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Rostand, Edmond Eugène Alexis

The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre

Phyllis Hartnoll,

Peter Found

Rostand, Edmond Eugène Alexis 


French romantic dramatist, whose colourful poetic plays came as a relief after the drab realities of the naturalistic school. His first play Les Romanesques (1894; see RUN), a delicious satire on young lovers, was followed by the more serious but still tender and lyrical La Princesse lointaine (1895). A biblical play, La Samaritaine (The Woman of Samaria, 1897), was less successful, but in Cyrano de Bergerac (1898), written for Coquelin aîné, he achieved a marvellous fusion of romantic bravura, lyric love, and theatrical craftsmanship, and its success was overwhelming. It became a perennial favourite, not only in France but in England and America, where something of its quality was apparent even through a pedestrian translation. L'Aiglon (The Eaglet, 1900), in which Bernhardt played the ill-fated son of Napoleon, had less vigour, but appealed by its pathetic evocation of fallen grandeur and the frank sentimentality of its theme. Rostand's last play was Chantecler (1910), by some critics accounted his best, as it is certainly his most profound, work. The verse is masterly and the allegory unfolds effortlessly on two planes of consciousness, the beast's and the man's. La Dernière Nuit de Don Juan was left unfinished, but indicates how Rostand's undoubted talent might have matured.