After the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668) brought a temporary peace with the Anglo-Dutch Alliance, France enjoyed a brief respite from warfare while Louis XIV entertained the court with a series of ever-grander theatrical divertissements composed by Molière and Lully: George Dandin, Monsieur de
Pourceaugnac, Les Amants magnifiques, and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Psyché, the Carnival
entertainment for the winter of 1670-71, was a marked departure from these earlier comédies-ballets by "les deux Baptistes". Described as a “tragi-comédie et ballet” in the livret printed for its court première, Psyché
was a spectacular dramatization of a classical fable that featured elaborate set-changes, machine-effects, and grandiose tableaux of music and ballet.
The choice of a spectacular machine-play came about from Louis XIV‟s wish to re-use the Salle des
Machines in the Tuileries Palace, an operatic playhouse built during 1659-60 by Le Vau and equipped by 1Gaspare Vigarani and his sons, Carlo and Ludovico. This ornate and capacious hall was built to hold seven
thousand spectators; but its acoustics were so deplorable that it had been used but rarely since its inauguration with Cavalli‟s 1662 opera Ercole amante. Vigarani's celebrated underworld set from this production had 2been stored there for nine years when the king expressed his desire to see it used again. According to
Lagrange-Chancel, “Louis XIV demanda à Racine, à Quinault et à Molière un sujet où pût entrer une décoration qui représentait les Enfers et que l‟on conservait avec soin au garde-meubles. Racine proposa le
sujet d‟Orphée, Quinault L’Enlèvement de Proserpine, et Molière, aidé du grand Corneille, s‟attacha au sujet 3de Psyché qui obtint la préférence.” Never had such a spectacle been mounted in France with such a
collaboration of talented dramatists. Sixty-eight years later, Voltaire would write that 'Il ne manquait à cette société de grands hommes que le seul Racine, afin que tout ce qu'il y eut jamais de plus excellent au théâtre se 4fût réuni pour servir un roi qui méritait d'être servi par de tels hommes.'
Tragi-comédie et ballet. With historical hindsight, modern critics have regarded Psyché as a kind
of proto-opera without recitative, as a French response to Italian opera, and as a final step in the evolution of 5the genre of comédie-ballet toward totally-sung musical theater. While there is no doubt some truth in all of
these contentions, it would be more to the point to view the connection of Psyché to the tradition of the
mythological machine-play—a theatrical genre which had thrived in France since the turn of the seventeenth century. Long before Mazarin introduced Roman opera to the Bourbon court, Charles de l'Espine‟s La
Descente d'Orphee aux enfers (1614) established the characteristic features of the French machine-play: a subject drawn from classical mythology; minor characters (driads, faunes, satyrs, magicians), bucolic settings, and Arcadian commonplaces borrowed from the pastoral genre; the deployment of purely visual
1According to Henri Le Maître, the king‟s mistress Mme de Montespan encouraged Louis to make use of this playhouse for machine plays; see Essai sur le mythe de Psyché dans la littérature française des origines à 1890 (Paris: Boivin, 1944) 135 n. 3. This playhouse is described in abbé de Pure, L’Idée des spectacles
anciens et nouveaux (1668), p. 311ff; in the livret to Psyché, given below; and in Robinet, Lettre en vers à
Monsieur (24 janvier 1671). 2 See Marie-Françoise Christout, 'Ercole Amante, "L'Hercule amoureux," à la salle des Machines des
Tuilleries,' XVIIe siècle (Jan.-March 1984), 13. 3 Lagrange-Chancel, preface to Orphée, in Oeuvres (Paris, 1758), IV:63. Manuel Couvreur questions the
credibility of this account—which was published 87 years after the event; see Jean-Baptiste Lully: musique
et dramaturgie au service du Prince (Bruxelles: M. Volkar, 1992), 218. 4'Vie de Molière avec de petits sommaires de ses pièces', in Voltaire, Œuvres complètes (Paris, 1879),
23:124. 5. According to Jérôme de La Gorce, Psyché 'succédait, en effet, aux comédies-ballets des deux "grands
Baptistes" et présentait comme ces dernières l'image d'une pièce de théâtre, dans laquelle alternaient la parole, le chant et la danse. Par la place importante qu'elle accordait à la musique et le ton plus dramatique qu'elle adoptait, elle annonçait également les tragédies lyriques que le compositeur allait bientôt créer avec Quinault.' See 'Les costumes d'Henry Gissey pour les représentations de Psyché,' Revue de l'art 62 (1983),
spectacle, augmented by special effects and music; and a denouement involving the miraculous intervention 6 Other spectacular mythological machine-plays followed: Monléon's L'Amphytrite of a deus ex machina.
