A Translation of Charles Palissot's Comedy The Philosophers
Cartieri, Ronald M.
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The Philosophers was the most popular of the works of the eighteenth century playwright, Charles Palissot. Written in verse form, the play is an unmitigated attack on la philo sophie and its disciples. But it is a much more capricious than any of the comedies of Molire, whose structure his play imitates. Indeed, Palissot's literary ability can hardly compete with that of les grands ecrivains of the Enlightenment. Palissot was, however, one of the harshest social critics of his lifetime (1730-1814). His pen was not a sword, but rather a poison-tipped arrow that hits with a rude directness. Consider, for example, his reference to Rousseau in the personage of Crispin. The latter enters the stage on all fours and declares that he has chosen to "me renferme dans le monde animale" rather than live among fools, the sight of whom makes his eyes sore. As Cydalise, the ultimate victim of the philosophers, remarks. "At least his approach is original." And no doubt shocking as well, this 'bete' who carries his food, a head of lettuce, in his pocket! Indeed, the effect is as harsh as the author wishes it to be , even if it is a bit indiscreet. The popularity of Les Philosophes was tremendous when it was first performed. But when the sensation died, so too did Palissot's popularity. He wrote a satire, La Dunciade ~ laGuerre des Sots: -before he died, but it was not very well received. This translation is a prose version of the original verse form.