Pierre Corneille, Paris, 1662 (Google Books)

Corneille created this play concerning the revolt by Quintus Sertorius for the Théâtre du Marais of Paris.  It was performed on 25 February 1662, and the play was published in July the same year.

Many of Corneille’s plays are dominated by the theme of heroism:

Willpower and self-mastery are glorified in many of his heroes, who display a heroic energy in meeting or mastering the dilemma that they face; but Corneille was less interested in exciting his audiences to pity and fear through visions of the limits of man’s agony and endurance than he was in stirring them to admiration of his heroes. 1

In Sertorius, Corneille moved away from a consideration of heroics to a consideration of the heroism of royalty and political acumen. 2. Sertorius, an elderly Roman sovereign, ‘refuses to let his moral body define him’, the certainty of his Roman essence ‘determining his dominance over his enemy, the corrupt Roman emperor, Sylla’. 3

  1. ‘Pierre Corneille’, Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2013.
  2. Hélène Bilis, ‘Corneille’s OEdipe and the Politics of Seventeenth-Century Royal Succession’, MLN 125, 4 (September 2010), 873-894, on 889
  3. Bilis, ‘Corneille’s OEdipe’, 889.

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