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Poétique de la catastrophe ? Représentations du régicide aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles en Europe

Representing Charles I’s Death in some Mazarinades: The Limits of the Aristotelian Tragic Model

Gilles Bertheau

Résumés

Cet article vise à étudier comment la mort du roi Charles Ier a été représentée dans quelques Mazarinades publiées en 1649, au moment de la Fronde. Les auteurs anonymes de ces pamphlets, horrifiés par l’événement inouï qu’a constitué l’exécution d’un roi légitime régnant, cherchent à mettre en garde leurs compatriotes contre les dangers mortels de la guerre civile en recourant à la métaphore tragique. Cependant, s’il est possible de repérer dans ces textes les éléments essentiels d’une Poétique d’Aristote que les dramaturges français remettaient au goût du jour, il convient de prêter attention au glissement de sens que ces notions (« muthos », « catharsis », « pathos », catastrophe) subissent sous la plume des pamphlétaires. On constate assez vite que le sens poétique premier qui est le leur tend à prendre un sens politique ou naturel, un sens plus moderne. C’est que ces notions aristotéliciennes ne suffisent plus à rendre compte de cet impensable régicide. La comparaison récurrente de Charles Ier avec le Christ y est bien entendu pour quelque chose : c’est elle qui rend le concept de tragédie aristotélicienne inopérant pour décrire ce que beaucoup considéraient à l’époque comme un déicide, et plus encore pour en faire sens.

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Une étincelle fit éclater le feu passager de la Fronde ; cette guerre burlesque, qui n’avait d’autre but que de se livrer au plaisir de l’agitation, n’a été presque qu’une guerre de société. (Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Mémoires

1While in England King Charles I engaged in the Second Civil War (1648), in France, young King Louis XIV was about to face a period of violent political upheaval called the Fronde. Forced to resort to heavy taxation because of the ongoing war with Spain – in spite of the Treaty of Westphalia that terminated the Thirty Years War in 1648 –, Queen Anne and Cardinal Mazarin were openly defied by Parliament and some of the greatest aristocrats, who regarded this fiscal policy as an intolerable means of asserting the absolute power of the sovereign.

2The hatred that Mazarin, an Italian, aroused among French lawyers and aristocrats, as well as his allegedly bad influence on the queen – they were rumoured to have an affair, which was false – caused an unprecedented outburst of libellous tracts that were soon to be called Mazarinades. Some of the anonymous authors of these texts were keenly aware not only of what was happening across the Channel, but also of the potential threat the dangerous events of the Civil War could represent for the kingdom of France, especially after the unthinkable death of Charles I, King Louis XIV’s own uncle.

  • 1 The first one, in the OED, designates (1.) the “person who kills a king, esp. a subject who kills h (...)

3The Mazarinades selected here narrate the English king’s execution (8 February 1649 new style) and present his executioners. As will be apparent, they cover the two meanings of the word “regicide”1, the only adequate word in the eyes of the authors of these texts, even among the Frondeurs, none of whom considered Charles I’s death an instance of tyrannicide.

  • 2 Philip A. Knachel, England and the Fronde: The Impact of the English Civil War and Revolution on Fr (...)
  • 3 See Christian Jouhaud, Mazarinades: la fronde des mots, Paris, Aubier, 1985 and Hubert Carrier, Le (...)
  • 4 Except David Ferrand’s Les Larmes et complaintes de la Reyne d’Angleterre sur la mort de son Espoux (...)

4My purpose here is not to use these Mazarinades to study Anglo-French relations during the Civil War and the Fronde, which was done by Philip Knachel in 19672, or even to study the Mazarinades as such3. I rather wish to show that these Mazarinades are also interesting as far as genre and literary strategies are concerned. These texts are all in prose except one4. They blend the narrative, quite unsurprisingly, and the dramatic. In their attempt to represent the death of Charles I, they are inclined – quite naturally, one would say, given the staging of the event itself – to give free rein to their sense of drama, to their undeniable tendency to theatricality, which can be traced through the use of dialogues or monologues, for example. The theatrical awareness of the writers also shows through the use of the tragic metaphor to describe the royal death.

  • 5 All theatres were closed by an Act of Parliament in September 1642. A very stimulating study of an (...)

5Now, in 1649, Pierre Corneille, who systematically applied and upheld the principles of classical drama, had already written La Mort de Pompée (1644) – which was later translated into English by Katherine Philips in 1663 –, while in England it was not until John Dryden published An Essay of Dramatick Poesy (1668) that Aristotle’s Poetics came to public notice. In France, Corneille’s plays testified to a revival of the Poetics and the canons of classical tragedy, mainly revolving around three elements: “muthos”, “catharsis” and “pathos”. Therefore, since these Mazarinades explicitly resort to the notions of tragedy and catastrophe, and seem to combine the elements of tragedy offered by Aristotle, I offer to study them in relation with his Poetics. Such an approach may shed an interesting light on the problems raised by the representation of Charles I’s death at a time when, in England, the theatres were closed5.

Mimesis

  • 6 The English text of the Poetics used in this article is the 1705 English translation (the first eve (...)
  • 7 “All those who Imitate, Imitate Actions,” Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 16. Th (...)
  • 8 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 56. “Car les elements qui constituent l’épopée s (...)
  • 9 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 55. “L’épopée s’accorde avec la tragédie en tant (...)

6The first point to observe is that of “mimesis”. If tragedy “represents [men] better”6 than in real life, one can say that the Mazarinades respect this rule, although they are closer to epic than to tragedy, since they narrate instead of imitating “Actions” (ch. ii)7. Still, in spite of this initial difference, one can trace many elements belonging to tragedy, as “All the parts of Epopœia are found in Tragedy, but all those of Tragedy are not all in Epopœia” (ch. v)8. Another element shared by the two genres is that “Epopœia, has this in common with Tragedy, that ’tis a Discourse in Verse, and an imitation of the Actions of the greatest Persons” (ch. v)9. There is no doubt that Charles I is one of these “greatest Persons”, a feature that is recurrently emphasized by the authors, who often contrast his nobility with the baseness of his executioners and the cruel joy of his subjects.

  • 10 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 70. “La tragédie est la representation d’une act (...)

7One may object that the Mazarinades do not present an “entire” action, as should tragedy (ch. 6). Still, the events related in these texts are “of a Just Length” and are the conclusion of a sequence that admits a change of fortune (ch. vi)10.

  • 11 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 137. “la difference entre le chroniqueur et le p (...)
  • 12 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 139. “À supposer même qu’il compose un poème sur (...)
  • 13 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 138. “Ce qui a eu lieu, il est évident que c’est (...)
  • 14 Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit. ch. 9, note 4, p. 226-27.

8As far as subject-matter is concerned, the authors of these Mazarinades are, according to Aristotle’s definition, historians, insofar as “an Historian Writes what did happen, and a Poet what might, or ought to have, come to pass” (ch. ix)11, but later in the same chapter we can read that “when he also exposes true incidents on the Stage, he no less deserves the Name of a Poet, since nothing hinders, but that the Incidents which did really happen, may have all the veri-similitude, and all possibility which Art requires, and which may cause him to be look’d on as the Author or Poet” (ch. ix)12; and again, “that which hath been already done, may be possible, (without any difficulty) since it could not have been, if it had been impossible” (ch. ix)13. This is the crux of Aristotle’s text, and therefore, as far as we are concerned, the crux for the study of these Mazarinades. In fact, in this chapter 9 of his Poetics, Aristotle clarifies his definition of the poet. Rather than the one who writes in verse, he is the one who designs stories, because representing actions (in a mimesis) means organising facts into a whole, building a story, according to what is probable or necessary14. Then, in this sense, the representation of Charles I’s death belongs to poetry, not simply to history.

Charles I’s regicide: a fable?

  • 15 “The true History of our time will probably look like a fable to posterity, since it produces event (...)
  • 16 Pierre Richelet, Dictionnaire françois, contenant les mots et les choses, plusieurs nouvelles remar (...)
  • 17 “It is not the first time they have exercised their cruelty on the sacred person of their Kings: bu (...)
  • 18 “But let us come to the description of this barbarous action, the example of which cannot be found (...)

