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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pierre Corneille

Pierre Corneille
Born 6 June 1606
Died 1 October 1684
Occupation tragedian
Nationality France
Genres tragedian
Notable work(s) Le Cid
Spouse(s) Marie de Lampérière
Relative(s) Marte le pesant
Pierre Corneille

Pierre Corneille (6 June 1606 – 1 October 1684) was a French tragedian who was one of the three great seventeenth-century French dramatists, along with Molière and Racine. He has been called “the founder of French tragedy” and produced plays for nearly forty years.

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Early life and plays

Corneille was born at Rouen, France, to Marte le pesant and Pierre Corneille (a minor administrative official). He was given a rigorous Jesuit education and at 18 began to study law. His practical legal endeavors were largely unsuccessful. Corneille’s father secured two magisterial posts for him with the Rouen department of Forests and Rivers. During his time with the department he wrote his first play. It is unknown exactly when he wrote it, but the play, the comedy Mélite, surfaced when Corneille brought it to a group of traveling actors in 1629. The actors approved of the work and made it part of their repertoire. The play was a success in Paris and Corneille began writing plays on a regular basis. He moved to Paris in the same year and soon became one of the leading playwrights of the French stage. His early comedies, starting with Mélite, depart from the French farce tradition by reflecting the elevated language and manners of fashionable Parisian society. Corneille describes his variety of comedy as "une peinture de la conversation des honnêtes gens" ("a painting of the conversation of the gentry"). His first true tragedy is Médée, produced in 1635.

Les Cinq Auteurs

The year 1634 brought more attention to Corneille. He was selected to write verses for the Cardinal Richelieu’s visit to Rouen. The Cardinal took notice of Corneille and selected him to be among Les Cinq Auteurs (“The Five Poets”; also translated as “the society of the five authors”). Also included in this collective were Guillaume Colletet, Boisrobert, Jean Rotrou, and Claude de Lestoile.

The five were selected to realize Richelieu's vision of a new kind of drama that emphasized virtue. Richelieu would present ideas, which the writers would express in dramatic form. However, the Cardinal's demands were too restrictive for Corneille, who attempted to innovate outside the boundaries defined by Richelieu. This led to contention between playwright and employer. After his initial contract ended, Corneille left Les Cinq Auteurs and returned to Rouen.

Querelle du Cid

In the years directly following this break with Richelieu, Corneille produced what is considered his finest play. Le Cid (al sayyid in Arabic; roughly translated as 'The Lord'), is based on the play Mocedades del Cid (1621) by Guillem de Castro. Both plays were based on the legend of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (nicknamed El Cid Campeador), a military figure in Medieval Spain.

The original 1637 edition of the play was subtitled a tragicomedy, acknowledging that it intentionally defies the classical tragedy/comedy distinction. Even though Le Cid was an enormous popular success, it was the subject of a heated polemic over the norms of dramatic practice, known as the Querelle du Cid or The Quarrel of Le Cid. Cardinal Richelieu's Académie Française acknowledged the play's success, but determined that it was defective, in part because it did not respect the classical unities of time, place, and action (Unity of Time stipulated that all the action in a play must take place within a twenty-four hour time-frame; Unity of Place, that there must be only one setting for the action; and Unity of Action, that the plot must be centred around a single conflict or problem). The newly-formed Académie was a body that asserted state control over cultural activity. Although it usually dealt with efforts to standardize the French language, Richelieu himself ordered an analysis of Le Cid.

Accusations of immorality were leveled at the play in the form of a famous pamphlet campaign. These attacks were founded on the classical theory that the theatre was a site of moral instruction. The Académie's recommendations concerning the play are articulated in Jean Chapelain's Sentiments de l'Académie française sur la tragi-comédie du Cid (1638). Even the prominent writer Georges de Scudéry harshly criticized the play in his Observations sur le Cid (1637).

The controversy grew too much for Corneille, who decided to return to Rouen. When one of his plays was reviewed unfavorably, Corneille was known to withdraw from public life.

Response to the Querelle du Cid

After a hiatus from the theater, Corneille returned in 1640. The Querelle du Cid caused Corneille to pay closer attention to classical dramatic rules. This was evident in his next plays, which were classical tragedies: Horace (1640, dedicated to Richelieu), Cinna (1643), and Polyeucte (1643). These three plays and Le Cid are collectively known as Corneille's 'Classical Tetralogy'. Corneille also responded to the criticisms of the Académie by making multiple revisions to Le Cid to make it closer to the conventions of classical tragedy. The 1648, 1660, and 1682 editions were no longer subtitled ‘tragicomedy’, but ‘tragedy’.

Corneille’s popularity grew and by the mid 1640s, the first collection of his plays was published. Corneille married Marie de Lampérière in 1641. They had seven children together. In the mid to late 1640s, Corneille produced mostly tragedies: La Mort de Pompée (The Death of Pompey, performed 1644), Rodogune (performed 1645), Theodore (performed 1646), and Héraclius (performed 1647). He also wrote one comedy in this period: Le Menteur (The Liar, 1644).

In 1652, the play Pertharite met with poor critical reviews and a disheartened Corneille decided to quit the theatre. He began to focus on an influential verse translation of the Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, which he completed in 1656. After an absence of nearly eight years, Corneille was persuaded to return to the stage in 1659. He wrote the play Oedipe, which was favored by Louis XIV. In the next year, Corneille published Trois discours sur le poème dramatique (Three Discourses on Dramatic Poetry), which were, in part, defenses of his style. These writings can be seen as Corneille’s response to the Querelle du Cid. He simultaneously maintained the importance of classical dramatic rules and justified his own transgressions of those rules in Le Cid. Corneille argued the Aristotelian dramatic guidelines were not meant to be subject to a strict literal reading. Instead, he suggested that they were open to interpretation. Although the relevance of classical rules was maintained, Corneille suggested that the rules should not be so tyrannical that they stifle innovation.

Later plays

Even though Corneille was prolific after his return to the stage, writing one play a year for the 14 years after 1659, his plays did not have the same success as those of his earlier career. Other writers were beginning to gain popularity. In 1670 Corneille and Jean Racine, one of his dramatic rivals, were challenged to write plays on the same incident. Each playwright was unaware that the challenge had also been issued to the other. When both plays were completed, it was generally acknowledged that Corneille’s Tite et Bérénice (1671) was inferior to Racine’s play (Bérénice). Molière was also prominent at the time and Corneille even composed the comedy Psyché (1671) in collaboration with him (and Philippe Quinault). Most of the plays that Corneille wrote after his return to the stage were tragedies. They included La Toison d'or (The Golden Fleece, 1660), Sertorius (1662), Othon (1664), Agésilas (1666), and Attila (1667).

Corneille’s final play was the tragedy Suréna (1674). After this, he retired from the stage for the final time and died at his home in Paris in 1684. His grave in the Église Saint-Roch went without a monument until 1821.



