Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/49

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preters. It may safely be asserted that at least one of these interpreters played a decisive part not only in the success but in the evolution of the form: the name of Sarah Bernhardt will best characterize this Byzantinized—or Americanized—Neo-Romanticism, rigid, fixed, and without youth; lacking vigor, and surcharged with both genuine and artificial ornament—and withal sad under all its gorgeousness, and tawdry in its color.

Of late, M. Rostand has deliberately revived the Romanticism of Hugo and the elder Dumas, and infused a semblance of new life into it with his southern brio, seasoning it with a little fashionable slang. But this brilliant and acrobatic poet, this gamin of Romanticism, is no more than a comic dramatist masquerading in the cloak of the tragedian. The author of Prince Long-Nose, escorted by his d'Artagnans, the clown Flambeau, called Flambard, the impossible Metternich—a Punch-and- Judy policeman—with all his amusing speeches, his nimble wit, his puns and poetic gasconades, has not yet touched true tragic sentiment except to prove that it is a closed book to him. Instead, he has eloquently flattered the public with the crude jingoism of L'Aiglon and the demi-mondaine piety of La Samaritaine. He has succeeded; and to some people success is the sole criterion. I am sure he can do better work, but he must beware. Success and fortune have estranged him from life, which he neither sees nor hears. His province is the rhetoric of life. I am sorry to have to criticize him, for he is a dis-