Biography of Pierre Corneille (1606-1684)

French dramatist, born June 6, 1606 in Rouen and died in Paris October 1, 1684. Author of a splendid and abundant theatrical production which, in its breadth of thematic and generic records, included comedies, dramas, tragedies, musicals and circumstantial pieces of courtly entertainment, is regarded as one of the three playwrights of the French Theatre of the 17TH century - by Molière (1622-1673) and Racine (1639-1699) - and, without a doubt, as one of the leading figures of the world dramatic literature. Theatre over any other literary or biographical, circumstances Corneille man surprised his contemporaries with a vigorous and independent dramaturgy, alien to the rigidity of the prescriptive use and enriched by an effective rhetoric, a new conception of the scenery, a constant presence of sound and resounding verse and gallant vocabulary, and an accomplished dramatic tension that hold in their taste for violencethe intrigue, suspense and, ultimately, all that keeps alive the interest put by the audience in the action.


Born in a family of lawyers regarded in place of settlement - his father and grandfather were lawyers, while his mother, Marthe le Pesant, was the daughter of a senior government official monarchist-, he/she received from child a careful humanistic education in the school run by the Jesuits in Rouen, city in which, following the family traditionHe studied also higher laws. To 1624 had begun, in fact, that career of lawyer which culminated in 1628, date in which took possession of its public functions in the Palacio de Justice de Rouen, inherited from his father (since the beginning of the century was approved legally purchase these functions and their legitimate transfer to heirs).

Meanwhile, with nearly twenty years of difference between both births, had come to the world his brother Thomas, who would maintain a loving relationship throughout his life, reinforced by the decision of the child of the creative steps laid out by his brother. The strength of these fraternal links is one of the scant data that today are known about the private life of Pierre Corneille, who, unlike the other two great monsters of the French baroque scene, led a quiet and calm, existence ruled by balance, serenity, and discretion.

Although he/she served the aforementioned public office in the judiciary in his hometown until 1650, Corneille never practiced law, because he/she preferred to live comfortably from your paycheck for "official" and surrender to the cultivation of his literary interests. So, at the age of twenty-three, when just had passed one from their slack settlement in the Palacio de Justice de Rouen, he/she premiered his first play, a comedy entitled Melite ou les fausse lettres (Melite or false letters, 1629) which, according to an old local tradition, was represented on the stages of Paris the following year, since the young and Corneille decided surrendered it to the famous actor Mondory when it made landfall in Rouen with the Parisian company of Le Marais, which was first actor, director and founder (the Théâtre du Marais would cede Corneille all his works until 1647). In any case, the work was greeted with satisfaction by the French public, and came to be represented by Floridor - another unique name in the cast of performers of the Théâtre du Marais-after six years in England, when the fame of the young playwright already began to exceed the borders of his native land.

The versatility of Pierre Corneille to attend any generic form of theatrical writing was shown at the premiere of his second work, a tragicomedy called Clitandre ou l'innocence (Clitandro or free innocence, 1631), delivree soon followed a new incursion in the realms of comedy, La veuve ou le traître trahi (the widow or the traitor betrayed1632). The realistic setting of characters and situations in humble corner of the little Paris of his time - which is one of the salient features of its new theatre - was well clear in the Gallerie du Palais ou l'amie rivale (Gallery of the Palacio or rival friend, 1633), a gentle comedy in which Corneille reflected to perfection the habits and human types easy to observe in a street in arcades adjacent to the Palacio of Justice of Paris)which was nothing to that "Gallery of the Palace" to which the title refers), whose profusion of shops made it one of the more colourful, traffic and variegated of the city from the Seine. Identical spatial localization used, after the premiere of the servant (the Lady's company, 1634), in La Place Royale ou l'amoureux extravagant (the Royal Plaza or the extravagant love, 1634), comedy with which left sufficiently accredited this early capacity to reflect, on the scenarios, applications and behaviors characteristic of his contemporaries, an airiness and precision that could well be described as "pre-costumbristas".

