Places Discussed

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*Rome. Center of the ancient Roman Empire and principal setting of this play. Cinna mentions “Rome” more than forty times in 1,780 lines of verse, serving to reinforce the ideal of personal responsibility. Scattered mentions of other places recall the huge geographical extent of Emperor Augustus’s realm, including not only Italy and Sicily, but also much of Europe, western Asia, North Africa, and the peoples of Macedonia, Greece, Parthia, and Persia.

Augustus’s palace

Augustus’s palace. Headquarters and residence of Emperor Augustus. The play’s references to the palace supplement the aura of majesty surrounding the personal power of Augustus, among whose courtiers are those whose conspiracy will eventually be uncovered. Almost exactly half the play’s action takes place in Augustus’s apartment. There, references to Rome and the Romans abound and Augustus meets his advisers, who, unknown to him, are conspiring to kill him. His readiness, however, to use his private quarters for the seeking of counsel reveals his essential humanity, a quality prominent in the closing sections of the play.

The rest of the play’s action occurs in the apartment of Amelia, who is engaged to marry Pompey’s grandson Cinna. There, Cinna confronts the realization that unless he kills Augustus, Amelia will not marry him. Just as Augustus’s apartment is the appropriate locus for the political action, Amelia’s apartment locates the sentimental action and foregrounds the growing conflict between Cinna’s personal and political loyalties.

*Tiber River

*Tiber River. Italian river running through Rome. The idea of expiating one’s sin by drowning would have been familiar to Corneille’s audience. Maximus, Cinna’s fellow conspirator, who betrays the plot for reasons of base personal jealousy, is reported to have leaped into the Tiber, the river of Imperial Rome.


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Allentuch, Harriet R. “The Problem of Cinna.” French Review 48, no. 5 (April, 1975): 878-886. A general article that presents certain psychological aspects of Cinna’s character. Discusses Cinna’s contradictory behavior and his relationship with the other main characters.

Broome, J. H. A Student’s Guide to Corneille: Four Tragedies. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1971. Provides an introductory chapter about the scope of Corneille’s works and his dramatic theory. Treats the subject, the scheme of characters, the dramatic mechanism, and the themes. Gives an evaluation of possible interpretations of the tragedies.

Fogel, Herbert. The Criticism of Cornelian Tragedy: A Study of Critical Writing from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century. New York: Exposition Press, 1967. An excellent basic analysis of the history of Cornelian tragedy. Divided into four periods that designate marked contrasts or strict compliance with tradition.

Lough, John. An Introduction to Seventeenth Century France. New York: David McKay, 1969. An informative general depiction of seventeenth century France through the great literary works. Discusses the social and political history of the seventeenth century, including the absolutism of Louis XIV. Contains a section on the literary background, portraying the relationship between the writers and their public which influenced the development of language and literature.

Nelson, Robert J. Corneille, His Heroes, and Their Worlds. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1963. Gives various analytical insights concerning the dramatic skills of Pierre Corneille. Concentrates especially on the themes of the Cornelian hero and his world.

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Critical Essays