Françoise Pascal's "Agathonphile martyr, tragi-comédie": An Annotated Critical Edition
Kennedy, Theresa Varney
Campangne, Herve Thomas
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Female playwrights in 17th century France found their voices through Christian drama, since women's status in the religious domain had already been enhanced by the mystic movement. Profiting from this trend, Françoise Pascal's first theatrical production, "Agathonphile martyr, tragi-comédie" (1655), is inspired by a religious subject. I feel that her play marks an important contribution to the theater in terms of genre and female characterization. With "Agathonphile martyr," Pascal offers a hybrid tragicomic martyr play, which is influenced by littérature galante. This play marks a unique merging of two genres - the romanesque tragicomedy, whose objective is to entertain, and the martyr play, a genre whose goals have traditionally been moral edification. Through the juxtaposition of gallant rhetoric and Christian rhetoric, "Agathonphile martyr" is a reconciliation of both the secular realm and the spiritual realm. In terms of female characterization, I demonstrate how Pascal's female martyr Triphine, who embodies these two contrasting spheres, diverges from the traditional female martyr who must deny passion in order to pursue her spiritual objectives. Contrastingly, Triphine is an independent thinker who speaks her heart, proclaiming the virtues of "constant" love. Furthermore, in opposition to the traditional martyr play, which primarily questions the abuse of royal power, I argue that Pascal's play criticizes the authority of the patriarchal system, and the mariage de convenance. In my analysis, I contrast Triphine's conduct with that of other female protagonists whose actions conform to expectations for female behavior in the 17th century. Through Triphine's active resistance to her father's authority, Pascal specifically addresses the problem of woman's speech in the public sphere. I conclude that Pascal's unconventional female heroine mirrors her own conduct as a female provincial playwright, ignoring that which society claims to be an unacceptable occupation for a female by publishing and supporting herself as a playwright. La vie mondaine offers Pascal a brief window of opportunity to access the world of theater where she is able to create a space for herself in which her writing is not a slave to the dominant literary models of her time, but a product of its own whimsicality.