From Corneille's plays

  • "When we conquer without danger our triumph is without glory." – Le Cid
  • "And the combat ceased, for want of combatants." - Le Cid
  • "My sweetest hope is to lose all hope." - Le Cid
  • "All evils are equal when they are extreme." - Horace
  • "We read that we ought to forgive our enemies; but we do not read that we ought to forgive our friends." – Cinna
  • "By speaking of our misfortunes we often relieve them." - Polyeucte
  • "In the service of Caesar, everything is legitimate." - La Mort de Pompée

About Corneille

  • “Le Cid marks the birth of a man, the rebirth of poetry, the dawn of a great century.” – Sainte-Beuve (transl.)


Further reading

External links


  • Ekstein, Nina. Corneille's Irony. Charlottesville: Rookwood Press, 2007.
  • Guizot, M. Corneille and His Times. London: Kennikat Press, 1972.
  • Harrison, Helen. Pistoles/Paroles: Money and Language in Seventeenth-Century French Comedy. Charlottesville: Rookwood Press, 1996.
  • Hubert, J. D. Corneille's Performing Metaphors. Charlottesville: Rookwood Press, 1997.
  • Nelson, Robert J. Corneille: His Heroes and Their Worlds. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1963.
  • Yarrow, P.J. Corneille. London: Macmillan & Co., 1963.

See also

Preceded by
François Maynard
Seat 14
Académie française

Succeeded by
Thomas Corneille


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

As great as kings may be, they are what we are: they can err like other men.

Pierre Corneille (June 6, 1606October 1, 1684) was a French tragedian who was one of the three great 17th Century French dramatists, along with Molière and Jean Racine. He has been called “the founder of French tragedy” and produced plays for nearly 40 years.



  • La raison et l'amour sont ennemis jurés.
    • Reason and love are sworn enemies.
      • La nourrice, La Veuve [The Widow], (1631), act II, scene III
  • Je ne dois qu'à moi seul toute ma renommée.
    • I owe my fame only to myself.
      • "L'Excuse à Ariste" (1637)
  • Le sujet d'une belle tragédie doit n'être pas vraisemblable.
    • The subject of a good tragedy must not be realistic.
      • Héraclius (1646), preface
  • Devine, si tu peux, et choisis, si tu l'oses.
    • Guess if you can, choose if you dare.
      • Léontine, Héraclius, act IV, scene IV
  • Un service au-dessus de toute récompense
    À force d'obliger tient presque lieu d'offense.
    • A service beyond all recompense
      Weighs so heavy that it almost gives offense.
      • Orode, Suréna (1674), act III, scene I

Le Cid (1636)

  • Pour grands que soient les rois, ils sont ce que nous sommes:
    Ils peuvent se tromper comme les autres hommes.
    • As great as kings may be, they are what we are: they can err like other men.
      • Don Gomès, act I, scene iii
  • Don Diègue: Rodrigue, as-tu du coeur?
    Don Rodrigue: Tout autre que mon père
    L’éprouverait sur l’heure.
    • Don Diègue: Rodrigue, have you any courage?
      Don Rodrigue: Anyone but my father
      Would find out on the spot.
      • Act I, scene v
  • Qui peut vivre infâme est indigne du jour.
    • He who can live in infamy is unworthy of life.
      • Don Diègue, act I, scene v
  • Qui ne craint point la mort ne craint point les menaces.
    • He who fears not death fears not a threat.
      • Don Gomès, act II, scene i
  • L’on peut me réduire à vivre sans bonheur,
    Mais non pas me résoudre à vivre sans honneur.
    • I can be forced to live without happiness,
      But I will never consent to live without honor.
      • Don Gomès, act II, scene i
  • Je suis jeune, il est vrai; mais aux âmes bien nées
    La valeur n’attend point le nombre des années.
    • True, I am young, but for souls nobly born
      Valor doesn’t await the passing of years.
      • Don Rodrigue, act II, scene ii
  • À qui venge son père, il n’est rien d’impossible.
    • To he who avenges a father, nothing is impossible.
      • Don Rodrigue, act II, scene ii
  • À vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire.
    • To conquer without risk is to triumph without glory.
      • Don Gomès, act II, scene ii
  • Les hommes valeureux le sont du premier coup.
    • Brave men are brave from the very first.
    • Chimène, act II, scene iii
  • La moitié de ma vie a mis l’autre au tombeau.
    • One half of my life has put the other half in the grave.
      • Chimène, act III, scene iii
  • Jamais nous ne goûtons de parfaite allégresse:
    Nos plus heureux succès sont mêlés de tristesse.
    • We never taste a perfect joy;
      Our happiest successes are mixed with sadness.
      • Don Diègue, act III, scene v
  • Ô combien d’actions, combien d’exploits célèbres
    Sont demeurés sans gloire au milieu des ténèbres.
    • Oh! how many actions, how many fabulous exploits
      Remain without glory in the midst of the night.
      • Don Rodrigue, act IV, scene iii
  • Le combat cessa faute de combattants.
    • And the combat ceased for want of combatants.
      • Don Rodrigue, act IV, scene iii

Horace (1639)

  • Mourir pour le pays est un si digne sort,
    Qu’on briguerait en foule une si belle mort.
    • To die for one’s country is such a worthy fate
      That all compete for so beautiful a death.
      • Horace, act II, scene iii
  • Faites votre devoir, et laissez faire aux dieux.
    • Do your duty, and leave the rest to heaven.
      • Le vieil Horace, act II, scene viii
  • Tous maux sont pareils alors qu’ils sont extrêmes.
    • All evils are equal when they are extreme.
      • Sabine, act III, scene iv
  • De pareils serviteurs sont les forces des rois,
    Et de pareils aussi sont au-dessus des lois.
    • Such subjects are the very strength of kings,
      And are thus above the law.
      • Tulle, act V, scene iii
      • King Tullus forgives the hero, Horace, who has saved the state but killed his sister.
  • Ta vertu met ta gloire au-dessus de ton crime.
    • Your virtue raises your glory above your crime.
      • Tulle, act V, scene iii

Cinna (1641)

