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Augustin Eugène Scribe (December 24, 1791 - February 20, 1861), was a French dramatist and librettist.

His father was a silk merchant, and he was well educated, being destined for the law. However, he soon began to write for the stage. His first piece, Le Prétendu sans le savoir, was produced anonymously at the Variétés in 1810, and was a failure. Numerous other plays, written in collaboration with various authors, followed; but Scribe achieved no distinct success till 1815.

Scribe's main subject matter was the contemporary bourgeoisie. He often wrote for vaudeville. He is considered to have written well constructed pieces focusing on plot, which are attractive but lack real depth. His first major success was Une Nuit de la garde nationale (Night of the National Guard, 1815), a collaboration with Delestre Poirson. Much of his later work was also written in collaboration with others.

He was extremely prolific. He wrote every kind of drama--vaudevilles, comedies, tragedies, opera-libretti. To the Gymnase theatre alone he is said to have furnished a hundred and fifty pieces before 1830. He had a number of co-workers, one of whom supplied the story, another the dialogue, a third the jokes and so on. He is said in some cases to have sent sums of money for "copyright in ideas" to men who were unaware that he had taken suggestions from their work. Among his collaborators were Jean Henri Dupin (1787-1887), Germain Delavigne, Delestre-Poirson, Mélesyule (AHJ Duveyrier), Marc-Antoine Desaugiers, Xavier Saintine and Gabriel Legouvé.

His better known later works include:

  • Bertrand et Suzette; ou Le Mariage de raison (1826)
  • Bertrand et Raton; ou L'Art de conspirer (The School for Politicians, 1833)
  • Le Verre d'eau (The Glass of Water, 1840)
  • Adrienne Lecouvreur (1848)
  • Bataille de Dames (The Ladies' Battle, 1851)

He wrote libretti for a number of operas, collaborating with Giacomo Meyerbeer on a number of occasions, and also providing the words for works by Giuseppe Verdi, Vincenzo Bellini, Daniel Auber, Gaetano Donizetti and Gioacchino Rossini. At the time of his death, he was working on the libretto for Meyerbeer's L'Africaine.

His debut in serious comedy was made at the Théâtre Français in 1822 with Valérie, the first of many successful pieces of the same kind. His industry was untiring and his knowledge both of the mechanism of the stage and of the tastes of the audience was wonderful. For purely theatrical ability he is unrivalled, and his plays are still regarded as models of dramatic construction. Moreover he was for fifty years the best exponent of the ideas of the French middle classes, so that he deserves respectful attention, even though his style be vulgar and his characters commonplace.

He wrote a few novels, but none of any mark. The best-known of Scribe's pieces after his first successful one are:

  • Une Chaine (1842)
  • Le Verre d'eau (1842)
  • Adrienne Lecouvreur (1849), in conjunction with Legouvé
  • Bertrand et Raton, on l'art de conspirer
  • the libretti of many of the most famous operas of the middle of the century, especially those of Auber and Meyerbeer.

The books of La Muette de Portici, Fra Diavolo, Robert le Diable, and of Les Huguenots are wholly or in part by him.

His Œuvres complétes appeared in seventy-six volumes in 1874-1885. See Legouvé, Eugène Scribe (1874).

This entry includes material from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

External link


Preceded by:
Antoine-Vincent Arnault
Seat 13
Académie française
Succeeded by:
Octave Feuillet
de:Eugène Scribe
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