This clear and cogent study is in a certain sense written backwards. Thus, Fabien Cavaillé opens with an overview of the French and Italian debates surrounding the representation of violence on the early modern stage, both before and after Hardy. He then moves on to elaborate a poetics of violence in Hardy’s theatre, analyse the dramatist’s subsequent transition to the pathétique, and discuss his role as a purveyor of civic values. It is only then, ‘au terme de ce livre’ (p. 379), that he provides a portrait of the author as a ‘poète professionnel’, while mention of his relations with family, protectors, and troupes is relegated to appendices. This structure is carefully considered and consciously chosen (see p. 412), but only partially pays off. The critical debates are clearly and carefully presented, but they are succeeded by passages of (beautifully written) close textual analysis that are still somewhat hard on those without an exhaustive knowledge of Hardy’s œuvre. Moreover, this structure demands a certain amount of prior knowledge on the part of the reader. Thus, allusion is made in the earlier sections to matters, particularly the professional theatrical context, that are elucidated only at the end of the book and then only partially. What is more, certain contentious issues with regard to early theatre design (for example, the supposed absence of a proscenium arch) are presented as if self-evident. In my view, this book falls somewhat between two stools. Gilles Declercq, in his Preface, hails it as being ‘dans l’esprit des études théâtrales’ (p. 11). Yet Cavaillé’s book is, for all that, primarily a work of (excellent) textual criticism. It also presents something of a missed opportunity, since Cavaillé recognizes the extent to which recent scholarship, and that of Alan Howe, in particular, has helped revise our views of the professional stage in this period and those who worked for it, and yet such matters are only mentioned in passing. In his Conclusion, Cavaillé refers to the notion of Hardy as a ‘primitif’ (p. 413), going before but contributing nothing to the classical drama that would emerge just a few years later. This study performs, therefore, the major and worthwhile function of sweeping away the widely accepted view of Hardy as a mere purveyor of blood and gore, to demonstrate how, the subject matter of many of his tragedies notwithstanding, he was a highly complex and not a little enigmatic author, who fully reflected and responded to the values of the emerging civic society to which he belonged. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
French Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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