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Dynasts, The


subtitled ‘an epic-drama of the war with Napoleon, in three parts, nineteen acts and one hundred and thirty scenes’: a verse-drama by Thomas Hardy, published in three parts: 1904; 1906; and 1908. It is an extraordinary mixture of prose and poetry, epic and drama, incorporating narrative, theatrical, and even cinematic techniques. The first part of the work centres on the figure of Napoleon and concerns the events of the war with England, including the French invasion plans of 1805 and the battles of Ulm, Austerlitz, and Trafalgar. The second part describes the Prussian defeat at Jena; the meeting of Napoleon and Alexander at Tilsit; the battle of Wagram and the war in Spain; and Napoleon's divorce from Josephine, followed by his marriage to Marie Louise. Part III deals with the Russian campaign of 1812, the battle of Leipzig, Napoleon's abdication, and his eventual defeat at Waterloo. In each instance, the main historical events, narrated in a series of long and detailed scenes, are interspersed with short episodes describing the effect of each major political upheaval on the lives of ordinary people. In addition to this terrestrial commentary, a cast of supernatural beings—the Ancient Spirit of the Years, the Spirit of the Pities, the Spirits Sinister and Ironic, the Spirit of Rumour, and the Shade of the Earth—provide a Chorus on the affairs of the historical personages, amongst whom, apart from Napoleon himself, are included King George III, William Pitt, Charles James Fox, Horatio Nelson, and Thomas Masterman Hardy, Captain of the Victory and a distant relative of the author. Presiding over the entire drama is the Immanent Will, epitomizing the spirit of blind chance in human affairs, as it appears in many of Hardy's novels.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Dutchman to Paul Engle Biography