Jean-Baptiste Poquelin
a.k.a. Molière
( 1622-1673)

Quick Overview

Molière: pronunciation: [molyair] the pseudonym of Jean Baptiste Poquelin (1622--73)
Playwright, born in Paris. He studied with the Jesuits at the Collège de Clermont. In 1643 he embarked on a theatrical venture under the title of L'Illustre Théâtre, which lasted for over three years in Paris. The company then proceeded to the provinces, and had sufficient success to keep going from 1646 to 1658, obtaining the patronage of Philippe d'Orléans. In 1658 he played before the king, and organized a regular theatre. From the publication of Les Précieuses ridicules (1659, trans The Affected Young Ladies), no year passed without at least one major dramatic achievement, such as L'Ecole des femmes (1622, The School for Wives), Tartuffe (1664), Le Misanthrope (1666, The Misanthropist), and Le Bourgeois  Gentilhomme

This entry about  Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) (1622-1673) come from the Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia.  Proveded on the web by. . .


His Life

Links

http://www.2020site.org/moliere/index.html=20

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moli%C3%A8re

http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc35.html=20

http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Theatre/Moliere/moliere.shtml=20

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/moliere.htm=20

http://www.theatredatabase.com/17th_century/moliere_001.html

http://www.theatrehistory.com/french/moliere006.html 

His Works

Links

La page Molière - hypertexts, biographie, articles. (Sadly, a lot of dead ends)

The follwoing information was drawn from the Encyclopedia Britanica On-Line

His Life

Although the sacred and secular authorities of 17th-century France often combined against him, the comic genius of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known as Molière, emerged finally to win him eventual acclaim as the greatest of all French writers. Comedy had a long history before Molière, who employed most of its traditional forms, but he succeeded in inventing a new style that was based on a double vision of normal and abnormal seen in relation to each other--the comedy of the true opposed to the specious, the  intelligent seen alongside the pedantic. An actor himself, Molière seems  to have been incapable of visualizing any situation without animating and dramatizing it, often beyond the limits of probability; though living in an age of reason, his own good sense led him not to proselytize but rather to animate the absurd, as in such masterpieces as Tartuffe, L'École des femmes, Le Misanthrope, and many others. It is testimony to the freshness of his vision that the greatest comic artists working centuries  later in other media, such as Charlie Chaplin, are still compared to Molière.

"Molière" Britannica Online.
<http://www.eb.com:180/cgi-bin/g?DocF=macro/5004/30.html>
[Accessed 27 April 1998].



Beginnings in theatre.

                   Molière was born (and died) in the heart of Paris. The registers showed
                   that he was baptized on January 15, 1622, as Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. His
                   mother died when he was 10 years old; his father, one of the appointed
                   furnishers of the royal household, gave him a good education at the Collège
                   de Clermont (the school that, as the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, was to train so
                   many brilliant Frenchmen, including Voltaire). Although his father clearly
                   intended him to take over his royal appointment, the young man renounced
                   it in 1643, apparently determined to break with tradition and seek a living
                   on the stage. That year he joined with nine others to produce and play
                   comedy as a company under the name of the Illustre-Théâtre. His stage
                   name, Molière, is first found in a document dated June 28, 1644. He was
                   to give himself entirely to the theatre for 30 years and to die exhausted at
                   the age of 51.

                   A talented actress, Madeleine Béjart, persuaded Molière to establish a
                   theatre, but she could not keep the young company alive and solvent. In
                   1645 Molière was twice sent to prison for debts on the building and
                   properties. The number of theatregoers in 17th-century Paris was small,
                   and the city already had two established theatres, so that a continued
                   existence must have seemed impossible to a young company. From the end
                   of 1645, for no fewer than 13 years, the troupe sought a living touring the
                   provinces. No history of these years is possible, though municipal registers
                   and church records show the company emerging here and there: in Nantes
                   in 1648, in Toulouse in 1649, and so on. They were in Lyon intermittently
                   from the end of 1652 to the summer of 1655 and again in 1657, at
                   Montpellier in 1654 and 1655, and at Béziers in 1656. Clearly they had their
                   ups as well as downs. These unchronicled years must have been of crucial
                   importance to Molière's career, forming as they did a rigorous
                   apprenticeship to his later work as actor-manager and teaching him how to
                   deal with authors, colleagues, audiences, and authorities. His rapid success
                   and persistence against opposition when he finally got back to Paris is
                   inexplicable without these years of training. His first two known plays date
                   from this time: L'Étourdi ou les contretemps (The Blunderer, 1762),
                   performed at Lyon in 1655, and Le Dépit amoureux (The Amorous
                   Quarrel , 1762), performed at Béziers in 1656.
 
