In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

424 LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 analyse du phenomene theatral global d'une rare acuite. Pavis connait bien son objet et il en fait une description d'une grande justesse. Les illustrations sont toujours edairantes, qui donnent de Marat-Sade ou des images d'Asterix une intelligence singuliere. On pourrait souhaiter une revision de sa theorisation pour mieux definir les concepts et maintenir une plus grande coherence. II est acraindre, cependant, que cette revision n'arrive trop tard, apres l'ouvrage remarquable d'Annie Ubersfeld: Lire Ie thedtre. (JOSEPH MELANC;ON) E.J.H. Greene'! Mellallder to Marivaux: Tile History of a Comic Structure University of Alberta Press. 2 0 1 Menander to Marivaux: The Histon; of a Comic Structure is volume I in a new series, the Library of the Canadian Review of Comparative Literature. Attractively presented, it is a survey of 693 comedies covering the period between Greek New Comedy and eighteenth-century French drame, with particular emphasis on the hundred years in France between 1660 and 1760. These plays are set against a theoretical backdrop, a comic structure or formula which Professor Greene calls 'F.' The author's intention is to trace the evolution of Ffrom its earliest documentable origins, through a statistically determinable golden age, to its 'dissolution' after the death of Marivaux. The formula is presented in chapter 1: 'The spontaneous loves of the Young, traversed by the Old, are aided and abetted by the Servants' (p 2). Although this is basically the same plot structure as the one set forth by Northrop Frye in his Anatomy of Criticism, Greene views his own study as a 'particular application' of F, rather than as a theoretical work. The formula is therefore applied to each play studied in an attempt to determine whether it is FI or 'non-F.' Works such as Terence's Phormio, which 'conforrn[s] to the strict definition of F' (p 18), are thus found to be similar to parts of Corneille's Illusion comique, which are 'almost pure F: by virtue of their conformity to the same general pattern. The pattern, self-contained and immutable on the theoretical level, is primarily studied on a historical plane as a formula subject to the transformations of time and place. In this light Greene sees plays like Larivey's Les Esprits as 'near-F' (p 25), La Fontaine's Eunuque as moving 'towards F' (p 34), Moliere's Avare as having a plot structure which 'is pure F' (p 58), Marivaux's Mere confidente as announcing 'the end of F' (p 129), and Beaumarchais's Barbier de Seville as ' F'S last flick of life' (p 157). Greene ties the evolution ofF to the developmentin France of 'an upper bourgeois world' (p 37). Parallel to this was the emergence of 'a number of servant types, who [were] French, who [had] a distinctive personality, HUMANITIES 425 and who [made] people laugh' (p 26). Paradoxically, it was the same bourgeois world that later lost interest in the comic portrayal of servants (p 151), preferring instead to locus attention on the problems of married life in such 'poSt-F bourgeois family play[sl' (p 154) as Florian's Bon menage. Marivaux is given a major innovative role in the move away from F. In such 'non-F' plays as La Surprise de I'amour, he moved the category of the Old, and 'individualized' the Young by changing 'the nature of the obstacle [to their loves] from external to internal' (p 119). It is particularly at this point that the limits of F become clear, for Greene considers a departure from the Old as a move away from the formula. Harold C. Knutson on the other hand, in Moliere: An Archetypal Appmach (University of Toronto Press, 1976), tries to expand the limits. By using the notion of romance, he integrates within his formula such apparently a-typical Molieresque plays as La Princesse d' Elide in which 'the primary dynamism departs from the familiar eiron-alazon contest to dwell on the trials of young love caught up in its own complications' (p 122). In his preface Greene makes the following statement: 'wHh respect to Marivaux, I have considered his comedies only...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 424-425
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.