Corneille: a theater where life is a game

Crow present

n° 2 – Corneille: a theater where life is a game – II. Tricks, jokes, irony…

CÉRÉdI digital publications

Le previous issue (Dec 2021) from the journal Crow presentthe first part of a triptych dedicated to Corneille: a theater where life is a game”, was interested in the significance, in the Cornelian dramatic work, of the thought of regulated games, resorting to various material supports, and based on chance, strategy, or physical skill: the imagination of such games proves powerful in dramaturgies where love affairs dominate, as well as in the challenging character often taken on by the author’s presentation of new types of action, both comic than tragic; the spirit of games of chance and strategy, to which the characters in tragedy very often refer, poses the particularly interesting problem of its compatibility with heroism.

After having thus considered, on the Cornelian scene, the indirect action of the thought of card games, table games, outdoor games (which can be grouped under the name of gamesto use the terminology of Roger Caillois) we would now like to measure the importance of the game by considering it as fanciful amusement, joke, good trick (joke, Caillois would say). This game can be verbal, but it can also concern the action itself; sometimes it turns out to be pure, gratuitous, but it also happens to correspond to the desire to ensure a certain ascendancy, even if only for a short time. Comedies seem to be primarily concerned with these games of the mind and these tricks, which amuse them; in reality, the tragedies are far from being exempt from it because the heroes created by Corneille willingly practice the points of malice, the irony, the double agreement, decipherable immediately or later by the spectator but that the interlocutor seizes or does not not grasp.

In comedies, which, since 1980, have given rise to sparkling stagings when certain texts were supposed to make people smile rather than laugh, just as in many tragic dramaturgies, especially those which result in the blocking of situations, so well studied by Georges Forestier, isn’t the joke-game the essential source of animation in the scene? Retaining, in a very serious context, a capacity to play, does this not give proof of great fortitude (greatness of mind or magnanimity ?). Was such recourse to witty play an original feature of Cornelian tragedy at this time? Finally, if the characters created by Corneille willingly indulge in this type of game, doesn’t the author himself, when he addresses the readers or a particular recipient, also take pleasure in it?

We will therefore question on this subject both the tragedies of Corneille – perhaps particularly the uncanonized tragedies – that the comediesbut we can also study from this angle the paratexts Cornelian theatre.


Sending proposals

Please send the proposals (10-12 lines) before the July 31, 2022 to [email protected] and [email protected] The proposals must include a few avenues of research – excluding that of theatrical type acting (play), which will be the subject of a third issue – along with a brief bio-bibliographical note.

Proposals will be reviewed by the journal’s reading committee.

The articles, which will be able to reach approximately 45000 characters (including spaces) will be due for December 30, 2022.


Indicative bibliography

CAILLOIS Roger, Games and People. The mask and vertigo, Paris, Gallimard, 1958; revised and expanded edition, Paris, Gallimard, 1967.

COTTEGNIES Line, “Literary games in France and England in the 17th century – from the Parisian salons to Aphra Behn”, Episteme Studies [online]39 | 2021, mai 2021, URL:; DOI:

DUFOUR-MAÎTRE Myriam, “Shininess, irony and gentleness”, chapter VII of Clemency and Grace: A Study of Cinna and Polyeucte by Pierre Corneille [en ligne]Mont-Saint-Aignan, University Presses of Rouen and Le Havre, 2014, available on the web:

EXTEIN Nina, Corneille’s IronyCharlottesville, Rookwood Press, 2007.

EKSTEIN Nina, “The ironic practice of the appeal to authority in the peritexts of Corneille’s theater”, in Corneille practices, Mont-Saint-Aignan, University Presses of Rouen and Le Havre, 2012, p. 401-408, available on the web:

Hamon Philippe, literary ironyParis, Hatchet, 1996.

PAILLET-GUTH Anne-Marie, “Irony in Nicomedes”, in Grammatical Informationno 76, 1998, p. 20-24,

PICCIOLA Liliane, “Corneille and the spirit of Gracián: cutting-edge dramaturgy”, in Papers on french seventeenth century literature. . . . Volume XXXV (2008). Number 68, Rainer Zaiser Editor. Tübingen, PFSCL/Bible 17, 2008, p. 159-169, etc

POULET Françoise, “Corneille’s comedies or the verse of honest conversation”, in Pierre Corneille, speech and verses, dir. Myriam Dufour-Maître, with the assistance of Cécilia Laurin© Publications Numériques du CÉRÉdI, “Proceedings of conferences and study days”, n° 26, 2020, URL:

POULET Françoise, “The theater or the “house of games”: rules and strategies of the compliment in some Cornelian comedies and tragedies”, in Corneille: a theater where life is a game, dir. Liliane Picciola© Publications Numériques du CÉRÉdI, “Revue Corneille present”, n° 1, 2021, URL:

SHOES Pierre, Poetics of irony, Paris, Seuil, 2001, p. 177.

SOREL Charles, The House of Games, ed. review by Marcella Leopizzi, Paris, Honoré Champion, “Classical sources”, 2017 (volume 1) and 2018 (volume 2).

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