 
 

                   The path to fame opened for him on the afternoon of October 24, 1658,
                   when, in the guardroom of the Louvre and on an improvised stage, the
                   company presented Corneille's Nicomède before the king, Louis XIV, and
                   followed it with what Molière described as one of those little
                   entertainments which had won him some reputation with provincial
                   audiences. This was Le Docteur amoureux ("The Amorous Doctor");
                   whether it was in the form still extant is doubtful. It apparently was a
                   success and secured the favour of the King's brother Philippe, duc
                   d'Orléans. It is difficult to know the extent of the Duc's patronage, which
                   lasted seven years, until the King himself took over the company known as
                   "Troupe du roi." No doubt the company gained a certain celebrity and
                   prestige, invitations to great houses, and subsidies (usually unpaid) to
                   actors, but not much more.
 
 
 

                   From the time of his return to Paris in 1658, all the reliable facts about
                   Molière's life have to do with his activity as author, actor, and manager.
                   Some French biographers have done their best to read his personal life into
                   his works, but at the cost of misconstruing what might have happened as
                   what did happen. The truth is that there is little information except legend
                   and satire. The fact that authors like Montaigne, Plutarch, Julius Caesar,
                   and Seneca may have been in his library (according to a legal inventory of
                   1708), for example, does not mean that his plays should be read with the
                   doctrines of such authors in mind.
 
 
 

                   Although unquestionably a great writer, Molière was not an author in the
                   usual sense: he wrote little that could be called literature or even that was
                   meant to be published--some poems and a translation of the ancient Latin
                   writings of Lucretius, incomplete. His plays were made for the stage, and
                   his early prefaces complain that he had to publish to avoid exploitation.
                   (Two of them were in fact pirated.) He left seven of his plays unpublished,
                   never issued any collected edition, and never (so far as is known) read
                   proofs or took care with his text. Comedies, in his view, were made to be
                   acted. This fact was forgotten in the 19th century. It took such
                   20th-century actors as Louis Jouvet, Charles Dullin, Jean-Louis Barrault,
                   and Jean Vilar to present a new and exact sense of his dramatic genius.
 
 
 

                   Nor was he at all a classical author, with leisure to plan and write as he
                   would. Competition, the fight for existence, was the keynote of Molière's
                   whole career. To keep his actors and his audiences was an unremitting
                   struggle against other theatres. He won this contest almost single-handed.
                   He held his company together by his technical competence and force of
                   personality.
 
 
 

                   Molière's first Paris play, Les Précieuses ridicules (The Affected Young
                   Ladies), prefigured what was to come. It centres on two provincial girls
                   who are exposed by valets masquerading as masters in scenes that
                   contrast, on the one hand, the girls' desire for elegance coupled with a lack
                   of common sense and, on the other, the valets' plain speech seasoned with
                   cultural clichés. The girls' fatuities, which they consider the height of wit,
                   suggest their warped view of culture in which material things are of no
                   account. The fun at the expense of these affected people is still refreshing
                   and must have been even more so for the first spectators.
 
 
 

                   Les Précieuses, as well as Sganarelle (first performed in October, 1660),
                   probably had its premiere at the Théâtre du Petit-Bourbon, a great house
                   adjacent to the Louvre. The Petit-Bourbon was demolished (apparently
                   without notice), and the company moved early in 1661 to a hall in the
                   Palais-Royal, built as a theatre by Richelieu. Here it was that all Molière's
                   "Paris" plays were staged, starting with Dom Garcie de Navarre, ou le
                   prince jaloux in February 1661, a heroic comedy of which much was
                   hoped; it failed on the stage and succeeded only in inspiring Molière to
                   work on Le Misanthrope. Such failures were rare and eclipsed by
                   successes greater than the Paris theatre had known.
 
 
 

                   Scandals and successes.
 
