aristocracy, which are always limited.

With Corneille it is different. Here we are in the presence of a power addressing itself directly to the will, a man speaking to men, with a great sweep of action which continuously binds the public to what transpires on the stage. Certain delicate souls may perhaps be shocked at the insistence shown by the man who talks straight into your face, and who will not stop until he has seized, held,