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The orateur in seventeenth-century French theatre companies.

Although offering a description of duties substantially similar to that in the published text, the 1673 manuscript of Samuel Chappuzeau's Le Theatre francois is more confident about the orateur's central role in a theatre company. In particular, Chappuzeau describes the addresses to the audience and recent moves towards concision, while street posters, prepared under the speaker's guidance, are said to contain wording which surviving copies lack. Literary examples of what have been considered street proclamations are judged to be in-house oral publicity. The varied terms used for the latter are seen as a matter of style and context, and Chappuzeau's treatment of the three main Paris companies as even-handed.


Study of the nature and functions of the so-called orateur in seventeenth-century French theatre troupes has given rise to much speculation, and this despite the seemingly straightforward explanations and examples provided in 1674 by Samuel Chappuzeau in Book III of Le Theatre francois, the only surviving printed text of the period to report on the day-to-day workings of the various major companies. (1) In a sequence of studies, William Brooks in particular has contributed much to our understanding of this key position, that of publicizing the troupe's forthcoming programme so as to ensure a sufficient audience to cover the actors' and actresses' professional and living expenses. (2) Part of the problem which appears to defy solution rests in the use of terms, by Chappuzeau and others--harangue, annonce, discours, compliment, even affiche--which are synonymous, overlapping or simply ill-defined. None the less, I believe that, for all its faults, Le Theatre francois provides us with a very clear, consistent picture of the duties of this key figure.

Chappuzeau's account of the theatre scene of his day is divided into three books and numerous short chapters. As published in 1674, Book I is entitled 'De l'usage de la Comedie', Book II 'Des Autheurs qui ont soutenu le Theatre depuis qu'il est dans son lustre', while Book III is called 'De la conduite des Comediens, Et de l'etablissement des deux Hostels [i.e. the Hotel de Bourgogne and the Theatre du Marais]'. Chapter 49 of this last book deals with 'Les Fonctions de l'Orateur'. It is important to note, however, that the author's earlier intention was to go further than this and include, alongside a detailed job description, a list of those who had been orateurs in the Paris companies. In the 1673 holograph version of Le Theatre francois, conserved in the Russian State Library in Moscow and which will form the base text of a forthcoming critical edition, the chapter is entitled 'Fonctions de l'Orateur, & suite de ceux qui ont exerce cet employ dans les Troupes de Paris' (fol. 96r/p. 173). (3) This copy of the work, in Chappuzeau's generally neat handwriting and with his distinctive signature on the title-page, includes on a flyleaf a later inscription 'Eloge de Moliere p. 150. 153. Moliere mourut l'annee que ce Livre fut ecrit'. But the title-page is more instructive, bearing as an integral part of the wording the dedication 'Pour la Troupe du Roy, (4) | a qui cet Ouurage est | particulierement devoue | Par son treshumble & | tresobeissant seruiteur | Chappuzeau. | M.DC.LXXIII.' (5)

In the printed text, the duties of the orateur (Mayer, pp. 225-30) are separated from a list of the main holders of the post, consigned to an appendix entitled 'Suite | DES ORATEVRS | Des Theatres de Paris, | contenue | Dans vne lettre de l'Autheur a | vne personne de qualite, | pour Reponce | Aux remarques qu'elle lui a en-|uoyees sur le Theatre Francois' (Mayer, pp. 265-84). Chappuzeau's reason for not including such a list in chapter 49 is rather lame: 'Ie donnerois icy la suite des Orateurs qui ont paru iusques a cette heure sur les Theatres de Paris, & parlerois du merite de chacun, si ie ne craignois de blesser la modestie de ceux qui viuent; sans d'autres raisons qui m'imposent silence sur article, que ie reserue a vne autre ocasion' (Mayer, pp. 265-66).

