Victor (Marie) Hugo

Definition

Theater

  • (1802 - 85) French dramatist, novelist, and poet who in1830 was called "the most powerful mind of the Romantic movement".His early success came in drama, and he used the stage as a platformfor his social and political ideas.

    Hugo published his forceful verse drama Cromwell in1824. Three years later, he added a provocative preface supportingthe claims of Romantic drama as against the French classical traditionand calling for works that combined tragedy and comedy in the freestyle of Shakespeare. The controversial Hernani, presentedat the Comédie-Française in 1830, marked the beginningof a prolific period of playwriting, which was partly inspired byhis love for the actress Juliette Drouet. Their affair began in 1833;she eventually left the stage and became his companion untilher death in 1883.

    Hugo's other works included the verse-drama Le Roi s'amuse(1832), which was banned from the French stage but subsequently usedby Verdi as the libretto for Rigoletto, and the prose playsLucrèce Borgia and Marie Tudor (both 1833). HisRuy Blas (1838) provided a famous vehicle forFrédérick. The failure of Les Burgraves (1843),together with the advent of realism in the mid 19th century, brought theRomantic experiment to an end.

    Owing to his opposition to the government, Hugo spent theyears from 1851 to 1870 in exile, first in Brussels and then on theChannel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. During his exile he wrotea few plays and the epic novel Les Misérables (1862),which returned to the stage as a vastly successful musical more thana century later. He returned to Paris after the proclamationof the Third Republic and died in 1885. He was buried in the Panthéonafter being driven there, at his own request, in a poor man's hearse.

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