9The Greek word designating a “story” or a “plot” is “muthos”, translated into Latin as “fabula”, hence “fable” in English and French, which is a word one finds in the Advertissemens…: “L’Histoire veritable de nostre temps, paroistra sans doute vne fable à la posterité, puis qu’elle nous produit des éuenemens, dont l’antiquité n’a point d’exemple, & dont l’horreur empeschera l’imitation à l’auenir15”(my italics). Now it is interesting to notice that the acceptation of the word here is not the one we find in the Poetics, it is understood as a “false thing”, “une chose fausse”, according to Richelet’s Dictionaire françois16. This idea of Charles I’s death as being too extraordinary to be believed – but nevertheless so true and so real – can be found in other Mazarinades. The adjective “inouï” is used repeatedly, for example in Les Dernières Paroles…: “Ce n’est pas la premiere fois qu’ils ont exercé leur cruauté sur la personne sacrée de leurs Roys : mais c’est vne chose inoüye, & la posterité aura peine de croire, qu’ils ayent executé si cruellement leur rage contre vn Roy paisible, doux et benin17.” The reference to Antiquity recurs in the Relation veritable…: “Mais venons à la description de cette action barbare, dont nous n’auons point d’exemple dans l’antiquité, & que les siecles à venir auront peine de croire18.” Although the event is hardly believable, it is worth narrating. Therefore, the use of the word “fable” is doubly justified, both because the death of Charles I is beyond belief and because its narration may, nevertheless, work as a cautionary tale, which is the purpose of a fable. It is also why words usually designating impossible and unnatural things are used.

  • 19 “To see one of the best Kings in the world condemned to utter misfortune, it is a prodigy; to see a (...)

Voir vn des meilleurs Roys du monde condamné au dernier mal-heur ; c’est vn prodige, voir vne teste souueraine balottee par vn Iuge subalterne, c’est vne procedure inouie ; mais de voir vn Monarque hereditaire mourir dans l’infamie publique d’vn supplice, à dire le vray, c’est vn Monstre.19

10The words “monster” and “prodigy” clearly refer to unnatural things, i. e. “Not in accordance or agreement with the usual course of nature. Also absol.” (OED, 2.a). Therefore, Charles I’s death testifies to a disruption of the “usual course of nature”, to the natural course of events, if there be any such thing. So the question that seems to arise is whether representing Charles I’s death is at all possible or if it is too improbable to be believed.

Catharsis

  • 20 “We all trembled at the thought of being without a King,” Advertissemens…, op. cit., p. 3.

11Now we must try and see what kind of effect the narration of this event produces on the both the writers and the readers of Mazarinades. In the French context, even at the time of the Fronde, the killing of a monarch could not be considered but as a regicide. Even those who were rebelling against Mazarin were not rebelling against the eleven-year-old king (in 1649), who obviously could not be held responsible for the wrongs which a part of the French nobility claimed they were suffering at the hands of the government Therefore, the representation of the king’s death in some Mazarinades could only evince pity and, as the word recurs throughout these texts, horror. Fear is also evoked, at the thought that a similar fate might occur to young Louis XIV: “Nous fremissions tous de nous voir sans Roy20.”

  • 21 “the death of a dowager Queen of France,” Advertissemens…, op. cit., p. 4.
  • 22 “as if She had not erred enough when She covered her scaffolds with Mary Stuart’s blood, She plunge (...)

12As a matter of fact, this fear seems to be justified by the precedent of Mary Stuart’s execution, recalled in the Advertissemens…, which mentions “la mort d’vne Reyne douairière de France21. In the same text, England is accused of being sacrilegious: “comme si elle n’auoit pas assez failly d’auoir ensanglanté ses echafauts du sang de Marie Stuart, elle a trempé ses mains sacrileges dans celuy du petit fils de cette Reyne22.” This allusion qualifies the notion that Charles I’s death had no precedent (“dont nous n’auons point d’exemple dans l’antiquité”), as seen above. If this might be true of French history, it was not true of English and Scottish history. The example of Mary Stuart was felt to touch on French history, as the title she is given (“Reyne douairière de France”) reminds the readers that she was King Francis II’s widow.

  • 23 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 185. “C’est un point acquis que la structure de (...)
  • 24 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186-87. “(U(n homme parmi ceux qui jouissent d’u (...)
  • 25 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186. “(O(n ne doit pas voir […] des méchants pas (...)
  • 26 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186. “(I(l ne faut pas non plus qu’un homme fonc (...)
  • 27 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186. / “des justes passer du bonheur au malheur, (...)
  • 28 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186. “(C(elui de l’homme qui, sans atteindre à l (...)

13Now, Aristotle explained that “Tragedy ought to be Implex and not Simple, to have all the Beauty which it is capable of, and […] it ought to excite Terror and Compassion” (ch. xiii)23. If we study Charles I as a tragic character, we can examine this question of Aristotelian catharsis further. That he is worthy of being a tragic character is clear since he is “of Eminent Quality, and of Great Reputation” (ch. xiii)24. The problem is to know what pattern his story follows. The poet, says Aristotle, “must not take an ill Man, to make him pass from an unhappy State, to one that shall be Happy, and Easie” (ch. xiii)25 or “he ought not to represent the Misfortunes of a very wicked Man” because “it will produce neither Fear nor Pity”26 (ch. xiii). The “tragedy” of Charles I follows neither of these patterns, for the reason that in the Mazarinades he is never presented as the archetype of the “ill Man” or the “very wicked Man”. Now two patterns are possible: that of “a very honest Man fall[en] from Prosperity into Adversity”27 and that of “him then, who is between these who bring neither bad nor good, in the superlative Degree, doth not draw his Misfortunes on him, by his Wickedness, or by his Crimes” (ch. xiii)28, but through his hamartia.

  • 29 “after making her monarch a slave, she made him a victim,” Advertissemens…, op. cit., p. 3.
  • 30 “a peaceful, gentle and benign king […], a legitimate king who inherited the Crown by the right of (...)

14On closely reading the Mazarinades, there is no trace of an error or a frailty attributed to Charles I; he is never accounted responsible for what has happened to him. His death cannot be thought of in terms of retribution. He is, on the contrary, presented as a sheer victim: “apres auoir fait vn esclaue de son Monarque, elle en a fait vne victime,” writes the author of the Advertissemens….29 Charles I’s death is narrated as a monstrous crime committed against “vn Roy paisible, doux et benin, […] qui a herité de la Couronne par droict des gens & de la nature, du consentement vniuersel de tous les peuples, & sans aucun competiteur30.” There is no way of comparing Charles I in these texts with Shakespeare’s Richard II, for example, because the authors of these Mazarinades never depict the king as a tyrant, whether a tyrant by usurpation (ex defectu tituli) or by exercise (ex parte exercitii). His execution is always regarded as a murder pure and simple. This is therefore a step away from the Aristotelian tragic model.

  • 31 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186. “Il est donc évident, tout d’abord, qu’on n (...)
  • 32 This was not considered so by André Dacier, whose 1692 version of Aristotle’s Poetics was used by T (...)

15This must lead us to choose the first of the two remaining patterns: Charles I can best be seen as “a very honest Man fall[en] from Prosperity into Adversity”, but Aristotle immediately dismisses this sort of character as unfit for tragedy, since, “instead of exciting Terror and Compassion, it will give Horror, which is detested by all” (ch. xiii)31. This imposes a limit on the tragic analogy32 and we may seriously wonder if these narratives, however much they might be indebted to the model of the (es-tu sûre?) tragedy, can be said to rely on any catharsis at all. What they echo, in a way, is the violent shock that the death of Charles I caused in France. The language they use is unambiguous and the mimesis does not obliterate the horror of the historic event. If there is any catharsis at all, it can only be understood in political terms, for two reasons. First, although the French were appalled at the legal killing of a monarch, their shock cannot compare with what the English felt. But here, to understand the English response to this traumatic event one has to take into account the exceptional circumstances of the king’s death and funeral. As Lois Potter writes:

  • 33 Lois Potter, “The Royal Martyr in the Restoration: National Grief and National Sin,” in Thomas Corn (...)

The aftermath of the king’s death offered no opportunity for the public mourning, which […] can have a cathartic effect on the national experience of violent death and widespread grief. Troops dispersed the crowd as soon as the executioner had finished his work. The funeral was private; the procession from Westminster to Windsor took place in the dark and the service was entirely silent because Bishop Juxon, who officiated, was forbidden to use the Common prayer service and refused to use anything else.33

16Secondly, the authors of these pamphlets obviously write in the hope that the English event will not have a French sequel. Their purpose is to purge their readers from their potential regicidal impulses. Even the Frondeur author of the Advertissemens… writes to warn the French king and queen against the “Sicilian”’s (i.e. Mazarin’s) treachery:

  • 34 “But if the favourites neglected the King of England’s life and advantages, it is the other kings’ (...)