(1630), Durval's Les Travaux d'Ulysse (1631), Sallebray's Le Jugement de Paris (1639), Claveret's
Le Ravissement de Proserpine (1639), Chapoton's La Descente d'Orphée aux enfers (1639; rev.
1648), Dassoucy's Le Jugement de Paris (1648), Marcassus's Les Pêcheurs illustres (1648), and
Boyer's Ulysse dans l'Isle de Circe (1650). The genre reached a peak of development in mid-century
with Pierre Corneille Andromède (1650) and La Toison d’Or (1659), and remained very much in vogue
through the 1660s and early 1670s—particularly at the “Théâtre des Machines du Marais,” where the
mythological machine spectacles of Claude Boyer (Les Amours de Jupiter et de Semelé (1666), La Feste de
Vénus (1668)) and Jean Donneau de Visé (Les Amours de Venus et d'Adonis (1670), Le Mariage de Bacchus
et d'Ariane (1672)) continued to astonish seventeenth-century audiences with their state-of-the-art stagecraft and musical/choreographic tableaux.
Psyché stood apart from contemporary machine-plays in its fusion with ballet de cour. Yet also
evident is its connection with contemporary Italian opera. Throughout the 1660s, ballet de cour and comédie-ballet were both becoming increasingly “operatic” as they absorbed Italian musical styles and expressive elements. Italianate solo airs are found in the Ballet de l’Amour malade (1657), the Ballet de la
Raillerie (1659), and the Ballet de l’Impatience (1661), while entire scenes sung in Italian appeared in the
Ballet de Psyché (1657), the Ballet d’Alcidiane (1658), and the Ballet des Amours déguisés (1664). Molière
and Lully introduced operatic scenes--occasionally with Italian lyrics--in their later comédies-ballets. George Dandin (1668) featured a self-contained pastorale en musique distributed among the intermèdes of
the spoken comedy, whereas Les Amants magnifiques (1670) introduced a miniature pastoral opera in the 7third intermède. Psyché includes an Italian lament for solo soprano and and ensemble of three male voices as the first intermède (a configuration that reminds us of Monteverdi's Lamento della ninfa). While
precedents can be found in Lully's earlier ballets--the “Récit d'Armide” from the Ballet des Amours déguises 8and the “Plainte d‟Ariane” from the Ballet de la naissance de Vénus (1665)--a more immediate model is the
“Plainte en musique” (“Ah! mortelles douleurs!”) from the first intermède of George Dandin (1668).
Literary Sources and Precursors. The fable of Psyche and Cupid was well known in Renaissance 9Italy and France. Apuleius was the only author from antiquity to have related this tale, which appears in his popular Latin romance, The Golden Ass (ca. 150 A.D.). By the latter half of the sixteenth century The Golden
Ass enjoyed several scholarly editions and French translations, and the central episode of Psyche and Cupid underwent numerous neoplatonic interpretations and dramatizations in the form of intermedii, operas, and 10ballets. The best known pre-operatic version to emerge from Renaissance Florence was „La favola di Psiche e Amore‟, devised and directed by Giovanbattista Cini, and set to music by Alessandro Striggio and
6 For more on the early history of the French mythological machine-play, see my forthcoming book, Music
and French Theatre, 1600-1680 (Oxford University Press, 2000), Chapter 11. 7 Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (1669) also contains a doctors‟ consultation scene sung entirely in Italian. 8For more discussion of Italian elements in the ballets, see Denise Launay, 'Les airs italiens et français dans les ballets et les comédies-ballets', in Jérôme de La Gorce and Herbert Schneider (eds.), Jean-Baptiste Lully.
Actes du colloque/Kongreßbericht Saint-Germain-en-Laye Ŕ Heidelberg 1987 (Laaber, 1990), 31-49 [38-42
and 45-47]. 9. The legend of Psyche and Cupid was frequently depicted in statues, sculptures, bas-reliefs, frescos, stained-glass, and tapestries of the time. In 1541, Anne de Montmorency commissioned 44 stained glass windows depicting the loves of Cupid and Psyche for his château at Écouen, which are now housed in the Galérie de Psyché at Chantilly. Le Sueur's Histoire de Psyché was a well-known painting, and Mignard used
the fable as a decorative theme in his Cabinet de Psyché (1665). Molière, a friend of Mignard, admired these
frescos, and probably knew of Le Brun‟s tapestry, l'Histoire de Psyché, fabricated by the Gobelin
factory--who would later produce a tapestry depicting Molière's 1671 'tragicomédie et ballet'. 10 For a listing of all the editions, translations, and adaptations at this time, see the appendix in Le Maître‟s Essai sur le mythe de Psyché, 350-55.
11 These six intermedii appeared between the acts of Francesco d‟Ambra‟s La Francesco Corteccia.
cofanaria (1565), which was performed for the wedding of Francesco I dei Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (Marie de‟ Medici‟s father) and Giovanna of Austria (sister of Emperor Maximilian II).
