n French Studies in Southern Africa - La grotte et le théâtre

Volume 2005, Issue 35
  • ISSN : 0259-0247



The action of Corneille's is situated in a cave where a magician produces a play which in turn opens up towards another play inside the first one. Since the action coincides with the duration of the performance it is clear that the author's aim is to show the workings of theatre as such. In this case Corneille produces a parody of existing theatre in order to justify and illustrate dramatic art and while doing so he represents his own conception of what theatre should be as well as searching for a language adequate to this conception. The play then is a parody in the positive sense of the word.

A play by the modern dramatist Anouilh entitled tempts us to compare the two plays and ask the question why the cave is an apt metaphor for theatrical space. Indeed Anouilh's play is also autoparodical but : the author pretends to let his characters, some of which he has already used in previous productions, make his play and thereby incarnate the shadows he himself has dreamed. This comparison illustrates the allegorical meaning of the cavern as a complex space where reality is confronted with its image, where the world appears upside down and in a state of formation. In that sense theatre is an apt and scenic representation of the dramatic nature of the human mind which needs to convey reality to its ideal creations in order to test their validity.

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