The Life of Moliere Steve Wood TCCC
1622 • Moliere is born as Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. • His father is a successful upholsterer in Paris. • He is baptized on January 15.
1631 • Moliere’s father obtains the position of Court Upholsterer to Louis XIII (pictured to the left)..
1633 • Moliere’s mother, who is very religious, passes away. • Moliere’s father remarries, but his second wife dies after three years.
1638 • Moliere’s father wins the right to pass along his court position to his son. • He also takes charge of setting up the king’s wandering bedroom.
Education • Moliere is educated at a Jesuit college, the College de Clermont. • In 1641, he receives his law degree.
1643 • Moliere leaves school, rejects the legal profession, and his father’s position. • He takes his inheritance and hits the road, intending to enter the acting profession. • The acting profession, at the time, was looked down upon by most of society. It was actually considered a sin by the Catholic Church in France.
1643 • This is also the year that Louis XIV took the throne. Although he would rule with a prime minister until 1666, Louis XIV became a powerful king, whose slightest whim would often determine the success or failure of a playwright.
The Bejart Family • Moliere takes up with a band of actors called the Illustre Theatre. • This troupe included several members of the Bejart family, including a young woman named Madeleine Bejart. • A new member of the Bejart family arrives shortly thereafter, a child who is either Madeleine’s sister or daughter. She is named Armande.
1644 • In January, the Illustre Theatre opens in Paris. For the most part, the company worked out of tennis courts. They do not enjoy great success, and there is some evidence that Moliere was thrown into prison at one point because of the company’s debts. • A contract dated in June of this year is signed by “Moliere.” This is the earliest recorded use of the name. Apparently, this name was used to save the family reputation.
1645-1658 • Because of the company’s debts, they leave Paris in 1645 and begin to tour the countryside. • Moliere begins his career as a playwright with a number of farces. There are two of these short comedies that are extant La Jalousie du Barbouille (The Jealous Husband) (c. 1645) and Le Medecin volant (The Flying Doctor) (c. 1648). The Flying Doctor is known for the first appearance of a recurring character, Sganarelle, and his method of urinalysis. • L’Etourdi (The Blunderer) (either 1653 or 1655) is Moliere’s first major five act comedy.
1658 – Return to Paris • After returning to Paris, Moliere and his company performed for the king for the first time (Oct. 24). They made the mistake of performing a tragedy by another playwright (Corneille). After it bombed, Moliere asked the king for permission to perform another play. • This time they performed Moliere’s Le Doctor Amoreux (The Love-Sick Doctor). It is a great success. The company becomes the official company of the king’s brother. This patronage meant a steady source of income as well as the prestige of having a royal attachment.
1659 • By this time, the Illustre Theatre are performing at the Theatre de Petit-Bourbon. • LaGrange joins the company at this time, working as the Registrar and as an actor. The Registrar was an important member of the company; he kept records of performances, as well as personnel matters.
Moliere’s First Great Satire • In November of 1659, Moliere and his company performed Les Precieuses Ridicules (The Pretentious Ladies, The Ridiculous Precious). • This play mocked the fad of the day, an exaggeration of manners known as preciousity.
Moliere’s First Great Satire • This play brought Moliere and his company success but also made enemies among the rich and powerful. • Those enemies succeeded in shutting down the Theatre de Petit-Bourbon, but the king allowed Moliere and his company to work out of the Palais-Royal Theatre, where they would remain.
1660-1662 • Moliere returned to the farces of his earlier career with Sganarelle in 1660. • In 1661, he wrote the satire l’Ecole des Maris (The School for Husbands). The Palais-Royal today
1660-1662 • In 1662, Moliere and his company put on l’Ecole des Femmes (The School for Wives). Although this play was a great success, it is attacked by a number of groups, including the rival theatres (The Burgoyne and The Theatre du Marais), the church, rival playwrights, and those members of the precious who had been offended by The Pretentious Ladies.
1663 • On February 20, Moliere marries Armande Bejart, the 19 year old sister of Madeleine Bejart.
1664 • In January, Moliere and Armande have a son. Louis XIV is named as the boy’s godfather, but the child dies in November.
Tartuffe 1.0 • In May, Moliere and his company perform Tartuffe before the king in a private performance. Although Louis XIV apparently enjoys the play, he bans it. • A secret society called the Cabal of the Holy Sacrament (formed in 1630) is apparently behind the banning.
1665 • Moliere’s company is adopted by the king. • Dom Juan, a satire about an atheistic seducer, is performed and then banner. • Moliere and Armande have a daughter, but as basically separated by this time.
1666 • One of Moliere’s most successful plays, Le Misanthrope, is performed.
1667 – Tartuffe 2.0 • Tartuffe is presented in a revised form. Many believe this is done when Moliere mistakenly believes the king has given him permission. It is immediately banned again.
1669 – Tartuffe 3.0 • Finally, the king relents, and the version of Tartuffe that we know is performed. There are apparently a number of heavy revisions from the first version of the play in 1664. • The play is a great success and runs for 28 straight performances. • Moliere’s health is beginning to fail.
1669-1672 • Among Moliere’s later success are The Bourgeois Gentleman (1670), Scapin (1671), and The Learned Ladies (1672). • Madeleine Bejart dies in 1672.
1673 • On February 17, Moliere collapses onstage performing in his play The Imaginary Invalid (also known as The Hypochondriac). He dies shortly thereafter. • Priests are summoned, but they refuse to come to give him the last rites. Because his profession is regarded as a sin, he thus dies unshriven, and cannot be buried in holy ground (according to the church). Louis XIV intercedes on his behalf, and Moliere is buried in Cemetery Saint Joseph.