A comparison between the opening paragraphs of chapter 49 in the manuscript (fol. 96r/p. 173-fol. 97v/p. 176) and those in Mayer (pp. 225-30) brings out some significant differences. In 1673, since the orateur is seen as a representative of and spokesman for the whole company, 'il est de l'honneur de la Troupe qu'il en soit nomme le Chef, puisque je luy ay donne la face d'vne Republique, & encore qu'il n'ayt pas plus de pouuoir ni d'auantages qu'vn autre, chacun toutefois a de la deference pour ses auis' (fol. 96R/p. 173).Mayer (p. 225) is at once more tentative and more hard-hitting:

il seroit peut etre de l'honneur de la Troupe qu'il en fust nomme le Chef, puisque ie luy ay donne la face d'vne Republique, & que ie croirois luy faire tort de l'apeller Anarchie. Mais comme cet Orateur ne doit le plus souuent l'honneur de sa fonction qu'au pur hazard, sans que precisement le merite y contribue, & que d'ailleurs il n'a pas dans la Troupe plus de pouuoir ny d'auantage qu'vn autre, ainsi que les Comediens de Paris me l'ont assure, ie ne le nommeray simplement que l'Orateur. (Emphasis added)

The implied esteem which governs the natural choice in the manuscript has disappeared, as have the certainties that theatre companies govern themselves in a democratic fashion and that the orateur's opinion is worth listening to. One must assume that the first text was deemed suitable for the members of the Guenegaud troupe, with its remnants of Moliere's company, whereas Chappuzeau felt he could be more blunt when speaking to the wider readership of the Lyons edition.

The actual functions of the position-holder are very similar in both versions of Chappuzeau's narrative. Essentially they are two in number: 'C'est a luy de faire la harangue & de composer l'Affiche, & comme il y a beaucoup de raport de l'vne a l'autre, il suit presque la meme regle pour toutes les deux' (fol. 96r/ p. 173; Mayer, p. 226). The orateur delivers a 'discours' at the end of the day's performance in order to capture the audience's goodwill. After thanking the spectators for their attention, he announces the next performance's programme and attempts to drum up support 'par quelques eloges qu'il luy donne'. Those, then, are 'les trois parties sur lesquelles roule son compliment'. The 'harangue' or 'discours' or 'compliment' (the terms seem interchangeable) is usually short and extempore, only prepared in advance 'quand ou le Roy, ou Monsieur, ou quelque Prince du sang se trouue present', including those delivered at machine-plays which could not be staged at Court. Other occasions on which the speech is less than off-the-cuff are when there is 'vne piece nouuelle qu'il est besoin de vanter', at the farewell given after the last performance before the annual Lent closure, and on the day the theatre reopens after Easter, 'pour faire reprendre au Peuple le goust de la Comedie' (fol. 96v/p. 174; Mayer, p. 227). A normal performance's annonce may also include news about forthcoming new plays 'pour tenir le monde en haleine & faire valoir le merite de la Troupe'.

One notes in this seemingly comprehensive description that no mention is made of audience participation in the harangue. In 1881, Edouard Thierry suggested that the orateur frequently engaged in a dialogue with spectators, but no contemporary evidence exists for this practice. (6) What about posters? 'L'affiche suit l'annonce, & est de meme nature', Chappuzeau reports (fol. 97r/p. 175; Mayer, p. 228). In the first version of his text, he says a typical poster tells the reader about the crowd at the previous day's performance, the qualities of the forthcoming play, and the need to secure the better seats in good time, especially for a new work. He then adds, however: 'Mais comme les modes changent, toutes ces regularitez ne sont presque plus en vsage; ni dans l'Annonce, ni dans l'Affiche, il ne se fait plus de longs discours.'

By the time the final text of Le Theatre francois was printed, the author had prefaced these last comments with a longer explanation:

Cy-deuant quand l'Orateur venoit annoncer, toute l'assemblee prestoit vn tres grand silence, & son compliment court & bien tourne estoit quelquefois ecoute auec autant de plaisir qu'en auoit donne la Comedie. Il produisoit chaque iour quelque trait nouueau qui reueilloit l'Auditeur, & marquoit la fecondite de son esprit, & soit dans l'Annonce, soit dans l'Affiche il se montroit modeste dans les eloges que la coutume veut que l'on donne a l'Autheur & a son ouurage, & a la Troupe qui le doit representer. Quand ces eloges excedent, on s'imagine que l'Orateur en veut faire accroire, & l'on est moins persuade de ce qu'il tasche d'insinuer dans les esprits. (Mayer, pp. 228-29)