  • L'ambition déplaît quand elle est assouvie... Monté sur le faîte, il aspire à descendre.
    • Ambition displeases when it has been sated... Having reached the peak, it aspires to descend.
      • Auguste, act II, scene i
  • L'exemple souvent n'est qu'un miroir trompeur;
    Et l'ordre du destin qui gêne nos pensées
    N'est pas toujours écrit dans les choses passées.
    • An example is often a deceptive mirror,
      And the order of destiny, so troubling to our thoughts,
      Is not always found written in things past.
      • Auguste, act II, scene i
  • Peu de généreux vont jusqu'à dédaigner,
    Après un sceptre acquis, la douceur de régner.
    • After having won a scepter, few are so generous
      As to disdain the pleasures of ruling.
      • Maxime, act II, scene i
  • Le pire des États, c'est l'État populaire.
    • The worst of all states is the people's state.
      • Cinna, act II, scene i
  • La perfidie est noble envers la tyrannie.
    • Treachery is noble when aimed at tyranny.
      • Émilie, act III, scene iv
  • Qui peut tout doit tout craindre.
    • Who is all-powerful should fear everything.
      • Auguste, act IV, scene ii
  • Qui pardonne aisément invite à l'offenser.
    • He who pardons easily invites offense.
      • Auguste, act IV, scene ii
  • La clémence est la plus belle marque
    Qui fasse à l'univers connaître un vrai monarque.
    • Clemency is the noblest trait
      Which can reveal a true monarch to the world.
      • Livie, act IV, scene iii
  • Tous ces crimes d'État qu'on fait pour la couronne,
    Le ciel nous en absout alors qu'il nous la donne.
    • Heaven absolves all crimes committed to gain a throne
      Once Heaven gives it to us.
      • Livie, act V, scene ii

Polyeucte (1642)

  • Le désir s'accroît quand l'effet se recule.
    • Desire increases when fulfillment is postponed.
      • Polyeucte, act I, scene i
  • Fuyez un ennemi qui sait votre défaut.
    • Flee an enemy who knows your weakness.
      • Néarque, act I, scene i
  • À raconter ses maux souvent on les soulage.
    • By speaking of our misfortunes we often relieve them.
      • Stratonice, act I, scene iii
  • Sa fureur ne va qu'à briser nos autels,
    Elle n'en veut qu'aux dieux, et non pas aux mortels.
    • Its fury aims to shatter but our altars:
      It scorns only the gods and never the mortals.
      • Stratonice, act I, scene iii
      • Referring to the early Christian church
  • Ma raison, il est vrai, dompte mes sentiments,
    Mais, quelque autorité que sur eux elle ait prise,
    Elle n'y règne pas, elle les tyrannise.
    • My reason, it’s true, controls my feelings,
      But whatever its authority,
      It doesn’t rule them so much as tyrannize them.
      • Pauline, act II, scene ii
  • Je consens, ou plutôt j'aspire à ma ruine.
    • I agree to, or rather aspire to, my doom.
      • Polyeucte, act IV, scene ii
  • Je vous aime,
    Beaucoup moins que mon Dieu, mais bien plus que moi-même.
    • I love you much less than my God, but much more than myself.
      • Polyeucte, act IV, scene iii
  • Plus l'effort est grand, plus la gloire en est grande.
    • The greater the effort, the greater the glory.
      • Pauline, act IV, scene v
  • Les chrétiens n'ont qu'un Dieu, maître absolu de tout,
    De qui le seul vouloir fait tout ce qu'il résout;
    Mais, si j'ose entre nous dire ce que me semble,
    Les nôtres bien souvent s'accordent mal ensemble,
    Et, me dût leur colère écraser à tes yeux,
    Nous en avons beaucoup pour être de vrais dieux.
    • The Christians have one God alone, the lord
      Of all, whose will unaided does what he
      Resolves. But, if I dare to speak my mind,
      Our gods are often ill-assorted, and
      Ev'n were their wrath to strike me down at once,
      There are too many to be real gods.
      • Sévère, act IV, scene vi. Trans. John Cairncross (1980)
      • Variant of last lines: As for our gods, we have a few too many to be true.
  • Sans doute vos chrétiens, qu'on persécute en vain,
    Ont quelque chose en eux qui surpasse l'humain:
    Ils mènent une vie avec tant d'innocence,
    Que le ciel leur en doit quelque reconnaissance;
    Se relever plus forts, plus ils sont abattus,
    N'est pas aussi l'effet des communes vertus.
    • Your Christians, whom one persecutes in vain,
      Have something in them that surpasses the human.
      They lead a life of such innocence,
      That the heavens owe them some recognition:
      That they arise the stronger the more they are beaten down
      Is hardly the result of common virtues.
      • Sévère, act V, scene vi

La Mort de Pompée (The Death of Pompey) (1642)

  • À force d'être juste on est souvent coupable.
    • One is often guilty by being too just.
      • Photin, act I, scene i
  • Qui punit le vaincu ne craint point le vainqueur.
    • He who punishes the vanquished fears not the victor.
      • Photin, act I, scene i
  • Ne durât-il qu'un jour, ma gloire est sans seconde
    D'être du moins un jour la maîtresse du monde.
    • Be it only for a day, it is still a glory without equal
      To be master of the world just that day.
      • Cléopâtre, act II, scene i
  • Ma mort était ma gloire, et le destin m'en prive.
    • Death was to be my glory, but destiny has refused it.
      • Cornélie, act III, scene iv
  • C'est une imprudence assez commune aux rois
    D'écouter trop d'avis et se tromper au choix.
    • It is an imprudence common to kings
      To listen to too much advice and to err in their choice.
      • Ptolomée, act IV, scene i
  • Comme nos intérêts, nos sentiments diffèrent.
    • As our self-interests differ, so do our feelings.
      • Cornélie, act V, scene ii

Le Menteur (The Liar) (1643)

  • La façon de donner vaut mieux que ce qu'on donne.
    • The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.
      • Cliton, act I, scene i
  • Un menteur est toujours prodigue de serments.
    • A liar is always lavish of oaths.
      • Clariste, act III, scene v
  • Les gens que vous tuez se portent assez bien.
    • The people you killed seem to be in excellent health.
      • Cliton, act IV, scene ii
      • Cliton describing people whom a liar claims to have killed in duels.
  • Il faut bonne mémoire après qu'on a menti.
    • It takes a good memory to keep up a lie.
      • Cliton, act IV, scene v

Rodogune (1644)

  • Le destin des Etats est arbitre du leur,
    Et l'ordre des traités règle tout dans leur cœur.
    • The fate of States decides theirs:
      Clauses of treaties determine their affections.
      • Rodogune, act III, scene iv
  • Le feu qui semble éteint souvent dort sous la cendre.
    • The fire which seems extinguished often slumbers beneath the ashes.
      • Rodogune, act III, scene iv
  • Lorsque l'obéissance a tant d'impiété,
    La révolte devient une nécessité.
    • When obedience is so impious,
      Revolt is a necessity.
      • Séleucus, act III, scene v
  • Qui se venge à demi court lui-même à sa peine:
    Il faut ou condamner ou couronner sa haine.
    • To take revenge halfheartedly is to court disaster:
      Either condemn or crown your hatred.
      • Cléopâtre, act V, scene i
  • Il est doux de périr après ses ennemis.
    • How sweet to die after one’s enemies.
      • Cléopâtre, act V, scene i
  • Je me défendrai mal: l'innocence étonnée
    Ne peut s'imaginer qu'elle soit soupçonnée.
    • I don’t know how to defend myself: surprised innocence
      Cannot imagine being under suspicion.
      • Rodogune, act V, scene iv