 
 

                   The first night of L'École des femmes (The School for Wives), December
                   26, 1662, caused a scandal as if people suspected that here was an
                   emergence of a comic genius that regarded nothing as sacrosanct. Some
                   good judges have thought this to be Molière's masterpiece, as pure
                   comedy as he ever attained. Based on Paul Scarron's version (La
                   Précaution inutile, 1655) of a Spanish story, it presents a pedant,
                   Arnolphe, who is so frightened of femininity that he decides to marry a girl
                   entirely unacquainted with the ways of the world. The delicate portrayal in
                   this girl of an awakening temperament, all the stronger for its absence of
                   convention, is a marvel of comedy. Molière crowns his fantasy by
                   showing his pedant falling in love with her, and his elephantine gropings
                   toward lovers' talk are both his punishment and the audience's delight.
 
 
 

                   From 1662 onward the Palais-Royal theatre was shared by Italian actors,
                   each company taking three playing days in each week. Molière also
                   wrote plays that were privately commissioned and thus first performed
                   elsewhere: Les Fâcheux (The Impertinents, 1732) at Vaux in August
                   1661; the first version of Tartuffe at Versailles in 1664; Le Bourgeois
                   Gentilhomme at Chambord in 1670; and Psyché in the Tuileries Palace in
                   1671.
 
 
 

                   On February 20, 1662, Molière married Armande Béjart. It is not certain
                   whether she was Madeleine's sister, as the documents state, or her
                   daughter, as some contemporaries suggest. There were three children of
                   the marriage; only a daughter survived to maturity. It was not a happy
                   marriage; flirtations of Armande are indicated in hostile pamphlets, but
                   there is almost no reliable information.
 
 
 

                   Molière cleverly turned the outcry produced by L'École des femmes to
                   the credit of the company by replying to his critics on the stage. La
                   Critique de L'École des femmes in June 1663 and L'Impromptu de
                   Versailles in October were both single-act discussion plays. In La
                   Critique Molière allowed himself to express some principles of his new
                   style of comedy, and in the other play he made theatre history by
                   reproducing with astonishing realism the actual greenroom, or actors'
                   lounge, of the company and the backchat involved in rehearsal.
 
 
 

                   The quarrel of L'École des femmes was itself outrun in violence and
                   scandal by the presentation of the first version of Tartuffe in May 1664.
                   The history of this great play sheds much light on the conditions in which
                   Molière had to work and bears a quite remarkable testimony to his
                   persistence and capacity to show fight. He had to wait five years and risk
                   the livelihood of his actors before his reward, which proved to be the
                   greatest success of his career. Most men would surely have given up the
                   struggle: from the time of the first performance of what was probably the
                   first three acts of the play as it is now known, many must have feared that
                   the Roman Catholic Church would never allow its public performance.
                   (see also Index: "Imposter, The," )
 
 
 

                   Undeterred, Molière made matters worse by staging a version of Dom
                   Juan, ou le festin de Pierre with a spectacular ending in which an atheist
                   is committed to hell--but only after he had amused and scandalized the
                   audience. Dom Juan was meant to be a quick money raiser, but it was a
                   costly failure, mysteriously removed after 15 performances and never
                   performed again or published by Molière. It is a priceless example of his
                   art. The central character, Dom Juan, carries the aristocratic principle to
                   its extreme by disclaiming all types of obligation, either to parents or
                   doctors or tradesmen or God. Yet he assumes that others will fulfill their
                   obligations to him. His servant, Sganarelle, is imagined as his opposite in
                   every point, earthy, timorous, superstitious. These two form the perfect
                   French counterpart to Don Quixote and Sancho.
 
 
 

                   Harassment by the authorities.
 
