, Volume 86, Issue 2, pp 197–214 | Cite as

Metaphors of Mathematics in Corneille's Theater

  • Nina Ekstein


Mathematical metaphors are a distinctive and characteristic feature of Corneille's theater, closely tied to his dramatic aesthetics. I divide these metaphors into two groups, identities and combinatorics. The field of identities deals with different kinds of equations, from the level of language, where elements are equated or placed in some other relationship that can be expressed mathematically, to the level of plot, where, for example, the search for identity (e.g. who is Héraclius?) resembles an algebraic equation. Combinatorics involves the arrangements and combinations of elements, and finds its greatest application here in the question of the constitution of couples to be married. After a wide-ranging discussion of these two groups of mathematical metaphors, I move to an in-depth examination of Don Sanche d'Aragon, the play that combines, to the greatest degree, issues relating to identities and combinatorics. The perspective afforded by these mathematical metaphors is particularly useful for understanding the central shift of focus in the play from the choice of a mate for the queen to the mystery of the identity of Don Sanche. Finally, in the conclusion, the metaphors of mathematics are linked to larger issues of Corneille's dramaturgy involving both structure and sexuality.


Characteristic Feature Great Degree Algebraic Equation Comparative Literature Historical Linguistic 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nina Ekstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Languages and LiteraturesTrinity UniversitySan AntonioUSA

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