Troubling tragedies; Staging Violence in Early Modern France

Meere, Michael W., Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia
Lyons, John, Department of French Language and Literatures, University of Virginia
McKinley, Mary, Department of French Language and Literatures, University of Virginia
Kinney, Clare, Department of English, University of Virginia
Weber, Alison, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

This project argues that pre-Comelian tragedy provides fertile territory to
investigate the complex relationships between the representation of physical violence and moral instruction. With evidence to support the claim that tragedies were performed (or were intended to be performed), I examine the staging of physical violence like duels, battles, murders, and torture in the relatively under-studied theater of the French Renaissance and early seventeenth century.

I am primarily interested in staged violence as a dramaturgical practice and, from there, in the relationship between watching mimetic violence and the moral messages that tragedy attempts to relate to the audience. First; I examine how and what types of violence take place on stage and the characters' reactions to witnessing the violent act(s). Second, I introduce philosophical material - classical, medieval, and early modem - and other literary analogues and sources, elucidating the relationships between moralist thoughts on violence, the ethical problems and dilemmas that arose during political, social, judicial, and religious conflicts, and the ways French tragedy manifested or challenged these issues.

A secondary yet crucial aspect of the study is to revisit literary history in order to locate the roles of violence in French tragedy. By examining the literary and historical contexts in which playwrights created their tragedies, we can grasp the functions of violence within them more easily. I show that while there may have been a dominant set of dramaturgical precepts against the staging of physical violence there are notable exceptions to the dominant practices.

Finally, the project shows that discourse on ethics and the functionalities of violence sometimes coincide with while at other times contradict what playwrights put into verse. I highlight these inconsistencies to demonstrate that physical violence is a shifting signifier that attains its value depending on the contexts and the ways in which violence takes place.

The study is divided into five chapters on humanist, Biblical, polemical, Catholic hagiographical, and secular tragedies, and follows a more or less chronological order. Playwrights include, but are not limited to, Jean de La Peruse, Louis des Masures, Simon Belyard, Pierre Troterel, and Alexandre Hardy.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
theatre, French, drama, staged violence, seventeenth century, Renaissance

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2015-09-17 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:37:58.

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: