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Le Change is a concept typically associated in the seventeenth century with the baroque, with the pastoral, and with comedy. In the simplest terms, a lover abandons the object of his or her affections for another. In baroque aesthetics, change is linked to the larger concepts of mobility and metamorphosis (Rousset 44). It is a common motif in the pastoral as well, both in drama and prose fiction. The classic pastoral figure of change is Hylas from Honoré d'Urfé's Astrée, who moves cavalierly from one mistress to the next. Invariably in seventeenth-century France, change is held to be a crime, but it is a common one. Indeed, Hylas, for all of his infidelities, was as popular with readers as Céladon. Comelian comedy, with it sizeable debts to the pastoral, takes change as one of its major themes, as Susan Read Baker has noted (139). Jean Rousset is even more categorical : "à structure baroque, âme baroque : toutes les comédies de Corneille tournent autour d'un thème central : l'inconstance, le change" (205-06). Phylis, the volage of La Place royale, flits happily from one lover to the next. Money and social standing seem to motivate change in La Suivante. Characters in Le Menteur and La Galerie du palais flirt with the possibility of change, while Clindor's infidelity in the fifth act of L'Illusion comique has fatal consequences, but only within the safe confines of the play-within-a-play. The most harsh treatment is found in Corneille's first play, Mélite, where Philandre is banished and not forgiven for having left Cloris for Mélite. In sum, Corneille adapted the motif of change to his comedies with variety and persistence.


Ronald Tobin







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Racine et/ou le Classicisme