Henri Becque Criticism: General Commentary - Essay

Freeman Tilden (essay date 1913)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: Tilden, Freeman. “Introduction.” In The Vultures, The Woman of Paris, The Merry-Go-Round: Three Plays by Henry Becque, pp. 7-8. New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1913.

[In the following essay, Tilden provides an overview of Becque's produced plays, commenting that without the help of a few notable friends these productions would not have been possible.]

Henry Becque (1837-1899) was one of those men of letters to whom falls the ungrateful lot of giving the public what it does not want. In the very heyday of romanticism, Becque had the effrontery to hawk an entirely different line of wares in the Parisian theatrical markets. He boldly trespassed against the most...

(The entire section is 1785 words.)

Nation (essay date 28 May 1914)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Stage of Henri Becque.” Nation 98, no. 2552 (28 May 1914): 644.

[In the following essay, the critic argues that Becque's writing skills were inferior to those of his rivals.]

There was a time, thirty or forty years ago, when the name of Henri Becque occupied a very prominent place in the list of contemporary French playwrights, but his works seem hopelessly old-fashioned now, and it is not easy to divine the special reason which induced Mr. Edwin Björkman to include these pieces in his Modern Drama series. Still more difficult is it to acquiesce in the judgment of the translator, Mr. Freeman Tilden, who, in his preface, acclaims Becque as an...

(The entire section is 764 words.)

James Huneker (essay date 1922)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: Huneker, James. “Henry Becque.” In Iconoclasts: A Book of Dramatists, pp. 163-81. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922.

[In the following essay, Huneker examines Becque's style through overviews of The Vultures, The Prodigal Son, and The Woman of Paris.]

Emile Zola once wrote in his sweeping dictatorial manner, “Le théâtre sera naturaliste ou il ne sera pas”; but as Henry Becque said in his mordant style, Zola always convinced one in his pronunciamentos; it was only when he attempted to put his theories into action that they completely broke down. Alas! realism in the theatre after all the gong-sounding of café æstheticians, after the...

(The entire section is 4478 words.)

Hugh Allison Smith (essay date 1925)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: Smith, Hugh Allison. “Henri Becque and the Theatre Libre.” In Main Currents of Modern French Drama, pp. 189-207. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1925.

[In the following essay, Smith compares the three main influences involved in the modification of Dumas and Augier's Social drama, including Becque and the Theatre Libre.]

The significant work of Dumas and Augier was done by 1880, and with the weakening of their master hands, the chief faults of the form of drama they represented became apparent. The most fundamental of these was the artificial duality caused by combining the well-made play of Scribe, a comedy of intrigue complete in itself, with a social...

(The entire section is 5045 words.)

Barrett H. Clark (essay date 1938)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: Clark, Barrett H. “Henry Becque.” In A Study of Modern Drama: A Handbook for the Study and Appreciation of Typical Plays, European, English and American, of the Last Three-Quarters of a Century, pp. 122-26. New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1938.

[In the following essay, Clark discusses Becque's life, career, and the plot of The Vultures.]

Henry Becque, the father of the modern French Naturalistic school, was born at Paris in 1837. His early works were produced in the sixties, but The Parisian Woman and The Vultures, his most important plays, were peddled about for years before they were performed. During the last years of his life,...

(The entire section is 1538 words.)

John Gassner (essay date 1954)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: Gassner, John. “Henry Becque: The Mordant Virtuoso.” In The Theatre in Our Times: A Survey of the Men, Materials and Movements in the Modern Theatre, pp. 114-22. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1954.

[In the following essay, Gassner takes a close look at Becque's two “masterpieces,” The Vultures and The Woman of Paris.]

At a time when good writing for the theatre is at a low ebb in most countries, not excluding our own, it may be well to return to the fountain-springs of the modern drama, which are now so muddied by the demands of commerce. And in returning to the sources we could do worse than glance at the struggles of Henry Becque, the one...

(The entire section is 4387 words.)

Marvin Carlson (essay date 1972)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: Carlson, Marvin. “Realism & Symbolism (1870-1900).” In The French Stage in the Nineteenth Century, pp. 177-80. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1972.

[In the following essay, Carlson proclaims Becque a major victim of the French theatre's prejudices towards new playwrights and the reintroduction of censorship in 1874.]

In France, as elsewhere in Europe, the final decades of the nineteenth century provide the richest variety of theatre. Identifying the period with a single movement is therefore even more misleading here than identifying the 1830s and 1840s with the then-dominant romantic school. Nevertheless, there is considerable justice in the...

(The entire section is 1975 words.)