Continuation into the sentence concerning the change in fashion makes less sense in the published version than in the manuscript, a sign that Chappuzeau, who for much of his life led a hand-to-mouth existence, had not had time to prepare the work fully for printing. (7)

Apart from handling verbal announcements and posters, the orateur also brings the theatre company together for readings, rehearsals, '& en general dans toutes les rencontres qui regardent l'interest commun'. He then takes the lead in discussion of policy and usually gets his way 'par la deference que l'on a pour ses auis, sur tout quand on est persuade qu'il est intelligent & verse dans les affaires, & qu'il a du credit aupres des Grands'. The position is unpaid, but the holder obtains his reward from the respect accorded by his peers (fol. 97r-v/ pp. 176-77). By 1674, the summoning and discussion roles of the orateur are described in the present conditional rather than the present indicative, as are the troupe's willingness to follow his advice or to show him respect (Mayer, p. 230). Influence with the great is also now seen as less certain ('Quand cela se rencontre, [...]'), and the trust the members have in the orateur is less all-encompassing: the words 'entierement' and 'tous' are omitted from the original sentence 'La Troupe se repose alors entierement sur ses soins, elle luy confie tous ses interests' (Mayer, p. 230).

The remainder of Book III, chapter 49 in the manuscript version then deals with successive orateurs of the three Paris companies: Bellerose, Floridor, and the current Hauteroche at the Hotel de Bourgogne; Montdory, D'Orgemont, Floridor, and La Roque at the Marais, and Moliere, followed by La Grange, at the Petit Bourbon/Palais-Royal. Each is praised for his qualities, La Roque in particular being described as having influence with the King, which gained the respect of both 'la Cour' and 'la Ville', so that the actor 's'est serui auec joye de ces auantages pour le bien commun du Corps, qui luy abandonnoit la conduite des affaires' (fol. 99r/p. 179). He also undertook to sort out the perennial problem of rowdy spectators and attacks on porters which resulted in occasional deaths. The other person singled out for praise is La Grange, who succeeded Moliere as orateur just over eight years before the latter's death (and not six, as Chappuzeau claims) and who has become the first actor to hold the position in the new Guenegaud company.

The 'Suite' version of the description closely follows the corresponding text of 1673 as far as the orateur's functions are concerned, but adds that Hauteroche succeeded Floridor at the Hotel only because his peers, 'qui y ont le meme droit', wished it so (Mayer, p. 277). As in the manuscript (fol. 98v/p. 178), Chappuzeau confuses Montdory with the actor Montfleury when he says (Mayer, p. 277) that the former, 'l'vn des plus habiles Comediens de son temps', 'mourut de trop d'ardeur qu'il aportoit a s'aquiter de son role'.

I pass now to some of the issues raised in discussion elsewhere of the orateur and his various duties. As already noted, Chappuzeau describes the recent succinctness of oral announcements in the theatre as having extended to the posters displayed on street corners to attract audiences. A small number of such aches have survived, including two apparently dating from 1657 and perhaps 1658 at the Hotel de Bourgogne, (8) two from the Marais in February 1660, (9) and a Petit-Bourbon poster which must date from between October 1658 and October 1660. (10) These productions, measuring 40 cm. x 50 cm, with elaborate borders and differing paper and ink colours, have in common a fairly relaxed, conversational style. In addition to the name of the company, the performance date, the play's title and author, a brief mention of an upcoming spectacle, and a note of the time and place of the forthcoming performance (no details are given of the cast), each text includes wording such as 'Cest tout ce que nous vous dirons sur ce sujet puisque vous scavez la verite de cet ouvrage' (Quinault's Le Feint Alcibiade), or 'nous ne pouvons douter qu'il n'y ait une grande & belle assemblee' (for Boisrobert's La Folle gageure), followed by a farce 'pour vous faire connoistre que nous cherchons vos plaisirs', or 'Comme les diuertissemens enjouez sont de saison nous croyons vous bien regaller' (with Scarron's Jodelet maitre), accompanied by a supporting Scaramouche dance 'qui ne peut manquer de vous plaire beaucoup'. (11) If this was already the generally concise tone in vogue some thirteen to fifteen years before Chappuzeau drafted Le Theatre francois, it is useful to compare it with two other surviving posters. One is what appears to be an earlier Hotel de Bourgogne affiche, (12) advertising an undated performance by the 'Commediens de la Trovpe choisie' of a play first published in 1631. The text is more discursive:

CESTE Piesse n'a point de semblables, quoy que LIGDAMON & LIDIAS se resemble. Monsieur de SCVDERY a si diuinement traicte ce subject qu'il s'est aussi rendu inimitable. Nos Acteurs toutesfois vous prometent de le surpasser luy mesmes si vous les honnorez de vostre assistance ce [blank] Croyez que le demy Teston que vous donneres a la porte ne scauroit payer vne des Scenes de ce Diuin Poeme. GILET SAVETIER ce promet de vous donner de ris pour plus de deux Caresmes, ou AMBOBVS & la grand MICHELLE l'assisteront. C'est [blank].

The other poster is a rare provincial example but dating from the early 1660s at least, the company being 'Les Comediens de son Altesse Serenissime Monseignevr le Prince'. It runs:

NOus ne pouvons pas mieux faire connoistre l'envie que Nous avons de plaire a tout le beau Monde, dont tous les jours Nous sommes honorez de la presence, qu'en leur donnant aujourd'huy 16. Novembre vne magnifique Representation de l'Incomparable EVDOXE de Mr DE SCVDERY. La vertu de cette Grande Princesse est si approuvee, qu'elle doit seruir d'exemple a toutes les Dames, & les obliger de venir a sa representation, dont sans doute Elles remporteront vne satisfaction entiere. Ensuite vous aurez la Comedie du COCV IMAGINAIRE, qui vaudra seule la Piece de vingt sols. En attendant le Grand SERTORIVS.

C'est au Lieu ordinaire a trois heures precises. (13)

Paris performances were regularly scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., although many started later. Scudery's Eudoxe was probably first staged in 1639 and appeared in print in January 1641; Moliere's Sganarelle, ou le Cocu imaginaire had its first performance at the Petit-Bourbon on 28 May 1660 and was published in a pirated edition by the bookseller Jean Ribou as early as 12 August 1660, while Corneille's Sertorius opened at the Marais on 25 February 1662 and entered the public domain when printed on 8 July 1662.

In comparison with even this last example, the ache in octosyllables discussed in scene 1 of Dorimond's La Comedie de la comedie, performed in December 1660 or January 1661, is what Chappuzeau would call a 'long discours', especially as none of the usual practical information is conveyed in its fourteen lines, devoted as they largely are to describing the play's plot and praising its language and rhyme. As Brooks has demonstrated ('Reflections', pp. 204-05), this poster for the troupe supported by the Grande Mademoiselle is to be taken as an example of the 'real thing', although, as Lucidor says to his middle-class friend, it is highly unusual in being in verse. But if, 'au coin de cette rue, Vne ache a propos se montre a nostre veue', (14) the same is not true of four other verse aches which Brooks analyses. At least two of these, 'Autre caprice' from Scarron's Jodelet duelliste and 'Autre ache pour la mesme piece' from Villiers's Les Ramonneurs, seem to be annonces delivered at a performance, inviting the audience to return to the theatre. But it is noticeable that each encourages spectators to come and see the same play again (in Villiers's case the Amarillis of Tristan L'Hermite) rather than a different work, and while the first annonce could be delivered at the end of the whole performance, the second is inserted between the main play and a staging of Poisson's farce Lubin, ou le Sot venge, first published in September 1661.

The other examples which Brooks cites--'Caprice' by Scarron and a first 'Affiche pour la piece d'Amarillis' by Villiers--are more problematical, being said to be verbal announcements, but made somewhere outside the theatre. Unlike the two pieces we have just examined, these contain a number of alexandrines: the second line in each of the eight stanzas of 'Caprice', and the third, eighth, and last lines in the eighteen-line Villiers text. Yet the Villiers 'Autre ache' had also contained a single twelve-syllable line, just prior to the valediction, and had run to twenty-six lines, not far short of the thirty-two in 'Caprice'. So length and verse form cannot necessarily differentiate between indoor and outdoor oral publicity. Other evidence presented to identify the texts as open-air announcements can also be seen as less than convincing. It is not clear that every in-house annonce had to include comment about the 'performance having just taken place' as well as about future offerings ('Reflections', p. 205). Indeed, Chappuzeau's 'trois parties' and other remarks quoted earlier suggest that the orateur could and often did move directly from thanks to the audience to news about the next performance. Nor is it quite true to say that by the early 1660s public performances on consecutive days 'almost never took place' ('Reflections', p. 206), thus ruling out the Villiers 'Affiche' as a post-performance speech since it advertises a play to be staged 'demain'. La Grange's Registre shows that in 1661, for example, there were ten occasions, spread through-out the year, on which consecutive public performances were staged at the Palais-Royal theatre, thus breaking the by then usual Sunday-Tuesday-Friday pattern. (15)