Nicomède (1651)

  • Faites que l'on vous craigne, et je ne craindrai rien.
    • Have others fear you, and I will have no fear.
      • Laodice, act I, scene i
  • Le Roi, juste et prudent, ne veut que ce qu'il peut.
    • The king, just and prudent, wants only those things which he can get.
      • Laodice, act I, scene ii
  • Et ne savez-vous plus qu'il n'est princes ni rois
    Qu'elle daigne égaler à ses moindres bourgeois?
    • The universe has no prince or king
      That it [Rome] would consider equal to its humblest citizen.
      • Nicomède, act I, scene ii
  • Seigneur, si j'ai raison, qu'importe à qui je sois?
    • Sir, what does it matter whom I serve, so long as I am right?
      • Nicomède, act I, scene ii
  • Il m'a trop bien servi;
    Augmentant mon pouvoir, il me l'a tout ravi:
    II n'est plus mon sujet qu'autant qu'il le veut être.
    Et qui me fait régner en effet est mon maître.
    • He has served me too well;
      By increasing my power he has stolen it away:
      He is now my subject only so long as he pleases.
      He who allows me to rule is in fact my master.
      • Prusias, act II, scene i
  • C'est un crime d'État que d'en pouvoir commettre.
    • It is a crime against the State to be powerful enough to commit one.
      • Araspe, act II, scene i
  • Je ne veux point de rois qui sachent obéir.
    • I would not like a king who could obey.
      • Laodice, act III, scene ii
  • Qui fait le conseiller n'est plus ambassadeur.
    • He who plays advisor is no longer ambassador.
      • Nicomède, act III, scene iii
  • Ma générosité cède enfin à sa haine.
    • My generosity finally cedes to her hatred.
      • Nicomède, act III, scene iv
  • C'est n'avoir pas perdu tout votre temps à Rome,
    Que vous savoir ainsi défendre en galant homme:
    Vous avez de l'esprit, si vous n'avez du cœur.
    • You haven’t wasted all your time in Rome,
      Since you know how to defend yourself so gallantly:
      You have wit, even if you haven’t courage.
      • Nicomède, act III, scene vi
  • Un véritable roi n'est ni mari ni père;
    Il regarde son trône, et rien de plus.
    • A true king is neither husband nor father;
      He considers his throne and nothing else.
      • Nicomède, act IV, scene iii

Sertorius (1662)

  • On a peine à haïr ce qu'on a bien aimé,
    Et le feu mal éteint est bientôt rallumé.
    • It is hard to hate what one has loved,
      And a half-extinguished fire is soon relit.
      • Sertorius, act I, scene iii
  • Rome seule aujourd'hui peut résister à Rome.
    • Rome alone can resist Rome.
      • Viriate, act II, scene i
  • Ils etaient plus que rois; ils sont moindres qu'esclaves.
    • They were more than kings, now they are less than slaves.
      • Sertorius, act III, scene i
      • Sertorius describes Roman citizens after they had fallen under tyranny.
  • Rome n'est plus dans Rome, elle est toute où je suis.
    • Rome is no longer in Rome, it is here where I am.
      • Sertorius, act III, scene i

Tite et Bérénice (Titus and Berenice) (1670)

  • L'amour-propre est la source en nous de tous les autres.
    • Self-love is the source of all our other loves.
      • Albin, act I, scene iii
  • Qui se vainc une fois peut se vaincre toujours.
    • They who overcome their desires once can overcome them always.
      • Domitien, act II, scene ii
  • Me puis-je mieux venger, si vous me trahissez,
    Que d'aimer à vos yeux ce que vous haïssez?
    • If you betray me, can I take a better revenge
      Than to love the person you hate?
      • Domitien, act IV, scene iii
  • Un monarque a souvent des lois à s'imposer;
    Et qui veut pouvoir tout ne doit pas tout oser.
    • A monarch must sometimes rule even himself:
      He who wants everything must risk very little.
      • Tite, act IV, scene v
  • Chaque instant de la vie est un pas vers la mort.
    • Each instant of life is a step toward death.
      • Tite, act V, scene i

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PIERRE CORNEILLE (1606-1684), French dramatist and poet, was born at Rouen, in the rue de la Pie, on the 6th of June 1606. The house, which was long preserved, was destroyed not many years ago. His father, whose Christian name was the same, was avocat du roi a la Table de Marbre du Palais, and also held the position of maitre des eaux et forets in the vicomte (or bailliage, as some say) of Rouen. In this latter office he is said to have shown himself a vigorous magistrate, suppressing brigandage and plunder without regard to his personal safety. He was ennobled in 1637 (it is said not without regard to his son's distinction), and the honour was renewed in favour of his sons Pierre and Thomas in 1669, when a general repeal of the letters of nobility recently granted had taken place. There appears, however, to be no instance on record of the poet himself assuming the "de" of nobility. His mother's name was Marthe le Pesant.

After being educated by the Jesuits of Rouen, Corneille at the age of eighteen was entered as avocat, and in 1624 took the oaths, as we are told, four years before the regular time, a dispensation having been procured. He was afterwards appointed advocate to the admiralty, and to the "waters and forests," but both these posts must have been of small value, as we find him parting with them in 1650 for the insignificant sum of 6000 livres. In that year and the next he was procureur-syndic des Etats de Normandie. His first play, Mdlite, was acted in 1629. It is said by B. le B. de Fontenelle (his nephew) to have been inspired by personal experiences, and was extremely popular, either because or in spite of its remarkable difference from the popular plays of the day, those of A. Hardy. In 1632 Clitandre, a tragedy, was printed (it may have been acted in 1631); in 1633 La Veuve and the Galerie du palais, in 1634 La Suivante and La Place Royale, all the last-named plays being comedies, saw the stage. In 1634 also, having been selected as the composer of a Latin elegy to Richelieu on the occasion of the cardinal visiting Rouen, he was introduced to the subject of his verses, and was soon after enrolled among the "five poets." These officers (the others being G. Colletet, Boisrobert and C. de l'Etoile, who in no way merited the title, and J. de Rotrou, who was no unworthy yokefellow even of Corneille) had for task the more profitable than dignified occupation of working up Richelieu's ideas into dramatic form. No one could be less suited for such work than Corneille, and he soon (it is said) incurred his employer's displeasure by altering the plan of the third act of Les Thuileries, which had been entrusted to him.

