François Ponsard Analysis

Other Literary Forms

François Ponsard abandoned a career as a lawyer to devote himself almost exclusively to writing for the theater. For a short while, he edited several ephemeral magazines having to do with his literary philosophy as well as the theater in general, and in 1858, he published a short poem entitled Homère-Ulysse, which was composed as a framework for a translation into French of the fifth song of Homer’s Odyssey (c. 750 b.c.e.; English translation, 1614).

Achievements

During his lifetime, François Ponsard was admitted into the ranks of the best-known literary lights. The public welcomed many of his plays with great enthusiasm, and the literary critics of France published many articles about his drama, whether to praise or to condemn him. Today, if his name is remembered at all, it is probably in relation to the literary coincidence that occurred in 1843: the failure, in March, of Les Burgraves, Victor Hugo’s long, complex Romantic play, and the success, a few weeks later, of Ponsard’s neoclassical drama, Lucrèce. For this one reason alone, Ponsard has been credited with having struck the coup de grâce at Romanticism in France. In his capacity as “the new Molière” and the leader of the “school of good sense” (l’école de bon sens), to whichÉmile Augier and Alexandre Dumas, fils, also belonged, he espoused commonsense, bourgeois values in the theater.

Bibliography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Carlson, Marvin. The French Stage in the Nineteenth Century. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1972. An overall look at French drama in the nineteenth century that provides background information helpful in understanding Ponsard.

Howarth, W. D. Sublime and Grotesque: A Study of French Romantic Drama. London: Harrap, 1975. A basic look at French drama in the nineteenth century, when Ponsard was active.