Once the dramatist has decided on what he will incorporate into his play—both ‘source’ material and ideas of his own invention—he comes to the disposition of this matter into a form suitable for the stage. The present chapter and the next two deal with some of the problems a seventeenth-century French playwright had to face when carrying out this transformation. There is, of course, a fair amount of overlap between the items to be covered here, but on balance it seemed sensible to restrict the section dealing with form to what one might describe as the more external or general aspects of a play, then move inside the structure to discuss, in chapter 7, the famous three unities before examining in chapter 8 the terms action and plot and the distinction between them which is all too rarely made. I believe that these last two items, action and plot, are going to be conditioned by the conventions regarding the outward shape of the play and the restricted time and place, although others would argue differently. Jacques Scherer, for instance, in his influential book La dramaturgie classique en France (1950), maintains that the creation of characters comes first in a playwright’s list of priorities, and he studies that and the unities of action and time among the ‘internal’ items before turning to an examination of the ‘external’ structure, where he includes discussion of the third unity, that of place.
KeywordsEurope Verse Prose Alexan Roxane
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