Mais si les fauoris ont négligé la vie & les auantages du roy d’Angleterre, c’est aux autres Roys à ne pas negliger sa mort. Comme il y a de grands exemples pour le mal, de mesme que pour le bien, ils ont interest à ne pas souffrir, que ce qui est arriué vne fois arriue encor. Autrement si l’on assassine impunément vn souuerain, les autres pourront-ils viure en assurance ?34

Pathos and Lusis

  • 35 “nothing is more dangerous than to fall into the hands of an insane and barbarous People,” Les Dern (...)
  • 36 “son espouuantable mort”,vne pure cruauté & barbarie”, “ce meurtre execrable”, “ce detestable att (...)
  • 37 “les ambassadeurs des Princes Estrangers, espouuantez de cette nouuelle…,” Relation véritable…, op. (...)
  • 38 Advertissemens…, p 3.

17The barbarity of the act and of its perpetrators is emphasized by the authors, who accuse England as a nation of being regicide. The English are presented as “cruel” and the author of Les Dernieres Paroles… writes: “Il n’y a rien de plus dangereux que de tomber entre les mains d’vn Peuple insensé et barbare35.” The king’s death – a “dreadful death” – is presented as an effect of “pure cruelty and barbarity”, as an “abominable murder”, “a detestable attempt” and “such a frightful execution,” so much so that the writer comments: “l’horreur me saisit & me possede36.” He also tells his readers that “the Foreign Princes’ ambassadors” were “appalled at this news”37. The Advertissemens… also uses the word “horror” to describe “the events”38.

  • 39 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., ch. xi, p. 164; “l’effet violent,” Aristotle, La Po (...)
  • 40 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., ch. xi, p. 162; “le coup de théâtre,” Aristotle, La (...)
  • 41 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 164; “quant à l’effet violent, c’est une action (...)
  • 42 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 163. “La reconnaissance, comme le nom même l’ind (...)

18What provokes this feeling of horror is more specifically the tragic moment of the beheading of Charles I. That this corresponds to the denouement (“lusis” in the Poetics) of the tragedy is obvious to us, but it is also what Aristotle calls “pathos”, “the Passion”39, defined as the third part of the plot, after the “Peripetie” (peripéteia, i.e. “a change of Fortune into another”40) and “Remembrance” [anagnôrisis]: “Passion [is] an Action which destroys some Person, or causes some violent Pains, as an evident and certain Death, Torments, Wounds, and all such like things” (ch. xi)41. This scene is precisely meant to provoke violent feelings, as Aristotle explains: “The remembrance, as the Name it self testifies, is a Change, which causing us to pass from Ignorance to Knowledge, produces either Hatred or Love, in those whom the Poet has a design to render happy or miserable” (ch. xi)42. And this is all the truer as the action is most unnatural, as Aristotle means, when he writes:

  • 43 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., ch. xv, p. 240-41. “Voyons donc parmi les événement (...)

We will endeavour at present to establish, what Incidents are terrible or pitiful. Whatsoever happens is either between Friends or Enemies or indifferent Persons […]. When such Misfortunes happen among Friends, as when one Brother kills, or is kill’d by his Brother, or a Father his Son, or a Mother her Son, or the Son his Mother, or do any such like thing, this is what should be sought after.43

  • 44 “Let us take Louis XIV out of his hands [Mazarin’s], & let us make a good peace with the Catholics (...)
  • 45 “Let my example help you prepare yourselves to death: for, having killed the father, their inhumani (...)
  • 46 “le Roy n’agueres Regnant a esté emporté par vne mort violente, contre le dessein & la protestation (...)

19We can find in the Advertissemens… evidence that the French regarded this regicide as an instance of family tragedy: “Tirons Louis XIV. de ses mains [Mazarin], & faisons vne bonne paix auec les Catholiques, pour faire la guerre aux Parricides Puritains.44” In Les Dernières Paroles…, the king himself says: “Que mon exemple vous serue seulement à vous preparer à la mort: car ayant tué le pere, leur inhumanité ne pardonnera pas aux Enfans45.” Although the sentence can be understood literally (the king fears his children may be killed after him), it is also to be taken as referring to patriarchism: they have killed the father of the kingdom, and might kill his children, the eldest of whom has become king at the death of his father, as La Royavte de Charles Second claims46.

Ending the tragedy or the unspeakable catastrophe

  • 47 In this sense, we can compare this to what will become a very popular tragic genre, that is to say (...)

20It is the examination of the representation of this pathetic scene of Charles I’s execution that provides the best analogy with the Aristotelian tragedy47. Two Mazarinades, in my corpus, represent Charles I’s execution, partly or entirely: Les Dernières Paroles… and La Relation veritable….

  • 48 “taken like a criminal, bound, imprisoned, dethroned and publicly degraded, then wretchedly throate (...)
  • 49 The Christ-like figure of Charles I will be dealt with into more details further on.
  • 50 “The English provides us with a pitiful and pernicious example thereof,” Les Dernières Paroles…, op (...)

21In Les Dernières Paroles…, Charles I’s ordeal is described as follows: “Pris comme vn criminel, lié, emprisonné, destrosné & degradé publiquement, puis miserablement esgorgé, auec telle inhumanité, que sur l’eschaffaut on le menaça de luy couper la langue, s’il pensoit se iustifier deuant le Peuple.48” The word Passion could actually be used, both because of the very title of the Mazarinade, which is reminiscent of Christ’s Last Words on the Cross, and of the description of the treatment inflicted on the king.49 This event is an example of the danger run by a monarch fallen “into the hands of such an insane and barbarous People,” and the author says: “Les Anglois nous en fournissent vn pitoyable & pernicieux exemple50.”

  • 51 “far from restoring the King, has him taken to London, to put him to death out of sheer cruelty and (...)
  • 52 “they let him have Sunday and Monday to savour in long draughts all the horror and bitterness of de (...)

22In the Relation véritable…, Fairfax’s treachery is mentioned: “bien loing de restablir le Roy, il le fait conduire à Londres, pour luy donner la mort par vne pure cruauté & barbarie51.” This cruelty of the regicides is illustrated by some details selected by the writer: “& luy laisserent le Dimanche & le Lundy, pour sauourer à longs traits toute l’horreur & l’amertume de la mort52.”

  • 53 “The pen is falling from my hands, & methinks I cannot tell the Catastrophe of this bloody tragedy, (...)
  • 54 Pierre Richelet, Dictionnaire François, contenant les mots et les choses…, Genève, Jean Herman Wide (...)
  • 55 Antoine Furetière, Dictionnaire universel, contenant généralement tous les mots François tant vieux (...)

23It is this Mazarinade that presents us with the explicit metaphor of the tragedy, when the author says: “La plume me tombe des mains, & il me semble que ie ne sçaurois venir à la Catastrophe de cette sanglante tragedie, tant l’horreur me saisit & me possede53.” It is only logical that the writer should use the word “catastrophe” to designate this fatal event. Here he follows the definition given by the XVIIth-century French dictionaries, such as Richelet’s Dictionnaire françois: “Catastrophe. Terme de Poësie. Dénoûment de tragédie54.” In 1690, Antoine Furetière defines it as “Terme de Poësie. C’est le changement et la revolution qui se fait dans un Poëme dramatique, et qui le termine ordinairement. Ce mot vient du Grec katastrophi, subversio, renversement, bouleversement, l’issuë d’une affaire55.”

24The author of the Relation veritable… resorts to a rhetorical effect of paralipsis (preterition), as the execution is actually reported in the rest of the Mazarinade. The author, to make his narration even more dramatic, uses the fact that the identity of Charles’s executioners has remained unknown (even if the name of Richard Brandon was suggested), to invent a detail likely to strike the readers’ minds:

  • 56 “You will know that the usual executioners, however much they were accustomed to slaughter, loathed (...)

