Horace

P. Corneille

Play / Tragedy

There was a time when Presidents were Kings and no one pretended to listen to the people.
When kings could not stand their palaces, they went to war. Never alone – that would not be fun. They would send their armies to be killed in their place.
On this point, nothing has changed.
Not everyone has the class of Bonaparte, what do you want me to say?

In those days, to convince the King that maybe he was wrong, some people used the theater.
This is what Corneille did – in front of him, the absolute monarch, the king of kings in France, Louis XIV.
And here is Corneille launched into tragedies with a political purpose – but diverted – he speaks about what a State must be when the State is well directed and what a Head of State must be, when this Head wants to be more than a paper puppet.

Horace is the tragedy par excellence of the fratricidal war.
The peoples of Europe have been too close for too many centuries for their wars not to be necessarily fratricidal.

To be heard, Corneille moves the action to Rome, at the time when Rome was a power in the making.
A baby-power, if you will.

The Roman family of Horace is united by marriage and love to the Albanian family of Curiace.
Horace the Roman is married to Sabine of Alba.
Camille the Roman is engaged to Curiace.
This is it.
All was well.

And then it was the war between Rome and Alba.
To avoid a bloodbath, each city drew lots for 3 champions who would represent it.

The fate had decided to be cruel.
The three sons Horace will face the three sons Curiace.

It was enough for all the bastards of the two cities to start crying – but they were happy to be only spectators.

The 6 young men confront each other. Two Horace die. The three Curiace are wounded.
For the honor of Rome it remains only Horace husband of the beautiful Sabine, of Albe.
To kill his brothers-in-law – the fiancé of his sister: here is his mission.

Of course, women are not forgotten – and men will have to choose.
Family or country?
Which bonds are sacred?
But in fact, what were they fighting for?
Who in Rome and in Alba found it wise to break the peace to send to fight those who were brothers and sisters of the same family?

Horace – by Desmarais

Who let this inhuman fight take place, shedding crocodile tears?

It is a tragedy – you can imagine the end – it is only pain.
And Corneille also wanted it to shame those who lead as well as those who cry wolf, those who interfere and send others to die crying – well, a lot – in their couch – in their seat – in the balcony.

I love this play – it is more than human – it shows, to the point of sickness, what it is like to have a duplicitous human soul – it also shows what it is like to be a bully, the collective madness, the murderous hysteria, the weight of judgement of those who do nothing but scream so much.
There are no concessions – no one comes out unscathed. What should have been done?

He left the King with the spectacle of what a King provokes when he calls for war – and especially war between brothers. It was up to the King to think what to do. Bring in the ones – silence the others.

We no longer have Kings – are the people heard nowadays? I don’t know – but fratricidal wars still exist.

So this play by Corneille does not die – does not age.

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Featured Image : from The Horace oath – by David

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