The Life of Moliere. Steve Wood TCCC. The Greatest French Playwright. 1622. Moliere is born as Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. His father is a successful upholsterer in Paris. He is baptized on January 15. 1631.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.