Vous sçaurez que les bourreaux ordinaires, quoy qu’accoustumez au carnage, eurent horreur de faire vne execution si espouuantable, & s’enfuirent ; & l’on tient que Fairfax, Crommwell & le Milord Say, (soit qu’ils se défiassent de toute autre personne, ou qu’ils voulussent eux-mesmes auoir ce detestable contentement, de tremper leurs mains sacrileges dans ce sang Royal), ils se trauestirent & se masquerent pour seruir de bourreaux.56

25Besides the dramatic effect achieved by this device, its symbolic purpose could not escape the French readers: the monarchy, through the body natural of Charles I, was put to death by a new three-headed – and therefore monstrous – body politic.

  • 57 “As the king wanted to address the assistance, the executioners stopped him and told him to prepare (...)
  • 58 “All the place was filled with Fairfax and Cromwell’s soldiers, and all the windows around were ful (...)
  • 59 “No sooner had this execrable stroke been given but the soldiers took up their swords and cried out (...)
  • 60 “Christians, do you not tremble at the sight of this bloody spectacle,” Relation véritable…, op. ci (...)

26In this Mazarinade, the three executioners prevent the king from addressing the people: “Le Roy voulant entamer vn discours aux assistants, les bourreaux l’en empescherent et luy dirent qu’il se disposast promptement au coup de la mort. Il se contenta de leur dire, Tenez, traistres & rebelles, assouuissez-vous de mon sang, & contraignez le Ciel par ce dernier crime à vous punir de tous les autres57.” This highly dramatic moment is described as a spectacle: “Toute la place estoit pleine des soldats de Fairfax & de Crommwell, & les fenestres des enuirons toutes remplies de monde, comme aussi des eschaffauts qu’on auoit dressez tout à l’entour58.” Towards the end of the text, the author writes: “Ce coup execrable ne fut pas si-tost donné, que les soldats mirent l’espée à la main & crierent liberté, liberté, l’vn des bourreaux, fichant la teste de cét infortuné Prince au bout d’vne pertuisane, la monstra à ces infames & barbares spectateurs, en criant voila la teste du traistre59.” At the end of the Relation veritable…, the author writes: “Ne fremissez vous pas Chrestiens, à la veüe de ce sanglant spectacle60.” Obviously, the theatricality of the execution struck the author.

  • 61 On this question of lyricism, here is what Roselyne Dupont-Roc and Jean Lallot say: “Cette concepti (...)
  • 62 “The horrible sight of these executioners and of these swords does not make death shameful to the i (...)
  • 63 “Now, cruel and barbarous people, satiate your rage, intoxicate yourselves with your Prince’s blood (...)

27On the contrary, Les Dernières Paroles..., gives full vent to the king’s feelings and thoughts in what can be described as a long monologue. In this sense, we can say that from mimesis, we pass on to lyricism61. The end of the speech enables the writer to insist on the spectacular dimension, when the king declares: “Ces spectacles affreux & des bourreaux, & des glaiues, ne rendent pas la mort honteuse aux innocens, pourueu qu’ils l’affrontent auec cœur62.” The last words of Charles I, as reported in this Mazarinade, are: “Assouuis, peuple cruel & barbare, maintenant ta rage, saoule-toy du sang de ton Prince, que tu as tant desire63.”

  • 64 “The king having spoken thus, the two masked executioners, I cannot tell the rest, my heart is a-bl (...)
  • 65 See Anne-Laure de Meyer, “La Sensation comme outil politique: les représentations anglaises de l’ex (...)
  • 66 The Famous Tragedy of King Charles I, as it was Acted before White-Hall by the Fanatical Servants o (...)

28To end his pamphlet, which did not include a full narration of the execution, the writer says: “Cela fait, les deux bourreaux masquez, ie ne puis dire le reste, le cœur me saigne, & la main me tremble64.” The break in the syntax (the aposiopesis) dismisses the very end of the tragedy, not only from the stage, but also from the narration itself, as being unspeakable and too horrible for words. No mimesis is possible for such a denouement, which exceeds showing or telling. The last scene of this tragedy is left to the readers’ imagination, and the very refusal of the writer to relate it can only and effectively increase the imagined horror of the act itself and the emotion it causes65. In this regard too, Les Dernières Paroles… abides by the rules of Classical drama, which, for the sake of decorum, excluded all scenes of blood from the stage to resort to narration instead66. Such is the choice of the author of a later pamphlet play The Famous Tragedy of King Charles I (1680?), for example, where the audience is informed of the event by a letter which Cromwell reads out: “Lieut. General. The deed is done, (which either ever makes, or mars us all) the King (according to the Doom of our High Court of Justice) this Morning lost his Head, Thousands of People being Spectators of this Tragedy” (act V). Here too the tragic metaphor is explicit. However, contrary to Classical tragedy, the death of the “hero” does not mean a restoration of order. Here, on the contrary, what this Mazarinade enhances is the absence of resolution, the impossible restoration of any order whatsoever.

  • 67 One can refer to some of the books published in the aftermath of Charles I’s death: John Arnway’s T (...)

29If we have this model of tragedy in mind, two features in these Mazarinades must be underlined, for they constitute a sort of vulgate of the king’s image to be read in royalist circles. Indeed they popularize the portrait of the king as a hero and a Christian martyr, these two traits combining the two genres of heroic tragedy and Christian tragedy67.

  • 68 “Their treachery hardly let him see his Children in his prison, & utter these words, which show a t (...)
  • 69 “In spite of his long imprisonment, the King had not lost his royal Heart and majesty, and answered (...)

30Charles I’s heroism is mentioned in Les Dernières paroles…: “A peine leur felonnie luy peut permettre de voir ses Enfans dans la prison, & de proferer ces paroles d’vne constance vrayement heroïque: aussi il est bien vray qu’encor qu’il soit fascheux de mourir innocent, que c’est vne grande satisfaction de mourir sans crime68.” The very constancy of the king – and his consistency as a tragic character – is again displayed in the Relation veritable…: “le Roy en qui la longueur d’vne prison n’auoit pas osté ny le cœur Royal, ny la Majesté, luy respondit qu’il estoit dés long-temps resolu à la mort, & que toutes ces formalitez n’y estoient pas necessaires, & se railla encore de son authorité & de son insolence69.” His heroism soon becomes Christian fortitude in the same text, however:

  • 70 “The King – the best King in the world – is thus dragged like a lamb to the slaughter, & delivered (...)

Le Roy, le meilleur Roy du monde, est traisné comme vn agneau à la boucherie, & liuré à ces ames barbares pour assouuir leur rage & leur fureur; on le meine de sa prison, à la place destinée pour cét (sic) acte execrable, il y marche sans contrainte, & la mort ne sçauroit effacer de son visage sacré, l’Image viuante de Dieu, pour y marquer la sienne.70

  • 71 See Elizabeth Skerpan Wheeler, “Eikon Basilike and the rhetoric of self-representation” and Kevin S (...)

31In this one phrase “Image viuante de Dieu”, the author conflates the comparison with Christ and Christ’s Passion with the divine right of kings (“visage sacré”), or, in other words, the Imago Dei with the Eikon Basilike (literally the royal image)71. This excerpt also calls our attention to the theory of the king’s two bodies: while his body natural is subjected to the worst of treatments, the author wants to believe that his body politic is both impeccable and beyond the reach of men.

32David Ferrand, the author of Les Larmes et complaintes de la Reyne d’Angleterre sur la mort de son Espoux, a poem whose speaker is Henrietta-Maria, writes:

  • 72 “Those were ravens whose importunate cry / craved for Abel the Just’s blood. / Your preachers, whom (...)

C’estoient corbeaux dont le cri importun Tendoit après le sang d’Abel le juste. Vos predicans, qu’en ces vers je ne flatte, Par leurs escrits ils se lavent la main ; Mais ils le font ainsi que fit Pilate. Si je voulois tracer un paralelle À cet Aigneau qui mourut innocent, Verroit-on pas mesme faux jugement […]. (v. 83-91)72

33Charles I’s execution is first compared to the Biblical archetype of all murders (the word is used on line 86), then his judges to Pontius Pilatus and finally his trial to that of Christ. This comparison of the king with Christ emphasizes the uniqueness of his death and points to the insufficiencies of the Aristotelian tragic model to account for it.

  • 73 “to stop their ears to those fanatics who make up most of the army and are guided by the impulse of (...)
  • 74 “this fatal accident of the King of England’s death […] is the most notorious crime ever committed (...)

34These “predicans” clearly reject the regicides and their allies on the Devil’s side, as we can also see in the Remonstrance des ministres de la province de Londres, in which the forty-seven signatories entreat Fairfax and his councillors : “de boucher l’oreille à ces forcenez qui composent la plus grand’ part de leur armée qui se laissent conduire à l’impulsion de l’Esprit qu’ils appellent, si sous ombre de ces enthousiasmes & de ces inspirations diaboliques, ils vouloient entreprendre sur la vie de leur Roy73.” To them, the regicide can only be compared to the death of Christ: “ce funeste accident de la mort du Roy d’Angleterre […] est le crime le plus criant qui ait esté commis depuis la mort du Prince de gloire74.”

  • 75 Richelet, Dictionnaire François…, op. cit., article “catastrophe”; Furetière, Dictionaire universel (...)

35This comparison of Charles’s death with Christ’s Passion forces us to take into account several possible readings for the event. Therefore, beyond one occurrence of the poetic acceptation of the word “catastrophe” in these Mazarinades, there are several words referring to its second acception: “Evénement fâcheux” (Richelet), “une fin funeste et malheureuse, parce que d’ordinaire les actions qu’on represente dans ces Poëmes dramatiques serieux sont sanglantes” (Furetière)75 or “‘A final event; a conclusion generally unhappy’ (Johnson); a disastrous end, finish-up, conclusion, upshot; overthrow, ruin, calamitous fate” (OED, 2.a.). In these cases, the notion of catastrophe assumes, once again, a political meaning and, once again, takes us further away from Classical tragedy.

  • 76 “so great a change,” Remonstrance des ministres de la province de Londres, op. cit., p. 7.
  • 77 “to overthrow everything at once, [their] Laws as well as the government of this Kingdom,” Remonstr (...)
  • 78 “the general upheaval of all things,” Remonstrance des ministres de la province de Londres, op. cit (...)
  • 79 “England, having lost her faith wants to ruin Monarchy, after overthrowing altars, she overthrows t (...)

36For example, in the Remonstrance des ministres de la province de Londres, the authors describe the king’s death, and the Revolution at large, as “such an important change” (“vn si grand changement”)76. They denounce the will of Cromwell and his supporters to: “renuerser tout d’vn coup & nos Loix & le gouuernement de ce Royaume”77; and to cause: “vn bouleversement general de toutes choses”78. In the Advertissemens…, we can thus read: “l’Angleterre, ayant perdu la foy veut perdre la Royauté après auoir renuersé des autels, elle renuerse des throsnes, apres auoir immolé d’innocens sujets, elle immole vn iuste Roy79.” The overthrow of the established powers epitomised in the execution of Charles I is clearly perceived as a political catastrophe.

  • 80 Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 68, 70 and 96.
  • 81 Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 84.
  • 82 This acceptation of the word “catastrophe” is absent from the XVIIth-century French dictionaries. I (...)
  • 83 Aelius Donatus (flourished in the 4th century AD) provided one of the many poetic arts that followe (...)

37It is interesting to notice that the choice of words describing this sudden change – “grand changement”, “renuerser tout d’vn coup”, “vn bouleversement”, “après auoir renuersé”, “elle renuerse” – corresponds to the three Greek words used by Aristotle to designate a “change of fortune” or simply a “change”, as Goulston writes in his translation. The three Greek words are “metábasis”, “metabaínen” (the verb) and “metabolé”; they mean “reversal” and “overthrow” in English, and “renversement” and “bouleversement” in French. They are used in chapters X, XI and XVIII of the Poetics80. The denouement itself is designated by the word “lúsis” (as in chapter XV for example81), which Goulston renders in English by “unravelling”. But – and this is quite striking – nowhere does Aristotle use the Greek word “katastrophe” in his Poetics, so the use of this word by the French and English writers and dramatists cannot be traced back to him82. For this there were other sources, including as the first and most important one of these Aelius Donatus’s Commentum Terentii83. 38. Finally, we can observe the ultimate metamorphosis of this notion of catastrophe in the Remonstrance…:

  • 84 “if this great Prince lost his life among them [the chiefs of the Army], it is because their hands (...)

[…] si ce grand Prince a perdu la vie dans leur sein, c’est que l’on leur auoit lié les mains, & qu’vne armée de trente-six mille hommes, au milieu de laquelle on luy a fait voler la teste, leur a gelé le sang, & leur a fait contempler la mort de leur Roy comme vne eclipse du Soleil que les hommes voyent, mais qu’ils ne sçauroient empescher, parce que la rencontre des corps qui en sont la cause, sont au dessus de leurs facultez & de leur atteinte.84

38After taking on a poetic sense as well as a political meaning, the death of the English king finally reaches the cosmic dimension of a natural catastrophe, understood as a spectacular disruption of the ordinary course of nature, and, in particular of celestial bodies, beyond the reach and the comprehension of men. One can remark that this cosmic phenomenon is exactly what is reported to have happened at the Crucifixion. In this sense it only reinforces the Christ-like figure of Charles I.

  • 85 Nancy Klein Maguire, “The Theatrical Mask/Masque of Politics: The Case of Charles I,” art. cit., p. (...)

39The analysis of these French tracts has enabled us to show that, due to the extraordinary nature of the death of King Charles I and the shock it caused in France at the time of the Fronde, the main Aristotelian notions developed in the Poetics undergoes a metamorphosis: the “fabula” / fable is endowed with the sense of something unbelievable and false, while the catharsis of passions becomes political catharsis and the notion of “pathos” is transformed into, first a political, then a natural catastrophe. Whereas the authors of these Mazarinades explicitly resort to the conventional metaphors of the tragedy to come to terms with an event of such a magnitude, the very words they use (“fable”, “catastrophe”) seem to gradually lose their poetic (nearly technical) meanings to take on a more prosaic and modern (as it were) signification. In spite of the revival of Aristotle’s Poetics at the time in France and England, and the explicit use of theatrical metaphors testifying to what Nancy Klein Maguire calls the “theatrical imagination”85, the model of classical tragedy offered by Aristotle was felt to be far from being adequate to represent such an extra-ordinary event as the regicide of an anointed king. The more we try to reach for the Aristotelian horizon suggested in these texts, the more it seems to vanish as mere illusion. The recurring comparison of Charles I with Christ rather tends to make of his death a deicide, removing it from the realm and understanding of common human beings, and from the too restricted limits of tragedy.

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Notes

1 The first one, in the OED, designates (1.) the “person who kills a king, esp. a subject who kills his or her own king”, and more specifically, (2.a.) “A participant in the prosecution, trial, and execution of Charles I in 1649 following his defeat in the Civil War.” The second sense is “The action of killing of a king; an instance of this.”

2 Philip A. Knachel, England and the Fronde: The Impact of the English Civil War and Revolution on France, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1967.

3 See Christian Jouhaud, Mazarinades: la fronde des mots, Paris, Aubier, 1985 and Hubert Carrier, Le Labyrinthe de l’État: essai sur le débat politique en France au temps de la Fronde, 1648-1653, Paris, Honoré Champion, 2004.

4 Except David Ferrand’s Les Larmes et complaintes de la Reyne d’Angleterre sur la mort de son Espoux, à l’imitation des quatrains du Sieur de Pibrac, Paris, 1649.

5 All theatres were closed by an Act of Parliament in September 1642. A very stimulating study of an English corpus of texts dealing with Charles I’s death can be read in Nancy Klein Maguire’s article “The Theatrical Mask/Masque of Politics: The Case of Charles I,” Journal of British Studies, 28, January 1989, p. 1-22.

6 The English text of the Poetics used in this article is the 1705 English translation (the first ever in this language) of Theodore Goulston’s Latin version of 1623. This Latin version “was the first version of the Poetics published in England in any language,” as Mary Gallagher writes in “Goulston’s Poetics and Tragic ‘Admiratio’,” Revue de littérature comparée, 39, 1965, p. 614-619, p. 615. She also tells us that this popular version was reprinted six times in Great-Britain, between 1696 and 1794. Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry. Translated from the original Greek, according to Mr. Theodore Goulston’s edition. Together, with Mr. D’Acier’s notes translated from the French, trans. Theodore Goulston, London, printed for Dan. Browne and Will. Turner, 1705, p. 17.

