Short summary - Horace - Pierre Corneille

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Horace
Pierre Corneille

Longtime allies Rome and Alba went to war with each other. Until now, only minor skirmishes have taken place between the enemy armies, but now, with the army of the Albanians at the walls of Rome, a decisive battle must be played out.
The heart of Sabina, the wife of the noble Roman Horace, is filled with confusion and sorrow: now, in a fierce battle, either her native Alba, or Rome, which became her second homeland, will be broken. Not only is the thought of the defeat of either side equally sad for Sabina, by the evil will of fate in this battle, the people most dear to her must draw swords against each other - her husband Horace and her three brothers, the Albanians Curiacii.
Sister Horace, Camilla, also swears evil fate, which brought two friendly cities into mortal enmity, and does not consider her position any easier than that of Sabina, although her friend-confidant Julia tells her about this with Sabina. Julia is sure that Camilla should be rooting for Rome with all her heart, since her birth and family ties are connected only with it, while the oath of loyalty that Camilla exchanged with her fiancé, the Albanian Curiacius, is nothing when the honor and prosperity of the homeland are placed on the other side of the scales.
Tired of worrying about the fate of her hometown and the groom, Camilla turned to the Greek diviner, and he predicted to her that the dispute between Alboya and Rome would end in peace the next day, and she would unite with Curiatius so that she would never be separated again. The dream that Camille had that same night dispelled the sweet deception of the prediction: in her dream she dreamed of a cruel massacre and heaps of dead bodies.
When suddenly Camilla appears alive, unharmed Curiacii, the girl decides that for the sake of love for her, the noble Albanian sacrificed his duty to his homeland, and in no way condemns the lover.
But it turns out that everything is not so: when the ratiers came together for battle, the leader of the Albanians turned to the Roman king Tullus with the words that fratricide should be avoided, - after all, the Romans and Albanians belong to the same people and are related by numerous relatives bonds; he proposed to settle the dispute by a duel of three fighters from each army on the condition that the city whose warriors were defeated would become a subject of the victorious city. The Romans gladly accepted the offer of the Albanian leader.
At the choice of the Romans, the three brothers Horace will have to fight for the honor of their native city. Curiacii envies the great fate of the Horatii - to glorify the homeland or lay down their heads for it - and regrets that, whatever the outcome of the fight, he will have to mourn either the humiliated Alba or his dead friends. Horace, the embodiment of the Roman virtues, it is not clear how one can grieve over the one who passed away for the glory of his native country.
Behind such speeches of friends, the Albanian warrior is caught, bringing the news that Alba has chosen three brothers Curiatius as her protectors. Curiacii is proud that it was on him and his brothers that the choice of compatriots fell, but at the same time in his heart he would like to avoid this new blow of fate - the need to fight with his sister's husband and the bride's brother. Horace, on the contrary, warmly welcomes the choice of the Albanians, which destined for him an even more exalted lot: it is great honor to fight for the fatherland, but at the same time overcome the bonds of blood and human affection - very few people had a chance to acquire such perfect glory.
Camilla is trying with all her might to dissuade Curiatia from engaging in a fratricidal duel, conjuring him with the name of their love and almost achieves success, but the noble Albanian still finds the strength not to change his duty for the sake of love.
Sabina, unlike her relative, does not think to dissuade her brother and husband from the duel, but only wants this duel not to become fratricidal - for this she must die, and with her death the ties of kinship that bind the Horace and the Curiatii will be interrupted.
The appearance of old Horace stops the conversations of the heroes with women. The honored patrician commands his son and son-in-law, relying on the judgment of the gods, to hasten to fulfill a high duty.
Sabina tries to overcome her emotional grief, convincing herself that no matter whoever fell in a fight, the main thing is not who brought him death, but in the name of what; she tells herself that she will certainly remain a faithful sister if a brother kills her husband, or a loving wife if her husband hits a brother. But all is in vain: Sabina confesses again and again that in the winner she will first of all see the murderer of a person dear to her.
The sorrowful reflections of Sabina are interrupted by Julia, who brought her news from the battlefield: as soon as six fighters came out to meet each other, a murmur swept through both men: both the Romans and the Albanians were outraged by the decision of their leaders, who condemned the Horatii with Curiacii to a criminal duel fratricidal ... King Tullus heeded the voice of the people and announced that sacrifices should be made in order to find out from the entrails of animals whether the choice of the fighters was pleasing to the gods or not.
