Today, riots marked the first performance of Victor Hugo’s new work “Hernani” at the Comédie-Française in Paris.
Hugo had forseen trouble. The play had been regarded by everyone involved as a “horrible monstrosity” for sullying their classical temple with “beings of flesh and blood speaking with the language of passion and of man”. It was mocked and reviled all over town whilst still in rehearsal, even by the actors. Hugo gave out large numbers of free tickets to his following among the bohemian and literary communities in order to guarantee the performance was received well.
This did not go down well, either with the Parisian bourgeoisie who wanted tickets at any price, or amongst the Comedians themselves who were enraged at the shabby long-haired crowd come to desecrate their shrine. They mounted the roof and hurled down garbage onto the waiting crowd hoping to provoke them and bring the police.*
“Hernani” itself ran for over 100 performances but it was never without the odd scuffle beforehand.
*New York Times ed. July 23 1871