Places: Horace

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1641 (English translation, 1656)

First produced: 1640

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Tragedy

Time of work: Antiquity

Places DiscussedHorace house

Horace Horacehouse. Roman home of the play’s title character, Horace, and his father, Old Horace. Corneille’s tragedy nicely illustrates the disastrous effects of characters who strive to impose their will upon others. Both Horace and his father believe in male domination of women. Within their house, women’s opinions and feelings are ignored and they expect their wives, daughters, and daughters-in-law blindly to obey them. Their home has become an elegant prison in which the female inmates fear violent outbursts by domineering males. Domestic violence is a constant threat to them, especially during a crisis, such as the civil war in which this play is set.

As this tragedy begins, Sabine, who was born in Alba, expresses to her Roman friend Julie her displeasure that vain Roman and Alban leaders have undertaken an absurd war. Her sister-in-law Camille visits her and tells her of her desire to marry Curiace, who is Sabine’s brother. Far from being a pleasant discussion between two sisters-in-law, who care for each other, their conversation reveals their deep understanding of the fanaticism and violent tempers of the younger and older Horaces. The two women understand all too well that the two Horace men have created a tense atmosphere at home because they do not tolerate disagreements from the women in their families. The closed space in which these women live magnifies their justifiable fears. They know that the younger and older Horaces will treat them violently, but they do not know what will provoke these irrational men. The younger Horace kills his sister Camille because she dares to state the truth: that the war Rome has undertaken against a weaker ally is unjust. The murder takes place in his own home. This tragedy has a profound effect on theatergoers who come to recognize the disturbing links between the cruelty of civil war with the very real dangers of domestic violence and male efforts to dominate the women in their homes.

BibliographyAbraham, Claude. Pierre Corneille. New York: Twayne, 1972. An excellent introduction to Pierre Corneille’s plays. Thoughtful analysis of the ethical and moral conflicts in Horace, a tragedy in which characters must choose between their loyalty to the state and their love for family members.Brereton, Geoffrey. French Tragic Drama in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. London: Methuen, 1973. A general introduction to French tragedies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Also contains two long, lucid chapters on Corneille. Brereton analyzes Corneille’s skill in using historical sources to create powerful conflicts among his characters.Harwood-Gordon, Sharon. Rhetoric in the Tragedies of Corneille. New Orleans: Tulane University, 1977. Very clear rhetorical analyses of Corneille’s major tragedies. In her discussion of Horace,. Harwood-Gordon effectively contrasts the passionate speeches of Sabine with the insensitive arguments of the two Horaces.Muratore, Mary Jo. The Evolution of the Cornelian Heroine. Potomac, Md.: Studia Humanitatis, 1982. Explores the evolution in Corneille’s representations of heroines in the tragedies he wrote between the 1630’s and his retirement in 1674. Muratore contrasts Sabine and Camille, the leading female characters in Horace.Nelson, Robert J. Corneille, His Heroes and Their Worlds. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1963. Examines the changing meaning of heroism and the conflicts between love and duty that Corneille’s male characters face. Discusses the ethical and moral dimensions in Horace.
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