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MOLIERE – ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL (Probably one of the least read as well)

 Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, born Jan. 15, 1622  Money troubles plagued the theatre
 Oldest of six children  Moliere was sent to debtor’s prison twice
 His father was a royal upholsterer
 The troupe was artistically and financially struggling
 Wanted an aristocrat’s education for his son
 Forced to tour remote provinces and towns
 Jean-Baptiste rejected a career in law for the stage
 By mid-1650’s the troupe had earned tremendous
 Founded the Theatre Illustre praise in the provinces.
 Changed his name to Moliere  1658 – back in Paris
 Most likely to save his family the embarrassment of his
 Earned patronage of Louis XIV

 Moliere’s lover and acting partner, Madeleine Béjart,

 Moliere’s plays largely attack the hypocrisy of the age separated in 1662
 Naturally some in the audience felt attacked
 Moliere married her daughter, Armande, then aged
 Moliere acquired a long list of enemies, 20 to his 44
 Both artistic and political  Some whispers circulated that Armande was actually
Moliere’s daughter since he had been with Madeleine
 Molière wrote several plays about obsessive jealousy, for 20+ years
 These plays, which feature older men attempting to
 The marriage is plagued by Armande’s affairs, deaths
attain young women, would prove, unfortunately,
strangely prophetic. of children (only one survives infancy) and Moliere’s
bad health.

 His later comedies such as The School for Wives

 During their time in Paris: (1662), Tartuffe (1664), The Misanthrope (1666), and
 Moliere transformed his company into a leading French The Learned Ladies (1672) were steeped in social
comedic troupe criticism and satire.
 His style of theatre heavily borrowed from Italian  His style was acerbic and biting flair, Molière mocked
commedia dell’arte companies the morals and manners of 17th century while also
offering insights into human nature.
 Molière refined the commedia themes and combined
them with neoclassical French tradition  Many of his plays invited controversy, and a number
of scandals arose around several of them.

 The theatre of time celebrated the drama of

 France had only one permeant theatre at the time of
artificiality –
Moliere’s birth
 Realism was not a thing
 Used only for religious plays
 There was much excess in the language, set, and
 The Académie Française, created by Cardinal costumes of the period
Richelieu in 1635, was a group of intellectuals
 All of which pointed to it as a “play”
charged with regulating French language and culture
 Alexandrine verse was a demand of French tragedy
 The style was Neo-Classist
of Racine and Cornielle

 Commedia dell’arte was based in improvisation and

included stock characters in a variety of
predetermined scenarios.
 The actors wore masks to define their character
type and performed slapstick gags, called lazzi.
 Molière’s early comedies were based on commedia
scenarios with scripted dialogue, instead of being
 They included stock characters and stunts, many of
which Molière performed himself. Molière wrote
comedies for his company, knowing who would play
each part, and generally he would play the lead role.

 Considered one of Moliere’s most controversial and

masterful plays
 The Society of the Holy Sacrament, a French church
 Title character pretends to minister to the family’s group, found the play immoral and offensive
religious and moral needs.
 King banned it from being performed.
 He is exposed by the end of the play as a imposter,
 In 1669, the restructuring of the French church
womanizer, and scammer.
caused The Society to dissolve, and the ban on
Tartuffe was lifted.

 Theatrical myth has it that Molière died onstage

during a performance of The Imaginary Invalid, while
playing the title role.
 Molière actually made it through the performance;
 Afterward, he began hemorrhaging from tuberculosis
contracted years earlier
 He died several hours later on February 17, 1673.
 Originally denied burial by the Catholic clergy
 King interceded – Moliere was buried, at night, at the
Cemetery Saint Joseph