Meanwhile the year 1635 saw the production of Mddde, a grand but unequal tragedy. In the next year the singular extravaganza entitled L'Illusion comique followed, and was succeeded about the end of November by the Cid, based on the Mocedades del Cid of Guillem de Castro. The triumphant success of this, perhaps the most "epoch-making" play in all literature, the jealousy of Richelieu and the Academy, the open attacks of Georges de Scuderyand J. de Mairet and others, and the pamphletwar which followed, are among the best-known incidents in the history of letters. The trimming verdict of the Academy, which we have in J. Chapelain's Sentiments de l'Acaddmie francaise sur la tragi-comddie du Cid (1638), when its arbitration was demanded by Richelieu, and not openly repudiated by Corneille, was virtually unimportant; but it is worth remembering that no less a writer than Georges de Scudery, in his Observations sur le Cid (1637), gravely and apparently sincerely asserted and maintained of this great play that the subject was utterly bad, that all the rules of dramatic composition were violated, that the action was badly conducted, the versification constantly faulty, and the beauties as a rule stolen! Corneille himself was awkwardly situated in this dispute. The esprit bourru by which he was at all times distinguished, and which he now displayed in his rather arrogant Excuse a Ariste, unfitted him for controversy, and it was of vital importance to him that he should not lose the outward marks of favour which Richelieu continued to show him. Perhaps the pleasantest feature in the whole matter is the unshaken and generous admiration with which Rotrou, the only contemporary whose genius entiled him to criticise Corneille, continued to regard his friend, rival, and in some sense (though Rotrou was the younger of the two) pupil. Finding it impossible to make himself fairly heard in the matter, Corneille (who had retired from his position among the "five poets") withdrew to Rouen and passed nearly three years in quiet there, perhaps revolving the opinions afterwards expressed in his three Discours and in the Examens of his plays, where he bows, somewhat as in the house of Rimmon, to "the rules." In 1639, or at the beginning of 1640, appeared Horace with a dedication to Richelieu. The good offices of Madame de Combalet, to whom the Cid had been dedicated, and perhaps the satisfaction of the cardinal's literary jealousy, had healed what breach there may have been, and indeed the poet was in no position to quarrel with his patron. Richelieu not only allowed him 500 crowns a year, but soon afterwards, it is said, though on no certain authority, employed his omnipotence in reconciling the father of the poet's mistress, Marie de Lamperiere, to the marriage of the lovers (1640). In this year also Cinna appeared. A brief but very serious illness attacked him, and the death of his father the year before had increased his family anxieties by leaving his mother in very indifferent circumstances. It has, however, been recently denied that he himself was at any time poor, as older traditions asserted.

In the following year Corneille figured as a contributor to the Guirlande de Julie, a famous album which the marquis de Montausier, assisted by all the literary men of the day, offered to his lady-love, Julie d'Angennes. 1643 was, according to the latest authorities (for Cornelian dates have often been altered), a very great year in the dramatist's life. Therein appeared Polyeucte, the memorable comedy of Le Menteur, which though adapted from the Spanish stood in relation to French comedy very much as Le Cid, which owed less to Spain, stood to French tragedy; its less popular and far less good Suite, - and perhaps La Mort de Pompee. Rodogune (1644) was a brilliant success; Theodore (1645),(1645), a tragedy on a somewhat perilous subject, was the first of Corneille's plays which was definitely damned. Some amends may have been made to him by the commission which he received next year to write verses for the Triomphes poetiques de Louis XIII. Soon after (22nd of January 1647) the Academy at last (it had twice rejected him on frivolous pleas) admitted the greatest of living French writers. Heraclius (1646), Andromede (1650), a spectacle-opera rather than a play, Don Sanche d'Aragon (1650) and Nicomede (1651) were the products of the next few years' work; but in 1652 Pertharite was received with decided disfavour, and the poet in disgust resolved, like Ben Jonson, to quit the loathed stage. In this resolution he persevered for six years, during which he worked at a verse translation of the Imitation of Christ (finished in 1656), at his three Discourses on Dramatic Poetry, and at the Examens which are usually printed at the end of his plays. In 1659 Fouquet, the Maecenas of the time, persuaded him to alter his resolve, and Odipe, a play which became a great favourite with Louis XIV., was the result. It was followed by La Toison d'or (1660), Sertorius (1662) and Sophonisbe (1663). In this latter year Corneille (who had at last removed his residence from Rouen to Paris in 1662) was included among the list of men of letters pensioned at the proposal of Colbert. He received 2000 livres. Othon (1664), Agesilas (1666), Attila (1667), and Tite et Berenice (1670),(1670), were generally considered as proofs of failing powers, - the cruel quatrain of Boileau "Apres l'Age'silas Helas!

Mais apres l' Attila Hola!" in the case of these two plays, and the unlucky comparison with Racine in the Berenice, telling heavily against them. In 1665 and 1670 some versifications of devotional works addressed to the Virgin had appeared. The part which Corneille took in Psyche (1671), Moliere and P. Quinault being his coadjutors, showed signs of renewed vigour; but Pulcherie (1672) and Surena (1674) were allowed even by his faithful followers to be failures. He lived for ten years after the appearance of Surena, but was almost silent save for the publication, in 1676, of some beautiful verses thanking Louis XIV. for ordering the revival of his plays. He died at his house in the rue d'Argenteuil on the 30th of September 1684. For nine years (1674-1681), and again in 1683, his pension had, for what reason is unknown, been suspended. It used to be said that he was in great straits, and the story went (though, as far as Boileau is concerned, it has been invalidated), that at last Boileau, hearing of this, went to the king and offered to resign his own pension if there were not money enough for Corneille, and that Louis sent the aged poet two hundred pistoles. He might, had it actually been so, have said, with a great English poet in like case, "I have no time to spend them." Two days afterwards he was dead.

Corneille was buried in the church of St Roch, where no monument marked his grave until 1821. He had six children, of whom four survived him. Pierre, the eldest son, a cavalry officer who died before his father, left posterity in whom the name has continued; Marie, the eldest daughter, was twice married, and by her second husband, M. de Farcy, became the ancestress of Charlotte Corday. Repeated efforts have been made for the benefit of the poet's descendants, Voltaire, Charles X. and the Comedic francaise having all borne part therein.

