Tradition et modernité : étude des tragédies de Voltaire

Abstract : Was Voltaire the refomer or the guardian of the classicism ? Although he appreciated it, he opposed the insertion of the coquettish story which was the classical tradition. For him, the power of the tragedy that was to inspire fear and pity in order to educate humain being. In his eyes the coquettish story weakens the educational role of the tragedy. And so, for fear, he tried to introduce the spectacle of terror in the French theatre. But at the same time he minded the reserve of the classicism. In terms of pity, he highlighted the importance of family ties. He emphasized the voice of the nature in the same blood. This brings us to the problem of human nature. He trusted actually the nature of man, whereas he supported the empiricism. That so, the contradiction happens inside him. If human being is shaped according to his environment, there are cases where he is corrupted and commits a crime. Rather, he thought that man was originally the weak creature who committed the fault. In this thought, the crime joins human nature. However, Voltaire still believed in the goodness of human nature, because man has also the ability to regenerate : it is the power of remorse. For Voltaire, that feeling is one of the components of virtue engaved in human nature. Even if he commits crime, man has the possibility of regeneration, thanks to the felling of remorse. Such a fusion of the human nature and of empiricism was his thought about man. Voltaire tried until his death to be both playwright and philosopher in order to highlight importance of the relation between virtue and regeneration. Always thinking to educate man, sometimes Voltaire defends the classical tradition, sometimes he introduces modernity in classicism. However, for him, modernizing the classical tradition was a way to conserve it, not to destoy it. Indeed, he thought that the classical tragedy was the most effective manner to educate man. So, Voltaire’s tragedy is characterized by the integration of modernity into the classical tradition.
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Naoki Shibuya. Tradition et modernité : étude des tragédies de Voltaire. Littératures. Université de la Sorbonne nouvelle - Paris III, 2014. Français. ⟨NNT : 2014PA030017⟩. ⟨tel-00968766⟩

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