ou l'Honneur Castillan
The audience fights during the premiere
|Written by||Victor Hugo|
|Date premiered||23 February 1830|
|Setting||Spanish court, 1519|
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 to combat the opposition of Classicists who recognised the play as a direct attack on their values.
It is used to describe the magnitude and 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.
Set in a fictitious version of the Spanish court of 1519, it is based on courtly romance and intrigues. 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".
In the first scenes Hugo introduces Don Carlos, King of Spain (the future Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) sneaking into the bedchamber of Doña Sol. He forces her maid to help conceal him within the room. Shortly thereafter, Doña Sol enters to welcome her lover Hernani. Hernani and Sol discuss their situation − Doña Sol is about to be forced to marry her elderly uncle, and Hernani is a bandit whose father was executed by the previous King. Hernani and Doña Sol plot to run away together, but Don Carlos emerges from the cabinet where he was hiding, disrupting them. The two men clash swords, but are interrupted by Sol's uncle and fiancé Don Ruy Gomez de Silva. He demands to know why both men are in Sol's private chambers. Don Carlos reveals his identity, and asserts that he had come hoping to meet Ruy Gomez to discuss the recent death of Emperor Maximilian, and claims that Hernani is a member of his entourage, thereby allowing everyone to leave peacefully.
Don Carlos had overheard Sol and Hernani's plans to run away together, and accompanied with some aristocratic friends he appears at the rendezvous point, hoping to seduce Sol in Hernani's place. Doña Sol recognizes him and rejects him. Infuriated, Don Carlos attempts to abduct her. As Don Carlos and Doña Sol struggle over a dagger, Hernani arrives with his own sixty men having overtaken the king's three friends. He explains his hatred for the king over the death of his own father, and challenges Don Carlos to a duel. This time, the King is aware of Hernani's identity as a bandit, and he refuses a duel (as only noblemen could duel), but challenges Hernani to murder him. Hernani's sense of honor prevents him from attacking a man who won't fight back. The King escapes, and sends his men to arrest Hernani and his band of thieves. Hernani escapes after a farewell to Doña Sol.
Doña Sol and Ruy Gomez prepare for their wedding, and hear news that Hernani's men have all been murdered. Hernani arrives at the house in disguise, and Ruy Gomez takes him in as a guest. Hernani − apparently suicidal − reveals his identity and tries to provoke the servants to arrest him, but Ruy Gomez still insists on protecting him. Hernani admonishes Doña Sol for agreeing to the marriage, but when she reveals that she plans to kill herself on the wedding night, he has a change of heart and encourages her to accept the match. The King arrives to arrest Hernani, but Ruy Gomez refuses to surrender him, citing laws of hospitality, which, he asserts, protect his guests, even from the King. 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.
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.