LE MYTHE DE LA ROYAUTE ET LE DRAME DU DESIR: "CROMWELL" ET SA PREFACE. (FRENCH TEXT) (VICTOR HUGO)
MURPHY, BERNADETTE LINTZ
Doctor of Philosophy
Rather than separating play and Preface this study applies the same critical reading to both works, exploring them from the point of view of their common structure of desire. Cromwell's desire for political sovereignty parallels Hugo's desire for poetic sovereignty. A confrontation of the two texts reveals the poetic project which Hugo weaves into the symbolic and dramatic structures of Cromwell before expounding it in the Preface. In working out the poetic project in the play, Hugo grafts onto the plot of Cromwell a metadramatic discourse which serves as a commentary on the events of the play and introduces the theoretical perspective of Cromwell. Theatricality and playacting form the point at which plot and metadrama intersect. Cromwell's four fools play a crucial role in mediating between the two levels of the play and in linking the play to its Preface. The fools tear off the mask worn by the Protector and uncover his ambitious schemes. Cromwell's quest for the crown becomes the pretext for an investigation into the nature of kingship which is shown to begin and end in violence. The sacrificial nature of kingship reveals itself to Cromwell during the coronation ceremony. To avoid death at the hands of the puritains he is reduced to the role of an actor performing the comedy of sacrifice. It is precisely when Cromwell interprets the symbolic process of sacrifice that the drame comes into being. The structures of representation of the drame entail the union of opposites which translates on the esthetic level into the alliance of the grotesque and the sublime. This, then, is the inaugural moment of romantic drama. The death of kingship which Hugo inscribes into the play is the condition of the founding of the new drama. The poet lays claim to the sovereignty and the sacred attributes of which the king has been dispossessed. Hugo's choice of historical setting and subject becomes clear. The crumbling of the mythic and sacred order brought about by the French Revolution and the regicide has resulted in the emptiness of the center. The poet is to occupy this center and to appropriate the symbolic process.