7 “All those who Imitate, Imitate Actions,” Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 16. The French version reads: “ceux qui représentent représentent des personages en action […] soit meilleurs, soit pires que nous,” Aristotle, La Poétique, trad. et éd. Roselyne Dupont-Roc et Jean Lallot, Paris, Seuil, 1980, p. 37.

8 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 56. “Car les elements qui constituent l’épopée se trouvent aussi dans la tragédie, mais les elements de la tragédie ne sont pas tous dans l’épopée,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 51.

9 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 55. “L’épopée s’accorde avec la tragédie en tant qu’elle est une representation d’hommes nobles qui utilise – mais seul – le grand vers,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 49.

10 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 70. “La tragédie est la representation d’une action noble, menée jusqu’à son terme et ayant une certaine étendue,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 53.

11 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 137. “la difference entre le chroniqueur et le poète […] est que l’un dit ce qui a eu lieu, l’autre ce qui pourrait avoir lieu,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 65.

12 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 139. “À supposer même qu’il compose un poème sur des événements réellement arrivés, il n’en est pas moins poète; car rien n’empêche que certains événements réels ne soient de ceux qui pourraient arriver dans l’ordre du vraisemblable et du possible, moyennant quoi il en est le poète,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 67.

13 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 138. “Ce qui a eu lieu, il est évident que c’est possible (si c’était impossible, cela n’aurait pas eu lieu),” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 65.

14 Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit. ch. 9, note 4, p. 226-27.

15 “The true History of our time will probably look like a fable to posterity, since it produces events which have no examples in Antiquity, and the horror of which will prevent their imitation in the future,” Advertissemens / Avx roys / Et / Avx princes / Povr le traicte / De la paix. / Et le suiet de la mort du Roy de la / Grande Bretagne, Paris, Chez la vefue A. Mvsnier, 1649, p. 3.

16 Pierre Richelet, Dictionnaire françois, contenant les mots et les choses, plusieurs nouvelles remarques sur la langue françoise: Ses Expressions Propres, Figurées et Burlesques, la Prononciation des Mots les plus difficiles, le Genre des Noms, le Regime des Verbes: Avec Les Termes les plus connus des Arts et des Sciences. Le tout tiré de l’usage et des bons auteurs de la langue françoise, Genève, Jean Herman Widerhold, 1680, article “fable”, http://0-www.classiques-garnier.com.portail.scd.univ-tours.fr/numerique-bases/index.php?module=App&action=FrameMain, Classiques Garnier Numérique. Université François Rabelais de Tours, Consulté le 9 mars 2011.

17 “It is not the first time they have exercised their cruelty on the sacred person of their Kings: but it is unheard of, and posterity will find it hard to believe that they have so cruelly executed their rage against such a peaceful, sweet and benign King,” Les dernieres / Paroles dv roy / D’Angleterre, / Auec son Adieu aux Princes & Princesse / ses Enfans, Paris, Chez François Prevveray, 1649, p. 3.

18 “But let us come to the description of this barbarous action, the example of which cannot be found in Antiquity, and which the following centuries will hardly believe,” Relation / Veritable / De la mort barbare & cruelle du / Roy d’Angleterre. / Arriuée à Londres le huictiesme Fevrier / Mil six cens quarante-neuf, Paris, chez François Prevveray, 1649, p. 4.

19 “To see one of the best Kings in the world condemned to utter misfortune, it is a prodigy; to see a sovereign head tossed about by an inferior magistrate, it is an unheard of proceeding; but to see a hereditary Monarch die in the infamy of a public execution, it is, to speak truly, a monster,” Advertissemens…, op. cit., p. 3. The word “monster” is used in the following OED sense: “A.2. Something extraordinary or unnatural; an amazing event or occurrence; a prodigy, a marvel. Obs.”

20 “We all trembled at the thought of being without a King,” Advertissemens…, op. cit., p. 3.

21 “the death of a dowager Queen of France,” Advertissemens…, op. cit., p. 4.

22 “as if She had not erred enough when She covered her scaffolds with Mary Stuart’s blood, She plunged her sacrilegious hands into the blood of this queen’s grandson,” Advertissemens…, op. cit., p. 3.

23 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 185. “C’est un point acquis que la structure de la tragédie la plus belle doit être complexe et non pas simple,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 77. “Implex” is the past participle of the Latin verb implecto, i.e. intertwine, hence the translation by “complexe” in French.

24 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186-87. “(U(n homme parmi ceux qui jouissent d’un grand renom et d’un grand bonheur,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 77.

25 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186. “(O(n ne doit pas voir […] des méchants passer du malheur au bonheur,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 77.

26 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186. “(I(l ne faut pas non plus qu’un homme foncièrement méchant tombe du bonheur dans le malheur : ce genre de structure pourrait bien éveiller le sens de l’humain, mais certainement pas la frayeur ni la pitié,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 77.

27 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186. / “des justes passer du bonheur au malheur,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 77.

28 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186. “(C(elui de l’homme qui, sans atteindre à l’excellence dans l’ordre de la vertu et de la justice, doit, non au vice et à la méchanceté, mais à quelque faute, de tomber dans le malheur,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 77.

29 “after making her monarch a slave, she made him a victim,” Advertissemens…, op. cit., p. 3.

30 “a peaceful, gentle and benign king […], a legitimate king who inherited the Crown by the right of Nations & Nature, by the universal consent of all his peoples and without any other competitor,” Les Dernières paroles…, op. cit., p. 3.

31 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 186. “Il est donc évident, tout d’abord, qu’on ne doit pas voir des justes passer du bonheur au malheur – cela n’éveille pas la frayeur ni la pitié, mais la répulsion,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 77.

32 This was not considered so by André Dacier, whose 1692 version of Aristotle’s Poetics was used by Theodore Goulston, who translated Dacier’s Remarks in Aristotle’s Art of poetry. In his remarks to chapter XIII, he writes: “None but Aristotle, who was so great a Philosopher, that he knew, perfectly well, the Nature of the Passions, even to the least Difference, could ever pretend, from the Practice of the Ancients, to form Rules so sure, and so judicious, as those he gives us here; but we must confess, in the mean time, that ’twas to the Grecians alone that he proposed such perfect Rules; for as they were the most nice and delicate People of the whole World, they sought in Tragedy, only the Pleasures which that Poem ought to give. We are not so difficult to be pleased, if a Tragedy has a great deal of Intrigues, Pathetick Sentiments, and Motions, it stirs up our Curiosity, and we desire no more; ’tis equal to us whether a good or wicked Man perish,” op. cit., p. 189.

33 Lois Potter, “The Royal Martyr in the Restoration: National Grief and National Sin,” in Thomas Corns, ed., The Royal Image: Representations of Charles I, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 240-262, p. 241.

34 “But if the favourites neglected the King of England’s life and advantages, it is the other kings’ duty not to neglect his death. As there are great examples in evil as well as in good deeds, they had better not suffer the repetition of what happened once. Otherwise, if a sovereign is assassinated with impunity, can the others live in safety?,” Advertissemens…, p. 5-6.

35 “nothing is more dangerous than to fall into the hands of an insane and barbarous People,” Les Dernieres Paroles…, op. cit., p. 3.

36 “son espouuantable mort”,vne pure cruauté & barbarie”, “ce meurtre execrable”, “ce detestable attentat”, “horror overcomes and possesses me”, “vne execution si espouuantable,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 4, 6 et 7.

37 “les ambassadeurs des Princes Estrangers, espouuantez de cette nouuelle…,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 6.

38 Advertissemens…, p 3.

39 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., ch. xi, p. 164; “l’effet violent,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 73.

40 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., ch. xi, p. 162; “le coup de théâtre,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 71.

41 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 164; “quant à l’effet violent, c’est une action causant destruction ou douleur, par exemple les meurtres accomplis sur scène, les grandes douleurs, les blessures et toutes choses du même genre,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 73.

