Victorien Sardou’s range as a dramatist was exceptionally broad. He composed comedies, vaudevilles, historical dramas, political and social satires, melodramas, thesis plays, operas, and operettas—more than seventy works in all. The emphasis he gave to structure over character development has caused him to be widely regarded within the history of French theater as the successor and rival to Eugène Scribe. Although Sardou has often been criticized for overtly manipulating his characters, he is acknowledged as a master craftsman of theatrical effect. The plots of his plays follow carefully planned outlines, progressing to unusual levels of complication before reaching their elaborate solution in a final, “big” scene. During his lifetime, Sardou was one of the most popular and successful playwrights in France, and his works were frequently translated into English for performance in England and the United States. Except for the enduring fame of the operatic version of La Tosca and such occasional reinterpretations as a cinematic version of Madame Devil-May-Care, Sardou’s plays are rarely seen today. Although his social satires were influential in broadening the capacity of French comedy to treat a variety of subjects it had not touched on previously, Sardou’s plays are usually studied now as excellent examples of the well-made play.
Hart, Jerome. Sardou and the Sardou Plays. Philadelphia: J. P. Lippincott, 1913. In this classic work, Hart examines the French dramatist and his plays.
Nicassio, Susan Vandiver. Tosca’s Rome: The Play and the Opera in Historical Perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Nicassio examines the play and opera La Tosca, examining Sardou’s work, as well as that of Giacomo Puccini. Bibliography and index.