Studying the relationship between tragedy and history in early modern France, this book focuses on the work of Pierre Corneille.
The writing of a tragedy takes place within a social context that deeply influences what constitutes 'history', 'tragedy', 'authority', and 'poetics'.
Yet such concepts are also practices that in turn shape the society in which they occur.
We cannot look to drama for a kind of fossilized footprint or photographic plate of the period in which a play was written nor can we assume that a playwright's images are simple escapes from a reality outside the theatre.
The author's readings of five Cornelian tragedies - Horace, Cinna, Polyeucte, Sertorius, and Attila - lead to a sustained reflection on the tragic structure as a confrontation between the present and the past.