The portraits of Corneille (the best and most trustworthy of which is from the burin of M. Lasne, an engraver of Caen), represent him as a man of serious, almost of stern countenance, and this agrees well enough with such descriptions as we have of his appearance, and with the idea of him which we should form from his writings and conduct. His nephew Fontenelle admits that his general address and manner were by no means prepossessing. Others use stronger language, and it seems to be confessed that either from shyness, from pride, or from physical defects of utterance, probably from all three combined, he did not attract strangers. Racine is said to have assured his son that Corneille made verses "cent fois plus beaux" than his own, but that his own greater popularity was owing to the fact that he took some trouble to make himself personally agreeable. Almost all the anecdotes which have been recorded concerning him testify to a rugged and somewhat unamiable self-contentment. "Je n'ai pas le merite de ce pays-ci," he said of the court. "Je n'en suis pas moins Pierre Corneille," he is said to have replied to his friends as often as they dared to suggest certain shortcomings in his behaviour, manner or speech. "Je suis saoul de gloire et affame d'argent" was his reply to the compliments of Boileau. Yet tradition is unanimous as to his affection for his family, and as to the harmony in which he lived with his brother Thomas who had married Marguerite de Lamperiere, younger sister of Marie, and whose household both at Rouen and at Paris was practically one with that of his brother. No story about Corneille is better known than that which tells of the trap between the two houses, and how Pierre, whose facility of versification was much inferior to his brother's, would lift it when hard bestead, and call out "Sans-souci, une rime!" Notwithstanding this domestic felicity, an impression is left on the reader of Corneille's biographies that he was by no means a happy man. Melancholy of temperament will partially explain this, but there were other reasons. He appears to have been quite free from envy properly so called, and to have been always ready to acknowledge the excellences of his contemporaries. But, as was the case with a very different man - Goldsmithpraise bestowed on others always made him uncomfortable unless it were accompanied by praise bestowed on himself. As Guizot has excellently said, "Sa jalousie fut celle d'un enfant qui veut qu'un sourire le rassure contre les caresses que recoit son frere." Although his actual poverty has been recently denied, he cannot have been affluent. His pensions covered but a small part of his long life and were most irregularly paid. He was no "dedicator," and the occasional presents of rich men, such as Montauron (who gave him a thousand, others say two hundred, pistoles for the dedication of Cinna), and Fouquet (who commissioned Odipe), were few and far between, though they have exposed him to reflections which show great ignorance of the manners of the age. Of his professional earnings, the small sum for which, as we have seen, he gave up his offices, and the expression of Fontenelle that he practised "sans gout et sans succes," are sufficient proof. His patrimony and his wife's dowry must both have been trifling. On the other hand, it was during the early and middle part of his career impossible, and during the later part very difficult, for a dramatist to live decently by his pieces. It was not till the middle of the century that the custom of allowing the author two shares in the profits during the first run of the piece was observed, and even then revivals profited him nothing. Thomas Corneille himself, who to his undoubted talents united wonderful facility, untiring industry, and (gift valuable above all others to the playwright) an extraordinary knack of hitting the public fancy, died, notwithstanding his simple tastes, "as poor as Job." We know that Pierre received for two of his later pieces two thousand livres each, and we do not know that he ever received more.

But his reward in fame was not stinted. Corneille, unlike many of the great writers of the world, was not driven to wait for "the next age" to do him justice. The cabal or clique which attacked the Cid had no effect whatever on the judgment of the public. All his subsequent masterpieces were received with the same ungrudging applause, and the rising star of Racine, even in conjunction with the manifest inferiority of Corneille's last five or six plays, with difficulty prevailed against the older poet's towering reputation. The great men of his time - Conde, Turenne, the marechal de Grammont, the knight-errant duc de Guise - were his fervent admirers. Nor had he less justice done him by a class from whom less justice might have been expected, the brother men of letters whose criticisms he treated with such scant courtesy. The respectable mediocrity of Chapelain might misapprehend him; the lesser geniuses of Scudery and Mairet might feel alarm at his advent; the envious Claverets and D'Aubignacs might snarl and scribble. But Balzac did him justice; Rotrou, as we have seen, never failed in generous appreciation; Moliere in conversation and in print recognized him as his own master and the foremost of dramatists. We have quoted the informal tribute of Racine; but it should not be forgotten that Racine, in discharge of his duty as respondent at the Academical reception of Thomas Corneille, pronounced upon the memory of Pierre perhaps the noblest and most just tribute of eulogy that ever issued from the lips of a rival. Boileau's testimony is of a more chequered character; yet he seems never to have failed in admiring Corneille whenever his principles would allow him to do so. Questioned as to the great men of Louis XIV.'s reign, he is said to have replied: "I only know three, - Corneille, Moliere and myself." "And how about Racine?" his auditor ventured to remark. "He was an extremely clever fellow to whom I taught the art of elaborate rhyming" (rimer difficilement). It was reserved for the 18th century to exalt Racine above Corneille. Voltaire, who was prompted by his natural benevolence to comment on the latter (the profits went to a relation of the poet), was not altogether fitted by nature to appreciate Corneille, and moreover, as has been ingeniously pointed out, was not a little wearied by the length of his task. His partially unfavourable verdict was endorsed earlier by Vauvenargues, who knew little of poetry, and later by La Harpe, whose critical standpoint has now been universally abandoned. Napoleon I. was a great admirer of Corneille ("s'il vivait, je le ferais prince," he said), and under the Empire and the Restoration an approach to a sounder appreciation was made. But it was the glory of the romantic school, or rather of the more catholic study of letters which that school brought about, to restore Corneille to his true rank. So long, indeed, as a certain kind of criticism was pursued, due appreciation was impossible. When it was thought sufficient to say with Boileau that Corneille excited, not pity or terror, but admiration which was not a tragic passion; or that "D'un seul nom quelquefois le son dur ou bizarre Rend un poeme entier ou burlesque ou barbare;" when Voltaire could think it crushing to add to his exposure of the "infamies" of Theodore - " apres cela comment osons-nous condamner les pieces de Lope de Vega et de Shakespeare?" - it is obvious that the Cid and Polyeucte, much more Don Sanche d'Aragon and Rodogune, were sealed books to the critic.

Almost the first thing which strikes a reader is the singular inequality of this poet, and the attempts to explain this inequality, in reference to his own and other theories, leave the fact untouched. Producing, as he certainly has produced, work which classes him with the greatest names in literature, he has also signed an extraordinary quantity of verse which has not merely the defects of genius, irregularity, extravagance, bizarrete, but the faults which we are apt to regard as exclusively belonging to those who lack genius, to wit, the dulness, and tediousness of mediocrity. Moliere's manner of accounting for this is famous in literary history or legend. "My friend Corneille," he said, "has a familiar who inspires him with the finest verses in the world. But sometimes the familiar leaves him to shift for himself, and then he fares very badly." That Corneille was by no means destitute of the critical faculty his Discourses and the Examens of his plays (often admirably acute, and, with Dryden's subsequent prefaces, the originals to a great extent of specially modern criticism) show well enough. But an enemy might certainly contend that a poet's critical faculty should be of the Promethean, not be Epimethean order. The fact seems to be that the form in which Corneille's work was cast, and which by an odd irony of fate he did so much to originate and make popular, was very partially suited to his talents. He cou'd imagine admirable situations, and he could write verses of incomparable grandeur - verses that reverberate again and again in the memory, but he could not, with the patient docility of Racine, labour at proportioning the action of a tragedy strictly, at maintaining a uniform rate of interest in the course of the plot and of excellence in the fashion of the verse. Especially in his later plays a verse and a couplet will crash out with fulgurous brilliancy, and then be succeeded by pages of very second-rate declamation or argument. It was urged against him also by the party of the Doucereux, as he called them, that he could not manage, or did not attempt, the great passion of love, and that except in the case of Chimene his principle seemed to be that of one of his own heroines: - "Laissons, seigneur, laissons pour les petites ames Ce commerce rampant de soupirs et de flammes." (Aristie in Sertorius.) There is perhaps some truth in this accusation, however much some of us may be disposed to think that the line just quoted is a fair enough description of the admired ecstasies of Achille and Bajazet. But these are all the defects which can be fairly urged against him; and in a dramatist bound to a less strict service they would hardly have been even remarked. They certainly neither require, nor are palliated by, theories of his "megalomania," of his excessive attention to conflicts of will and the like. On the English stage the liberty 01 unrestricted incident and complicated action, the power of multiplying characters and introducing prose scenes, would have exactly suited his somewhat intermittent genius, both by covering defects and by giving greater scope for the exhibition of power.

