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Gordian Plot

TWENTIETH SITUATION, SELF-SACRIFICE FOR AN IDEAL

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(The Hero; the Ideal; the "Cieditor" or the Person or Thing Sacrificed)

The four themes of Immolation, of which this is the first, bring before us three corteges :—Gods (XX and XXIII), Kindred (XXI and XXIII), and Desires (XXII). The field of conflict is no longer the visible world, but the Soul.

Of these four subjects, none is nobler than this of our Twentieth Situation,—all for an ideal! What the ideal may be, whether political or religious, whether it be called Honor or Piety, is of little importance. It exacts the sacrifice of all ties, of interest, passion, life itself,—far better, however, under one of the three following forms, if it be tarnished with the slightest, even although the most sublime, egoism.

A (1)—Sacrifice of Life for the Sake of Ones Word:—The "Regulus" of Pradon and also of Metas¬tasio; the end of "Hernani" (Carthage and Don Ruy Gomez are the "Creditors"). Is it not surprising that a greater number of examples do not at once present themselves to us? This fatality, the work of the victim himself, and in which the victory is won over Self,—is it not worthy to illuminate the stage with its sacrificial flames? There is, nevertheless, no necessity for choosing a hero of an almost too-perfect type, such as Regulus.

(2)—Life Sacrificed for the Success of Ones People:

—"The Waiting-Women" by Aeschylus; "Protesilas" by Euripides; "Themistocles" by Metastasio. Partial examples: "Iphigenia in Aulis," by Euripides and by Racine. Historic examples: Codrus; Curtius ; Latour d’Auvergne.. For the Happiness of Ones People:— The "Suffering Christ" of St. Gregory Nazianzen.

(3)—Life Sacrificed in Filial Piety:—"The Phoenic¬ian Women" by Aeschylus; the "Antigones" of Sophocles and Euripides ; of Alamanni and Alfieri.

(4)—Life Sacrificed for the Sake of Ones Faith:— "The Miracle of St. Ignace of Antioch" (XIV Century) ; "Vive le Roi" (Han Rymer, 1911) ; "Cesar Birotteau" (Fabre, after Balzac, 1911) ; "The Constant Prince" by Calderon; "Luther" by Werner. Familiar instances: all martyrs, whether to religion or science. In fiction: "L’CEuvre" by Zola. For the Sake of Ones King :— "L’Enfant du Temple". (de Pohles).

B (1)—Both Love and Life Sacrificed for Ones Faith: — "Polyeucte." In fiction "L’Evangeliste" (sacrifice of family and future for ones faith).

(2)—Both Love and Life Sacrificed to a Cause:— "Les Fils de Jahel" (Mme. Armand, 1886).

(3)—Love Sacrificed to Interests of State :—This is the favorite motif of Corneille, as in "Othon," "Ser¬torius," "Sophonisbe," "Pulcherie," "Tite et Berenice." Add to these the "Berenice" of Racine and the "Sophon¬isbe" of Trissino, that of Alfieri and that of Mairet ; Metastasio’s "Achilles in Scyro" and his "Dido;" Ber¬lioz’ "Troyons" (the best tragedy of his century) ; "L’Imperatrice" (Mendes). The "Creditor" in this sub-class, remaining abstract, is easily confounded with the Ideal and the Hero; the "Persons Sacrificed," on the contrary, become visible; these are Plautine, Viriate, Syphax and Massinisse, Berenice, Deidamie. In comedy : "S. A. R." (Chancel, 1908).

C—Sacrifice of Well-Being 4-o Duty: "Resurrection" by Tolstoi; "L’Apprentie" (Geffroy, 1908).

D—The Ideal of "Honor" Sacrificed to the Ideal of "Faith";—Two powerful examples, which for secon¬dary reasons did not attain success (because the public ear was incapable of perceiving a harmony pitched so high in the scale of sentiment) : "Theodore" by Cor¬_ neille and "The Virgin Martyr" by Massinger. Partial example: the good hermit Abraham in Hroswitha.

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