The influence of 'sensibilité' on French comedy in the first half of the eighteenth century (L'Andrienne to Mélanide)
That there was a move towards a more serious form of comic drama in the first half of the eighteenth century is well known. This study seeks an explanation for the change by placing the comedy, especially the main works of the dramatists writing for the Comedie Francaise, in the context of one of the most significant trends of thought of the time. The opening chapters therefore describe the climate of ideas, the concept of human nature and man's relations with his fellows in two major areas, aesthetics and morals. Chapters four and five treat the two relationships which have traditionally formed the basis of the comedy, namely that of the family and that of the married couple, examining in particular the nature of the characters, their attitudes to each other and thus their relationships on the stage. The following chapters cover what might be regarded as features peculiar to the comedy in the first half of the eighteenth century; chapters six and seven analyse the many forms taken by the moralising tendency of the comedy in these years, while chapter eight is concerned with the patterns which can be discerned in the creation of the tearful character and situation. All these chapters on the theatre deal with what might be called the tone of the plays, that is to say what would previously have been their comic mood or style and the influence on it of a transformation in outlook. Chapter nine, however, attempts to bring together all the features discussed hitherto and to determine their effect on the structure of the comedy. Where possible, modern scholarly editions have been used. Unless otherwise stated, quotations are taken from the editions listed in the bibliography and all references are to those editions; their spelling and punctuation have been retained.