Hope settles again in the hearts of Sabina and Camilla, but not for long - old Horace informs them that, by the will of the gods, their brothers fought among themselves. Seeing what grief this news plunged women into, and wishing to strengthen their hearts, the father of the heroes speaks of the greatness of the lot of his sons, who perform feats for the glory of Rome; Romans - Camilla by birth, Sabina due to marriage bonds - both of them at this moment should think only about the triumph of their motherland ...
Appearing before her friends again, Julia tells them that two sons of old Horace fell from the swords of the Albanians, the third, the husband of Sabina , flees; Julia did not wait for the outcome of the duel, for it was obvious.
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Julia's story strikes old Horace to the very heart. Paying tribute to the two gloriously lost defenders of Rome, he swears that the third son, whose cowardice has covered the honest name of the Horatii with indelible shame, will die by his own hand. No matter how Sabina and Camilla ask him to moderate their anger, the old patrician is relentless.
Valery, a noble youth, whose love Camilla rejected, comes to old Horace as a messenger from the king. He starts talking about the survivor of Horace and, to his surprise, hears terrible curses from the old man against the one who saved Rome from shame. Only with difficulty interrupting the bitter outpourings of the patrician, Valeriy tells about what, having prematurely left the city wall, Julia did not see: the flight of Horace was not a manifestation of cowardice, but a military trick - fleeing from the wounded and tired Curiacii, Horace thus separated them and fought with each in turn, one on one, until all three fell from his sword.
Old Horace triumphs, he is filled with pride for his sons - both the survivor and those who laid down their heads on the battlefield. Camilla, struck by the news of the death of her beloved, is comforted by her father, appealing to reason and fortitude, which has always adorned the Romans.
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But Camilla is inconsolable. And not only is her happiness sacrificed to the greatness of proud Rome, this very Rome requires her to hide her sorrow and, together with everyone, rejoice at the victory won at the cost of the crime. No, this should not happen, Camille decides, and when Horace appears in front of her, expecting praise from his sister for his feat, he rains a stream of curses on him for the murder of the groom. Horace could not imagine that in the hour of the triumph of the fatherland one could be killed at the death of her enemy; when Camilla begins to vilify Rome with her last words and call on her hometown terrible curses, his patience comes to an end - with the sword with which her fiancé was killed shortly before, he stabs his sister.
Horace is sure that he did the right thing - Camilla ceased to be a sister to him and a daughter to her father at the moment when she cursed her homeland. Sabina asks her husband to stab her too, for she, too, in spite of her duty, grieves for the dead brothers, envying the fate of Camilla, whom death saved from hopeless grief and united with her beloved. Horace of great work should not fulfill the request of his wife.
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Old Horace does not condemn his son for the murder of his sister - having betrayed Rome in her soul, she deserved death; but at the same time, by the execution of Camille, Horace irrevocably destroyed his honor and glory. The son agrees with his father and asks him to pass a sentence - whatever it may be, Horace agrees with him in advance.
In order to personally honor the father of the heroes, King Tullus arrives at the house of the Horatii. He praises the valor of old Horace, whose spirit was not broken by the death of three children, and speaks with regret of the villainy that darkened the feat of the last of his surviving sons. However, the fact that this atrocity should be punished does not come up until Valery takes the floor.
Appealing to the royal justice, Valery speaks of Camilla's innocence, who succumbed to a natural outburst of despair and anger, that Horace not only killed a blood relative for no reason, which is terrible in itself, but also outraged the will of the gods, sacrilegiously defiling the glory bestowed by them.
Horace does not even think to defend himself or to justify himself - he asks the king for permission to pierce himself with his own sword, but not in atonement for the death of his sister, for she deserved it, but in the name of saving her honor and the glory of the savior of Rome.
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Wise Tull also listens to Sabina. She asks to execute her, which will mean the execution of Horace, since husband and wife are one; her death - which Sabina seeks as deliverance, being unable to selflessly love the killer of her brothers, or reject her beloved - will quench the wrath of the gods, while her husband can continue to bring glory to the fatherland.
When everyone who had something to say spoke up, Tull delivered his verdict: although Horace committed an atrocity, usually punishable by death, he is one of those few heroes who, in decisive days, serve as a reliable bulwark for their sovereigns; these heroes are not subject to the general law, and therefore Horace will live, and further jealous of the glory of Rome.