His judgments are intuitive as are, sometimes, even his facts. For example, in making a point about Shakespeare – whom he reveres as much as we all do – Stendhal assumes that Shakespeare wrote for “the English gentry on their country estates.” He evidently had no idea that Shakespeare wrote for an urban audience that probably included more servants than masters.
I’m sure there were plenty of dull professors in France in Stendhal’s time who could have told him about the Globe Theater and its audience but, as I said, Stendhal wrote by the seat of his pants and, anyway, there was no Google then.
I wondered if Stendhal’s assumption was based on the fact that French drama in the late16th and early 17th centuries was aimed strictly at the aristocracy. Was there an equivalent to the Globe in Paris?
Yes. It was called the Hôtel de Bourgogne. It was built in 1548 and was similar to the Globe in that it had a pit, with benches along the walls, for groundlings, a tier of benches and, above, boxes for those who could afford them. It reached its zenith slightly later than the Globe, with the plays of Alexandre Hardy.
Hardy seems to have been France’s Shakespeare in everything but talent.
I love Wikipedia, but lately I have found that the Britannica’s articles (britannica.com) to be better. For example, the Britannica’s piece on Stendhal is well-written, comprehensive and even clever, while Wikipedia’s is almost moronic, written with an almost laughably parochial outlook and regarding him and his milieu with a point of view which is not only anachronistic in terms of early 19th century France but will be anachronistic in the contemporary world in five years or less.
Wikipedia’s entry for Alexandre Hardy is not that bad, but here is the Britannica’s, which is shorter, better organized and more informative:
Alexandre Hardy, (born 1572?, Paris, France—died 1632?), playwright, the first Frenchman known to have made his living as a dramatist, who claimed authorship of some 600 plays.
Hardy was a hired poet for troupes of actors both in the provinces and in Paris. His works were widely admired in court circles, where he wrote for royal companies. The actors who bought his plays rarely allowed him to publish them, and fewer than 50 survived. Shortly after Hardy’s death his plays ceased to be produced. Nearly all the succeeding dramatists, among them Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine, the two masters of the classical French tragedy, affected contempt for his work, but they profited from his dramatic technique.
Hardy’s work violated many of the later strictures of the French Academy governing the writing of plays, especially in neglecting the unities of time and place. He cut down or eliminated the role of the chorus and depicted violence on stage. His plots were faster paced than those of the tragedies modeled on ancient Greek and Roman works. Action was linked with the psychology of the characters: the protagonists acted rather than declaimed, developed as human beings, and sometimes experienced inner conflict. His pastorals improved on earlier ones through their fast-moving plots and naturalness. Many plays were demanded of him, and his style was unpolished.
Unlike other 17th-century playwrights, Hardy took few stories from the Greek and Latin dramatists or the Bible. He drew instead upon such writers as Ovid, Cervantes, and Boccaccio. Despite his lack of major achievements, his influence on the development of the French theatre was considerable.