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Saturday, 11 June 2016

Molière

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin was born on January 15, 1622 in Paris, the son of Jean Poquelin, a carpet shop owner and Marie Cressé, the daughter of a prosperous bourgeois family.

As a young person, Jean-Baptiste decided to live an artist's life. At the age of 21, he joined the actress Madeleine Béjart, with whom he had crossed paths before, and founded the Illustre Théâtre with 630 livres.

It was at this time that he began to use the pseudonym Molière, maybe inspired by a small village of the same name in the Midi near Le Vigan. It was also likely that he changed his name to spare his father the shame of having an actor in the family.

Molière became head of the troupe, due in part, perhaps, to his acting prowess, but it soon went bankrupt.
Portrait of Molière painted at Avignon c. 1658, 

After a spell in bankruptcy prison, Molière formed a company of his own, which toured France. It had sufficient success to obtain him the patronage of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans.

After touring the provinces for thirteen years, Molière reached Paris in 1658 and established himself as an actor, dramatist, and manager of his own troupe.

Molière performed in front of  King Louis XIV at the Louvre. The king made Molière responsible for the entertainment at the court of Versailles.

Louis XIV invites Molière to share his supper, illustrated in 1863 painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme

Molière's output from that time until the end of his career ranged from simple farces to elaborate productions including ballets for performance at court.

In 1664, Molière began collaborating with the dancer, choreographer, and composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, whose dominant reign at the Paris Opéra lasted fifteen years. They produced many works that had a major effect on both music and dance.

Despite his own preference for tragedy, Molière became famous for his satirical plays, which were generally in one act and performed after the tragedy. His comedies poked fun at the foibles, fashions and extreme characters of his day. By putting his characters in ridiculous situations, Molière wanted to entertain and educate his audience.

First volume of a 1739 translation into English of all of Molière's plays, printed by John Watts.

Molière was happy to have the king among his friends, as he had many enemies. His satirical plays especially the farce against religious hypocrisy Tartuffe incurred the displeasure of the Roman Catholic Church. (They referred to him as "a demon in human flesh,") The Archbishop of Paris threatened excommunication on any actors who performed Tartuffe or anyone who merely watched it or read it. However Molière claimed not to be mocking faith but to be attacking its misuse. In 1669 King Louis XIV granted permission for Tartuffe to be performed in public, five years after it was banned.

In several of his plays, Molière depicted the physicians of his day as pompous individuals who spoke Latin in order to impress others with false erudition, and know only clysters and bleedings as (ineffective) remedies. His satire against the official sciences Le Médecin malgré lui (A Doctor Despite Himself) (1666), was a particular success.

Molière's last play was Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid). which ridiculed extreme types, such as a miser or a hypochondriac.  As in many of his comedies, Molière played the main role.


Molière suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis and he collapsed in a fit of coughing and hemorrhaging while performing Le Malade imaginaire on February 17, 1673. Molière insisted on completing his performance, but afterwards he collapsed again with another, larger hemorrhage before being taken home, where he died a few hours later.

According to folklore, Moliere was wearing yellow — and because of that there is a superstition that yellow brings bad luck to actors.

Under French law at the time, actors were not allowed to be buried in the sacred ground of a church cemetery. However, Molière's widow, Armande, asked the King if her husband could be granted a normal funeral at night. The King agreed and Molière's body was buried in the part of the cemetery reserved for unbaptized infants.

In 1817 Molière's remains were transferred to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Molière's tomb at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.


Source Compton's Encyclopedia

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