Passing Judgment: The Politics and Poetics of Sovereignty in French Tragedy from Hardy to Racine

Passing Judgment: The Politics and Poetics of Sovereignty in French Tragedy from Hardy to Racine

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By Hélène E. Bilis
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2016
World Rights
272 Pages
ISBN 9781487500269
Published Oct 2016
Online discount: 25%
 $65.00    $48.75
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781487510572
Published Oct 2016
Online discount: 25%
Full purchase $65.00

The royal judge was an archetypal character in French tragedy during the 17th century. This figure impersonated the king by asserting his judicial authority and bringing order to an otherwise chaotic world.

In Passing Judgment, Hélène Bilis examines how an overlooked character-type—the royal judge—remained a constant of the tragic genre throughout the 17th century, although the specifics of his role and position fluctuated as playwrights experimented with changing models of sovereignty onstage. Her readings analyze how this royal decision-maker stood at the intersection of political and theatrical debates, and evolved through a process of trial and error in which certain portrayals of kingship were deemed obsolete and were discarded, while others were promoted as culturally allowable and resonant. In tracing the royal judge’s persistent presence and transformation, Bilis argues that we can better grasp the weighty political stakes of theatrical representations under the ancien régime.

Hélène E. Bilis is an assistant professor in the Department of French at Wellesley College.



CHAPTER 1: The Critique of Le Cid: Richelieu, Royal Judgment, and the Rules

CHAPTER 2: Failed Judgments, Thwarted Justice: Alexandre Hardy’s Scédase ou l’hôspitalité violée

CHAPTER 3: The Ceremony Unravels: Tragedy’s Comedic Turn

CHAPTER 4: Learning From Experience: On Corneille and Coherence

CHAPTER 5: Corneille’s Cinna and Rotrou’s Crisante: A Search for the Emperor’s Judgment

CHAPTER 6: Racine and Royal Fathers of Injustice—Mithridate and Phèdre






“Bilis writes with admirable clarity as she traces a fine line of research and thinking about dramatic history and court culture during this period. She makes a valuable contribution to seventeenth-century French studies and to theatre history.”

Harriet Stone, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Washington University in St Louis

“In Passing Judgment, Hélène Bilis proposes a new study on the evolution of French tragedy. She eloquently shows how the tragic genre is permeable to various aesthetics and does not necessarily bind to a set of rigid rules.”

Hélène Visentin, Department of French, Smith College