 
 

                   While engaged in his battles against the authorities, Molière continued to
                   hold his company together single-handedly. He made up for lack of authors
                   by writing more plays himself. He could never be sure either of actors or
                   authors. In 1664 he put on the first play of Jean Racine, La Thébaïde, but
                   the next year Racine transferred his second play, Alexandre le Grand, to
                   a longer established theatre while Molière's actors were actually
                   performing it. He was constantly harassed by the authorities. These
                   setbacks may have been offset in part by the royal favour conferred upon
                   Molière, but royal favour was capricious. Pensions were often promised
                   and not paid. The court wanted more light plays than great works. The
                   receipts of his theatre were uncertain and fluctuating. In his 14 years in
                   Paris, Molière wrote 31 of the 95 plays that were presented on his stage.
                   To meet the cumulative misfortunes of his own illness, the closing of the
                   theatre for seven weeks upon the death of the Queen Mother, and the
                   proscription of Tartuffe and Dom Juan, he wrote five plays in one season
                   (1666-67). Of the five, only one, Le Médecin malgré lui (The Doctor in
                   Spite of Himself, 1914), was a success. (see also Index: "Thébaïde ou les
                   frères ennemis, La")
 
 
 

                   In the preceding season, however, Le Misanthrope, almost from the start,
                   was treated as a masterpiece by discerning playgoers, if not by the entire
                   public. It is a drawing-room comedy, without known sources, constructed
                   from the elements of Molière's own company. Molière himself played
                   the role of Alceste, a fool of a new kind, with high principles and rigid
                   standards, yet by nature a blind critic of everybody else. Alceste is in love
                   with Célimène (played by Molière's wife, Armande), a superb comic
                   creation, equal to any and every occasion, the incarnate spirit of society.
                   The structure of the play is as simple as it is poetic. Alceste storms
                   moodily through the play, finding no "honest" men to agree with him,
                   always ready to see the mote in another's eye, blind to the beam in his
                   own, as ignorant of his real nature as a Tartuffe.
 
 
 

                   The church nearly won its battle against Molière: it prevented public
                   performance, both of Tartuffe for five years and of Dom Juan for the
                   whole of Molière's life. A five-act version of Tartuffe was played in
                   1667, but once only: it was banned by the President of Police and by the
                   Archbishop on pain of excommunication. Molière's reply was to lobby the
                   King repeatedly, even in a military camp, and to publish a defense of his
                   play called Lettre sur la comédie de l'Imposteur. He kept his company
                   together through 1668 with Amphitryon (January 13), George Dandin
                   (Versailles, July 18), and L'Avare (September 9). Sooner or later so
                   original an author of comedy as Molière was bound to attempt a modern
                   sketch of the ancient comic figure of the miser. The last of his three 1668
                   plays, L'Avare, is composed in prose that reads like verse; the stock
                   situations are all recast, but the spirit is different from Molière's other
                   works and not to everyone's taste. His miser is a living paradox, inhuman in
                   his worship of money, all too human in his need of respect and affection. In
                   breathtaking scenes his mania is made to suggest cruelty, pathological
                   loneliness, even insanity. The play is too stark for those who expect
                   laughter from comedy; Goethe started the dubious fashion of calling it
                   tragic. Yet, as before, forces of mind and will are made to serve inhuman
                   ends and are opposed by instinct and a very "human" nature. The basic
                   comic suggestion is one of absurdity and incongruity rather than of gaiety.
                   (see also Index: "Avare, L' ," )
 
 
 

                   His second play of 1668, George Dandin, often dismissed as a farce, may
                   be one of Molière's greatest creations. It centres on a fool, who admits
                   his folly while suggesting that wisdom would not help him because, if things
                   in fact go against us, it is pointless to be wise. As it happens he is in the
                   right, but he can never prove it. The subject of the play is trivial, the
                   suggestion is limitless; it sketches a new range of comedy altogether. In
                   1669, permission was somehow obtained, and the long run of Tartuffe at
                   last began. More than 60 performances were given that year alone. The
                   theme for this play, which brought Molière more trouble than any other,
                   may have come to him when a local hypocrite seduced his landlady. Of the
                   three versions of the play, only the last has survived; the first (presented in
                   three acts played before the King in 1664) probably portrayed a pious
                   crook so firmly established in a bourgeois household that the master
                   promises him his daughter and disinherits his son. At the time it was
                   common for lay directors of conscience to be placed in families to reprove
                   and reform conduct. When this "holy" man is caught making love to his
                   employer's wife, he recovers by masterly self-reproach and persuades the
                   master not only to pardon him but also to urge him to see as much of his
                   wife as possible. Molière must have seen even greater comic possibilities
                   in this theme, for he made five acts out of it. The final version contains two
                   seduction scenes and a shift of interest to the comic paradox in Tartuffe
                   himself, posing as an inhuman ascetic while by nature he is an
                   all-too-human lecher. It is difficult to think of a theme more likely to offend
                   pious minds. Like Arnolphe in L'École des femmes, Tartuffe seems to
                   have come to grief because he trusted in wit and forgot instinct.
 