In France, Marie de‟ Medici and her court were particularly attached to the myth. The actor-playwright Giambattisti Andreini, head of the Italian acting troupe i Fedeli that visited the French court
in 1613 and 1621, saw the Cini-Striggio-Corteccia musical version when it was revived in Mantua for the 121608 marriage of Francesco Gonzaga and Marguerite de Savoy. An opera on the subject by Mercadanti
subsequently included the Psyche fable in the fourth canto of his poem Adone (1623), which he wrote while 13in residence at the French court.
Perhaps it was Andreini's account of the Florentine and Mantuan performances, together with Marino's interest in the myth, that led to the first French ballet de cour on the subject. The first performance
of Le ballet de la reine, tiré de la fable de Psyché took place at the Louvre in 1619, where it received a
sumptuous staging. The sets depicted in turn an enchanted garden, Cupid‟s palace, a seascape, and Mount 14Olympus for Psyche‟s apotheosis. Here the fable became established a pretext for scenic spectacle and a framework for ballet, with entrées of contrasting character that underline its fairy-tale and romanesque character. The 1619 ballet, and subsequent Italian operas on the subject may well have inspired the next important French ballet: Benserade‟s Ballet de Psyché, ou de la puissance de l'amour, first danced at the 15Louvre on 17 January 1656. Here the action is presented in two parts: the first depicts “les beautez & les délices du Palais d‟Amour” in 13 entrées, while in the 14 entrées of the second part “l‟Amour divertit la belle Psyché par la representation d‟une partie des merveilles qu‟il a produit.” For this production Torelli designed
the décor and machines, Boesset composed the récits that introduce each part, and Lully contributed a „concert italien‟ in which Fear, Suspicion, Despair, and Jealousy appear before Pluto (danced by the young 16Louis XIV).
Molière and his collaborators were certainly familiar with many of the literary versions of the fable. Molière may well have read Apuleius in the original Latin, from which he evidently borrowed the complaints of Venus for his prologue. He and Corneille were certainly acquainted with Calderon‟s Spanish dramatization, Ni Amor se libra de Amor (1640 or 1664), from which they borrowed many minor details of
11 These intermedii are described in Nino Pirrotta and Elena Povoledo, Music and theatre from Poliziano to
Monteverdi, trans. by Karen Eales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 350-52. 12 In his preface to La Ferinda (Paris, 1622), Andreini states '”then it was my good fortune in Florence and in
Mantua to be a spectator of Operas in musical recitative, namely l'Orfeo, l'Arianna, La Silla, La Dafne, La Cerere, and La Psyche—pieces truly marvellous as much for the excellence of the fortunate swans who sang them gloriously as for the rare genius of the skilled musicians who harmoniously and angelically composed them” (Alhor, che per mia felice fortuna in Fiorenza, & in Mantova fui spettator d'Opere recitative, e musicali, vidi l'Orfeo, l'Arianna, la Silla, la Dafne, la Cerere e la Psiche, cose in vero maravigliosissime; non solo per l'eccellenza de' fortunati Cigni che le cantarono gloriose, come per la rarità de' Musici canori che armoniose, & angeliche le refero). 13 The fable of Psyche and Cupid is retold in the Novelletta; for a facsimile ed., see Luigi Marinelli, ed., La
Novelletta / Bajka: La Psiche polacca. Migrazioni del IV canto dell'Adone (Università di Parma, 1992). Le
Maître suggests that Marino had many of the Italian versions of the fable in his private library that he brought to France; see Essai sur le mythe de Psyché, 72. 14 See Henry Prunières, Le Ballet de cour en France. The livret is found in Lacroix, Ballets et mascarades,
Vol. ?? 15 See Le Maître‟s Essai sur le mythe de Psyché, 83. 16 See Charles Silin, Benserade 254-61and Marie-Françoise Christout, Le Ballet de cour de Louis XIV,
1643-1672 (Paris, 1967), 79-81.
17 The myth had been made fashionable in France through La Fontaine‟s Les plot and characterization.
Amours de Psyché et de Cupidon (1669). Many added mythological and supernatural characters (Palemon,
the Dryads and Fairies, and the river god Glaucus), the description of Cupid's palace, and various dramatic scenes became incorporated into the text and décor of the 1671 tragi-comedie et ballet. Furthermore, La
Fontaine‟s retelling of the fable abounds with lyrical interludes that found their way into the intermèdes. The funeral hymns of the “pompe funebre” clearly were the inspiration for the lament of the first intermède; a musical interlude performed in Cupid's palace for Psyche's entertainment became the dialogue sung by “un
Zéphyr” and “un Amour” in the third intermède. Even Psyche‟s grand Corneillian soliloquies (literary precursors of the monologue air) in the tragi-comédie et ballet appear to derive from La Fontaine's lyric monologues, which are cast in poetic forms such as the sonnet. In light of the current popularity of the subject and its successful treatment in the medium of ballet, the time had clearly come for a more extensive musical dramatization of the Psyche fable.
