Corneille’s Horace (1640), together with its author’s Le Cid, launched French classical tragedy. It is a darkly gripping play which speaks directly to our own time. Corneille takes his plot from pre-Republican Roman history – the legendary episode of the triple combat between two sets of brothers to decide a war between Rome and Alba. Horatius’s sister, Camilla, is betrothed to his opponent Curiatius, and his wife Sabina is Curiatius’s sister. The scene is set for a clash between heroic male commitment to state interests and female values which give prime place to individual feeling.
Horace, containing pointed allusion to contemporary French military ambitions, has the power to challenge and disturb modern audiences with its unflinching reckoning of the personal cost of national glory.
This translation was commissioned by Damned Poets Theatre Company for a production at the Lyric Theatre Studio, Hammersmith in October 1996. The distinguished poet Alan Brownjohn compellingly recreates the rhetoric and passion of a neglected but magnificent work.