Cinna - Pierre Corneille
One of the critics quoted in this edition called Cinna the quintessential royal play; I can see that point of view. Certainly Augustus, dominating the second half of the play, fits to a tee what the French of the 17th century considered awe-inspiring about their kings. Supposedly, there is a debate going on in this play between republicanism and monarchy, but it is a stacked debate; the republicans are not allowed to present their best arguments, and when the monarchists contradict them, they concede their point.

There is considerable dramatic interest, nonetheless, in the first four acts; the characters, divided in mind and duplicitous in speech, rarely say anything without double meaning. Emilia is one of the most straightforward characters, she is only divided between wanting to shelter her beloved Cinna on the one hand, and wanting to make him the instrument of her unfinished vengeance on the other. This is the setup for a tragedy in the real sense, since she is greatly relieved when the plot is uncovered: now she can follow her love by dying with Cinna and also say that she never turned back from vengeance. So she's hugely frustrated when Augustus pardons the two of them. It ought to drive her to a final destruction; but Corneille instead chooses to pull out a "happy ending". This ending undermines all the drama of the play, as well as being unbelievable. Emilia accepts the pardon and is reconciled, saying that it must be a miracle that's taken place in her heart -- indeed, that's probably what Corneille intends it to be, since he's been harping on all along about kings being appointed by God. Perhaps the audiences of the time found that wrapping it up with all the conspirators happily acknowledging Augustus's divine reign was very satisfying because it suited their sense of the rightness of things, but to me it seems very forced.