Alexandre Hardy - Encyclopedia

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ALEXANDRE HARDY (1569?-1631), French dramatist, was born in Paris. He was one of the most fertile of all dramatic authors, and himself claimed to have written some six hundred plays, of which, however, only thirty-four are preserved. He seems to have been connected all his life with a troupe of actors headed by a clever comedian named Valleran-Lecomte, whom he provided with plays. Hardy toured the provinces with this company, which gave some representations in Paris in 1599 at the Hotel de Bourgogne. Valleran-Lecomte occupied the same theatre in 1600-1603, and again in 1607, apparently for some years. In consequence of disputes with the Confrerie de la Passion, who owned the privilege of the theatre, they played elsewhere in Paris and in the provinces for some years; but in 1628, when they had long borne the title of "royal," they were definitely established at the Hotel de Bourgogne. Hardy's numerous dedications never seem to have brought him riches or patrons. His most powerful friend was Isaac de Laffemas (d. 1657), one of Richelieu's most unscrupulous agents, and he was on friendly terms with the poet Theophile, who addressed him in some verses placed at the head of his Thddtre (1632), and Tristan l'Hermite had a similar admiration for him. Hardy's plays were written for the stage, not to be read; and it was in the interest of the company that they should not be printed and thus fall into the common stock. But in 1623 he published Les Chastes et loyales amours de Thdagene et Cariclee, a tragicomedy in eight "days" or dramatic poems; and in 1624 he began a collected edition of his works, Le Thddtre d'Alexandre Hardy, parisien, of which five volumes (1624-1628) were published, one at Rouen and the rest in Paris. These comprise eleven tragedies: Didon se sacrifiant, Scddase ou l'hospitalitd violee, Panthee, Mdldagre, La Mort d'Achille, Coriolan, Marianne, a trilogy on the history of Alexander, Alcmeon, ou la vengeance feminine; five mythological pieces; thirteen tragi-comedies, among them Gesippe, drawn from Boccaccio; Phraarte, taken from Giraldi's Cent excellentes nouvelles (Paris, 1584); Corndlie, La Force du sang, Felismene, La Belle Egyptienne, taken from Spanish subjects; and five pastorals, of which the best is Alphde, ou la justice d'amour. Hardy's importance in the history of the French theatre can hardly be over-estimated. Up to the end of the 16th century medieval farce and spectacle kept their hold on the stage in Paris. The French classical tragedy of Etienne Jodelle and his followers had been written for the learned, and in 1628 when Hardy's work was nearly over and Rotrou was on the threshold of his career, very few literary dramas by any other author are known to have been publicly represented. Hardy educated the popular taste, and made possible the dramatic activity of the 17th century. He had abundant practical experience of the stage, and modified tragedy accordingly, suppressing chorus and monologue, and providing the action and variety which was denied to the literary drama. He was the father in France of tragi-comedy, but cannot fairly be called a disciple of the romantic school of England and Spain. It is impossible to know how much later dramatists were indebted to him in detail, since only a fraction of his work is preserved, but their general obligation is amply established. He died in 1631 or 1632.

The sources for Hardy's biography are extremely limited. The account given by the brothers Parfaict in their Hist. du thedtre francais (1745, &c., vol. iv. pp. 2-4) must be received with caution, and no documents are forthcoming. Many writers have identified him with the provincial playwright picturesquely described in chap. xi. of Le Page disgracie (1643), the autobiography of Tristan l'Hermite, but if the portrait is drawn from life at all, it is more probably drawn from Theophile. See Le Thddtre d'Alexandre Hardy, edited by E., Stengel (Marburg and Paris, 1883-1884, 5 vols.); E. Lombard, "Etude sur Alexandre Hardy," in Zeitschr. fur neufranz. Spr. u. Lit. (Oppeln and Leipzig, vols. i. and ii., 1880-1881); K. Nagel, A. Hardy's Einfluss auf Pierre Corneille (Marburg, 1884); and especially E. Rigal, Alexandre Hardy.. . (Paris, 1889) and Le Theatre francais avant la periode classique (Paris, 1901.)

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