42 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., p. 163. “La reconnaissance, comme le nom même l’indique, est le renversement qui fait passer de l’ignorance à la connaissance, révélant alliance ou hostilité entre ceux qui sont désignés pour le bonheur ou le malheur,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 71. See François Hédelin, dit l’abbé d’Aubignac, La Pratique du théâtre, 1657, ed. Hélène Baby, Paris, Honoré Champion, 2001, ch. X “Du dénouement ou de la Catastrophe et Issue du Poème Dramatique”, p. 203-208. In the XVIIIth century, Charles Batteux (1713-1780) uses the term “catastrophe” in his translation of Aristotle’s Poetics, in chapter XI to render “pathos”: “Voilà des espèces de fables marquées par la péripétie et par la reconnaissance. On y en joint une troisième marquée par ce qu’on appelle catastrophe. On a défini la péripétie et la reconnaissance. La catastrophe est une action douloureuse ou destructive: comme des meurtres exécutés aux yeux des spectateurs, des tourments cruels, des blessures et autres accidents semblables,” La Poétique d’Aristotle, Paris, J. Delalain, 1874. Méditerranées. Agnès Vinas, 2004-2011. http://www.mediterranees.net/civilisation/spectacles/theatre_grec/poetique.html#Chap4 (Consulté le 9 mars 2011). See also Jacques Scherer, La Dramaturgie classique en France, Paris, Nizet, 1986, p. 126.

43 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of poetry, op. cit., ch. xv, p. 240-41. “Voyons donc parmi les événements lesquels sont effrayants et lesquels pitoyables. Les actions ainsi qualifiées doivent nécessairement être celles de personnes entre lesquelles existe une relation d’alliance, d’hostilité ou de neutralité. […] le surgissement de violences au cœur des alliances – comme un meurtre ou un autre acte de ce genre accompli ou projeté par le frère contre le frère, par le fils contre le père, par la mère contre le fils ou le fils contre la mère, voilà ce qu’il faut rechercher,” Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 81.

44 “Let us take Louis XIV out of his hands [Mazarin’s], & let us make a good peace with the Catholics to wage war against the Parricide Puritans,” Advertissemens…, op. cit., p. 7.

45 “Let my example help you prepare yourselves to death: for, having killed the father, their inhumanity will not forgive the children,” Les Dernières Paroles…, op. cit., p. 7.

46 “le Roy n’agueres Regnant a esté emporté par vne mort violente, contre le dessein & la protestation de ce Royaume ; & […] (par la benediction du Seigneur) il nous est resté vn juste Heritier & Successeur legitime, c’est à sçauoir Charles prince d’ecosse et de galles, maintenant Roy de la Grand’ Bretagne, &c.,” La / Royavté / De / Charles second / Roy de la grand’ / Bretagne, &c. / Reconnuë au Parlement d’Ecosse, & / proclamée par tout le Royaume. / Envoyée a la reine / D’Angleterre / Traduit fidelement des Placars & Affiches publiques, imprimées / À Édimbourg le 15/5 Fevrier 1649, Paris, Chez la veufue d’Antoine Covlon, 1649, p. 4.

47 In this sense, we can compare this to what will become a very popular tragic genre, that is to say the Restoration pathetic tragedy, such as John Banks’s The Unhappy Favourite; Or the Earl of Essex a Tragedy, London, 1682.

48 “taken like a criminal, bound, imprisoned, dethroned and publicly degraded, then wretchedly throated, with such inhumanity that on the scaffold they threatened to cut his tongue if he intended to justify himself before the People,” Les Dernières Paroles…, op. cit., p. 3-4.

49 The Christ-like figure of Charles I will be dealt with into more details further on.

50 “The English provides us with a pitiful and pernicious example thereof,” Les Dernières Paroles…, op. cit., p. 3.

51 “far from restoring the King, has him taken to London, to put him to death out of sheer cruelty and barbarity,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 4.

52 “they let him have Sunday and Monday to savour in long draughts all the horror and bitterness of death,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 5.

53 “The pen is falling from my hands, & methinks I cannot tell the Catastrophe of this bloody tragedy, so overcome and possessed I am by horror,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 6.

54 Pierre Richelet, Dictionnaire François, contenant les mots et les choses…, Genève, Jean Herman Widerhold, 1680, article “Catastrophe”, Classiques Garnier Numérique, Université François Rabelais de Tours, 9 mars 2011, 9 mars 2011, http://0-www.classiques-garnier.com.portail.scd.univ-tours.fr/numerique-bases/index.php?module=App&action=FrameMain.

55 Antoine Furetière, Dictionnaire universel, contenant généralement tous les mots François tant vieux que modernes, et les termes de toutes les sciences et des arts…, La Haye et Rotterdam, Arnout et Reinier Leers, 1690, article “Catastrophe”, Classiques Garnier Numérique, Université François Rabelais de Tours, http://0-www.classiques-garnier.com.portail.scd.univ-tours.fr/numerique-bases/index.php?module=App&action=FrameMain (Consulté le 9 mars 2011).

56 “You will know that the usual executioners, however much they were accustomed to slaughter, loathed committing so dreadful an action, and fled; & it is reported that Fairfax, Cromwell, and Mylord Say, (either because they distrusted any other person or wanted to keep for themselves the detestable pleasure of plunging their sacrilegious hands in this royal blood), they disguised and masked their faces to act as executioners,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 7. William Say acted as temporary president of the High Court of Justice in January 1649 and helped draft the king’s death warrant. As such, he was officially counted among Charles I’s regicides, and only saved his life at the Restoration by escaping to Switzerland. Sir Thomas, Lord Fairfax was appointed a commissioner at the king’s trial, but did not attend. Unlike Oliver Cromwell and William Say, he was not officially counted among the regicides, the fifty-nine signatories of the king’s death warrant.

57 “As the king wanted to address the assistance, the executioners stopped him and told him to prepare himself promptly to the fatal stroke. He merely said, Here, traitors and rebels, drink up my blood and force Heaven, with this last crime, to punish all your other crimes,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 7.

58 “All the place was filled with Fairfax and Cromwell’s soldiers, and all the windows around were full of people, as well as the scaffolds which had been set up everywhere,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 7.

59 “No sooner had this execrable stroke been given but the soldiers took up their swords and cried out liberty! liberty! One of the executioners, sticking this unfortunate Prince’s head on a partisan, showed it to these infamous and barbarous spectators and exclaimed, here is the traitor’s head!,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 8.

60 “Christians, do you not tremble at the sight of this bloody spectacle,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 8.

61 On this question of lyricism, here is what Roselyne Dupont-Roc and Jean Lallot say: “Cette conception fictionnelle de la poésie explique pourquoi la Poétique ne fait aucune place au lyrisme. On sait en effet que la poésie lyrique n’apparaît jamais, sous aucune de ses formes, ne fût-ce qu’en filigrane, dans la Poétique […]. Comme il ne peut s’agir d’un ‘oubli’, l’explication de cette absence ne peut être que celle-ci: la poésie lyrique n’est pas mimétique et, comme telle, elle ne pouvait pas entrer dans la perspective de la Poétique. Considéré – à tort ou à raison, c’est une autre question – comme centré sur le moi du poète saisi dans sa contingence et sa particularité, le lyrisme est supposé exclure la distance mimétique qui seule permet la construction d’une histoire épurée: il lui manque en somme, comme aux chroniques d’Hérodote […], le recul de la fiction, et c’est assez pour que la Poétique l’ignore,” Aristotle, La Poétique d’Aristote, op. cit., p. 21-22.

62 “The horrible sight of these executioners and of these swords does not make death shameful to the innocent, as long as they face it bravely,” Les Dernières Paroles…, op. cit., p. 7.

63 “Now, cruel and barbarous people, satiate your rage, intoxicate yourselves with your Prince’s blood, for which you so much lusted,” Les Dernières Paroles…, op. cit., p. 8.

64 “The king having spoken thus, the two masked executioners, I cannot tell the rest, my heart is a-bleeding and my hand is trembling,” Les Dernières Paroles…, op. cit., p. 8.

65 See Anne-Laure de Meyer, “La Sensation comme outil politique: les représentations anglaises de l’exécution de Charles Ier au XVIIe siècle,” in Marina Poisson, ed., Réfléchir [sur] la sensation, Paris, Éditions des archives contemporaines, 2011, p. 71-88.

66 The Famous Tragedy of King Charles I, as it was Acted before White-Hall by the Fanatical Servants of Oliver Cromwell, London, printed for J. Baker, [1680?], p. 24.