Last plays.

                   The struggle over Tartuffe probably exhausted Molière to the point that
                   he was unable to stave off repeated illness and supply new plays; he had,
                   in fact, just four years more to live. Yet he produced in 1669 Monsieur de
                   Pourceaugnac for the King at Chambord and in 1670 Le Bourgeois
                   Gentilhomme.

                   Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme treated a contemporary theme--social
                   climbing among the bourgeois, or upper middle class--but it is perhaps the
                   least dated of all his comedies. The protagonist Jourdain, rather than being
                   an unpleasant sycophant, is as delightful as he is fatuous, as genuine as he
                   is naïve; his folly is embedded in a bountiful disposition, which he of course
                   despises. This is comedy in Molière's happiest vein: the fatuity of the
                   masculine master is offset by the common sense of wife and servant.

                   Continuing to write despite his illness, he produced Psyché and Les
                   Fourberies de Scapin (The Cheats of Scapin, 1677) in 1671. Les
                   Femmes savantes (The Blue-Stockings, 1927) followed in 1672; in
                   rougher hands this subject would have been (as some have thought it) a
                   satire on bluestockings, but Molière has imagined a sensible bourgeois
                   who goes in fear of his masterful and learned wife. Le Malade
                   imaginaire (first performed 1673; Eng. trans., The Imaginary Invalid),
                   about a hypochondriac who fears death and doctors, was Molière's last
                   play. It is a powerful play in its delineation of medical jargon and
                   professionalism, in the fatuity of a would-be doctor with learning and no
                   sense, in the normality of the young and sensible lovers, as opposed to the
                   superstition, greed, and charlatanry of other characters. During the fourth
                   performance of the play, on February 17, 1673, Molière collapsed on
                   stage and was carried back to his house in the rue de Richelieu to die. As
                   he had not been given the sacraments or the opportunity of formally
                   renouncing the actor's profession, he was buried without ceremony and
                   after sunset on February 21.
 

Molière as actor and as playwright.

                   Molière's acting had been both his disappointment and his glory. He
                   aspired to be a tragic actor, but contemporary taste was against him. His
                   public seemed to favour a tragic style that was pompous, with ranting and
                   roaring, strutting and chanting. Molière had the build, the elasticity, the
                   india-rubber face, as it has been called, of the born comedian. Offstage he
                   was neither a great talker nor particularly merry, but he would mime and
                   copy speech to the life. He had the tireless energy of the actor. He was
                   always ready to make a scene out of an incident, to put himself on a stage.
                   He gave one of his characters his own cough and another his own moods,
                   and he made a play out of actual rehearsals. The characters of his greatest
                   plays are like the members of his company. It was quite appropriate that
                   he should die while playing the part of the sick man that he really was.

                   The actor in him influenced his writing, since he wrote (at speed) what he
                   could most naturally act. He gave himself choleric parts, servants' parts, a
                   henpecked husband, a foolish bourgeois, and a superstitious old man who
                   cursed "that fellow Molière." (The comparison with Charlie Chaplin
                   recurs constantly.) Something more than animal energy and a talent for
                   mime was at work in him, a quality that can only be called intensity of
                   dramatic vision. Here again actors have helped to recover an aspect of his
                   genius that the scholars had missed, his stage violence. To take his plays as
                   arguments in favour of reason is to miss their vitality. His sense of reason
                   leads him to animate the absurd. His characters are imagined as excitable
                   and excited to the point of incoherence. He sacrifices plot to drama,
                   vivacity, a sense of life. He is a classical writer, yet he is ready to defy all
                   rules of writing.

