This is the definitive book, in any language, on the spoken theatre of Philippe Quinault, who is better known for the libretti he wrote for the operas of Jean-Baptiste Lully, which came after a highly successful career during the 1650s and 1660s as an author of comedies, tragi-comedies, and tragedies. One can of course read these plays with an eye toward a better understanding of the libretti, but they are best appreciated as works which are remarkable in themselves and which reflect the taste of the majority of the literary public.
Brooks knows these plays better than anyone, and he has provided an excellent guide to them. The opening chapters present the plays in chronological order, in the context of Quinault's life. A plot summary introduces each play, followed by discussion of the performance history and sources. A chapter is then devoted to the skill with which the playwrite develops his characters, especially in the last five plays, which Brooks calls the "mature plays". The final chapter presents Quinault's "art poétique" and the critical reaction to it. Although Quinault has not always enjoyed the greatest reputation among critics, Brooks is correct to say that his "plays form a corpus fit to stand on its own merits and one which was influential in its day" (p. 479).