Conception and Collaboration. Having received the command from Louis XIV for a musical
divertissement, Molière and Lully sought assistance from two established playwrights--Pierre Corneille and Philippe Quinault. The au lecteur printed in the first edition of the play gives a clear account of the nature of 18this collaboration:
Cet ouvrage n‟est pas tout d‟une main. M. Quinault a fait les paroles qui s‟y chantent en
musique, à la réserve de la plainte italienne. M. de Molière a dressé le plan de la pièce, et
réglé la disposition, où il s‟est plus attaché aux beautés et à la pompe du spectacle qu‟à
l‟exacte régularité. Quant à la versification, il n‟a pas eu le loisir de la faire entière. Le
carnaval approchait, et les ordres pressants du Roi, qui se voulait donner ce magnifique
divertissement plusieurs fois avant le carême, l‟ont mis dans la nécessité de souffrir un peu
de secours. Ainsi, il n‟y a que le prologue, le premier acte, la première scène du second et
la première du troisième dont les vers soient de lui. M. Corneille a employé une quinzaine
au reste; et, par ce moyen, Sa Majesté s‟est trouvée servie dans le temps qu‟elle l‟avait
This informative au lecture is our primary documentary source for (1) the nature of the literary
collaboration between Molière, Corneille, and Quinault, (2) the reasoning behind the play's lack of regularity, and (3) the precipitate creation of the work due to Louis XIV's command. Yet each of these points warrants further investigation. According to Grimarest, Molière had been at work on a dramatization of the fable of 19Psyche and Cupid long before his two rivals came to his aid.
Lorsque le Roi lui demanda un divertissement, et qu‟il donna Psyché au mois de Janvier 1672 [sic],
il ne desabusa point le public, que ce qui étoit de lui dans cette piece ne fût fait ensuite des ordres du
Roi, mais je sais qu‟il étoit travaillé un an et demi auparavant, et ne pouvant pas se resoudre
d‟achever la piece en aussi peu de tems qu‟il en avoit, il eut recours à Mr de Corneille pour lui aider. 20On sait que cette piece eut à Paris, au mois de Juillet 1672 [sic], tout le succès qu‟elle méritoit.
Grimarest was mistaken about the year of the première and that of the July 1671 revival at the Palais-Royal; consequently, many scholars claim that the date Molière actually began working on Psyché may be off by a
14 In Calderon's drama, the two sisters as unmarried, Psyche‟s two suitors are friends, and Cupid appears to Psyche and her sisters in human form; see Henry Carrington Lancaster, A History of French Dramatic
Literature in the Seventeenth-Century, III/2: 521 n. 10. 18 Psyché[:] tragédie-ballet par J.-B. P. Molière (Paris: Pierre le Monnier, 1671). 19Indeed, it has been suggested that Molière and the Illustre Théâtre may have already staged a version of the fable in Rouen, immediately before they established themselves in Paris in 1658; see Henri Soleirol, Molière
et sa troupe (Paris: Chez l‟Auteur, 1858), 92-94. Soleirol bases his hypothesis on 41 drawings of actors from
the troupes of Molière and Ducroisy, made when the two troupes united in 1658; in the Rouen performance of Psyché, Molière played the role of Vulcan, and Ducroisy that of Egiale. 20 Jean Léonor le Gallois de Grimarest, La Vie de M. de Molière, ed. Georges Mongrédien (Paris, 1955; repr.
Geneva, 1973), 118-19.
21 Nevertheless, with six months lead time it seems clear that the Molière was not as pressed as he full year.
would have had his readers believe. As Couvreur points out, “la qualité du texte de Psyché, l‟ampleur d‟une
partition qui s‟adapte parfaitement à chaque situation dramatique rendent peu crédible une précipitation 22excessive.”
23 At which point Molière turned to Pierre Corneille for assistance also remains unclear. We know
from the memoirs of Laurent d'Arvieux that Psyché was in its initial stage of preparation in October of 1670,
when at the time of the Chambord performances of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme there was some discussion of 24adding Turkish entrées to Psyché. On 3 December news of the project was published in a Brussels news 25journal (“Le sieur Molière fait une comédie en machines et un ballet en musique”); had Pierre Corneille
(the most acclaimed dramatist of the day) come on board at that time, one would expect the journa to have been mentioned it. As the 'au lecteur' stated that Corneille completed the final three acts in a fortnight, their collaboration must have begun sometime in mid-December of 1670. Corneille and Molière had reconciled since their falling-out over the 'Querelle de l'École des femmes', and the Troupe du Roy premièred Corneille's
Attila in 1667. Corneille had given his latest play, Tite et Bérénice, to Molière's company, and the rehearsals
and performances (starting on 20 December 1670) at the Palais-Royal brought the two playwrights into close and frequent contact. No doubt their mutual admiration and trust, as well as their shared antipathy for Racine, 26brought the playwrights into artistic collaboration.
