Abstract

Abstract:

In April 1652, the fledgling French settlement of Quebec saw a performance Pierre Corneille's famous tragicomedy Le Cid. Interpreting the play in light of the social and political context of this performance, this article argues that audience members must have found something very familiar about Corneille's drama of domestic politics in medieval Castile, set against the backdrop of a threat of surprise attack by an army of Moors lurking downriver from the city of Seville. At the very moment the play was staged in Quebec, the St. Lawrence River also seemed, to chroniclers of colonial life, to be teeming with aggressive cultural Others awaiting opportunities to launch surprise attacks on the vulnerable French: the Iroquois. This article examines three aspects of Castile's conflict with the Moors in Le Cid—the vulnerability associated with proximity to a river, the enemy's stealth, and the way Castilians meet the challenge—and argues that the play would have reflected to audience members both their own dangerous situation and their unique relationship to royal authority. Comparison of this analysis to existing scholarly interpretations of the play shows how accounting for colonial experiences of French literature may bring fresh perspective both to individual texts and to the relationship between France and its colonies more broadly.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1836
Print ISSN
0098-9355
Pages
pp. 391-405
Launched on MUSE
2019-04-19
Open Access
No
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