The two texts themselves address the public directly, but so do the two annonces discussed earlier and indeed the Dorimond ache. While the words 'Accourez au Marais [...] Venez y voir [...]' might suggest that the Scarron 'Caprice' is not delivered inside that theatre, the Villiers 'Autre affiche', said to be an indoor speech, includes the rather similar lines 'Venez, apportez vostre trogne Dedans nostre Hostel de Bourgogne'. Which leaves Villiers's first Amarillis piece, with its thrice-repeated 'a ce coup' (ll. 1, 5, and 9), which Brooks identifies as drumbeats. Yet he goes on to argue convincingly that visual evidence such as the engraving of Harlequin and Le Tambour included as a frontispiece to Scudery's La Comedie des comediens (1635), together with textual references in that play or in Sorel's La Maison des jeux, does not prove that the beating of a drum in the street formed part of any proclamation or open-air verbal announcement concerning a theatre company's offerings, in Paris or the provinces ('Reflections', pp. 206-09).

It is, then, a little difficult to agree that Villiers's 'Affiche pour la piece d'Amarillis' and still less Scarron's 'Caprice' are evidence, indeed the only existing contemporary evidence, it would seem, although 'hitherto [...] resolutely ignored', of street proclamation on behalf of the Hotel de Bourgogne around 1660-61 ('Reflections', p. 209). Rather, since we have disposed of the matter of performances on consecutive days, it seems more prudent to treat this 'Affiche' as another example of the annonce, with 'a ce coup' having its conventional meaning of 'cette fois', 'en cette occasion'.

If accepted, these conclusions contribute to a wider evaluation of the accuracy of Chappuzeau's remarks in Le Theatre francois. Nowhere does he claim to offer a comprehensive account of all facets of seventeenth-century theatre life, and in some respects the 1674 book and the 1673 manuscript on which it is based are frustratingly incomplete. But elsewhere in his many prose writings he is seen to be a persistent and observant, if often loquacious, witness, much given to detailed lists which he conscientiously updates in subsequent editions. This trait of character, perhaps part of his strong Protestant work ethic, together with his considerable practical experience as the author of nine plays, suggests that what he does choose to say about a specific topic is more likely than not to be accurate, even authoritative.

In this light I would like to turn now to matters raised by Brooks in the third of his studies, and specifically to the timing and the length of the annonce. Chappuzeau's statement that the orateur's 'discours' comes 'a l'issue de la Comedie' (fol. 96r/p. 173; Mayer, p. 226) appears to conflict with the practice evident in three examples quoted by Brooks: a programme consisting of Nicomede and Le Docteur amoureux given at the Louvre on 24 October 1658, another, of Les Facheux and Le Mariage force in August 1668, to mark the birth of the Duc d'Anjou and described by Robinet, and, of course, the performances of Tristan's Amarillis and Poisson's Lubin, separated by the second Villiers annonce we have already examined ('Chappuzeau', p. 307). While it may seem unreasonable not simply to allow for occasional exceptions to a general rule, each of these three cases can be seen as rather unusual. The King was present at the first of the performances, while the third was a celebration of a noble birth. The Villiers text may well have been delivered, as the freres Parfaict, followed by Brooks, suggest ('Reflections', p. 211 n. 10), at the final Hotel de Bourgogne performance before the Lent closure in 1661, in which case it would be classed as what Chappuzeau terms an adieu. These special events fall within the category requiring extra work by the orateur; it is not surprising that on such occasions he should wish to deliver the carefully prepared comments in the middle rather than at the end of a double bill.

