Hernani (drama)

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For other uses, see Hernani.
ou l'Honneur Castillan
The audience fights during a performance
The audience fights during the premiere
Written by Victor Hugo
  • Doña Sol
  • Don Carlos
  • Hernani
  • Don Ruy Gomes de Silva
  • others
Date premiered 23 February 1830
Place premiered Paris
Original language French
Subject Courtly romance
Genre Drama
Setting Spanish court, 1519
The "battle of Hernani".

Hernani (Full title: Hernani, ou l'Honneur Castillan) is a drama by the French romantic author Victor Hugo.

The play opened in Paris on 25 February 1830. Today, it is more remembered for the demonstrations which accompanied the première, and for being the inspiration of Verdi's opera Ernani, than it is for its own merits. Hugo had enlisted the support of fellow Romanticists such as Hector Berlioz and Théophile Gautier[1] to combat the opposition of Classicists who recognised the play as a direct attack on their values.

It is used to describe the magnitude/ elegance of Prince Prospero's masquerade in Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Masque of the Red Death". Gillenormand in Les Misérables criticizes Hernani.[2]


  • Doña Sol—Young noblewoman, object of desire for all three male characters.
  • Don Carlos—King of Spain (in whose court the play's events take place).
  • Hernani—Bandit, Doña Sol's true love.
  • Don Ruy Gomes de Silva—Doña Sol's uncle and fiancé. Protects Hernani on the condition that he kill himself later.


Set in a fictitious version of the Spanish court of 1519, it is based on courtly romance and intrigues.

Act I[edit]

In the first scenes Hugo introduces Doña Sol, a young noblewoman of the court of Don Carlos, King of Spain (the future Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor). The King has come to her room to seduce her. They are interrupted by the arrival of Doña Sol's true love, the bandit Hernani, and the two argue over her and are about to duel. Her uncle (and fiancé) Don Ruy Gomez de Silva enters, and demands to know why both men are in Doña Sol's private chambers. Don Carlos asserts that he had come hoping to meet Ruy Gomez to discuss affairs of state, and Hernani does not reveal the King's true intent. In return for the bandit's discretion, Don Carlos claims to Don Ruy that Hernani is a member of his entourage. Thus, each has given the other an honorable excuse for his presence in the quarters of Doña Sol.

Thus, three men—two noblemen and a mysterious bandit—are in love with the same woman. What follows in the ensuing chaos of action prompted the biographer of Hugo, J.P. Houston, to write "... and a résumé [plot synopsis] will necessarily fail, as in the case of Notre-Dame de Paris, to suggest anything like the involution of its details".[3]

Act II[edit]

Don Carlos learns of a midnight rendezvous between Doña Sol and Hernani. He decides to interrupt it in the hope of abducting her. Hernani becomes aware of the plot and has his men surround the King's guards. For the first time, the King becomes aware of Hernani's true identity as a bandit, rather than a nobleman, and refuses a duel. Hernani, although he could charge the King with a crime, allows him to go free.

Act III[edit]

The (interrupted) wedding of Doña Sol to Ruy Gomez. Hernani arrives in disguise, and confronts her for agreeing, however reluctantly, to marry. He admits his criminal past to Ruy Gomez, and the fact that he is being pursued by the King. On the King's arrival, Ruy Gomez hides Hernani and refuses to surrender him, citing laws of hospitality, which, he asserts, protect his guests, even from the King. While Ruy Gomez and Don Carlos argue, Doña Sol, alone with Hernani, reveals that she plans to commit suicide before her marriage can be consummated. The King, frustrated by Ruy Gomez' resistance, drops the pursuit of Hernani, and instead abducts Doña Sol. Ruy Gomez agrees to spare Hernani's life long enough to free Doña Sol, on condition that Hernani will die willingly at some point in the future. Hernani gives him a horn which Ruy Gomez is to blow to announce the moment of Hernani's death.

Acts IV–V[edit]

Don Carlos is elected Holy Roman Emperor. He resolves to live up to the requirements and responsibilities of his new title. Carlos pardons Hernani and gives him Doña Sol.

The two are married, but, as they enjoy their wedding feast, Hernani hears the call of the horn blown by Ruy Gomez. As Hernani is about to drink poison, Doña Sol enters the room and tries to convince him that he is hers and he does not have to listen to her uncle. She is unable to persuade him otherwise. Doña Sol, shocked by Hernani's decision to kill himself, drinks the half of the poison. Hernani drinks the other half and they die in each other's arms. Ruy Gomez de Silva kills himself.


  • Easton, Malcolm. Artists and Writers in Paris: The Bohemian Idea, 1803-1867. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1964
  • Houston, John Porter (1974). Victor Hugo. New York: Twayne Publishers. 
  • Houston, John Porter (1974). Victor Hugo, Revised Edition. New York: Twayne Publishers. 1988
  • Miller, Richard. Bohemia; the Protoculture Then and Now. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1977.
  • Porter, Laurence M.. Victor Hugo. Ed. David O'Connell. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1999.

External links[edit]