Molière, 1622-1673

Biographical note

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, also known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature. Among Molière's best-known dramas are Le Misanthrope, (The Misanthrope), L'école des femmes (The School for Wives), Tartuffe ou l'Imposteur, (Tartuffe or the Hypocrite), L'Avare ou l'École du mensonge (The Miser), Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid), and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (The Bourgeois Gentleman). Thirteen years as an itinerant actor helped him polish his comic abilities whilst he also began writing, combining Commedia dell'Arte elements with the more refined French comedy. He found success among the Parisians with plays such as Les Précieuses ridicules (The Affected Ladies), L'École des maris (The School for Husbands) and L'École des femmes (The School for Wives). Royal favour brought a royal pension to his troupe and the title "Troupe du Roi" (The King's Troupe). Molière continued as the official author of court entertainments.

Though he received the adulation of the court and Parisians, Molière's satires attracted criticisms from moralists and the Church. Tartuffe ou l'Imposteur (Tartuffe or the Hypocrite) and its attack on religious hypocrisy roundly received condemnations from the Church while Don Juan was banned from performance.

Molière's hard work in so many theatrical capacities began to take its toll on his health and, by 1667, he was forced to take a break from the stage. In 1673, during a production of his final play, Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid), Molière, who suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis, was seized by a coughing fit and a haemorrhage while playing the hypochondriac Argan. He finished the performance but collapsed again and died a few hours later. In his time in Paris, Molière had completely reformed French comedy.

Works

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