Molière: Biography Of The Most Important Author Of The French Great Century


On February 17, 1673, the playwright, actor and stage director Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molièrewas playing one of the characters in one of his best-known creations, The imaginary patient, which was, once again, about the greed and absolute lack of ethics that, in his opinion, doctors possessed. Suddenly, Molière suffers dizziness and collapses, to the astonishment of those present.

Despite the rumors and legends that have spread about the author’s death, Molière did not die on stage, but a few hours later, when he was taken home. He, too, did not die “dressed in yellow,” as theatrical superstition would have it, but he was wearing a nightgown. amaranththat is, pink-purple, which in the Spanish version of the news of his death was translated as yellow.

To talk about Molière is to talk about scandal and mystery Scandalous because his works were always highly controversial, mercilessly portraying the ecclesiastical establishment, the bourgeoisie and the doctors of the time. Mystery, because it is unknown if, truly, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin was the true author of his comedies or if, on the contrary, he would have had the help of a ghostwriter: none other than Corneille himself.

Brief biography of Molière, the most important author of the French Great Century

His theater illuminated the France of Louis XIV, known as the Grand siècle, just as Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) did with his music. Molière is considered the father of the famous Comédie Françaisesince it laid the foundations for what would later be the comedy theater in France.

The Sun King himself protected him and the theater company he directed throughout his life. This, of course, aroused the jealousy and envy of the other theater groups, who began to spread certain hoaxes about his biography that still exist, despite not having any proof in this regard. One of these rumors speaks of Molière marrying his own daughter. The reality is quite morbid (but not that much): his wife was twenty years younger than him and the girl’s mother, Madeleine Béjart, had been Molière’s lover in his youth.

The libertine who scandalized France

And throughout his life, Molière sowed passions and hatred in equal measure. His open character, inclined to hedonism and pleasures, invited us to feel sympathy towards him ; but, on the other hand, his deep animosity towards the ecclesiastical establishment and the irreverent tone of some of his works earned him the persecution of the most conservative wing of France, gathered in the so-called Company of the Holy Sacramentfounded in 1630 and sponsored by none other than the queen mother, Anne of Austria.

You may be interested:  Gregor Mendel: Biography of the Father of Modern Genetics

This ultra-Catholic sector always called him obscene and libertine. He was partly right, since Molière’s life was quite dissipated and he always stayed away from official dogmatism. As a young man, he had belonged to the Epicurean circle of Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655), which also included authors of the stature of Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655) and Charles Coypeau de Assoucy (1605-1677). However, we should not confuse the concept of libertinism of the time with what we can have today; In Molière’s time, it was a European current that promoted the adogmatism and between other things, a moral nihilism and an indifference towards the precepts of the Church

Our “libertine” had come into the world on January 15, 1622, son of the couple Jean Poquelin and Marie Cressé. When the future Molière is only ten years old, his mother dies and he is forced to live with his father in an apartment on rue Saint-Honoré, in Paris. Monsieur Poquelin is a royal upholsterer, and everything indicates that little Jean-Baptiste will follow in his footsteps.

Theater as a vocation

In 1633, Molière entered a Jesuit college, and in 1640 we find him studying law at the University of Orléans. But, Despite graduating in Law and enrolling in college during the first six months, the young man is very clear about his true vocation: theater Consequently, he began to interact with the Béjart family, a family of comedians with whom he formed, in June 1643, a theater company called L’Illustre Théâtre, of which he would become director.

However, at the beginning of the group the director is a woman, Madeleine Béjart, with whom the young man is in love and who, according to testimonies, will end up being his lover and companion until a mature Molière decides to marry Armande, the daughter Madeleine’s (or sister, according to some sources).

The company’s finances are not going well, since the works performed (some written by himself) are hardly successful. The accumulated debts cause our character to be imprisoned in 1645, a prison from which he is saved by the Prince of Conti, who, from 1653 onwards, becomes the protector of Molière and his company. Despite this, successes still do not come; Nothing seems to indicate that this thirty-two-year-old actor, director and playwright could one day establish himself as a playwright.

