Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Augustin-Eugène Scribe, son of a Parisian silk merchant, was born during the early years of the French Revolution. His father having died while he was an infant, he was brought up by his industrious and loving mother. He distinguished himself in his studies at the Collège de Sainte-Barbe and proceeded to begin the study of law, in deference to his mother’s wishes, but he could muster no enthusiasm for it. The death of his mother in 1807 gave him enough financial independence to pursue his first love, the theater, and by 1810 he had had his first one-act comedy-vaudeville accepted at the Variétés theater. Following a string of dismal failures punctuated with a few moderate successes, Scribe achieved an overwhelming triumph in 1815 with Une Nuite de la garde nationale. Here for the first time he employed the two elements that were to guarantee his fame in the theater: realistic (in this case, topical) situations and ingeniously complicated plots.
In 1820, Scribe, together with two friends and former collaborators, opened a new theater called the Gymnase. As principal playwright, Scribe had to sign a contract pledging not to write for any theater in direct competition. In the 1820’s alone, he furnished more than one hundred plays, many of them highly successful, to the Gymnase and made occasional forays into the Comédie-Française, the Opéra-Comique, the Opéra, and various lesser theaters. For the vast majority of his plays, he used...
(The entire section is 571 words.)
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