Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/40

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and wearied you with his endless chatter. But the people like to be led. Never do they seem ill at ease at a play of Corneille's; never, as at a tragedy of Racine's, do they remain strangers to what is happening on the stage, and merely witness the exterior of interior dramas. Corneille throws them at once into the midst of the action. He realizes that the first law for a great dramatist is to speak for everyone. The robust Norman belonged temperamentally in more ways than one to the people: his love of talk, his sanguinary violence, his sudden transports of anger, his brusque reversals of feeling, his instinctive savagery so thinly veiled behind the expression of general ideas—Horatius, for instance, stabbing his sister in the name of reason.[1] His full-length characters, the victims of sudden occurrences transforming them from top to toe, are essentially proletarian. The complete change that takes place in the souls of Cinna, Émilia, Augustus, is almost inexplicable to the bourgeois mind, which is slow and reflective; but quite natural to passionate unsophisticated souls.[2]

And yet not one play of Corneille is altogether

  1. "C’est trop, ma patience à la raison fait place. (Horatius kills Camilla.)"
  2. Certain passages in Corneille show a succession of passions as rapid and unexpected as the mimicry of a semi-barbarous Japanese actor:

    "Ma haine va mourir, que jai crue immortelle;
    Elle est morte, et ce cœur devient sujet fidelle;
    En prenant desormais cette haine en horreur,
    L’ardeur de vous servir succède à sa fureur."