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Hernani


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Théophile Gautier (1811—1872)

 

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A: Victor Hugo Pf: 1830, Paris Pb: 1830 Tr: 1830 G: Trag. in 5 acts; French alexandrines S: Madrid and Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen), 1519 C: 21m, 3f, extrasHernani, his father murdered and dispossessed of his lands, has become a bandit leader, in love with the beautiful Doña Sol, who is due to marry her elderly guardian Ruy Gomez. She is also being courted by Don Carlos (Charles I of Spain). Hernani, although sworn to vengeance against the King, is sufficiently moved by Carlos's willingness to help him escape from Ruy Gomez that he spares the King's life. However, when he is later captured by Gomez, Gomez refuses to hand over Hernani, who begs to be allowed time to avenge himself on the King and swears that he will then surrender himself to death at Gomez's hands. In Aix-la-Chapelle Carlos is crowned Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and in his hour of triumph, pardons all his enemies, reinstating Hernani as Duke of Aragon and giving him Doña Sol's hand in marriage. Hernani and Doña Sol marry, but Gomez appears at the wedding demanding that Hernani fulfil his promise. He does so by stabbing himself and his bride. The despairing Ruy Gomez takes his own life.

A: Victor Hugo Pf: 1830, Paris Pb: 1830 Tr: 1830 G: Trag. in 5 acts; French alexandrines S: Madrid and Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen), 1519 C: 21m, 3f, extras

In Hernani the 28-year-old Victor Hugo was trying to break free from the constraints of French neo-classicism. He removed the action from the rarefied atmosphere of a palace antechamber and sought to imbue his piece with historical colour, even setting Act 4 improbably in Charlemagne's tomb. When Hernani came on stage and shook raindrops from his cloak, this injection of reality into the hermetically sealed world of French tragedy provoked a riot in the theatre. This powerful if melodramatic story of doomed lovers set a pattern for Romantic tragedy and was exploited by Verdi in his opera Ernani (1844).

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Victor Hugo (1802—1885) French poet, novelist, and dramatist


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