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Theatrical Illusion


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AT: The Illusion A: Pierre Corneille Pf: 1635–6, Paris Pb: 1639 Tr: 1975 G: Com. in 5 acts; French alexandrines S: Alcandre's grotto, early 17th c. C: 10m, 2f, extrasPridamant, desperate to discover the whereabouts of his missing son Clindor, seeks help from the magician Alcandre, who conjures scenes of Clindor's adventures. After leaving home, he became the servant of the braggart soldier Matamore, who is wooing the beautiful young Isabelle. Adraste also pays court to Isabelle, but she secretly returns Clindor's love. To rid himself of his rival, Adraste and a group of brigands attack Clindor, who manages to fight them off, killing Adraste in the set-to. Although it was in self-defence, the slaying of a bourgeois by a seeming servant is a serious matter, and Clindor finds himself confined to a miserable prison. Fortunately, Isabelle's maidservant Lyse, who is attracted to young Clindor, bribes the jailer to free him. Clindor and Isabelle run away, marry, and become prosperous. When Clindor has an affair with the wife of his benefactor Prince Florilame, he is ambushed and killed. Pridamant is overwhelmed at seeing his son's death, but grief gives way to anger when he discovers that Clindor and the other characters are merely actors in a tragedy, a calling unfit for his son. However, Alcandre persuades Pridamant of the value of theatre and of the illusions it creates.

AT: The Illusion A: Pierre Corneille Pf: 1635–6, Paris Pb: 1639 Tr: 1975 G: Com. in 5 acts; French alexandrines S: Alcandre's grotto, early 17th c. C: 10m, 2f, extras

This is the most accomplished French comedy before Molière and was written before the unities of time and place exerted their stranglehold over French drama. In its indulgent depiction of melodramatic incident, Corneille involves the audience, like Pridamant, in a charming illusion, and by playing with levels of appearance and reality, argues that the theatre provides worthwhile moral entertainment.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Pierre Corneille (1606—1684) French dramatist


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