Yet there seems to have been another, more personal motivation for Corneille to become involved in this project. According to Fontenelle, the elder Corneille had become infatuated with Molière's wife, Armande Béjart (dite Mlle Molière), who performed the title roles of Bérénice and Psyche. More than one author has noted a marked change in the inner drama where Corneille takes charge of the versification. Corneille's verses become uncharacteristically amorous, even erotic, when Psyche's resignation to her 27unwarranted fate then transforms into love for her unknown captor. As Psyche's heart, formerly inured to
the love of her mortal suitors, becomes filled with passion, her new-found emotion is reflected by the sumptuousness of the décor of Cupid's palace and the musical/balletic entertainments performed in her honor. Her love-scene with Cupid (the famous idyll) is essentially an extended love-duet, in which Corneille's verses reach lyric heights. Corneille's collaboration on Psyché rejuvenated his poetic muse, and gave new emphasis
to erotic, as well as the spiritual and religious undercurrents, of the fable.
21 Couvreur, however, feels that “rien ne prouve que l‟assertion du biographe repose sur ce calcul de dates;” see Jean-Baptiste Lully, 214. 22 Jean-Baptiste Lully, 215. 23 Grimarest makes clear that Molière approached Corneille for assistance with the play. 24 According to the Chevalier d'Arvieux, 'On voulut même faire entrer les scènes turques dans le ballet de Psyché qu'on préparait pour le carnaval suivant, mais, après y avoir bien pensé, on jugea que ces deux sujets ne pouvaient pas s'allier ensemble.' (Mémoires, 1735, IV:252-4; quoted in Mongrédien, Recueil des textes et
des documents du XVIIe siècle relatifs à Molière [Paris: Éditions du Centre National de la Recherche
Scientifique, 1965], I:377). 25 Relations véritables; cited by Mongredien, Recueil des textes relatifs à Molière, I:381. 26. According to Georges Couton, 'Les oppositions qui s'étaient vivement manifestées entre Molière et Corneille lors de la cabale de L'École des femmes sont oubliées. Sans doute la nécessité de faire front
commun contre un nouveau venu qui a les dents longues, Racine, est-elle pour beaucoup dans le rapprochement de Corneille et de Molière. Les répétitions d'Attila (crée par Molière en 1667), et de Tite et
Bërënice qu'il monte en même temps qu'il travaille à Psyché (première de Tite et Bérénice: 20 décembre 1670)
ont dû amener Corneille et Molière à sympathiser. Il était très naturel que Molière, pris de court, songeât à demander à Corneille sa collaboration.' See Molière's Oeuvres complètes, ed. by Georges Couton
(Paris: Gallimard, 1971), II:1439. 27 Corneille, 'étant à l'ombre du nom d'autrui, abandonné à un excès de tendresse, dont il n'aurait pas voulu déshonorer son nom' (Fontenelle, Vie de P. Corneille. Œuvres, 1747). Le Maître discusses in some detail the
lyric qualities of Molière's and Corneille's spokn verses, and demonstrates the manner in which they maintain continuity with the musical intermèdes; see Essai sur le mythe de Psyché, pp. 160-63.
The extent to which Psyché is the product of a team effort is unusual in the history of Molière's and 28 After Psyche learns of the oracle at the Lully's collaborations, and creates an unevenness of poetic style.
end of Act 1 the tone suddenly shifts to serious drama, and her farewell to her father in Act 2, sc. 1 is set firmly in the tragic mode. Perhaps it was at this point that Molière may have decided he was out of his depth, and turned the rest of the drama over to Corneille. The change of style here is evident: the verse-structure is simpler, the poetry more fluid and lyrical. Molière contributed only one more scene (III, 1) in which he played the role of Zéphire, and where Molière the playwright would once again revert to the heroic-burlesque style of Amphitryon.
Exactly when Quinault joined the team is unknown--though Étienne Gros seems certain that he was the last ('Bellérophon n'avait pas encore paru en librairie et peut-être le jouait-on encore, quand le nouvel académicien fut appelé à collaborer avec Lully, Molière et Corneille à ce qu'on appelait alors le 29"divertissement de Psyché".') That he was asked to provide Lully with the lyrics to Psyché is puzzling,
given that Molière had written them for all of their earlier collaborations. Clearly time was not an issue here, for the au lecteur mentions Quinault's involvement before it relates how Corneille came to Molière's aid--ostensibly due to time constraints. Rather, we might surmise that Lully chose to work with Quinault, not Molière, and this may foreshadow the rift that perhaps was already developing between 'les deux Baptistes'. Lully's name appeared nowhere in the au lecteur, even though, according to the frères Parfaict, the lyrics of 30the 'plainte italienne' were by Lully himself. The omission would seem to lend credence to this hypothesis.
Given that the au lecteur states "Ainsi, il n‟y a que le prologue, le premier acte, la première scène du second et la première du troisième dont les vers soient de lui [Molière]," some have questioned whether 31Molière might have written the entire Prologue including its sung verses. But internal evidence seems to
confirm that Quinault, not Molière, should be credited with these lyrics. Molière's opening vocal numbers in prologues typically begin with a rhetorically dramatic exhortation to action:
Répands, charmante nuit, répands sur tous les yeux
De tes pavots la douce violence
Et ne laisse veiller en ces aimables lieux
Que les cœurs que l'Amour soumet à sa puissance.
(Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, Ouverture)
Venez grande Princesse, avec tous vos appas.
Venez prêter vos yeux aux innocents ébats
Que notre désert vous présente;
(Les Amants magnifiques,
Prologue to the Troisième Intermède)
Quittez, quittez vos troupeaux,
Venez, Bergrs, venez, Bergères,
Accourez, accourez sous ces tendres ormeaux;
(Le Malade imaginaire, Prologue)
Molière's characteristic 'répétition de paroles' is noticeably absent from Flora's exhortation to Venus at the beginning of the Prologue to Psyché, which commences in a more staid manner:
28. Only Les Fâcheux, the first comédie-ballet, could boast of as many creators (Pellisson for the Prologue, Molière for the spoken play, Beauchamps and Lully for the music, Torelli for the décor, Beauchamps and Dolivet for the ballets). 29. Étienne Gros, Philippe Quinault, sa vie et son œuvre (Paris: Champion, 1926), 94. It is possible that
Quinault, recently elected to the Académie Française, was chosen by Colbert and the Petite Académie for this project. 30 Parfaict, Histoire du théâtre français, xi:121n. 31. Étienne Gros, for instance, credits Quinault with the lyrics of only the second, third, and fifth intermède; see Philippe Quinault, sa vie et son œuvre, 94, n. 5.
Ce n'est plus le temps de la guerre:
Le plus puissant des rois
Interrompt ses exploits
Pour donner la paix à la terre.
However, when Venus finally arrives in the second half of the Prologue and speaks vers mêlés of Molière's composition, we can observe the playwright's characteristic rhetorical gestures:
Cessez, cessez pour moi tous vos chants d'allégresse;
De si rares honneurs ne m'appartiennent pas,
Et l'hommage qu'ici votre bonté m'adresse
Doit être réservé pour de plus doux appas.
This supports what was stated at the beginning of the 'au lecteur': 'M. Quinault a fait les paroles qui s‟y chantent en musique, à la réserve de la plainte italienne.'
We may further surmise that Molière planned out the Prologue and intermèdes, and may even have retained some control over their lyric content--insofar as the first Act (by Molière) makes specific reference to of the Prologue. For example, the encounter between Psyche's sisters and her princely suitors in Act 1, sc. 2 becomes an echo of the sung dialogue of Vertumnus and Palaemon, where the second verse poses the following maxims and questions in paired, balanced exchanges:
Souffrons tous qu'Amour nous blesse;
Languissons, puisqu'il le faut.
Que sert un cœur sans tendresse?
Est-il un plus grand défaut?
Un bel object toujours sévère
Ne se fait jamais bien aimer.
C'est la beauté qui commence de plaire,
Mais la douceur achève de charmer.
In playful counterpoint to this theme of love's charms, Molière presents Cléomène and Agénor, Psyche's noble but indistinguishable suitors, who attempt to evade the snares of her importunate sisters, Aglaure and Cidippe. Molière gives the paired exchanges comic spin as the sisters receive unsatisfying responses to their rhetorically leading-questions:
D'où vient, Princes, d'où vient que vous fuyez ainsi?
Prenez-vous l'épouvante en nous voyant paraître?
On nous faisait croire qu'ici
La princesse Psyché, Madame, pourrait être.
Tous ces lieux n'ont-ils rien d'agréable pour vous,
Si vous ne les voyez ornés de sa présence?
Ces lieux peuvent avoir des charmes assez doux;
Mais nous cherchons Psyché dans notre impatience.
Their four-way dialogue (a lyric structure often found in the pastorale en musique) continues throughout the
scene, as the princes parry the sisters' pointed comments with a couplet structured in mirror-inversion--thereby forming symmetrical rimes croisés of octosyllables framed by alexandrines:
Sans aller plus avant, Princes, cela veut dire
Que vous aimez Psyché tous deux.
Tous deux soumis à son empire,
Nous allons de concert lui découvrir nos feux.
C'est une nouveauté sans doute assez bizarre,
Que deux rivaux si bien unis.
Il est vrai que la chose est rare,
Mais non pas impossible à deux parfaits amis.
This scene becomes an ironic distortion of the chain of lovers found in pastoral drama, where the love-interests of the shepherds and shepherdesses typically fall into a unidirectional schema (A loves B, who loves C, who loves A). Instead, A and B (the princes) love C (Psyche), and are beloved by D and E (Psyche's sisters)--who find little consolation in the tired maxims of Vertumnus's and Palaemon's dialogue.
Organization of the work. Psyché represents a watershed in French lyric theater that marks the
end of the collaborative masterpiece, in which the literary components were delegated to several 32 It was without precedent with regard to the quality of its realization on-stage and the specialists.
overwhelming opulence of its staging, which (taken with the beauty of the subject) compelled no less a critic than Voltaire to 'excuse' the shortcomings of the work ('Psiché n'est pas une excellente Piéce, & les derniers
Actes en sont très-languissans; mais la beauté du sujet, les ornemens dont elle fut embellie, & la dépense 33Royale qu'on fit pour ce Spectacle, firent pardonner ses défauts').
The spoken portions by Molière and Corneille embrace a plurality of dramatic styles, as each of the acts takes on a dramatic tone contrasting with the one that immediately preceded it: Act 1, comic; Act 2, tragic; Act 3, idyllic; Act 4, tragic; Act 5, heroic drama. Stylistic diversity also comes into play in the intermèdes. The first, an Italian lament sung in "plaintive accents of the Lydian mode," adopts its affect of lamentation from Italian opera; it is balanced by the pantomimic dances of the fourth intermède, modelled after the enfer scenes of Italian opera (specifically, Cavalli's Ercole amante). Whereas these intermèdes use
Italian musical expression and stagecraft to depict Psyche's misfortunes, the interior intermèdes use the French arts to provide for Psyche's pleasures. The second intermède, in which eight cyclopes, urged on by Vulcan, fashion some golden vases for Psyche, derives from the comic/gallant style of burlesque ballet; the third intermède, in which some amours and zephyrs entertain Psyche with their songs and dances, stems from the refined style and verbal préciosité of French chamber music traditions. The framing Prologue and
32. Such was the case with ballet de cour, which relied on the collaboration of an 'organiser of ballets,' a lyricist, and a poet for the spoken (and unspoken) portions. 33. Voltaire, Œuvres complètes, 23:124.
concluding intermède, on the other hand, embrace the two dominant genres of French musical theatre before 34 the advent of opera: the mythological machine-play, and mythological ballet de cour.
If Molière favored scenic spectacle in Psyché at the expense of exact regularity, we should expect to
find dramatic organization pervading the scene-changes and mechanical special-effects. Here Molière undoubtedly was directly inspired by the great Corneille, universally acknowledged as master of the tragédie en machines. In his famous preface to Andromède (1650) Corneille explained that "in some ways they
[machine-effects] bring about the conflict and the resolution, and are so necessary to the play that not you 35could not omit a single one without causing the entire edifice to collapse." In Psyché changes of décor
coincide either with the beginning or the end of the Prologue and intermèdes. As can be seen in Table 1, the scenic effects are arranged to create a accelerando in frequency and grandeur to the spectacle of the final intermède.
Prologue: 1 set-change, 1 machine-effect
Act 1: 1 set-change
Intermède 1: 1 set-change
Act 2: no set-change; no machine-effects
Intermède 2: 1 set-change
Act 3: no set-change; no machine-effects
Intermède 3: no set-change; no machine-effects
Act 4: 2 set-changes; 3 machine-effects
Intermède 4: 1 set-change
Act 5: 3 machine-effects
Dernier Intermède: 1 set-change; 2 machine-effects
Table 1. Set-changes and scenic effects in Psyché
We know from the 'au lecteur' that 'M. de Molière a dressé le plan de la pièce, et réglé la disposition'. Clearly, Molière gave considerable attention to how the musical segments would relate on multiple levels to the play. For instance, the bipartite division of the Prologue reflects its double function: the sung praises of the monarch, followed by a spoken exposition of the play's subject. Here Molière hit upon an original manner to integrate play and Prologue: not only does the arrival of Venus precipitate the main action, but her 36spoken verses, cast in 'vers mêlés', announces the pervasive use of lyric verse throughout. The conflicts put
forth by the Prologue will be resolved in the final intermède, where celestial harmony will be restored with the apotheosis of Psyche, her marriage to Cupid, and the reconciliation of the gods. As will be demonstrated below, the final intermède will become an expansion of the structural scheme of the Prologue.
