La lumière et le temps sur la scène baroque : Poetique & Pratique

Françoise Siguret


Time: Aristotle, in the Poetics, recommends the playwright to confine his tragedy within «two revolutions of the sun»; the concept refers to the light perception, to the fact that greek drama is acted in the open air. The messengers and the chorus represented on the stage, in the present time, what happened outside of it. In the age of the French classical theatre, the chronological sequence of the action had to conform to the laws of the reason: the so-called rule of the twenty-four hours became an indisputable rule of the action. A time exactly measured, substituting the time of the light, cyclical and mythical. In Italy, pastorals, mythological melodramas and all that belonged to the court entertainments (ballets, operas, tournaments) conformed to a cyclical time in which the four seasons constituted the scenery, linking life to the four liturgical seasons and to the four parts of the day, from noon to midnight (cfr. Endymion and the Ballet de la Nuit). Light: Need to light up the indoor playhouse for practical and moral issues. Italian craftsmen implement the technical tools; a certain difference between primary light (intended to light up the stage and the auditorium) and the lumi (the supplementary lighting related to a specific performance). Buontalenti’s lighting devices (sun, moon), rainbows, divine and princely splendour will enchant the spectators. France will discover these stagecraft effects with the Calandria (1548), without subsequent developments. Afterwards, Corneille will be fascinated by the ‘baroque’ charm (Médée, 1639 and Andromède, 1650). In the second half of the XVIIth century, while machinery invades opera and tragedy in music, Racine refuses anything intended to deceive the eye, though creates a lighting that may be «listened» (Britannicus). The Allegories (the «other discourse») convey meanings on the baroque stage through the perpetual slow motion of the gods and Time, till the final glory of the Prince: Cosimo = cosmos. Galileo and Vespucci, medicean glories, explorers of the theatre of the world, knew that History finds its own sense only in the perpetual motion of the earth around the sun. Time is nothing but a Light’s accident.


Light; Time; Poetics; Allegories; History

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