Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pierre Corneille

Tuesday 8 March 1663/64

…Thence home, whither Luellin came and dined with me, but we made no long stay at dinner; for “Heraclius” being acted, which my wife and I have a mighty mind to see, we do resolve, though not exactly agreeing with the letter of my vowe, yet altogether with the sense, to see another this month, by going hither instead of that at Court, there having been none conveniently since I made my vowe for us to see there, nor like to be this Lent, and besides we did walk home on purpose to make this going as cheap as that would have been, to have seen one at Court, and my conscience knows that it is only the saving of money and the time also that I intend by my oaths, and this has cost no more of either, so that my conscience before God do after good consultation and resolution of paying my forfeit, did my conscience accuse me of breaking my vowe, I do not find myself in the least apprehensive that I have done any violence to my oaths…’

Heraclius, which Samuel Pepys and his wife ventured out to see on March 8th, 1664 (per Pepys’ Diary), was Pierre Corneille’s play about the Roman Emperor of that name.  Corneille is considered one of the major French playwrights of the 17th century.  Walter Scott says of Corneille, in his “Essay on the Drama”:

‘The French, like the English, date the excellence of their stage from one great author; and the illustrious name of Pierre Corneille affords to their dramatic history the mighty landmark which Shakespeare gives to our own...’

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