Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon Summary


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)


The literary career of Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (kray-bee-yohn) can be divided into two parts. Between 1705 and 1726, he wrote seven neoclassical tragedies, using the standard formula of five acts and Alexandrine verse. These dramas were well received, despite protests against an excess of melodrama. Then in 1748, after not writing for more than twenty years, Catilina was warmly praised, and within two years a collection of his tragedies appeared. Crébillon ended his career with Le Triumvirat, a play about the death of the Roman orator Cicero.{$S[A]Jolyot, Prosper;Crébillon, Prosper Jolyot de}

Crébillon was educated at the Mazarin Jesuit school. Like his father, he studied law in Besançon, after which he worked as a clerk in a law office in Paris. He suffered a reversal of fortune in 1720 when, shortly after the death of his wife, he lost a great deal of money in financier John Law’s disastrous land scheme in colonial Mississippi. He raised two sons, one of whom, Claude-Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (known as Crébillon fils), became an accomplished novelist who depicted moral depravity in the aristocracy.

Many of Crébillon’s plays are imitations of Seneca’s lurid tragedies. Indeed, Romanesque elements are common ingredients, along with inflated diction, incomprehensible plots, and countless recognition scenes. These works represent a transitional...

(The entire section is 504 words.)