With the release of these new works, Pierre Corneille had become, before even having reached thirty, in one of the dramatists most celebrated not only by the common public and popular kinds of Paris in the first half of the 17TH century, but also by his own colleagues and the most powerful personalities of the moment. Among the latter the cardinal occupied a prominent place Richelieu (1582-1642), who gave a definitive boost to the dramatic writer of Rouen's race to include him among the five authors responsible for drawing up a collective piece which was released under the title of La Comédie des Tuileries (Tuileries, 1635 comedy). Despite the lack of success achieved by this work, Corneille was consecrated as one of the great playwrights of the era, to have worked - by designation of Richelieu - Rotrou (1609-1650), L'Estoile (1599-1651), Boisrobert (1589-1662) and Colletet (1598-1659); each of them apparently wrote an act of this mediocre piece, and was responsible for shaping the third Corneille.

His early literary career was seriously threatened with two new failures occurred at the same time, when the Parisian audience welcomed with notorious coldness the first tragedy of Corneille, Médée (Medea, 1635) and, shortly thereafter, his strange theatrical experiment known as L'illusion comique (comical illusion, 1636), a risky proposal, on the basis of the allegory of the world as a colossal stage ("the great theatre of the world")playing to different dramatic genres within the own comedy. However, the playwright of Rouen whatever of these early failures and straightened again the triumphal course of his career with the premiere of Le Cid (El Cid, 1637), work which the author presented first as "tragicomedy" - meaning, no doubt, that it was a tragedy with a happy ending-, but that then ended up fully include in the domains of the tragedyin the middle of the fruitful controversy that had generated its premiere in the literary gossip of his nation.

Indeed, the cry people that tore off the premiere of this work based on the life of the Spanish hero - and directly inspired by the contemporary piece the mocedades del Cid (1615), of the Valencian dramatist Guillén de Castro (1569-1631) - did not have a clear reflection on the views of the playwrights and theorists of the theatrical genre, who engaged in a tense and long-lasting controversy - soon known as the "querelle du Cid" ("complaint of the Cid") - raisedmainly, by criticism from supporters to wishful thinking of the rigidity of the traditional tragedy, seriously threatened by the much more relaxed proposals of Corneille. It appeared to members of the newly created Académie Française that the writer of Rouen endangering the foundations of the classical theatre to violate the Aristotelian rule of the three units, according to which a dramatic work had to present a single argument action, located at a single location and developed within a maximum of one day. In addition, the character of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (1043-1099) recreated by Corneille was a "risky" innovation in rigorous schemes of classical tragedy: what was customary on the protagonists of the pieces in this genre since ancient Greek times, the characters created by Corneille were going to be masters of their own destinies.

Other arduous technical considerations dramatic - as well as serious accusations of "immorality" that went on the "scandalous" behaviour and "depraved" the Doña Jimena drawn by Corneille - animated discussions of the Académie Française, which was published a printed out - Sentiments de l' Académie sur Le Cid (1637) - to record the official position adopted by so learned as a fledgling institution. Among the most prominent names of writers, critics and intellectuals who were actively involved in querelle it du Cid, recalled those of playwrights Paul Scarron (1610-1660) and Jean Mairet (1604-1686), furious detractors of the theater of Corneille. In any case, this on controversy, coupled with the success that had garnered Le Cid among the public of a foot, contributed mightily to bring Pierre Corneille at the head of the playwrights of his time, with what intuition of Richelieu was sanctioned to include him, a few years before, in the prestigious group of the "cinq auteurs" ("five authors"), who that same year of the presentation of Le Cid premiered another collective piece based on a new warp argument by the powerful Cardinal. Tragicomedy is l'aveugle de Smyrne (the blind of Izmir, 1637), whose first Act came from the pen of Corneille.

But the favors granted by Richelieu were not limited to a purely literary plane. Corneille had dedicated the printed edition of Le Cid to Marie-Madeleine de Vignerot, widow of the Marquis de Combalet and daughter of Françoise du Plessis (who was the sister of the all-powerful Prime Minister); in acknowledgement of this dedication, of Cardinal - which, according to rumors at the time, was also a lover of his famous Uncle - niece asked the King the granting of enforceable letters of nobility to the father of the playwright, titles that were awarded by Luis XIII (1601-1643) that same year of 1637, and renewed at the end of more than three decades (1669) by his successor Luis XIV (1638-1715). Any setback there was muddy, however, relations between the playwright of Rouen and Cardinal Richelieu and his niece, because the next year of this ennoblement by Madame de Combalet - now known as the Marchioness of Aiguellon, because the new title than hers had acquired his uncle-, Corneille was not already included in the Group of the cinq auteurs, or enjoyed the same favors that, until then, the Prime Minister had been giving him.

