French Literary movement: The Baroque.
Period: The Baroque period, which lasted from the mid-16th century to the mid-17th century, was a time of great artistic and literary expression. It was characterized by an abundance of ornamentation, exaggeration, and a love of the grandiose. This style of art and literature was heavily influenced by the political and religious turmoil of the time, particularly the wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants.
Authors: During this period, some of the most notable authors included Chassignet, D’Aubigné, Desportes, Du Bartas, Honoré d’Urfé, Shakespeare (English), and Calderon (Spanish).
Notable works: Some of their most famous works include « Le Mépris de la vie et consolation contre la mort » (1594), « Les Tragiques » (1616-1623), « Premières œuvres » (with « Les Amours de Diane et d’Hippolyte, » 1573), « La Semaine ou la Création du monde » (1578), and « L’Astrée » (1607-1627).
Literary genres: Poetry and theater were the dominant literary genres of the time, and the emergence of Corneille as a playwright marked the end of the Baroque era in France.
The Baroque movement was characterized by its use of hyperbole, repetition, and accumulation of words to create a sense of excess and grandeur. In literature and architecture, this style was often described as « overloaded. » The Baroque also brought a love of decoration and an emphasis on appearance, which is evident in the use of elaborate sets and costumes in theater productions.
The taste for exaggeration is also reflected in the desire to unite extremes: the sublime and the grotesque, heroism and selfishness. Similarly, in theater, the blending of genres reigns supreme, with tragicomedy emerging as a genre, as seen in Corneille’s « L’Illusion comique. »
Wisdom and moderation give way to madness. Movement in the Baroque period is sudden and dramatic. Time is not linear, and its flow is often compared to turbulent waters, storms, and floods. Instability is at the heart of Baroque concerns, leading to even a distortion of forms, to the point of illusion and deception.
At the end of the 16th century, at the court of King Henri III, actors in disguise began to take center stage in plays. Transformations and disguises characterized the literature of this period. The god of metamorphosis, Proteus, and the sorceress Circe (from Homer’s « Odyssey ») were popular mythological figures referenced by authors. Dreams and fantasy were also a source of inspiration, as seen in works such as Calderon’s « Life is a Dream » (1635) and Corneille’s « L’Illusion comique » with the magician Alcandre (1636).
Furthermore, the Baroque period was marked by the omnipresence of death and religious sentiment. Death was pervasive at the time, as the Wars of Religion were punctuated by mass killings, such as the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572. Death was therefore a constant presence in everyday life, as seen in Sponde’s « Stances and Sonnets to Death » (1588).
It was also a civil war within the same faith (Christianity) that was tearing the French (and Europeans) apart. The instability of man and the cruelty of the times led to the central theme of the Baroque period: vanity. Nothing is solid, nothing is permanent. Old age undermines man and takes away the beauty of woman, death can strike at any moment. Thus, one must enjoy the pleasures of life, including, of course, love, another important theme of the Baroque period. That is why Baroque literature offers detailed, almost anatomical descriptions of death and often emphasizes the pleasure of living and loving (the extremes again).
Finally, religious sentiment was inseparable from the period, and expressed through all Baroque literature. Man is nothing, a mere mortal caught in the vicissitudes of life, while God is all-powerful. Furthermore, the writers of the period aligned themselves with either the Catholics or the Protestants, as seen in the famous texts of Ronsard and D’Aubigné: « Discours des misères de ce temps » (1562) and « Les Tragiques » (first edition in 1616).
In conclusion, the Baroque period opposed many of the principles of the movement that followed it, Classicism. Instead of order, propriety or symmetry, it preferred anarchy, irreverence, and the bizarre. This is why for a long time, this artistic movement was viewed with a negative connotation.
Links for another French literary movements: French literary movement: Romanticism. French literary movement : The enlightenment. French literary movement : The Surrealism movement.
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