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Title: Stendhal, dramatic theorist and playwright
Author: Hurren, Constance E.
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1934
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From his childhood Stendhal was fascinated by the theatre, and from the age of seventeen to twenty-two he aimed at achieving fame as a playwright. In spite of failure he made desultory efforts for a further twenty years. His study of eighteenth-century philosophy (French) and English and Italian plays, freed him from his early orthodox views on drama. The influence of the Italian Romantics completed this emancipation, and from 1821 to 1828 Stendhal was accounted a leader in the French Romantic Movement. He advocated the writing of historical drama, modelled on Shakespeare, unrestricted by classical conventions and in prose. "Le Globe" echoes these arguments and a group of writers put his theories into practice. They failed as dramatists, but their plays form a transition between the pseudo-classic and the romantic theatre. After 1834 Stendhal lost interest in the theatre and prophesied that the novel would be the comedy of the nineteenth century. The "Theatre" contains an adaptation from Florian, a translation from Goldoni and attempts at original plays, the most important being "Les Deux Hommes" and "Letellier". These examples reveal Stendhal's lack of creative imagination and his pre-occupation with theory. They also indicate the growth of his methods of building up characters by collecting traits from people he had observed. His tendency to portray himself as the hero is already marked. There remains the problem of his long and unsatisfactory apprenticeship to the theatre. The fact that drama was traditionally a higher form of literature than the novel, and brought swifter success may have caused Stendhal to persist in his attempts, but by temperament and bent of mind he was unsuitable to be a playwright. He was too self-centred and had a deductive mind that preferred analysing the motives of his characters to depicting their actions. Traces of his early studies are visible in his novels, but the unity of his work as a playwright and novelist is his passion for the study of human nature.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Romance Literature