Dr. Rachel Blackburn
Theatre History/Literature II
20 April 2019
Victor Hugo: Legacy and Lasting Impacts
As written in the article !9th Century Theatre, The 19th century was the age of a truly popular theatre. New theatres opened to satisfy a demand for entertainment from the workers who flooded into the major cities as the Industrial Revolution took hold (19th Century Theatre, Victoria and Albert Museum). Considered now to be one of the most well-known French artists, Victor Marie Hugo was a dramatist, poet, and novelist who wrote during this time, specifically in what is now known as the Romantic movement, the literary, musical, artistic, and intellectual movement in the early-to-mid nineteenth century. Although the writers who produced scripts about the modern world were not seen as real artists, with his influential works, such as the novels Les Mis?rables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, the poetry collections Les Contemplations (The Contemplations) and La L?gende des si?cles (The Legend of the Ages), and his plays Cromwell and Hernani, it is inarguable that Hugo left a lasting impact on the world of theatre as we know it today (Theatre in the 19th Century, Bratton).
Victor Hugo was born on February 26th in 1802 in Besan?on, Doubs, France to Joseph L?opold Sigisbert Hugo, who served in the Napoleonic wars as a French general, and Sophie Tr?buchet, who was a French painter, and he passed away on May 22nd in 1885 in Paris, France. During the eighty-three years of Hugos life, he experienced so much. His childhood was a time of huge political turmoil on a national scale, as Napoleon was declaired the French Emperor when Hugo was only two years old. Because Joseph Hugo, Victors father, was an officer in Napoleons army, the family moved often. According to the article by Jean-Bertrand Barr?re, Professor of French Literature at the University of Cambridge, titled Victor Hugo, His childhood was coloured by his fathers constant traveling with the imperial army and by the disagreement that soon alienated his parents from one another it was a chaotic time for Victor, continually uprooted. The fall of the empire allowed Victor a time of stability from 1815 to 1818 as he completed his studies. This time in Hugos life supposedly led to the creation of Les Mis?rables, as he developed the character Marius through reminiscing on the memories of his life as a poor student (Victor Hugo, Barr?re).
Aside from being an incredibly influential writer and artist, Hugo was also involved in the political sphere of the French nation. After being elected to the Acad?mie Fran?aise in 1841, Hugo was selected to represent as a conservative in the National Assembly of the Second Republic in 1848. Soon after his election, Hugo broke with the conservatives understood beliefs as he began giving speeches that spoke out against the death penalty and poverty and encouraged universal suffrage for all citizens and free education. However, in 1851, Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III) took control and established a new, anti-parliamentary constitution. In response, Hugo openly declared himself a traitor to the France nation. Hugo and his family relocated several times before finally settling at Hauteville House in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey. From 1855 to 1870, Victor Hugo lived there in exile. While in exile, Hugo wrote some of his most memorable works. In 1862, Hugo wrote his arguably most famous work, the novel Les Mis?rables. As Barr?re writes in his biographical article:
Les Mis?rables is a vast panorama of Parisian society and its underworld, and it contains many famous episodes and passages, among them a chapter on the Battle of Waterloo and the description of Jean Valjeans rescue of Marius by means of a flight through the sewers of Paris. The story line of Les Mis?rables is basically that of a detective story, but by virtue of its characters, who are sometimes a little larger than life yet always vital and engaging, and by its re-creation of the swarming Parisian underworld, the main theme of humankinds ceaseless combat with evil clearly emerges. (Victor Hugo, Barr?re).
Hugos works are not only beautiful, well-crafted, and thought provoking; his pieces brought about hugh change in the world of the theatre arts. In fact, according to the article Theatre: Developments in the 19th Century written by theatre historians and professors Clive Barker, Howard Bay, and George Izenour, The dramatic debut of Romanticism is dated at 1830, when public pressure forced the Com?die-Fran?aise to produce Victor Hugos Hernani (Theatre: Developments in the 19th Century, Barker, Bay, and Izenour).
Through the life he led and efforts he encouraged, Hugos work greatly impacted theatre as we know it. His most notable novels, Les Mis?rables, published in 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, originally called Notre-Dame de Paris and published in 1831, as well as his plays written for the stage Cromwell and Hernani can all still be found as popular and influential pieces of theatrical work today. Though he led a life of political strife and faced many hardships as a result, Victor Hugos contributions to the theatre world still prove to be relevant and important today.