A: Alfred de Musset Pf: 1896, Paris Pb: 1834 Tr: 1907 G: Drama in 5 acts; French prose S: Florence and Venice, 1537 C: 22m, 4f, extrasAlessandro de' Medici, Duke of Florence, a despotic libertine, is aided in his amorous exploits by his cousin, the unsmiling Lorenzo de' Medici. When the Duke tires of his present mistress, Lorenzo helps to ensnare his own aunt. The Strozzi family plot against the Duke, since they are appalled at the behaviour of the Duke and his followers, especially towards their daughter Louisa. Eventually it becomes clear that Lorenzo has befriended the Duke with the intention of assassinating him, even though he is unconvinced that this will make any real difference. Louisa Strozzi is poisoned, and her brothers swear vengeance. When Filippo, the head of the Strozzi family, refuses to join the conspiracy, Lorenzo acts alone and assassinates Alessandro. Lorenzo goes into hiding in Venice, while Cosimo de' Medici is named as the new Duke. Knowing that to emerge from hiding means almost certain death, Lorenzo, weary of life, goes out on to the Rialto.
A: Alfred de Musset Pf: 1896, Paris Pb: 1834 Tr: 1907 G: Drama in 5 acts; French prose S: Florence and Venice, 1537 C: 22m, 4f, extras
Lorenzaccio is untypical of French theatre, which helps to explain why it took over 60 years to reach the stage, when it was premiered in a shortened version with Sarah Bernhardt in the title role. Written in prose in a multiplicity of short scenes, it introduces characters as much to provide historical colouring as for their significance in the action. This makes the play in some ways closer to Shakespeare than to French neo-classical theatre. Its most modern element is the unheroic nature of Lorenzo; he is no Romantic assassin but someone who feels obliged to attack tyranny even though he acknowledges that this will achieve nothing. His tragedy is not so much his demise but his recognition that he wore ‘vice like a garment, but that it is now stuck to [his] skin’.