Cinna's Political Ambition

Document Type


Publication Date



Cinna’s political ambition has received curiously little attention in the extensive critical examination of Pierre Corneille’s Cinna (1641) over the years. While critics focus on whether Cinna is heroic or not and debate his sincerity when he counsels Auguste to remain emperor (II.1), “ambition” is almost never mentioned in relation to him; rather it is regularly ascribed to Auguste. In this article I trace how signs of Cinna’s political ambition are embedded in the text and consider the degree to which it is recognized by the other characters and even by himself. Cinna’s ambition is not a constant in the play, but rather decreases in the second half, as the onstage space is dominated more and more by Auguste. Of central interest is the question of the critical blind spot: what in this tragedy makes Cinna’s political ambition both present and yet difficult to perceive, and why would Corneille have wanted it so?

Document Object Identifier (DOI)



Springer Netherlands

Publication Information


This document is currently not available here.