Molière, 1622-1673

Molière

| Category: Neoclassical

Moliere was one of the world's most famous comedy writers. Most of Moliere's family did not approve of actors. They believed them to be a low social class. His father, who was the upholsterer for the king of France, wanted him to study to become a lawyer. But, Molière's grandfather encouraged the youth's interest in the theater. Molière finally gave up his law studies and became an actor. To avoid offending his father and to protect his family from embarrassment he changed his name from Jean-Baptiste Poquelin to Molière.

Moliere was one of the world’s most famous comedy writers. Most of Moliere’s family did not approve of actors. They believed them to be a low social class. His father, who was the upholsterer for the king of France, wanted him to study to become a lawyer. But, Molière’s grandfather encouraged the youth’s interest in the theater. Molière finally gave up his law studies and became an actor. To avoid offending his father and to protect his family from embarrassment he changed his name from Jean-Baptiste Poquelin to Molière.

Molière formed an acting company with members of the Bejart family. The Bejarts were noted actors of the time. It was then that Molière met Madeline Bejart, who was already a famous actress. Molière and Madeline remained friends for the rest of their lives, and Molière later married Madeline’s daughter: Armande. Molière named the company Theater Illustre and soon became its leader.

The company began to perform in Paris, renting indoor tennis courts for their performances. They had a difficult time attracting audiences, and the company soon went bankrupt. Molière was thrown into debtor’s prison until his friends and family paid the debts. Afterward, Molière and the members of the company decided to leave Paris and tour towns in the countryside. During this time Molière was able to refine his acting and play-writing skills. Fifteen years later, the company returned to perform in Paris. This time they were well received and soon became one of the most popular theater groups in France.

Molière became the most famous comedy actor of his time, and the company soon became one of the King’s favorite groups of entertainers. This created jealousy among other actors and playwrights. They started many rumors and tried to discredit Molière and his company. In spite of their attempts, Molière’s plays continued to be popular with members of the king’s court as well as with the common people.

Molière wrote some serious plays but was much more successful with comedles. He wrote some of his plays in rhymed verse and others in prose. His plays made fun of doctors, lawyers, and church officials. Molière’s humor often got him in trouble, but his plays are still funny today. Molière ridiculed many human traits that people still have. He also made fun of how people behaved in everyday life. Molière’s most popular plays include The Imaginary Invalid, Tartuffe, The Miser, The Doctor in Spite of Himself, The Misanthrope, The School for Wives, and The School for Husbands.

Molière and his wife continued to perform in their troupe until the time of his death. He died a few hours after performing the main role in The Imaginary Invalid. At first, the church officials denied him burial on church land because of the attacks on the church in his plays. His wife persuaded the king to allow Molière proper burial. A stone in a Paris cemetery memorializes Molière, but many people believe the actual grave site is unknown.

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