How great that power is can escape no one. The splendid soliloquies of Medea which, as Voltaire happily says, "annoncent Corneille," the entire parts of Rodogune and Chimene, the final speech of Camille in Horace, the discovery scene of Cinna, the dialogues of Pauline and Severe in Polyeucte, the magnificentlycontrasted conception and exhibition of the best and worst forms of feminine dignity in the Cornelie of Pompee and the Cleopatre of Rodogune, the singularly fine contrast in Don Sanche d'Aragon, between the haughtiness of the Spanish nobles and the unshaken dignity of the supposed adventurer Carlos, and the characters of Aristie, Viriate and Sertorius himself, in the play named after the latter, are not to be surpassed in grandeur of thought, felicity of design or appropriateness of language. "Admiration" may or may not properly be excited by tragedy, and until this important question is settled the name of tragedian may be at pleasure given to or withheld from the author of Rodogune. But his rank among the greatest of dramatic poets is not a matter of question. For a poet is to be judged by his best things, and the best things of Corneille are second to none.

The Plays

It was, however, some time before his genius came to perfection. It is undeniable that the first six or seven of his plays are of no very striking intrinsic merit. On the other hand, it requires only a very slight acquaintance with the state of the drama in France at the time to see that these works, poor as they may now seem, must have struck the spectators as something new and surprising. The language and dialogue of Melite are on the whole simple and natural, and though the construction is not very artful (the fifth act being, as is not unusual in Corneille, superfluous and clumsy), it is still passable. The fact that one of the characters jumps on another's back, and the rather promiscuous kissing which takes place, are nothing to the liberties usually taken in contemporary plays. A worse fault is the vTCXo,uveta, or, to borrow Butler's expression, the Cat-andPuss dialogue, which abounds. But the common objection to the play at the time was that it was too natural and too devoid of striking incidents. Corneille accordingly, as he tells us, set to work to cure these faults, and produced a truly wonderful work, Clitandre. Murders, combats, escapes and outrages of all kinds are provided; and the language makes The Rehearsal no burlesque. One of the heroines rescues herself from a ravisher by blinding him with a hair-pin, and as she escapes the seducer apostrophizes the blood which trickles from his eye, and the weapon which has wounded it, in a speech forty verses long. This, however, was his only attempt of the kind. For his next four pieces, which were comedies, there is claimed the introduction of some important improvements, such as the choosing for scenes places well known in actual life (as in the Galerie du palais), and the substitution of the soubrette in place of the old inconvenient and grotesque nurse. It is certain, however, that there is more interval between these six plays and than between the latter and Corneille's greatest drama. Here first do we find those sudden and magnificent lines which characterize the poet. The title-role is, however, the only good one, and as a whole the play is heavy. Much the same may be said of its curious successor L'Illusion comique. This is not only a play within a play, but in part of it there is actually a third involution, one set of characters beholding another set discharging the parts of yet another. It contains, however, some very fine lines, in particular, a defence of the stage and some heroics put into the mouth of a braggadocio. We have seen it said of the Cid that it is difficult to understand the enthusiasm it excited. But the difficulty can only exist for persons who are insensible to dramatic excellence, or who so strongly object to the forms of the French drama that they cannot relish anything so presented. Rodrigue, Chimene, Don Diegue are not of any age, but of all time. The conflicting passions of love, honour, duty, are here represented as they never had been on a French stage, and in the "strong style" which was Corneille's own. Of the many objections urged against the play, perhaps the weightiest is that which condemns the frigid and superfluous part of the Infanta. Horace, though more skilfully constructed, is perhaps less satisfactory. There is a hardness about the younger Horace which might have been, but is not made, imposing, and Sabine's effect on the action is quite out of proportion to the space she occupies. The splendid declamation of Camille, and the excellent part of the elder Horace, do not altogether atone for these defects. Cinna is perhaps generally considered the poet's masterpiece, and it undoubtedly contains the finest single scene in all French tragedy. The blot on it is certainly the character of Emilie, who is spiteful and thankless, not heroic. Polyeucte has sometimes been elevated to the same position. There is, however, a certain coolness about the hero's affection for his wife which somewhat detracts from the merit of his sacrifice; while the Christian part of the' matter is scarcely so well treated as in the Saint Genest of Rotrou or the Virgin Martyr of Massinger. On 'the other hand, the entire parts of Pauline and Severe are beyond praise, and the manner in which the former reconciles her duty as a wife with her affection for her lover is an astonishing success. In Pompee (for La Mort de Pompee, though the more appropriate, was not the original title) the splendid declamation of Cornelie is the chief thing to be remarked. Le Menteur fully deserves the honour which Moliere paid to it. Its continuation, notwithstanding the judgment of some French critics, we cannot think so happy. But Theodore is perhaps the most surprising of literary anomalies. The central situation, which so greatly shocked Voltaire and indeed all French critics from the date of the piece, 'does not seem to blame. A virgin martyr who is threatened with loss of honour as a bitterer punishment than loss of life offers points as powerful as they are perilous. But the treatment is thoroughly bad. From the heroine who is, in a phrase of Dryden's, "one of the coolest and most insignificant" heroines ever drawn, to the undignified Valens, the termagant Marcelle, and the peevish Placide, there is hardly a good character. Immediately upon this in most printed editions, though older in representation, follows the play which (therein agreeing rather with the author than with his critics) we should rank as his greatest triumph, Rodogune. Here there is hardly a weak point. The magnificent and terrible character of Cleopatre, and the contrasted dispositions of the two princes, of course attract most attention. But the character of Rodogune herself, which has not escaped criticism, comes hardly short of these. Heraclius, despite great art and much fine poetry, is injured by the extreme complication of its argument and by the blustering part of Pulcherie. Andromede, with the later spectacle piece, the Toison