In 1639, the death of lawyer Monsieur Corneille, father of the writer, resulted in a substantial inheritance that his wife and their six children were distributed, and which served to the playwright to consolidate their social standing among the Group of the rich landowners of provinces (the deceased left his heirs the enjoyment of an annual income of more than thousand six hundred poundsas well as a higher than the 23,000 capital). Assured, therefore, their economic situation, Pierre Corneille surrendered fully to literary creation and returned to the stage as a playwright, in which not premiered a work since it obtained that resounding success with Le Cid, in 1637. However, during those three years had continued writing regularly, despite the problems he/she had with the company of Marais (which suffers badly by the paralysis that affected Mondory) and concerns which had caused the illness and death of his father; and in proof of this tenacious dedication to the dramatic write, on his return to the stage premiered two tragedies in just a few months, titled Horace (Horace, 1640) and Cinna ou Clémence D'auguste (Cinna or clemency of Augustus, 1640).

The following year - in which, probably, he/she married Marie de Lamperière, belonging also to a family of lawyers, led to tables a new tragedy, premiered under the title of Polyeucte, martyr (Poliuto, martyr, 1641). In this work, as in the previous two, Corneille gave signs of having accepted some of the criticism launched against him by erudition academic after the premiere of Le Cid, since he/she was once again bend to the rules of classical theater and, above all, to the interpretation made of them representatives of official culture, supporters that no creator out of narrow runways marked by tradition. Shortly afterwards, after the birth of her first daughter (1642), the author of Rouen recovered his youthful taste for comedy and gave representatives Le menteur (the liar, 1643), a free adaptation of the suspicious truth (1634), Spanish playwright born in Mexico of Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (ca. 1581-1639). The interest that woke up the Hispanic literary tradition in Corneille returned to become patent in this work, which soon added an extension of homegrown entitled the suite du Menteur (the continuation of the liar, 1644).

Between one and another comedy, its retreat towards the traditional canons of the tragedy had been confirmed with the premiere of La mort de Pompée (the death of Pompey, 1643), work that was carefully adapted to the rules laid down by the 'official' criticism of his time. After the cooling of relations with the Théâtre du Marais derived from the serious disease that had paralyzed Mondory, restored his close contacts with this prestigious company as a result of the appointment as director of the same, who now serving as first actor, the great interpreter Floridor, United by strong ties of friendship to the Corneille family (the wife of the playwright was godmother of one of the sons of the comic). Already happened to be, in the middle of that decade of the 1940s, one of the large "living classic" of the French Theatre of its time, as evidenced by the appearance in 1644 of the first compilation of the works he/she had written until then; However, its entry in the Académie Française candidacy was rejected that year, apparently since academics considered inappropriate to any of them lived outside Paris (as it was the case of Corneille, who was based in her native Rouen). After the premiere of two new tragedies - one of historical content, Rodogune, princesse des parthes (Rhodogune, Princess of deliveries, 1644-1645); and another religious inspiration, Théodore, vierge et martyre (Theodora, Virgin and martyr, 1645-1646), in 1646 again presented his candidacy to the Académie Française, and was rejected for the second time. Finally, in 1647 - year which led to scenarios another tragedy, entitled Heraclius, empereur d'Orient (Heraclius, Emperor of the East, 1647) - learned institution welcomed in her womb the playwright of Rouen, while this was still refusing to move his residence to the city from the Seine.

By that time the decline of the Theatre Company has had accelerated already irretrievably du Marais, to the end that its own director - the aforementioned Floridor - had left it to go to a rival group, the no less famous of the Hôtel de Bourgogne; following the example of his friend, in 1647 Corneille also abandoned the comedians of the decadent Marais to start putting its theatre pieces at the disposal of the pretenders of the new company of Floridor (two years later, the own Corneille would sponsor another offspring of the comedian).