You may be interested:  Vere Gordon Childe: Biography and Contributions of This Australian Archaeologist

“Molière, Corneille’s masterpiece”

It is precisely this lack of wit in his early comedies that has led many critics to consider the possibility that Molière was not actually the author of his later works, those that garnered so much applause from the public. In 1919, the writer Pierre Louÿs (1870-1925) already pointed out that it could be the playwright Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) who was behind Molière’s creations, and coined the phrase that Molière was “Corneille’s masterpiece.” ”. Later, in the 1950s, the idea was supported by the writer Henri Poulaille (1896-1980) and, in 1990, by the lawyer and playwright Hippolyte Wouters (b. 1934).

Although it may seem far-fetched, it is actually not so far-fetched. There are no known manuscripts of Molière’s works, which is still strange. On the other hand, it is known that both authors met in 1658 in Rouen, and that, from that date, Molière’s creations began to be tremendously successful. Was there an agreement between Jean-Baptiste Poquelin and Pierre Corneille, according to which the latter would play the role of what we would call ghostwriter today? If this was really the case, why did Corneille, a respected playwright, accept such a job?

In the early 2000s, Dominique Labbé, a CERAT researcher, subjected the texts of both authors to a text statistics study. The result was amazing; The lexicon coincided by 75%, which, according to Labbé, could be proof that, indeed, Corneille was the author of the pieces attributed to Molière.

The leap to success

Be that as it may, it is from the meeting between Corneille and Jean-Baptiste in Rouen, in 1658, that he begins a tremendous climb towards success.

First protected by Philip of Orleans, the king’s brother, and later by Louis XIV himself, the man already known as Molière quickly established himself as the most important comedy author of the Great Century French, especially after the premiere of The beautiful ridiculous ones (1659) which has the full acceptance of the Sun King.

Molière’s career is unstoppable. In 1661 he premiered at the Palais Royal The School of the husbands; the following year, The Women’s School, which will have tremendous success and will be branded obscene by the Company of the Holy Sacrament. In the meantime, and to increase his reputation as a libertine and disbeliever, Molière has married Armande Béjart, the daughter of his lover Madeleine, of whom gossip says that she is his own daughter.

You may be interested:  Francisco Suárez: Biography of This Spanish Philosopher

In 1664 one of his great creations arrived: Tartuffe, a stark satire on religion and religious fanatics, which, of course, raised real blisters. The controversy is such that Louis XIV is forced to ban the work, a ban that will not be suspended until five years later. The following year, inspired by The Mocker of Seville by Tirso de Molina, Molière presents Don Juan, which stands as a mockery of his image by criticizing libertine and womanizing men. In 1668, and after a serious relapse of his tuberculosis (which, in the end, would kill him) premieres The miserinspired in Plautus’ pot and which constitutes a corrosive criticism of the bourgeoisie

Where are Molière’s bones?

In 1670, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin touched the sky with his hands, as he became, together with the composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, the “official” provider of entertainment for the king and his court. Few years of happiness remain, however. In 1672, Madeleine, his mother-in-law and former lover, died, and in 1673, the film premiered. The imaginary patienta work that will be his swan song.

We have already commented in the introduction that the playwright died a few hours after collapsing during the performance of this comedy. What we have not yet narrated is the journey that his corpse went through after his death.

The death of the great Molière was mourned by some and celebrated by others. The Church denied his burial on sacred ground ; First, because there was a law by which actors and other people in entertainment, considered people of bad living, could not be buried religiously if they did not renounce their “vile” profession on their deathbed. And the fact was that Molière’s agony had been so rapid that there was no time to administer extreme unction, so the playwright had died a “sinner” in the eyes of the Church.

At least, that’s what the bishop considered it, who flatly refused to bury him. His widow, Armande, appealed to the king and obtained from him the favor of having her husband buried furtively, at night, without any pomp, in the almost abandoned Cemetery of the Innocents in Paris, where children who died without mercy were buried. be baptized

The journey of Molière’s bones does not end here. It seems that the bishop did not give up, and managed to unearth the playwright’s remains and disdainfully throw them into a grave. More than a hundred years later, in 1792, revolutionary compatriots claimed to have found the bones of the great author and moved them to the Père-Lachaise cemetery, where they supposedly rest today. They say that his epitaph reads “Here lies Molière, the king of actors. In these moments he plays the dead and he really does it well.” Genius and figure.