Franco Manzoni
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In the early nineteenth century Paris, German Romanticism gradually managed to obtain some space in the theatrical field too.  
A fact changed the public and Paris' young intellectuals way of thinking: the arrival of a company of Anglo-Saxon actors who played Shakespeare in his original language in Paris in 1827.  
Among the young poets who became involved in Romanticism was Victor Hugo who was 25 in that period. He was born at Besançon in 1802. His father was a professional soldier and his mother the person who spurred him to cultivate his literary bent and be the “enfant prodige” of the Bourbon's court.  
He drastically broke with tradition in his poetic collection “Odes et ballades” (1826) - in which Napoleon's figure was recalled for the first time - and mainly in the theatrical field with the dramatic play “Cromwell” (1827), a work by then already strongly Romantic.  
In “Cromwell”'s preface Hugo proposed to eliminate the unities of time and space and vehemently claimed that scenes should be set within a historic context. This preface became some sort of literary manifesto for the author's contemporary fellow-countrymen as well as his statement of an utter Romantic faith.  
The leading character of the five-act drama “Cromwell” is the homonymous famous politician who wanted to achieve absolute power. When he understood that someone was plotting against him and that killers were waiting for him to become king to murder him, he decided to renounce the crown although never stopped coveting it.  
Three years later (1830) Victor Hugo - the well-known author of famous novels such as “Notre-Dame de Paris” (1831) and “Les Misérables” (1862) - staged the dramatic play “Hernani”  
The drama introduces the young exiled Hernani who loves and his loved by Dona Sol. His rivals are Don Carlos, who will become Charles V, and the girl's old uncle, Ruy Gomez. When the piece of news claiming that Hernani is dead spreads, Dona Sol unwillingly accepts to marry her old uncle. A few moments before the wedding is celebrated, Hernani appears again hunted by his chasers. Don Ruy saves him on the sole condition that he may take his life back at any time by playing a horn. The young accepts and promises to submit to his rule. Don Carlos, now Charles V, bestows both on Hernani and on Ruy Gomez who, meanwhile, had been plotting against him. Charles also allows Hernani, who has resumed his rank, to marry the beautiful Dona Sol. However, while the couple is waiting to get married and to fulfil their greatly desired love, the old Ruy inexorably plays the horn and the poor Hernani, mindful of the promise he made, kills himself.  
The young Dona Sol can do nothing but take her life with poison. The play ends with Don Ruy's inevitable suicide too.  
The work “Marion de Lorme” (1829), censured at first and then performed in 1831, deals with the famous court gentlewoman of the Parisian aristocracy Marion (1611-1650) who tried to redeem herself through true love.  
“Le Roi s'amuse” (1832) was staged only once because censorship once again considered this dramatic play as disrespectful towards François I's memory. The work, in fact, tells of, and strongly highlights, the king's wicked nature who, out of pleasure and fun, broke the court jester Triboulet's pure heart by seducing his young daughter. Verdi used this story in his “Rigoletto”.  
Hugo also wrote “Lucrèce Borgia” (1833), “Angelo tyran de Padoue” (1835) and “Ruy Blas” (1838), all historical prose plays. “Ruy Blas”, set at the court of Spain in the seventeenth century, tells of a practical joke played by Don Sallustio for a love revenge. When he knows that one of his slaves called Ruy Blas has secretly fallen in love with the queen, he disguises him as a nobleman and takes him to court. Intelligent and generous, Ruy is esteemed by everybody, becomes prime minister and conquers the queen's heart. Don Sallustio discloses the cheat but Ruy kills him and then decides to commit suicide with poison. Ruy, on the point of death, is forgiven by the queen who openly declares him all her love.  
Hugo's last play, entitled “The Burgraves” (1840) was not much appreciated by the public who was already rather tired and had lost the enthusiasm for historical plays and for passions' extreme tones that subsequently and ultimately pushed the author to stop writing other plays. 

 
 
 
 
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