Date of this Version
UNIVERSITY STUDIES, VOL. XIX JULY-OCTOBER, 1919, nos. 3-4. (40 pp, 173-212)
When Racine began his career as a dramatist, he found thegen:.. eral definition of French tragedy already formulated by Cotneille. However the latter had come by his conception-whether freely and of his own instance, or in yielding to the pressure of offiCial criticism, or what is even more likely, in attempting to effect a compromise between these two influences-the upshot of his labour was, to all intents and purposes, the doctrine of the three unities. All that remained for Racine was to adapt himself to these prescriptions. N or should the'difficulty of the task be underrated. It was one which Corneille himself had failed to accomplish. Classic by method and finally, perhaps, by conviction, he was incurably romantic by temperament and inspiration and was never wholly successful in conceiving an action thoroughly agreeable with his own formulre. There is . something bungling and unhandy in his efforts to cage a broad and rambling plot within the narrow limits required by his theory; something cramped and ungraceful about the result. In a word, it would hardly be unjust to say, whatever praise he may deserve for its discovery, that he never understood the practical working of his own invention; he never altogether grasped the principles of congruous simplicity characteristic of the classic drama.