Hernani, ou l’Honneur castillan is a play in five acts by Victor Hugo (1802−85), which opened at the Comédie-Française in February 1830. Set during the Spanish Renaissance, it recounts the rivalries between a young man named Charles Quint, a bandit named Hernani, and the uncle of the lady whose love they all vie for, Dona Sol. Beyond the themes of honor, love, and history, this melodrama is best known for its departure from conventional classical tragedies (in particular the unities of  place, time, and action) and it is generally interpreted as an attack on the established order. The play is also an example of the new form of drama that Hugo had described in 1827 in the preface to his play Cromwell. On the opening night of the play, an altercation famously took place between the defenders of Hugo, led by the dramatist and critic Théophile Gautier, and those in favor of classicism. The event, which became known as the “battle of Hernani," was characterized by whistles, fist fights, multiple interruptions of the play, and street protests. The clashes lasted several days and marked the triumph of romantic drama, which dominated the stages of French theaters for years to come. Hernani then became the object of several parodies and adaptations (such as Verdi's opera Ernani). Nevertheless, the play was not performed again until 1877. It is still being performed to this day. Presented here is Victor Hugo’s manuscript of the play.

Last updated: May 11, 2015