Victor Hugo and the Romantic Drama


251 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-4322-4
DDC 842.7




Reviewed by David E. Kemp

David E. Kemp, a former drama professor at Queen’s University, is the
author of The Pleasures and Treasures of the United Kingdom.


Although he is best known for his novels and poetry, Victor Hugo wrote a
number of romantic dramas that essentially overturned French
neoclassical theatre in the 1830s and made a significant contribution to
the techniques of mid–19th-century stagecraft. Halsall’s book, the
first complete treatment of Hugo’s plays to appear in English,
supplements the recent semiotic discoveries of noted French critics by
offering a rhetorical analysis of Hugo’s dramatic theory and practice.
The book offers a history, plot summary, and detailed analysis of all
the dramas from Cromwell and Torquemada to the juvenilia and the epic
melodramas, Les Burgraves. Halsall also examines the nature of Hugo’s
practical experiments in staging, the critical response to his dramatic
work, and the ultimate place of that work in the context of French
theatre and the neoclassical genres of comedy and tragedy it supplanted.
Halsall’s well-written, comprehensive, and thoroughly researched study
is a welcome addition to the literature on 19th-century theatre.


Halsall, Albert W., “Victor Hugo and the Romantic Drama,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,