                   To think of Molière as a cool apostle of reason, sharing the views of the
                   more rational men of his plays, is a heresy that dies hard; but careful
                   scrutiny of the milieu in which Molière had to work makes it impossible to
                   believe. The comedies are not sermons; such doctrine as may be extracted
                   from them is incidental and at the opposite pole from didacticism. Ideas are
                   expressed to please a public, not to propagate the author's view. If asked
                   what he thought of hypocrisy or atheism, he would have marvelled at the
                   question and evaded it with the observation that the theatre is not the place
                   for "views." There is no documentary evidence that Molière ever tried to
                   convey his own opinions on marriage, on the church, on hell, or on class
                   distinctions. Strictly speaking, his views of these things are unknown. All
                   that is known is that he worked for and in the theatre and used his amazing
                   power of dramatic suggestion to vivify any imagined scene. If he has left a
                   sympathetic picture of an atheist, it was not to recommend free thought: his
                   picture of the earthy serving man is no less vivid, no less sympathetic.
                   Scholars who have tried to make his plays prove things or to convey
                   lessons have made little sense of his work and have been blind to its
                   inherent fantasy and imaginative power.

                   Since the power of Molière's writing seems to lie in its creative vigour of
                   language, the traditional divisions of his works into comedies of manners,
                   comedies of character, and farce are not helpful: he does not appear to
                   have set out in any instance to write a certain kind of play. He starts from
                   an occasion in Le Mariage forcé (1664; The Forced Marriage, 1762)
                   from doubts about marriage expressed by Rabelais's character Panurge,
                   and in Le Médecin malgré lui he starts from a medieval fable, or fabliau,
                   of a woodcutter who, to avoid a beating, pretends he is a doctor. On such
                   skeleton themes Molière animates figures or arranges discussion in which
                   one character exposes another or the roles are first expressed and then
                   reversed. It is intellectual rhythm rather than what happens, the discussion
                   more than the story, that conveys the charm, so that to recount the plot
                   may be to omit the essential.

His unique sense of the comic.

                   The attacks on Molière gave him the chance in his responses to state
                   some aesthetic home truths. Thus, in La Critique de L'École des femmes,
                   he states that tragedy might be heroic, but comedy must hold the mirror up
                   to nature: "You haven't achieved anything in comedy unless your portraits
                   can be seen to be living types . . . making decent people laugh is a strange
                   business." And as for the rules that some were anxious to impose on
                   writers: "I wonder if the golden rule is not to give pleasure and if a
                   successful play is not on the right track." (see also Index: art, philosophy
                   of, humour)

                   The attacks on L'École des femmes were child's play in comparison with
                   the storm raised by Tartuffe and Dom Juan. The attacks on them also
                   drew from the poet a valuable statement of artistic principle. On Dom
                   Juan he made no public reply since it was never officially condemned. The
                   documents in defense of Tartuffe are two placets, or petitions, to the King,
                   the preface to the first edition of 1669 (all these published over Molière's
                   own name), and the Lettre sur la comédie de l'Imposteur of 1667. The
                   placets and preface are aesthetically disappointing, since Molière was
                   forced to fight on ground chosen by his opponents and to admit that
                   comedy must be didactic. (There is no other evidence that Molière
                   thought this, so it is not unfair to assume that he used the argument only
                   when forced.) The Lettre is much more important. It expresses in a few
                   pregnant lines the aesthetic basis not only of Tartuffe but of Molière's
                   new concept of comedy:

                        The comic is the outward and visible form that nature's
                        bounty has attached to everything unreasonable, so that we
                        should see, and avoid, it. To know the comic we must know
                        the rational, of which it denotes the absence and we must see
                        wherein the rational consists . . . incongruity is the heart of
                        the comic . . . it follows that all lying, disguise, cheating,
                        dissimulation, all outward show different from the reality, all
                        contradiction in fact between actions that proceed from a
                        single source, all this is in essence comic.

                   Molière seems here to put his finger on what was new in his notion of
                   what is comic: a comedy, only incidentally funny, that is based on a
                   constant double vision of wise and foolish, right and wrong seen together,
                   side by side. This is his invention and his glory.