As regards the length of the orateur's speech, Brooks sees an 'impenetrable' contradiction between the words 'Le plus souvent il le fait court', supported by 'Cy-devant [...] son compliment court & bien tourne estoit quelquefois ecoute avec autant de plaisir qu'en avoit donne la Comedie', and the statement 'Dans l'annonce [...] il ne se fait plus de longs discours' ('Chappuzeau', p. 308). The apparent inconsistency derives mainly from the revisions Chappuzeau made between 1673 and 1674. In the manuscript (fol. 97r/p. 175), the last statement follows an explanation of the extra material included on special occasions but also of how both an 'Annonce ordinaire' and an outdoor affiche include items such as advance notice of new plays, the attendance at the previous performance, and the wisdom of getting to the theatre in good time. Changing fashion has almost removed 'toutes ces regularitez', i.e. the rules of the game. Brevity--just the title of the play to be presented--is all that is now required. In 1674 (Mayer, pp. 228-29), the change of fashion relates not just to the former short speech listened to with attention but to the inventiveness of the speaker ('chaque iour quelque trait nouueau qui reueilloit l'Auditeur'), his appropriate hesitation in lauding the author and his work, and the care taken not to give unconvincing and ultimately counter-productive praise to the actors. Thus we see once again that the published version of Le Theatre francois contains new text which is not perfectly integrated into that of the 1673 manuscript.

If we consider Chappuzeau's comments on theatre posters, preparation of which is said to have been an integral part of the orateur's duties, it is obvious that the precise description he gives of an affiche's traditional content is not followed in any of the examples which have come down to us. 'Elle entretient le Lecteur de la nombreuse Assemblee du jour precedent, du merite de la Piece qui doit suiure, & de la necessite de pouruoir aux Loges de bonne heure, sur tout lorsque la piece est nouuelle, & que le grand monde y court.' Posters now suffer the same compression as annonces: 'l'on se contente de nommer simplement a l'Assemblee la Piece qui se doit representer' (fol. 97r/p. 175; Mayer, p. 229).

If I have taken issue with some of Brooks's conclusions about Chappuzeau's little treatise, much of the analysis contained in his three studies is beyond reproach. It is true that 'orateur', in its specialized sense, was not much used at the time, and the suggested origin of the term, in the days of substantial speeches to the audience, may well be accurate, thus explaining the word's fall from grace as annonces became more concise ('Chappuzeau', pp. 313-15). (16) It is also correct to assume that the official orateur sometimes gave way to a fellow actor or the playwright and that each speaker would have had his own style of delivery, appropriate to the plays, theatre, and audience in question ('Chappuzeau', p. 311). If these and similar matters are not broached by Chappuzeau, it is because much is assumed or has to be left unsaid.

None the less, the treatment given to the three main theatre companies and their orateurs appears to me to be more balanced than Brooks would have us believe ('Chappuzeau', pp. 311-12). (17) Sufficient space is devoted overall to the various position-holders 'depuis que le Theatre Francois est dans l'eclat' (fol. 97v/p. 176), with a legitimate emphasis on La Roque (Marais) and La Grange (Palais-Royal), while Moliere's talents, including that 'il faisoit un compliment de bonne grace', are detailed in Book III, chapter 39. Undue attention is not paid to the Hotel de Bourgogne; its orateurs are dealt with quite briefly in chapter 49, with some further material on Bellerose and Floridor in chapter 31. Nor can it be claimed that 'Chappuzeau himself says that the orateur of a troupe is its leader' ('Chappuzeau', p. 314). As we have seen, this categorical statement is present only in the 1673 manuscript. As for the name given to the address which speakers prepared and delivered, almost always in prose, I find it hard to accept that Chappuzeau's use of several terms within a few pages is the result of confusion or is meant to deceive. Why should he wish 'terminological imprecision' to 'obfuscate his account'? The reason suggested--that he had 'a reluctance to pronounce too explicitly on contemporary practitioners, for he did not think highly of them' or that 'he is reluctant to express too robustly opinions which might be detrimental to the reputation of "le theatre francois", an institution he has set out to defend' ('Chappuzeau', pp. 316, 317)--can be no more than speculation, based, it would seem, on detecting much more dissatisfaction with the changes introduced over a period of some forty years than either text of Le Theatre francois allows.

