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The Guénégaud Theatre 1673-1680 and the machine plays of Thomas Corneille

By Jan Clarke


The Guénégaud theatre was in operation in Paris from 1673 to\ud 1680 - from shortly after Molière's death to the foundation of the\ud Comedie-Frangaise. Although the first home of both the Paris Opera and\ud the Comedie-Frangaise, the Guénégaud has attracted little attention, and\ud no previous study has been devoted entirely to it, despite the fact that\ud the Guénégaud account books are preserved in the Archives of the\ud Comedie-Francaise. These have provided a wealth of information on the\ud day-to-day running of a seventeenth-century French theatre and the\ud preparation of productions. What is more, a study of the records of\ud ticket sales they contain has been found to make possible not only an\ud analysis of the tastes and, to a certain extent, the composition of the\ud Guénégaud's audiences, but also a reconstruction of the theatre building\ud itself.\ud In 1673, the Guénégaud company was in a highly vulnerable\ud position. Just seven years later, however, it was so powerful and in\ud possession of a theatre so well-equipped, - that it was the ancient and\ud prestigious Hotel de Bourgogne company that was closed down and its\ud actors transferred to the Guénégaud to form the Comedie-Francaise. This\ud thesis, therefore, further examines how the Guénégaud company succeeded\ud in effecting this reversal in their fortunes.\ud One major contributing factor was the Guénégaud company's\ud series of machine plays by Thomas Corneille and Donneau De Vise.\ud Concentrating on Circe, the first and most successful of these, as a\ud single representative production, this thesis, is also, therefore, a\ud study of the adaptation and final demise of a genre where music was of\ud primary importance in the face of implacable opposition from Lully,\ud desirous of protecting his privilege on the production of operas.\ud Finally, the thesis attempts to show that if there is any\ud justification in the tradition by which the Comedie-Frangaise is known\ud as the 'Maison de Moliere', this is entirely due to the Guénégaud\ud company's success in ensuring their own survival and, in so doing,\ud maintaining and transmitting their inheritance from Moliere's troupe,\ud and that this same survival was in no small part thanks to the machine\ud plays of Thomas Corneille

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