- A concept of drama that originated in the writings of 15th-centuryItalian scholars and came to dominate the stage in 17th- and 18th-centuryFrance. Neoclassical theorists advocated a return to the values andconventions of classical Greek drama as these were then understood.In particular, they ascribed a great importance to the Poeticsof Aristotle, and to the unities of time, place, and actionthat they deduced from this work.
In France, where the unities became rigidly formalized, theneoclassical style achieved its fullest expression in the works ofCorneille and Racine (although Corneille's 1637 tragicomedyLe Cid provoked a storm by deviating from the unities).
By contrast, neoclassicism never took root in the Englishtheater, despite distinguished advocates such as Jonsonand Dryden, whose rhymed heroic tragedies enjoyed some success.Joseph Addison's blank-verse tragedy Cato (1713) was probablythe most popular neoclassical work on the English stage.
In France neoclassical tragedy eventually gave way to thebourgeois drame, although it enjoyed a brief revival in someof the works of Voltaire. The movement as a whole was sweptaway by the advent of Romanticism. see also Augustan drama.