The devotion of Pierre Corneille in Spanish Theatre (and, in general, by Hispanic history and culture) returned to become manifest on the French stage with the premiere of Don Sanche d' Aragón (Don Sancho of Aragón, 1649-1650), a splendid heroic comedy - according to defined it his own author-based on the confused Palace, Seville Lope de Rueda (1505-1565). Without solution of continuity, Corneille led to tables its famous Andromède (Andromeda, 1650), regarded as one of the first - if not the real initiator - of the so-called "pièces à machines" (which, in a free translation, could be called "parts-based machinery"). The "machines" were the whole of the mechanical procedures used to operate the most varied elements of stage decoration, in order to create visual illusions (as the of flying over the scene, or appear and disappear suddenly actors) that could meet the "principe du merveilleux" (or "principle of the wonderful"), one of the most valued by the French drama of that period (according to whichan obligation of the author and responsible for staging was surprise and amaze contino to the public, through innovative and unexpected props resources). Corneille drew on the experience of the Venetian architect Torelli - specializing in the design of theatrical tramoyas - to devise the showy mechanical device of your Andromeda, which also reflected the nascent taste of mid-17TH-century French Theatre by dramatico shows, since the text was accompanied by the musical score of D' D'assoucy. Soon the "pièces à machines" achieved a remarkable predicament between the playwrights, critics and viewers, prompting the King Luis XIV - one of the major supporters of theatre of the time-order enablement, the same Palacio des Tuileries, of the baptized as "Grand sal le des Machines" ("great room machines"), which would have released another of the leading pieces of this dramatic theatre modethe tragedia-ballet Psyche (psyche, 1671), letter of Corneille, Molière and Quinault (1635-1688), with music by famed dancer, choreographer and composer of Italian origin Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687).

In the course of that year of 1650 that the premiere of Andromeda took place (and where, inside the discreet private life of Corneille, there was an event worthy of celebration: the wedding of his younger brother Thomas with Marguerite de Lampérière, young sister of the great playwright), Rouen writer sold his public office in the Palacio of Justice from his hometown to assume political roles of high responsibilityincompatible with which they had been playing until then. Indeed, Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) - successor to Richelieu as Prime Minister and, at the same time, ostentador of full powers at the head of the Government of France, by the express will of the Regent Anne of Austria (1602-1666) - had moved to Rouen to deal with the participation of the Duke of Orleans (1595-1663) in the revolts of the Fronde (1648-1652), and during the stay in Norman territory named Corneille Normandy States Attorneya position that it did not prevent the writer follow delivered their creative passion.

Tragedy Nicomède (Nicomedes, 1650-1651) was received with pleasure by the public of Paris, although not identical luck ran his next piece Pertharite, roi des lombards (Pertharite, King of the Lombards, 1651-1652), whose premiere was the first negative in Corneille literary career, unfamiliar milestone hitherto of failures as loud as he/she had supposed you this work. Among the premieres of these two latest tragedies, the playwright of Rouen began the translation into French, in verse, of De imitatione Christi (the imitation of Christ), from the Germanic Augustinian monk Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471), the work originally written in prose and in latin, and well known by Corneille from his student years in the Jesuit College of his native city. It is quite possible that the resounding failure of its Pertharite, coupled with serious occupations arising from its new status of solicitor States of Normandy, depart you at that time of theatrical writing, at the time that was devoted to the work of translation, which saw finally culminated in the middle of the Decade of the fifties, when he/she gave the press its successful French version of the work of Kempis, under the title of Imitation of Jesus-Christi (1656). The success of this translation in verse by Corneille - who, three years earlier, had already figured as a poet in the florilegios of works in verse published with great success the Publisher Charles de Sercy - led to be exhausted four editions of this their own version of the famous Kempis in the course of that year of 1656.

