Aleksander Fredro Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Aleksander Fredro wrote autobiographical and patriotic poetry intermittently throughout his adult life. These poems, however, are not of major importance. Also of modest literary merit is Fredro’s only novel, Nieszczcia najszczliwego ma (1841; the misfortunes of the happiest husband). On the other hand, his posthumously published book of reminiscences, Trzy po trzy (1880; topsy-turvy talk), has been acclaimed as one of the masterworks of Polish prose. This work, apparently written in the late 1840’s, is composed in a style similar to the one employed in Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768). Fredro’s Trzy po trzy, moreover, is highly esteemed by Polish historians as a firsthand account of the nation’s military participation in the Napoleonic Wars. Another noteworthy work of nonfiction is the collection of sardonic aphorisms posthumously printed under the title Zapiski starucha (1880; notes of an old man).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

The most productive phase in Aleksander Fredro’s literary career as a writer of comedy coincided with the Romantic epoch in Polish literature. Yet Fredro was relatively unaffected by its literary tenets. In the period following the suppression of the November Insurrection of 1831, moreover, the most prominent Polish writers—men such as Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Sowacki, and Zygmunt Krasiski—believed that those who engage in literary activity are morally obliged to act as adjuncts to the cause of national restoration. Owing to the lack of any overt political content in his comedies, Fredro’s achievements in this genre tended to be underrated by a literary establishment that had been seduced by the siren song of Romanticism. It was not until after the debacle of the January Insurrection of 1863 that the Polish intelligentsia appeared to wash its collective hands of the doctrines of Romanticism and abandoned the quixotic quest for national independence by means of political conspiracy and armed rebellion. This change in the climate of opinion permitted an objective reappraisal of Fredro’s merits as a playwright, and he was henceforth duly recognized as the foremost writer of comedy in the annals of Polish theatrical history.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Gustavsson, Sven, ed. Polish Theatre and Dramatic Technique: Proceedings of a Symposium Held at the University of Uppsala on 23 April 1982. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University, 1983. A collection of papers on the history of Polish drama. Bibliography and index.

Krzyanowski, Julian. A History of Polish Literature. Rev. ed. Warsaw: Pwn-Plish Scientific Publishers, 1978. This history of Polish literature covers the development of Polish literature, including drama, thereby providing background to understanding Fredro. Bibliography and index.

Miosz, Czesaw. The History of Polish Literature. 2d ed. Berkeley: University of California, 1983. A general overview of Polish literature that creates a framework for interpreting the role Fredro played in the development of Polish drama. Bibliography and index.

Segel, Harold B. Introduction to The Major Comedies of Alexander Fredro. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969. Segel’s introduction to his translation of several of Fredro’s works provides both biographical information and literary criticism. Bibliography.