67 One can refer to some of the books published in the aftermath of Charles I’s death: John Arnway’s The Tablet or Moderation of Charles the First Martyr with an Alarum to the Subjects of England (1649), Richard Watson’s Regicidium Judaicum, or, A Discourse about the Jewes Crucifying Christ their King with an Appendix, or Supplement, upon the Late Murder of ovr Blessed Soveraigne Charles the First / delivered in a sermon at the Hague… (1649), the anonymous Royall Meditations for Easter. Or Enthuziasmes on the Death and Passion of our Late Lord and Soveraigne King Charles the First, of Sacred Memory. Who was Martyred for his People and the Lawes January 30. An. Dom. 1649… (1650) or Fabian Philipps’s The Royall Martyr. Or, King Charles the First no Man of Blood but a Martyr for his People Being a Brief Account of his Actions from the Beginnings of the Late Unhappy Warrs, untill he was Basely Butchered to the Odium of Religion, and Scorn of all Nations, before his Pallace at White-Hall, Jan. 30. 1648…(1660). One anonymous text even refers to him as to a saint working miracles: A Miracle of Miracles: Wrought by the Blood of King Charles the First, of Happy Memory, upon a Mayd at Detford Foure Miles from London, who by the Violence of the Disease called the Kings Evill was Blinde one Whole Yeere; but by Making Use of a Piece of Handkircher Dipped in the Kings Blood is Recovered of her Sight. To the Comfort of the Kings Friends, and Astonishment of his Enemies. The Truth Hereof many Thousands can Testifie (1649). On this question, see Lois Potter, Secret Rites and Secret Writings: Royalist Literature 1641-1660, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 174-75; Joad Raymond, “Popular Representations of Charles I,” in Thomas Corns, ed., The Royal Image, op. cit., p. 47-73, p. 60-62; Andrew Lacey, The Cult of King Charles the Martyr, Woodbridge, The Boydell Press, 2003.

68 “Their treachery hardly let him see his Children in his prison, & utter these words, which show a truly heroic constancy: therefore it is true that however much it is unfortunate to die an innocent, yet it is a great satisfaction to die guiltless of any crime,” Les Dernières Paroles…, op. cit., p. 4.

69 “In spite of his long imprisonment, the King had not lost his royal Heart and majesty, and answered […] that he had long been resigned to death and all these ceremonies were not necessary, and jeered at his authority and insolence,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 5.

70 “The King – the best King in the world – is thus dragged like a lamb to the slaughter, & delivered to those barbarous souls to quench their rage and their passion; he is led from his prison to the place chosen for this execrable act, he walks thereto without any constraint, & Death cannot obliterate from his sacred face the living Image of God to imprint his,” Relation véritable…, op. cit., p. 6.

71 See Elizabeth Skerpan Wheeler, “Eikon Basilike and the rhetoric of self-representation” and Kevin Sharpe “The Royal image: an afterword,” in Thomas Corns, ed., The Royal Image: Representations of Charles I, op. cit., p. 122-40 and p. 288-309.

72 “Those were ravens whose importunate cry / craved for Abel the Just’s blood. / Your preachers, whom I do not flatter in these lines, / To exonerate themselves from this inhuman murder, / By their writings they wash their hands; / But do it as Pilatus did. / If I wanted to compare him / To this Lamb who died an innocent / Would not one see the same false judgement”.

73 “to stop their ears to those fanatics who make up most of the army and are guided by the impulse of the Spirit they invoke, if, under pretext of those enthusiasms and devilish inspirations, they wanted to make an attempt on their King’s life,” Remonstrance / Des / Ministres / De la province / De Londres / Adressee par evx av general / Fairfax, & à son Conseil de guerre, douze iours auant / la mort du Roy de la Grand’ Bretagne. / Traduit en François sur la copie imprimée à Londres, / Par Samuel Gellibrand & Raphael Smith, Paris, Chez la Veufve Theod. Pepingve, & Est. Mavcroy, 1649, p. 4.

74 “this fatal accident of the King of England’s death […] is the most notorious crime ever committed since the death of the Prince of Glory,” Remonstrance des ministres de la province de Londres, op. cit., p. 3.

75 Richelet, Dictionnaire François…, op. cit., article “catastrophe”; Furetière, Dictionaire universel…, op. cit., article “catastrophe”.

76 “so great a change,” Remonstrance des ministres de la province de Londres, op. cit., p. 7.

77 “to overthrow everything at once, [their] Laws as well as the government of this Kingdom,” Remonstrance des ministres de la province de Londres, op. cit., p. 12.

78 “the general upheaval of all things,” Remonstrance des ministres de la province de Londres, op. cit., p. 9.

79 “England, having lost her faith wants to ruin Monarchy, after overthrowing altars, she overthrows thrones, after sacrificing innocent subjects, she sacrifices a just King,” Advertissemens…, op. cit., p. 6.

80 Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 68, 70 and 96.

81 Aristotle, La Poétique, op. cit., p. 84.

82 This acceptation of the word “catastrophe” is absent from the XVIIth-century French dictionaries. It is not mentioned in Richelet, in the 1690 edition of Furetière (the 1687 edition does not mention the word “catastrophe”), in Gilles Ménage’s Dictionnaire étymologique (1694), in Thomas Corneille’s Dictionnaire des arts et des sciences (1694) nor finally in the Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise (1694). None of the senses listed in the OED is entirely satisfactory: “An event producing a subversion of the order or system of things” (3) or “A sudden disaster, wide-spread, very fatal, or signal” (4). The third one is very loose, and the examples illustrating the fourth one show almost a figurative, or at least a very loose, use of the term.

83 Aelius Donatus (flourished in the 4th century AD) provided one of the many poetic arts that followed Aristotle’s Poetics and Horace’s Ars poetica. He used the word “catastrophe” in his Commentary on Terence (Book IV, chapter 5), which was first printed in Venice in 1473. Details about the way it was transmitted can be found in the article of M. D. Reeve and R. H. Rouse, “New Light on the Transmission of Donatus’s ‘Commentum Terentii’,” Viator Medieval and Renaissance Studies 9 (1978), p. 235-249. The influence of this work on Julius Caesar Scaliger’s Seven Books of Poetics (Lyon, 1561) is undeniable, as Paul R. Sellin demonstrates in his article, “Sources of Julius Caesar Scaliger’s Poetices libri septem as a Guide to Renaissance Poetics,” Acta Scaligeriana, Actes du Colloque organisé pour le cinquième centenaire de la naissance de Jules-César Scaliger, Agen, ed. J. Cubelier de Beynac and M. Magnien, Agen, Société académique d’Agen, 1986, p. 75-84. In its turn, Scaliger had a great influence on Renaissance poetics in France as well as England. Sidney, Harington, Chapman, Heywood and Jonson, among others, referred to him. The word “catastrophe” can be found in Book I, chapters 9 and 11 of his Poetices libri septem.

84 “if this great Prince lost his life among them [the chiefs of the Army], it is because their hands had been tied, and an army of thirty-six thousand men, in the midst of whom the king’s head was cut, froze their blood and let them gaze at their king’s death as if it were an eclipse of the sun, which men see but cannot stop, because the conjunction of celestial bodies is beyond their understanding and their reach,” Remonstrance des ministres de la province de Londres, op. cit., p. 4.

85 Nancy Klein Maguire, “The Theatrical Mask/Masque of Politics: The Case of Charles I,” art. cit., p. 6.

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Gilles Bertheau, « Representing Charles I’s Death in some Mazarinades: The Limits of the Aristotelian Tragic Model », Études Épistémè [En ligne], 20 | 2011, mis en ligne le 01 septembre 2011, consulté le 24 novembre 2017. URL : http://episteme.revues.org/431 ; DOI : 10.4000/episteme.431

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Gilles Bertheau

Gilles Bertheau est maître de conférences à l’université François-Rabelais de Tours et au Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance depuis 2003. Depuis une étude des tragédies françaises de George Chapman (1559?-1634), auquel il a consacré sa thèse, il développe sa recherche autour des relations entre théâtre et autorité en s’intéressant à des contemporains de Chapman, comme William Shakespeare, Anthony Munday (dont il a édité Sir Thomas More dans la Pléiade consacrée aux Histoires de Shakespeare), Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Heywood, John Fletcher et Philip Massinger. Il a également consacré quelques articles à des auteurs de la Restauration comme John Banks ou John Dryden. En lien direct avec cet intérêt pour la question politique, il travaille aussi sur les œuvres de Jacques Ier, en particulier le Basilikon Doron, dont il prépare une édition collaborative, et sur certains aspects de son règne. Il achève actuellement la traduction de La Tragédie de Chabot de George Chapman.

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