Despite the satisfaction with which is still receiving reruns of her old works (as Heraclius, l'empereur d' Orient, restored with great success by the company of Molière in the theatre of the Petit-Bourbon, in 1658), Corneille did not release a theatrical piece until the end of the Decade of the fifties, when he/she took to the stage his tragedy, Oedipe (Oedipus, 1659)soon followed that a dramatico-musical extravaganza entitled La conquête de the toison d'or (the conquest of the fleece of gold, 1660), so celebrated by his ostentatious theatrical artifice, which already clearly heralded the birth of opera and its libretto. That same year came out the seventh edition of the works of Corneille, containing twenty-three theater pieces, many them subjected to a rigorous effort to correction and amendment by the author himself, and all of the hollanders preceded by a valuable "consideration" which, with the passage of time, is an admirable exercise in self-criticism provided by Corneille to scholars of his theatre. There are also three substantial theoretical writings of the playwright of Rouen about the theatrical fact, titled "Discours de l' utilité et des parties du Poème dramatique", "Discours de la tragédie" and "Discours des trois Unités de lieu de jour et d'action".

In 1662, year where he/she returned to the stage with Sertorius (Sertorius) tragedy, Pierre Corneille and his brother Thomas, with their families - living together in Rouen - settled at last Paris, where the following year he/she had place the premiere of a new tragedy from the famous dramatist, Sophonisbe (Sofonisba, 1663). After the premiere of another piece of the same gender, Othon (Otto, 1664), in 1665 Corneille went through the dramatic experience of losing a son his who died with only twelve years, kicking off a chain of tragic events which soured the last years of existence of the mature writer. Among them, it should be noted the death in a war action, in 1668, of him a son-in-law who let widow - and with a young child to her charge to one of his daughters; and, after six years (1674), the death, also in a military fact, another son of the writer. These irreparable losses saw increased its effects of devastation by the concurrence of other misfortunes, such as excision - without involving reason - the pension had been received of Regal coffers - which was removed him in 1674, and restored in 1683, thanks to the efforts of his colleague and friend Boileau (1636-1711)-; the loss of favor with the public and the critics, now boulevards towards new proposals of other "Monster" of the French scene of the 17TH century, Jean Racine; and serious problems that undermined his health in the last years of his life.

In the midst of these calamities, Pierre Corneille still had encouragement to write and release other parts as tragedies Agésilas (Agesilaus, 1666), Attila, roi des huns (Attila, King of the Huns, 1667) and Tite et Bérénice (Titus and Berenice, 1670), this last considered unanimously by the critics and the public as the unequivocal proof of their decline, as it did not graceful in his showdown with the Berenice of Racinereleased only a week earlier. Despite going being increasingly relegated to the thrust of the young Racine, Corneille continued to carry scenarios new works that declared their desire to continue writing until the end of his days; In addition to the aforementioned tragedia-ballet psyché (1671), its latest contributions to the dramatic literature of his time were the heroic comedy Pulcherie (1672) and the tragedy Suréna, Général des parthes (Surena, general of births, 1674). Also, made a translation in verse and prose titled Office de la Sainte Vierge (Office of the Blessed Virgin, 1670), work which he/she dedicated to the Queen.

In 1681, at seventy-five years of age, the elderly writer of Rouen fell seriously ill and made all those who surrounded him to fear for his life. It experienced, however, a temporary improvement that allowed him to contemplate, the following year, the eleventh and last edition of his dramatic output, posted under the generic title of Theatre (theatre, 1682); But shortly after he/she suffered a new and painful relapse that deprive you for a year of the use of his mental faculties, and in that State of dementia was bedridden when death befell him in Paris at the beginning of the fall of 1684, at the age of seventy-eight.


As already noted above, since the premiere of Le Cid (1637) the main hallmark of the theater of Pierre Corneille is that construction of solid characters that, despite being fully embedded in the framework of the tragedy, eventually erected on owners of their own destinies. It is, in most cases, subjects of high rank who, faced with serious historical conflicts which depends the salvation of his fellow men, just abiding by the rigorous but accurate dictates of order and reason, which lead them to turn along the paths of the honor and the honor. Its protagonists are, therefore, members of the political and social elite faced with arduous problems about freedom, greatness, the superiority of their own, the legitimacy of his power, hunger for absolute and the need to follow the paths of Justice and equity; but they also suffer the effects of the more deep and elemental feelings that affect the human being (as the love and tenderness), which are not always clashing - as is often common in the tragedy-with the line of duty.

