Page:The thirty-six dramatic situations (1921).djvu/10

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THIRTY-SIX DRAMATIC SITUATIONS

fruitful conversations, at the very time when he was completing "Faust," that supreme combination of contrasting elements.

In France, Gérard de Nerval alone had grasped and presented briefly the ensemble of all dramatic production, in an article upon Soumet's "Jane Grey," in "L'Artiste,"—written, unfortunately, with what dandyism of style! Having early desired to know the exact number of actions possible to the theater, he found, he tells us, twenty-four. His basis, however, is far from satisfactory. Falling back upon the outworn classification of the seven capital sins, he finds himself obliged at the outset to eliminate two of them, gluttony and sloth, and very nearly a third, lust (this would be Don Juan, perhaps). It is not apparent what manner of tragic energy has ever been furnished by avarice, and the divergence between pride (presumably the spirit of tyranny) and danger, does not promise well for the contexture of drama, the manifestations of the latter being too easily confounded with those of envy. Furthermore, murder or homicide, which he indicates as a factor for obtaining several new situations, by uniting it in turn with each of the others, cannot be accepted as such, since it is but an accident common to all of them, possible in all, and one most frequently produced by all. And finally, the sole title mentioned by Nerval, "Rivalry of Queen and Subject," corresponds, it will be observed, only to a sub-class of one, not of his twenty-four, but of Gozzi's Thirty-six Situations.

Since Nerval, no one has treated, in Gozzi's genuinely technical manner, of the secrets of invention, unless it be relevant to mention in this connection Sarcey's celebrated theory of the "scene-á-faire," a theory in general but ill comprehended by an age which dreads didacticism,—that is to say, dreads any serious reflection upon art; some intimate notes of Dumas fils which were published against his wishes, if my youthful memories are correct, in the "Temps" some years ago, and which set forth that double plot of Corneille and Racine, a heroine disputed by two heroes, and a hero disputed by two