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Original scientific paper

Truth and Unveiling of Illusions in The Village Prophet: Rousseau’s Influence on Ante Starčević

Pavo Barišić ; Institut za filozofiju, Zagreb, Hrvatska

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page 333-372

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The contemporaries and adherents of Ante Starčević (1823–1896) were well aware of the fact how much he appreciated the insights of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), whereupon Josip Horvat nicknamed him “new Croatian Rousseau.” However, their conceptual closeness is still far from having been thoroughly explored and depicted in certain segments of their multilayered work. This article first pinpoints the extent to which the mentioned research goal has been carried out so far. It continues with a more detailed analysis of where the legendary statesman, philosopher, and poet from Lika leaned on the concepts and insights of the famous exponent of the Enlightenment from Geneva. Concluded in the final part is that, like a guideline, interwoven through the entire work of both authors is the motif of unveiling of illusions and condemnation of fraud and moral corruption in society, mockery of celebrated idols and false prophets. Related to this topic is their genuine philosophical commitment to the liberation from all forms of servitude, exposure of hypocrisy and the promotion of truth.
The thesis is illustrated by comparing the authors’ works of the same title: Rousseau’s libretto Le Devin du Village (1752) and Starčević’s folk play The Village Prophet (1852). The analysis of the plot, characters and the image of reality in the one-act opera and the three-act play reveals the closeness of the two Enlightenment thinkers, two sharp critics of social corruption and hypocrisy, advocates of the return to nature. Both authors highly esteem the simplicity, modesty, sobriety, honesty and natural virtues of the common folk. Inclination towards idyllic scenes of pastoral life is apparent in the works of both authors. Romantic scenes and pastoral descriptions are imbued with didactic instructions and morals. They both share and pursue the original desire and passion for truth that is revealed to those who have the courage to quest for the essence of reality, condemn fallacy and seek the foundations of things. The difference is that in Rousseau’s work a wise wizard rescues those in love, while Starčević’s lovers meet their salvation by removing the mask from the false prophet and scoundrel Luka Svevidić.
The article places Starčević’s drama within the lcontext of the development of folk plays in Croatia in the mid-nineteenth century. Illustrating the truths and misconceptions of the rural population and their life in Lika, the story is permeated with local adages and philosophical reflections. In addition, its true value lies in the fact that it has been conceived as a philosophical theatre.


truth, lie, illusion, unveiling, folk play, false prophet, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ante Starčević

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