                   A main feature of Molière's technique is a mixing of registers, or of
                   contexts. Characters are made to play a part, then forget it, speak out of
                   turn, overplay their role, so that those who watch this byplay constantly
                   have the suggestion of mixed registers. The starting point of Le Médecin
                   malgré lui, the idea of beating a man to make him pretend he is a doctor,
                   is certainly not subtle, but Molière plays with the idea, makes his
                   woodcutter enjoy his new experience, master the jargon, and then not
                   know what to do with it. He utters inanities about Hippocrates, is overjoyed
                   to find a patient ignorant of Latin, so that he need not bother about
                   meaning. He looks for the heart on the wrong side and, undeterred by
                   having his error recognized, sweeps aside the protest with the immortal:
                   "We have changed all that." The miser robbed of his money is pathetic, but
                   he does not arouse emotions because his language leads him to the absurd
                   " . . . it's all over . . . I'm dying, I'm dead, I'm buried." He demands justice
                   with such intemperance that his language exceeds all reason and he
                   threatens to put the courts in the court. Molière's Misanthrope is even
                   more suggestive in his confusion of justice as an ideal and as a social
                   institution: "I have justice on my side and I lose my case!" What to him is a
                   scandal of world order is to others just proof that he is wrongheaded. Such
                   concision does Molière's dramatic speech achieve.
 
 
 

                   A French genius.
 

                   When Voltaire described Molière as "the painter of France," he suggested
                   the range of French attitudes found in the plays, and this may explain why
                   the French have developed a proprietary interest in a writer whom they
                   seem to regard in a special sense as their own. They stress aspects of his
                   work that others tend to overlook. Three of these are noteworthy.

                   First, formality permeates all his works. He never gives realism--life as it
                   is--alone, but always within a pattern and a form that fuse light and
                   movement, music and dance and speech. Modern productions that omit the
                   interludes in his plays stray far from the original effect. Characters are
                   grouped, scenes and even speeches are arranged, comic repartee is
                   rounded off in defiance of realism.

                  Second, the French stress the poetry where foreigners see psychology.
                   They take the plays not as studies of social mania but as patterns of
                   fantasy that take up ideas, only to drop them when a point has been made.
                   Le Misanthrope is not considered as a case study or a French Hamlet but
                   as a subtly arranged chorus of voices and attitudes that convey a critique
                   of individualism. The play charms by its successive evocations of its
                   central theme. The tendency to speak one's mind is seen to be many
                   things: idealistic or backbiting or rude or spiteful or just fatuous. It is in this
                   fantasy playing on the mystery of self-centredness in society that Molière
                   is in the eyes of his own people unsurpassed.

                  A third quality admired in France is his intellectual penetration in
                   distinguishing the parts of a man from the whole man. Montaigne, the
                   16th-century essayist who deeply influenced Molière, divided qualities
                   that are acquired, such as learning or politeness or skills, from those that
                   are natural, such as humanity or animality, what might be called "human
                   nature" without other attributes. Molière delighted in opposing his
                   characters in this way; often in his plays a social veneer peels off,
                   revealing a real man. Many of his dialogues start with politeness and end in
                   open insults.

                   Molière opposed wit to nature in many forms. His comedy embraces
                   things within the mind and beyond it; reason and fact seldom meet. As the
                   beaten servant in Amphitryon observes: "That conflicts with common
                   sense. But it is so, for all that." (W.G.Mo./Ed.)

"Molière" Britannica Online.
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[Accessed 27 April 1998].

MAJOR WORKS

Les Précieuses ridicules (first performed 1659, published 1660; trans. by B.H. Clark, The Affected Young Ladies, 1915); L'École des femmes (1663; trans. by the Earl of Longford, The School for Wives, 1948; and by M. Malleson, 1954); Le Tartuffe, ou l'imposteur (first version 1664, present version 1669; trans. by M. Malleson, The Imposter, 1950); DomJuan, ou le festin de Pierre (1665; trans. by J. Ozell as Don John; or, The Libertine, 1665 and rev. and augmented by O. Mandell, 1963); Le Misanthrope (first performed 1666, 1667; adapted by W. Wycherly, The Plain-Dealer, 1677; trans. by M. Malleson, 1955); L'Avare (1669; trans.
                   by H. Fielding as The Miser, 1733; by M. Malleson, 1950; and by K.
                   Cartledge, 1962, with the same title); Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (1670;
                   trans. by M. Malleson, The Prodigious Snob, 1952); Les Femmes
                   savantes (1672; trans. by V. Beringer and M. Down, The
                   Blue-Stockings, 1927); Le Malade imaginaire (1674; trans. as The
                   Imaginary Invalid by B.H. Clark, 1925; by M. Malleson, 1959; and B.
                   Briscoe, 1967; and as The Hypochondriac by H. Baker and J. Miller,
                   1961).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Editions:

