Alfred De Vigny's Play 'Chatterton': An Analysis

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Chatterton French author Alfred de Vigny wrote the play Chatterton in 1835. The drama is about Thomas Chatterton who was a British poet who also made a substantial living forging poems and claiming that they were from the medieval period of history. Instead of an earnest biography or an attempt to relate history in a realistic manner, de Vigny's Chatterton tells the tale of Chatterton through the style of French Romanticism. Specifically, the play functions as a thesis for all French Romantics who believed themselves as artistic martyrs who were willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their art. To serve this end, much of the negative components of Chatterton's life are not included in the play. Even his forging of documents is made to seem understandable, as an activity committed by an intelligent man who was mocking the larger establishment of the unintelligent larger population. Those who were smart enough to see the forgeries as they were, would not be aggravated at Chatterton, but would instead join in his bemusement of the larger group. The reason for this is that the audience is meant to identify with Thomas Chatterton and to see in him something greater than average human beings could aspire to. Some of the characteristics of the French Romantics include a deep interest in human suffering and a seeming arrogance that it is the artists who are best able to explain and explore the emotions and attitudes of a given point in time. Thomas Chatterton was a man

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