When Marin Mersenne reflects upon the 1637 Discours de la méthode, he is anxious about what Descartes teaches us on the subject of flexibility and changing our minds. His worry is that Descartes might be arrogantly suggesting that the human will can tend to the good without the assistance of divine grace. Descartes’s response revolves around the example of Medea, a touchstone for poetic theory in general and the subject of Corneille’s 1635 reworking of Seneca. Subsequent critical comparisons of Corneille and Descartes are re-evaluated in this context, and against the background of the explosion of poetic debate in the quarrel surrounding Corneille’s 1637 Le Cid. This quarrel places the major players in earlier debates about tragicomedy on a very public stage.
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