In chronological terms, Émile Augier can be credited with being the first major dramatist of the realistic school of French literature to combat successfully the excesses and extravagances of the Romantic theater. While his contemporary, Alexandre Dumas, fils, shared some of Augier’s aversion to these excesses and extravagances, Augier preceded him in condemning the illusions of romantic love, which he removed from the center of the dramatic plot. He replaced those illusions with other motive forces: the desire for political power, the pursuit of tawdry liaisons, and, above all, the love of money. Already in The Adventuress and in Gabrielle, the anti-Romantic orientation of Augier’s theater is evident. His social setting would be principally the middle class, of which he himself was a proud member, and even as he attacked the dishonesty and corruption rampant in that class, he would laud its virtues: an abiding respect for the sanctity of family life, the veneration of true love as consecrated in marriage, and a belief in the legitimacy of material success when founded on personal industry and honest dealings.
As an enthusiastic exponent of what he perceived to be the solid values of the middle class and as a playwright who saw his theater as having the utilitarian goal of seeking to preserve those values, Augier was anything but a social reformer in the revolutionary sense. His plays were almost totally lacking in any suggestion of abstract concepts or ideals relative to the creation of a new society. Nor...
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Danger, Pierre. Émile Augier: Ou, Le Théâtre de l’ambiguïté: Éléments pour une archéologie morale de la bourgeoisie sous le Second Empire. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1998. Critical analysis and interpretation of Augier’s works, with reference to the times in which he lived. Bibliography. In French.
Van Laan, Thomas F. “The Ending of A Doll House and Augier’s Maître Guérin.” Comparative Drama 17 (1983): 297-317. A comparison of one of Henrik Ibsen’s plays to Augier’s Maître Guérin.