If we take account of all that Chappuzeau says, it is clear that the original plan was to discuss in his published work the performance of actual orateurs immediately after he had described what he judged to be the requirements of the post. For reasons unknown (the 'modesty' of living holders is unlikely to have been damaged by any such comments), he decided in 1674 to defer his list to another occasion, only to have second thoughts about his 'trop de delicatesse' at the last minute, as the work was in press, at the behest of the unidentified and possibly imaginary 'personne de qualite' who requested this and other changes to a draft he had been sent rather late. In the 'Suite', the remarks about recent orateurs are prefaced by the words 'selon la connoissance que j'en puis auoir' (Mayer, p. 276), a further sign that the author is aware of his necessarily incomplete knowledge of the whole Paris theatre scene since the early 1630s. But the text remains almost exactly what it was in the manuscript: praise is bestowed on all nine named orateurs and lavished on a couple, with no indication that any was or is less than extremely competent. That Hauteroche is said to undertake his duties 'dignement' (fol. 98r/p. 177; Mayer, p. 277), or indeed that La Grange did so 'tres dignement' (fol. 100v/p. 182; Mayer, p. 282), should be seen not as an implied criticism ('Chappuzeau', p. 315) but as a mark of genuine respect. Similarly, I feel, when the 'personne de qualite' points out that, with fashions changing, contemporary orateurs eschew lengthy preparation in preference to a more leisured lifestyle, Chappuzeau's reply indicates, not misplaced nostalgia, but his customary obsequiousness towards those of higher social standing than himself:

Ie suis persuade, Monsieur, qu'en toutes choses vous n'auez que des sentimens tres justes, & quand il n'y auroit que le respect que ie vous dois, & le pouuoir absolu que vous auez toujours eu sur moy, c'en est assez pour m'obliger de vous obeir & de satisfaire a ce dernier article que vous me marquez. (Mayer, pp. 275-76)

In the end, the variety of names given to the orateur's address to the audience by Chappuzeau, other playwrights, and contemporary commentators is simply a matter of taste, style, and context. Reporters such as Loret and Robinet, for example, may use 'harangue' in their letters in (often rather poor) verse because it rhymes conveniently with 'langue' rather than because they see an essential difference in meaning between that word and 'annonce', 'compliment', or 'discours'. Paper posters on street corners coexisted with oral publicity occasionally also called 'affiches'. We simply do not know what Moliere, the most famous but certainly not the longest-serving orateur, called the addresses he gave or how he described that job among his many others. 'Orateur' is a convenient title, less cumbersome than 'le comedien qui annonce' or 'celui qui fait la harangue'. Chappuzeau's work has its faults, but its account of at least this aspect of a seventeenth-century public stage performance deserves to be seen as a trustworthy record of what actually went on, at least in the main Paris theatres of the time.



(1) Le Theatre francois (Lyons: Mayer, 1674) [hereafter Mayer]. The work is anonymous, apart from the initial 'C.' at the end of the dedicatory epistle to Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Truchi, a minister of Charles-Emmanuel II of Savoy. There is a permission of 22 January 1674 rather than a privilege and acheve d'imprimer, so the actual publication date is conjectural. A version with a new address only was published the same year by Rene Guignard in Paris. The text has been republished twice, by 'P. L. Jacob', i.e. Paul Lacroix (Brussels: Mertens et fils, 1867), and by Georges Monval (Paris: Bonnassies, 1876), in each case with light annotation. The Lacroix edition was reprinted as a facsimile in 1985 at Plan de la Tour by the Editions d'aujourd'hui.

(2) William Brooks, 'Reflections on Seventeenth-Century Verse Aches' [hereafter 'Reflections'], Theatre Research International, 10 (1985), 199-213; 'Harangue or Dialogue? The Publicity of the Orateurs on the French Stage, 1634-1673', Seventeenth-Century French Studies, 8 (1986), 166-76; 'Chappuzeau and the Orateur: A Question of Accuracy' [hereafter 'Chappuzeau'], MLR, 81 (1986), 305-17.