d'or, do not call for comment, and we have already alluded to the chief merit of Don Sanche. Nicomede, often considered one of Corneille's best plays, is chiefly remarkable for the curious and unusual character of its hero. Of Pertharite it need only be said that no single critic has to our knowledge disputed the justice of its damnation. Odipe is certainly unworthy of its subject and its author, but in Sertorius we have one of Corneille's finest plays. It is remarkable not only for its many splendid verses and for the nobility of its sentiment, but from the fact that not one of its characters lacks interest, a commendation not generally to be bestowed on its author's work. Of the last six plays we may say that perhaps only one of them, Agesilas, is almost wholly worthless. Not a few speeches of Surena and of Othon are of a very high order. As to the poet's non-dramatic works, we have already spoken of his extremely interesting critical dissertations. His minor poems and poetical devotions are not likely to be read save from motives of duty or curiosity. The verse translation of a Kempis, indeed, which was in its day immensely popular (it passed through many editions), condemns itself.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. - The subject of the bibliography of Corneille was treated in the most exhaustive manner by M. E. Picot in his Bibliographie Cornelienne (Paris, 1875-1876). Less elaborate, but still ample information may be found in J. A. Taschereau's Vie and in M. Marty-Laveaux's edition of the Works. The individual plays were usually printed a year or two after their first appearance: but these dates have been subjected to confusion and to controversy, and it seems better to refer for them to the works quoted and to be quoted. The chief collected editions in the poet's lifetime were those of 1644, 1648, 1652, 1660 (with important corrections), 1664 and 1682, which gives the definitive text. In 1692 T. Corneille published a complete Theatre in 5 vols. 12mo. Numerous editions appeared in the early part of the 18th century, that of 1740 (6 vols. 12mo, Amsterdam) containing the CEuvres diverses as well as the plays. Several editions are recorded between this and that of Voltaire (12 vols. 8vo; Geneva, 1764, 1776, 8 vols. 4to), whose Commentaires have often been reprinted separately. In the year IX. (1801) appeared an edition of the Works with Voltaire's commentary and criticisms thereon by Palissot (12 vols. 8vo, Paris). Since this the editions have been extremely numerous. Those chiefly to be remarked are the following. Lefevre's (12 vols. 8vo, Paris, 1854), well printed and with a useful variorum commentary, lacks bibliographical information and is disfigured by hideous engravings. Of Taschereau's, in the Bibliotheque elzevirienne, only two volumes were published. Lahure's appeared in 5 vols. (1857-1862) and 7 vols. (1864-1866). The edition of Ch. Marty-Laveaux in Regnier's Grands Ecrivains de la France (1862-1868), in 12 vols. 8vo, is still the standard. In appearance and careful editing it leaves nothing to desire, containing the entire works, a lexicon, full bibliographical information, and an album of illustrations of the poet's places of residence, his arms, some title-pages of his plays, facsimiles of his writings, &c. Nothing is wanting but variorum comments, which Lefevre's edition supplies. Fontenelle's life of his uncle is the chief original authority on that subject, but Taschereau's Histoire de la vie et des ouvrages de P. Corneille (1st ed. 1829, 2nd in the Bibl. elzevirienne, 1855) is the standard work. Its information has been corrected and augmented in various later publications, but not materially. Of the exceedingly numerous writings relative to Corneille we may mention the Recueil de dissertations'sur plusieurs tragedies de Corneille et de Racine of the abbe Granet (Paris, 1740), the criticisms already alluded to of Voltaire, La Harpe and Palissot, the well-known work of Guizot, first published as Vie de Corneille in 1813 and revised as Corneille et son temps in 1852, and the essays, repeated in his Portraits litte'raires, in Port-Royal, and in the Nouveaux Lundis of Sainte-Beuve. More recently, besides essays by MM. Brunetiere, Faguet and Lemaitre and the part appurtenant of M. E. Rigal's work on 16th century drama in France, see Gustave Lanson's "Corneille" in the Grands Ecrivains francais (1898); F. Bouquet's Points obscurs et nouveaux de la vie de Pierre Corneille (1888); Corneille inconnu, by J. Levallois (1876); J. Lemaitre, Corneille et la poetique d'Aristote (1888); J. B. Segall, Corneille and the Spanish Drama (1902); and the recently discovered and printed Fragments sur Pierre et Thomas Corneille of Alfred de Vigny (1905). On the Cid quarrel E. H. Chardon's Vie de Rotrou (1884) bears mainly on a whole series of documents which appeared at Rouen in the proceedings of the Societe des bibliophiles normands during the years 1891-1894. The best-known English criticism, that of Hallam in his Literature of Europe, is inadequate. The translations of separate plays are very numerous, but of the complete Theatre only one version (into Italian) is recorded by the French editors. Fontenelle tells us that his uncle had translations of the Cid in every European tongue but Turkish and Slavonic, and M. Picot's book apprises us that the latter want, at any rate, is now supplied. Corneille has suffered less than some other writers from the attribution of spurious works. Besides a tragedy, Sylla, the chief piece thus assigned is L'Occasion perdue recouverte, a rather loose tale in verse. Internal evidence by no means fathers it on Corneille, and all external testimony is against it. It has never been included in Corneille's works. It is curious that a translation of Statius (Thebaid, bk. iii.), an author of whom Corneille was extremely fond, though known to have been written, printed and published, has entirely dropped out of sight. Three verses quoted by Menage are all we possess. (G. SA.)

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Simple English

Pierre Corneille (June 6, 1606October 1, 1684) was a French playwright. He is one of the most famous 17th century French dramatists. Some others are Molière and Racine. He has been called “the founder of French tragedy” and produced plays for nearly forty years.


  • Mélite (1629)
  • Clitandre (1630–31)
  • la Veuve (1631)
  • la Galerie du Palais (1631–32)
  • La Place royale (1633–34)
  • l'Illusion comique (1636)
  • Médée (1635)
  • le Cid (1637)
  • Horace (1640)
  • Cinna (1641)
  • Polyeucte (1642)
  • La Mort de Pompée (1643)
  • Le Menteur (1643)
  • Rodogune (1644)
  • Héraclius (1647)
  • Don Sanche d'Aragon (1650)
  • Andromède, (1650)
  • Nicomède, (1651)
  • Pertharite, (1651)
  • l'Imitation de Jésus-Christ (1656)
  • Oedipe (1659)
  • Trois Discours sur le poème dramatique (1660)
  • La Toison d'or (1660)
  • Sertorius (1662)
  • Othon (1664)
  • Agésilas (1666)
  • Attila (1667)
  • Tite et Bérénice (1670)
  • Psyché (w/ Molière and Philippe Quinault,1671)
  • Suréna (1674)


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