Alexis Piron, Fernand-Cortés

Translated by Derek Connon

Critical Texts 28

Modern Humanities Research Association

  29 April 2024  •  146pp

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When Alexis Piron embarked on his third tragedy, Fernand-Cortés (1744), he was able to build on experience of his second work in the genre, one of the most successful of its time, written eleven years before, Gustave-Wasa. However, his confidence in the play was shaken by a rowdy first night which led to a shaky first run, and he effectively withdrew it. Until, that is, he published a collection of what he thought were his most important works in 1758, when he wrote a new preface restating his confidence in it. It certainly did not deserve that initial failure, but, as well as being worth reading for itself, it is of interest for other reasons too. 1736 saw the first performance of Voltaire’s successful tragedy Alzire with a plot set in Peru with, as one of its central characters, an evil Spaniard who represents the harm done by the conquistadors in that country. Piron was one of those who shared what had become a traditional view of Hernán Cortés as a hero, so he set out to write a play showing that the Spanish mission to Central America was very different to the crimes of Pizarro in South America. Hence, the work not only has interest as one of those occasions in the rivalry between Piron and Voltaire when the former did not better the latter, it also takes its place alongside Alzire as a contribution to the early stages of the debate about the legitimacy of colonization that would culminate in the publication of the Histoire des deux Indes.

This is a French text published with an English-language introduction and notes.

Derek Connon is Emeritus Professor of French at Swansea University.


Derek Connon
A Note on Names
Derek Connon
Derek Connon
Fernand Cortes, Tragédie
Alexis Piron
Select Bibliography
Derek Connon
Back Matter
Derek Connon

Bibliography entry:

Connon, Derek (trans.), Alexis Piron, Fernand-Cortés, Critical Texts, 28 (MHRA, 2024)

First footnote reference: 35 Alexis Piron, Fernand-Cortés, trans. by Derek Connon, Critical Texts, 28 (MHRA, 2024), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Connon, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Connon, Derek (trans.). 2024. Alexis Piron, Fernand-Cortés, Critical Texts, 28 (MHRA)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Connon 2024: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Connon 2024: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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