Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Welsh, Wil

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Speech


Theater; Theater--History--19th century


This thesis has been an analysis of the influence of the naturalistic theories on André Antoine's Théâtre-Libre from 1887-1894. The study was conducted because no one source exists today which completely illuminates and pulls together all available evidence with the aim of either proving or disproving the contention that the Théâtre-Libre was naturalistic. To place the Théâtre-Libre in proper perspective, a brief resumé was given of the general theatrical atmosphere during the first seventy-five years of the Nineteenth Century. The form and content of the plays from the Romantic movement with its condemnation of classical form varied. The variety included Pixérécourt with the melodrama and its poetic justice; the well-made plays of Scribe and Sardou with their tight structure; the thesis plays of Dumas fils and Augier with the aim of social reform; and finally, the comedies and farces of Halévy and Meilhac which were lacking in organic unity. Technical production techniques of the Nineteenth' Century involved an exaggerated acting style, and staging included the special effects of the romantics as well as the newer box and multiple sets. Before Antoine lighting was for illumination and costume was essentially decorative in spite of J. R. Planche's attempts at historical accuracy. Madame Vestris and others had become strong managers of their theatres, innovating in such areas as rehearsal time, ensemble playing, and the fitting of scenery with the play, but most production in the Nineteenth Century was still slipshod and uncoordinated. In the latter part of the century, Emile Zola drawing on the social and philosophical ideas of Taine, Bernard, and Lucas evolved the new literary criticism called naturalism. Zola called for plays which demonstrated predominately heredity and environment, for staging in which setting, properties, and costume, etc., were real and for acting in which the characters lived before the audience. Into this background went André Antoine with the desire to make the Théâtre-Libre experimental and eclectic. His early stated policy called for both naturalistic and non-naturalistic plays to be produced. However, by 1890 he admitted his desire to produce the plays of the newer playwrights. His record of the plays which he produced showed sixty-seven per cent were naturalistic, a few were tinged with naturalism, and the remainder were non-naturalistic. In the mise en scene for these productions, he aimed at naturalness in acting, sets, lighting, and costuming. Naturalness was also the key for his directing. In this he sought to create a true environment where the characters may live before the audience. It must be concluded then that the Théâtre-Libre during André Antoine's management, 1887-1894, was influenced to a large degree by naturalism. This conclusion is based on Antoine's stated policies, his play selection, all aspects of production and his conception of directing.


Includes bibliographical references.


132 pages




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