Page:Rolland - People's Theater.djvu/85

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ished on Shakespeare and the Germans, disciple of Diderot and "monkey of Jean-Jacques," as he was called, brought together these various theories, and, in formal terms set forth in his Nouvel essai sur l'Art dramatique (1773) and the Nouvel examen de la Tragédie française (1778), demanded the establishment of a people's theater, inspired by and intended for the people. He reminded his readers of the mysteries of the Middle Age; and, combining the esthetic theories of Diderot and the Shakespearians with the moral ideals of Rousseau, he asked for a "theater as broad as the universe," which should also be "a moral spectacle"; for the first duty of the dramatic poet, he says, "is to mould the morals and manners of the citizens." And, practising what he preached, he wrote historical, political, and social plays: Jean Hennuyer, évêque de Lisieux, which introduced the figure of an apostle of tolerance at the time of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew; La Mort de Louis XI, roi de France; La Destruction de la Ligue; and Philippe II, roi d'Espagne (1785).

After Mercier, other French writers have taken up the idea of a national theater, that is, a theater for the whole nation. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, in his Treizième Étude de la Nature conjures up an ideal French Shakespeare who should give to the assembled people the great scenes of the Patrie, and suggests the subject of Jeanne d'Arc. After having traced in a rapid and declamatory style the scene of Jeanne at the stake, he says: