(Two Lovers; an Obstacle)
A (1)—Marriage Prevented by Inequality of
Rank:—"Nitetis" and "The Chinese Hero" by Metastasio; "Le Prince Soleil" (Vasseur, 1889); second act of "La Vie Publique (Fabre, 1901); "Ramuntcho" (Pierre Loti, 1908); "L'Emigre" (Bourget, 1908). This is the sentimental-philosophical Situation of a great number of eighteenth century works ("Nanine," etc.), in which a lord invariably falls in love with a peasant girl. In George Sand, on the contrary, it is always a lady who is in love with a man of inferior rank; a sort of literature which at least has inspired many gallant adventures of our own time. The addition of one more little obstacle—the marriage bond—furnishes the pretext for the real intrigue of "Ruy Bias."
(2)—Inequality of Fortune an Impediment to Marriage:—"Myrtille" and in part "Friend Fritz" by Erckmann-Chatrian; "L'Abbe Constantin" by Halevy; "La Petite Amie" (Brieux, 1902); "La Plus Faible" (Prevost, 1904); "La Veuve Joyeuse" (Meilhac, Leon and Stein, 1909); "Le Danseur Inconnu" (Bernard, 1909); "La Petite Chocolatiere" (Gavault, 1909); "Primerose"; "Le Reve" (from Zola's story by Bruneau); in fiction; "Le Bonheur des Dames"—to mention only the more estimable works, leaving aside the endless number of trivial plays imitative of Scribe, and the Romances of Poor "Young Men, Dames Blanches, etc., which make our ears ring with confusing additions and subtractions, until the unexpected final multiplication—"deus ex machina"— which suddenly equalizes the two terms of the problem, the two fortunes of the lovers, with the most admirably symmetrical alignment of parallel zeros—preceded, oh joy! oh bliss! on one side as on the other, by two identical figures!
It must of course be recognized that these social and conventional inequalities are mere puerile details, and that the lovers, if they have but a little courage and sincerity, will overcome them without difficulty; they can do so by simply leaving behind them titles and money, and in a new country, under other names, bravely beginning life again together. If, instead of such bagatelles, we might only be sometimes shown the more serious obstacles of inequality of ages, of characters, of tastes—which are at the same time so much more common;
They are, indeed, so frequent that a general theory might be established with regard to them. The first love (twenty years) seeks in its object equality of rank and superiority of age (this is a fact well known to those who have studied the cases of girl-mothers); the second love, and in general the second period of emotional life (thirty years), addresses itself, audacity having been acquired, to superiors in rank but equals in age; finally, the third love, or in a more general way the third epoch of sentimental life, inclines by preference to those who are younger anl socially inferior. Naturally, subdivision is here possible.
B—Marriage Prevented by Enemies and Contingent Obstacles:—"Sieba" (Manzotti, 1883); "Et MaSoeur?" (Rabier, 1911); "Le Peche de Marthe" (Rochard, 1910); all fairy-plays, since the "Zeim" of Gozzi. In fine, a sort of steeple-chase process adapts itself to this situation, but the chase is not one in which several rival steeds and riders engage; throughout its course but a single couple enters upon it, to end at the shining goal with the usual somersault.
C (1)—Marriage Forbidden on Account of the Young Woman's Previous Betrothal to Another:—"II Re Pastore" by Metastasio; and other pieces without number. The lovers will die if separated, so they assure us. We see them make no preparations to do so, but the spectator is good enough to take their word for it; the ardors, the "braises'^tp use the exact language of the "grand siecle"—and other nervous phenomena in hypochondriacs of this sort cannot but offer some interest—not, however, for long.
(2)—The Same Case, Complicated by an Imaginary Marriage of the Beloved Object:—"Les Bleus de 1'Amour" (Coolus, 1911).
D (1)—A Free Union Impeded by the Opposition of Relatives:—"Le Divorce" (Bourget, 1908); "Les Lys" (Wolf and Leroux, 1908).
(2)—Family Affection Disturbed by the Parents-inLaw:—"Le Roman d'Elise" (Richard, 1885); "Le Poussin" (Guiraud, 1908).
E—By the Incompatibility of Temper of the Lovers* —"Montmartre" (Frondaie, 1911). "Les Angles du Divorce" (Biollay) belongs both to E and to D 2.
F—Love—but enough of this! What are we doing, cospectators in this hall, before this pretended situation ? Upon the stage are our two young people, locked in close embraces or conventionally attitudinizing in purely theatrical poses. What is there in all this worth remaining for ? Let us leave it . . , What, Madame, you straighten yourself in your ehair and crane your neck in excitement over the gesticulations of the "jeune premier?" But his sweetheart there beside him—have you forgotten that it is she whom he desires, or are the two of them playing so badly, is their dialogue so little natural that you forget the story enacted and fondly imagine yourself listening tQ a monologue, a declaration addressed to you alone ? And Monsieur there, with mouth open, eyes starting from his head, following with avidity every movement of the actress's lithe figure! Quick, my good man, another will be before you! Be consistent, at least! Spring upon the stage, break the insipid dandy's bones, and take his place!
Sorry return to promiscuity, in our overheated halls like lupanars, which the clergy is not altogether unreasonable in condemning! Do people gather here simply to study amatory manifestations ? In that case, why not freely open training schools for courtesans ? Is it for the benefit of the sidewalk traffic, later in the evening, that the public is here being prepared?
O fresh and stormy winds of Dionysian drama! Aeschylus, where art thou who wouldst have blushed to represent aught of amorous passion but its crimes and infamies? Do we not, even yet, perceive the heights to which rise those chaste pinnacles of modern art, "Macbeth" and "Athalie?"
But why disturb ourselves ? Turning our eyes from these summits to the scene before us, we do not feel depression; indeed, we indulge in a hearty laugh. These characters here before us ? Why, they are but puppets of comedy, nothing more. And the effort of their misguided authors to make them serious and tragic despite their nature has resulted in mere caricature. In more intelligent hands, have not the best of our dramas wherein love is important (but not of the first importance, as in this XXVIII) returned logically and naturally to an indulgence of smiles ? "Le Cid," which is the classic type of this sort, is a tragi-comedy, and all the characters surrounding Romeo and Juliet are frankly comic.
Nevertheless, our blind dramaturgy, with continued obstinacy, still breathes forth its solemnities in this equivocal rhythm. Whether the piece treats of sociology, of politics, of religion, of questions of art, of the title to a succession, of the exploitation of mines, of the invention of a gun, of the discovery of a chemical product, of it matters not what—a love story it must have; there is no escape. Savants, revolutionists, poets, priests or generals present themselves to us only to fall immediately to love-making or match-making, It becomes a mania. And we are asked to take these tiresome repetitions seriously!
This, then, is the actual stage of today. In my opinion, de Chirac alone has shown himself its courageously logical son—although a rejected one,—society, like an aged coquette, reserving always some secret sins, and fearing nothing so much as nudity, which would destroy the legend of her imaginary wicked charms, veiled, she willingly lets it be supposed, under her hypocrisy.
How grotesque an aspect will our ithyphallic obsession present, once it is crystallized in history, when we shall finally have returned to antique common sense!
This is a situation present in every modern romance. Love can be prevented by inequalities, family, and myriad other circumstances. Polti apparently was none too fond of this situation—and would be appalled at the number of romances selling today. “Whether the piece treats of sociology, of politics, or religion, of questions of art, of the invention of a gun, of the discovery of a chemical product, of it matters not what—a love story it must have; there is no escape. Savants, revolutionists, poets, priests or generals present themselves to us only to fall immediately to love-making or match-making. It becomes a mania. And we are asked to take these tiresome repetitions seriously!” (Sheesh. Take that, Danielle Steele!)Example: Pretty Woman.
In some societies, marriage is not just two people moving in with one another -- it is a joining of entire families. Thus when a richer person marries a poorer person, then the poorer family may be delighted by the kudos gained, whilst the richer family look on in distain and whisper about 'gold-diggers'.
Union across boundaries often creates tension, whether it is inter-national, inter-racial, inter-religion, inter-class or other combination where people on either side of the divide who are associated with one of the lovers
Readers of such stories may well sympathize with the lovers, although they may also nod wisely at the ignored pleading of the kin. Perhaps also they will wonder what it would be like to be marry outside of their normal social boundaries.
In practice, cross-boundary unions often fail as much due to the ingrained values of the lovers as external influences. The deep love does not last and the relationship will be gradually affected by underlying differences of opinion.