                   Collected editions of Molière's works include those by C. VARLET DE
                   LA GRANGE, 8 vol. (1682); by M.A. JOLLY, 6 vol. (1734); by EUGÈNE
                   DESPOIS and PAUL MESNARD in the "Grands Écrivains de la France
                   Series," 13 vol. (1873-1900); by RENÉ BRAY in the "Belles Lettres
                   Series," 8 vol. (1935-52); by GUSTAVE MICHAUT, 11 vol. (1949); by
                   ROBERT JOUANNY in the "Garnier Series," 2 vol. (1962); and by
                   GEORGES COUTON in the "Pléiade Series," 2 vol. (1971). Among
                   editions of particular plays those of L'Avare by CHARLES DULLIN
                   (1946), of Le Malade imaginaire by PIERRE VALDE (1946), of
                   Tartuffe by FERNAND LEDOUX (1953), and of Le Misanthrope by
                   GUSTAVE RUDLER (1947) deserve special mention.

Biography:

                   Earlier literature is superseded by GUSTAVE MICHAUT, La Jeunesse
                   de Molière (1922, reprinted 1968), Les Débuts de Molière à Paris (1923,
                   reissued 1968), and Les Luttes de Molière (1925, reissued 1968). See also
                   JOHN L. PALMER, Molière: His Life and Works (1930, reprinted
                   1970); GUSTAVE MICHAUT (ed.), Molière: raconté par ceux qui
                   l'ont vu (1932); GEORGES MONGRÉDIEN, La Vie privée de Molière
                   (1950); GERTRUD MANDER, Moliere (1973; originally published in
                   German, 1967); and RENÉ BRAY, Molière, homme de théâtre, new ed.
                   (1963, reissued 1972). Official documents have been collected in
                   MADELEINE JURGENS and ELIZABETH MAXFIELD-MILLER,
                   Cent Ans de recherches sur Molière, sur sa famille et sur les
                   comédiens de sa troupe (1963).
 
 

Theatrical history:
 

                   HENRY C. LANCASTER, A History of French Dramatic Literature in
                   the Seventeenth Century, pt. 3 (1936, reprinted 1966); ANTOINE
                   ADAM, Historie de la littérature française au XVIIe siècle, vol. 3
                   (1956); PIERRE MÉLÈSE, Le Théâtre et le public à Paris sous Louis
                   XIV (1934, reprinted 1976); THEODORE VAN VREE, Les Pamphlets et
                   libelles littéraires contre Molière (1933); and BURT E. and GRACE P.
                   YOUNG (eds.), Le Registre de La Grange, 2 vol. (1947, reprinted 1977).
                   On particular plays, see ANTOINE ADAM, "La Genèse des 'Précieuses
                   ridicules,' " Revue d'histoire de la philosophie et d'histoire générale da
                   le civilisation, 14-16 (January-March 1939); JACQUES ARNAVON, Le
                   Misanthrope de Molière (1930, reprinted 1970), and L'École des femmes
                   de Molière (1936); and RENÉ JASINKI, Molière et le Misanthrope
                   (1951, reissued 1970).

 General criticism:

                   PAUL F. SAINTONGE and R.W. CHRIST, Fifty Years of Molière
                   Studies: A Bibliography, 1892-1941 (1942, reissued 1977); ROGER
                   JOHNSON, EDITHA S. NEUMANN, and GUY T. TRAIL (eds.),
                   Molière and the Commonwealth of Letters (1975), a study that includes
                   Paul Saintonge's "Thirty Years of Molière Studies: A Bibliography,
                   1942-1971"; LAURENCE ROMERO, Molière: Traditions in Criticism,
                   1900-1970 (1974); WILL G. MOORE, Molière: A New Criticism (1949,
                   reprinted 1973); JACQUES GUICHARNAUD, Molière, une aventure
                   théâtrale. Tartuffe, Dom Juan, Le Misanthrope (1963); HAROLD C.
                   KNUTSON, Molière: An Archetypal Approach (1976); and
                   NICHOLAS GRENE, Shakespeare, Jonson, Molière: The Comic
                   Contract (1980), a comparative study.

"Molière: Bibliography" Britannica Online.
<http://www.eb.com:180/cgi-bin/g?DocF=macro/5004/30/1.html>
[Accessed 27 April 1998].