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Polyeucte by Pierre Corneille
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By Pierre Corneille

Translated by Thomas Constable


Pierre Corneille was born in Rouen in 1606, the son of an official; was
educated by the Jesuits, and practised unsuccessfully as a lawyer. His
dramatic career began with the comedy of "Melite," but it was by his
"Medee" that he first proved his tragic genius. "The Cid" appeared
in 1636, and a series of masterpieces followed--"Horace," "Cinna,"
"Polyeucte," "Le Menteur." After a failure in "Pertharite" he retired
from the stage, deeply hurt by the disapproval of his audience. Six
years later he resumed play writing with "OEdipe" and continued till
1674, producing in all some thirty plays. Though he earned a great
reputation, he was poorly paid; and a proud and sensitive nature laid
him open to considerable suffering. He died in 1684.

The works of Corneille represent most fully the ideal of French
so-called "classical" tragedy. The laws to which this type of tragedy
sought to conform were not so much truth to nature as the principles
which the critics had derived from a somewhat inadequate interpretation
of Aristotle and of the practise of the Greek tragedians. These
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