Contribution to Book
Power is a central issue in both Tristan L'Hermite's Marianne (1636) and La Mort de Sénèque (1644). I propose to examine the articulations of power in Tristan's theater and the power struggles at the heart of both plays. On the most basic level, Tristan illustrates the power of tyranny. Furetière defines a tyrant as an "usurpateur d'un Etat, oppresseur de la liberté publique, qui s'est emparé par violence ou par adresse de la souveraine puissance"; tyran "se dit aussi d'un Prince qui abuse de son pouvoir, qui ne gouverne pas selon les lois, qui use de violence et de cruauté envers ses sujets." Usurpers both, Hérode and Néron are well known for their excessive use of violence. After taking power, Hérode had 45 aristocrats killed, as well as his brother-in-law and his own uncle. Tristan's play shows Hérode condemning his wife Marianne to death. He later does the same with his mother-in-law, and finally his two sons by Marianne. Néron, in a period of ten years, poisoned Britannicus, had his mother killed, as well as his advisor Burrhus (probably) and his first wife Octavie (certainly), to say nothing of his role in the fire that destroyed much of Rome in 64 A.D. In the course of La Mort de Sénèque, Néron discovers a conspiracy to assassinate him and exacts punishment, including the forced suicide of his teacher, Sénèque. Both plays show the tyrant ordering multiple deaths. In La Marianne, Hérode condemns to death not only his wife but also Soême and the eunuch. Néron has Epicaris tortured and then killed, and orders the death of a number of conspirators as well as Sénèque' s. The basic violence of these men extends to the most trivial level: all that the spectator sees of Hérode's first scene with Marianne (II, iv) is Hérode physically chasing her off the stage in anger.
Ekstein, N. (1993). Language, power, and gender in Tristan's La Marianne and La Mort de Sénèque. In Actes d'Athens (pp. 9-18). Tübingen, Germany: Biblio 17.