Horacio (1640).

Tragedy in verse, composed of five acts and premiered with great success in Paris, in 1640, at the Théâtre du Marais. It was one of the biggest hits of the theatrical production of Pierre Corneille, and spread his fame far beyond French borders (in 1648 was translated into Dutch, and in 1656 to the language of Shakespeare).

To finish its prolonged war dispute once, the towns of Alba and Rome agree to choose, each, three champions who will face with those of rival population and decide the contest in this fight. The dramatic tension arises when you know that the fighters on both sides are bound together by ties of kinship, Sabina, sister of the Curiatii - three winners chosen by Alba, is married to one of the three brothers Horatii - designated, in turn, by Rome so that they defend its interests--; and, on the other hand, a sister of the latter name Camila, is engaged to one of the Curiatii. In a city rise, against this tragic event, the cries and protests by women; but the men made prevailing sense of the duty imposed by the homeland and go without misgivings to the combat, which is resolved with disastrous consequences for the city of Rome, since two of the Horatii lose their lives on it, and the third, apparently flees disgrace, projecting the dishonor on their own. Hence, the elder Horacio, father of the three champions chosen by Rome, are available to stop the cowardly son's life as soon as it returns to his house. But the news that have been coming to Rome are not entirely true, because while it is true that two of the Horatii killed over the course of the fight, it is not that the survivor has shunned shamefully confrontation with the Curiatii: to be at a disadvantage, which searched is to force the weakness of their three opponents (that have been separated to undertake their persecution)to go on leading the confrontation with every one of them and go, ultimately victorious from the contest. On his return to Rome, all greet with joy the hero less his sister Camila, who angrily cursed him for having claimed the lives of her fiancé. Roman champion punishes with death to his sister, the crime which, in turn, convicted, in the law of Rome, to the death penalty; but the King Tulo, valuing the invaluable service that the convicted person has given to its monarchy ("similar servers are the strength of Kings, and that are above the law"), attends to the reasons for the old Horacio - who confesses, also as a matter of honor, he/she was willing to kill his own son when he/she believed him a coward - and spares the life of championleads to to a ceremony that can atone for the murder of her sister.

Poliuto, martyr(1641)

Tragedy in verse, composed of five acts, put in scene for the first time in Paris in 1641, by the company of the Théâtre du Marais. Its action is located in the Armenian city of Melitene, in the 250 year of the Christian Era, at the end of the mandate of the Roman Emperor Decius (201-251). Paulina, wife of the nobleman Poliuto, begs him to not leave home when this is about to receive his baptism, because he/she has been a disastrous premonitory dream in which he/she saw how severe - a Roman Knight who all believe dead, and that long ago was in love with herself--gave him stabbed to death. Poliuto not open ears to his wife and leaves in search of his baptism accompanied by Nearco, a friend of his that has already been cristianado; Meanwhile, Felix, the father of Pauline - and the person responsible for that is not contracted marriage earlier with Severo - comes to the House of the protagonists with the news that the Roman is alive and returns triumphant to Melitene. When, in fact, Severo arrives to the Armenian capital, falls into a deep gloom to learn that his beloved Pauline was married during his absence; but he/she is resigned to the weight of the fait accompli and decides not to never see her more. Soon after, Poliuto, already developed, decides to destroy the pagan idols, which gives rise to a loud scandal which makes one fear for the life of the new Christian. Felix suggests that, to calm tempers, announced their withdrawal; but Poliuto responds to inviting everyone to follow in his footsteps, and to know that he/she is condemned to death by the persecution, unleashed against the Christians, renounce the generous efforts of Severo to save his life, but not before begging him to care for his wife. I submitted, then to a cruel martyrdom, Poliuto dies making profession of their new faith, example which moved Felix and Paulina, who are also converted to Christianity; for his part, Severo, which has also been impressed by the fortitude and convictions of the martyr, announces that during his rule he/she enacted laws showing tolerant of Christianity. The martyrdom of who was then elevated to the altars as san Poliuto (s. III) has not been in vain.