(3) The quarto-sized volume is shelfmarked Ms 256 N 776. The manuscript, held in the then Rumiantsev Library, and most of the variants it provides were described by Alexis Vesselovsky, 'Le manuscrit de Chappuzeau', LeMolieriste, 2.27 (1 June 1881), 81-87. The folios are 1r-111r; those from fol. 11R onwards are also numbered as pages, 1-207. Internal evidence, including references to the timing of the actor La Roque's move from the Marais to the new Guenegaud theatre and to the opening of this building, suggests that the text was prepared in early September 1673, less than seven months after Moliere's death on 17 February.

(4) i.e. that of the new Theatre Guenegaud, formed in July 1673 following an ordonnance of 23 June from La Reynie.

(5) In an uncharacteristic slip, Brooks ('Chappuzeau', p. 312) appears to confuse the new 'Troupe du Roi' with the long-established company at the Hotel de Bourgogne, 'la seule troupe royale'.

(6) Brooks, 'Harangue or Dialogue?', pp. 168-72.

(7) Among further evidence of Chappuzeau's haste is the inclusion in the printed chapter 49 of a ten-line section ('toute l'assemblee [...] la fecondite de son esprit', Mayer, p. 228), which is reproduced almost verbatim in the 'Suite des Orateurs' (Mayer, p. 276). The cut-off date for the published text is early January 1674, given the reference (Mayer, p. 282) to La Roque, 'vn tres ferme apuy du Theatre du Marais, d'ou il a passe depuis six mois auec plusieurs de ses camarades dans la Troupe du Roy'. The Marais closed on 23 June 1673 and the Guenegaud's first performance was on 9 July 1673.

(8) Charles Nuitter, 'Les affiches de spectacle au temps de Moliere', Le Molieriste, 2.16 (1 July 1880), 99-107 (pp. 99, 105); Sylvie Chevalley, Album theatre classique (Paris: Gallimard, 1970), p. 69.

(9) Nuitter, pp. 101-02, 105; Louis Moland, letter, Le Molieriste, 2.17 (1 August 1880), pp. 152-53; Charles Nuitter and Charles-Jules Revillout, 'Les affiches du Theatre du Marais', Le Molieriste, 2.18 (1 September 1880), pp. 180-86; Pierre Melese, Le Theatre et le public a Paris au XVIIe siecle

(Paris: Droz, 1934), p. 237; Sylvie Chevalley, Moliere en son temps, 1622-1673 (Paris and Geneva: Minkoff, 1973), p. 110.

(10) Nuitter, pp. 100, 105-06; Chevalley, Moliere en son temps, p. 112.

(11) The 1658 Hotel de Bourgogne text for Le Feint Alcibiade adds the words 'Deffences aux Soldats d'y entrer sur peine de la vie'.

(12) So identified in Chevalley, Moliere en son temps, p. 13. A test on was a silver coin which was first minted under Louis XII and increased in value. 'Les testons sous Henri IV eurentencore beaucoup de cours & ils n'ont commence a n'etre plus dans le commerce que du Regne de Louis XIII. en 1641. Ils valoient alors dix-neuf sous & demi' (Richelet). The standard parterre entrance charge in Paris was fifteen sous.

(13) Chevalley, Moliere en son temps, p. 158.

(14) Dorimond, La Comedie de la comedie, ou les Amours de Trapolin (Paris: Ribou, 1662), p. 1. The affiche and Lucidor's comments are on p. 2.

(15) 27-28 January, 17-18 and 24-25 February, 18-19 March, 25-26 April, 28-29 June, 25-26 and 28-29 July, 9-10 August, and 27-28 December 1661 (Bert Edward and Grace Philputt Young, Le Registre de La Grange, 1659-1685, 2 vols (Paris: Droz, 1947), I, 31-32, 34-35, 37-38, 41).

(16) However, La Grange's statement in his Registre on 14 November 1664 (1, 70) that 'J'ay commence a annoncer pour Mons. de Moliere' does not, in itself, prove that he refused to use the word orateur ('Chappuzeau', p. 314). Annonce, harangue, discours, even compliment have corresponding verbs, the first two being used in the infinitive in this context in seventeenth-century France, whereas orateur does not.

(17) Cf. n. 5, above.
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Author:Gossip, C.J.
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Date:Jul 1, 2006
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