At the end of the Prologue the scene shifts from a seaport to "une grande allée de cyprès, où l'on découvre, des deux côtés, des tombeaux superbes des anciens rois de la famille de Psyché." The magnificent surroundings serves to remind the audience of Psyche's royal lineage, while the tombs presage the death-sentence soon to be imposed upon her. This theme continues in the "pompe funebre" of the first
34. With this should be included some of the late comédies-ballets that also end with extended balletic finales; compare, for example, the 'Jeux Pythiens' that conclude Les Amants magnifiques with the final
intermède of Psyché. 35. Examen d'Andromčde, found in Théâtre complet, 2 vols., ed. Roger Caillois (Paris: Gallimard, 1950),
II:240. Corneille gave considerable space in his text to detailed descriptions of the settings, and emphasized that he had proposed their design to Torelli--who then put his plans into practice. Torelli's set designs are reproduced in Per Bjurström, Giacomo Torelli and Baroque Stage Design (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell,
1961), pp. 147-57. 36. As Christian Delmas points out, "Psyché est la première pièce française à user systématiquement de ce
vers à la fois dans les intermèdes et dans le corps de l'œuvre." (Le théâtre musical et Psyché de Molière,"
intermède, where "la scène est changée en des rochers affreux, et fait voir en éloignement une grotte effroyable." This is the desert where Psyche, after having taken her leave of her father and sisters, is to be left (like Andromeda) to await her fate. Lully's "plaintes en italien" function as an aural counterpart to the bleakness of the landscape, while the singers ("une femme désolée" and "deux hommes affligés") give voice 37 The end of to the communal grief expressed by the three singers--who function much like a Greek chorus.Act 1 (written by Molière), where Cidippe and Aglaure confide their reactions to the oracle, provides at once a comic counterpoint to and an ironic preparation for the hyperbolic emotions of the first intermède:
Ma sœur, que sentez-vous à ce soudain malheur
Où nous voyons Psyché par les Destins plongée?
Mais vous, que sentez-vous, ma sœur?
À ne vous point mentir, je sens que dans mon cœur
Je n'en suis pas trop affligée.
Moi, je sens quelque chose au mien
Qui ressemble assez à la joie.
Allons, le Destin nous envoie
Un mal que nous pouvons regarder comme un bien.
The second intermède is also directly linked to the final lines spoken in the previous act, where we can witness the Olympian chain-of-command. Cupid appears in the sky and proves himself to be Venus's son by sending the two rival princes to their deaths ("Allez mourir, rivaux d'un dieu jaloux, / Dont vous méritez le courroux, / Pour avoir eu le cœur sensible aux mêmes charmes"); he then commands his subordinate Vulcan to adorn a palace "Où l'Amour de Psyché veut essuyer les larmes, / Et lui rendre les armes." The scene then changes to "une cour magnifique," where we see Vulcan the slave-driver urging his minions--six cyclops and 38four fairies--to complete their work. Unlike the previous intermède this one is broadly comic, and we can
almost hear the crack of the whip in Vulcan's lines "Travaillez, hâtez-vous, / Frappez, redoublez vos 39coups". Cupid also brings on the third intermède when he calls upon some minor divinities to entertain Psyche with their songs and dances ("Et vous, petits Amours, et vous, jeunes Zéphirs, / Qui pour âmes n'avez que de tendres soupirs, / Montrez tous à l'envi ce qu'à voir ma princesse / Vous avez senti d'allégresse.") But unlike the previous intermèdes, there is no change of scene nor lapse of time between the intermède and the previous act; it is only upon the conclusion of the intermède that "le théâtre devient un jardin superbe et 40charmant."
In the fourth act, the scene-changes and special effects accelerate to prepare for the coup de grâce:
the spectacular enfer set of the fourth intermède. First, Psyche's sisters visit her in the palace gardens; then, having planted the seeds of doubt in her mind, they are borne aloft by Zephyr in a gigantic cloud machine ("Ce nuage enveloppe les deux sœurs; et, s'étant étendu sur toute la largeur du théâtre, il les emporte avec
37. Here again, there is a parallel between Lully's "troupe de personnes affligées" and the "chœur de peuple"
in Andromède, who were assembled to witness Andromède's fate. 38The Cyclopes, blacksmiths of the Olympian gods, were skilled metalworkers who created Jupiter's thunderbolts, Neptune's trident, and Pluto's helmet of darkness. According to myth they were killed by Apollo in revenge for Jupiter having used one of their thunderbolts to strike down Asclepius, Apollo's son. 39This intermède must have been the inspiration for air "Il faut passer, trop ou tard" in Alceste, where one can
almost hear the "chink" of the coins as Charon collects passage from the souls waiting to cross the river Styx. 40The livret reinforces this through the marginal set annotations for the second intermède ("Le théâtre est un palais") and the beginning of Act 4 ("Le théâtre est un jardin").