Alfred de Musset did not write his plays for the stage; he used the dramatic form rather as a vehicle for lyric expression. No Trifling with Love, reflecting the writer’s love affair with George Sand, is a romantic defense of love; considered only as stage drama, it has serious weaknesses. The chorus of peasants is a cumbersome device and extraordinary characters are mingled helter-skelter. The two priests are buffoons, Camille is very stubborn, and Rosette dies in an unconvincing manner.
This piece was classified by Musset as a comedy, but it may better be called a tragicomedy. Earlier examples of the genre include William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (pr. c. 1596-1597, pb. 1600). A tragicomedy often includes events associated with tragedy, such as a death of a central character or a grievous situation that is not resolved at the end. The comedic elements of a tragicomedy include jokes and humor, an ending that resolves most or all of the bad situations, and a sense of providence rather than fate. Musset’s approach is to dramatize the tragic overtones with comic action: He develops a comedy and resolves it with tragedy.
Most of the action of No Trifling with Love is time-honored material for sentimental, romantic, or even cynical comedy. A charming hero and a beautiful heroine, both highborn, go through the dramatic motions of alternately reaching toward and then rejecting each other, while their pride, vanity, and wit entertain the audience through various intrigues and counterintrigues. In the process...
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