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Molière (1622-1673) - pseudonym of JEAN BAPTISTE POQUELIN

 

French actor and playwright, the greatest of all writers of French comedy. Among Molière's best-known dramas are L'École des femmes (1662, School for Wives), Tartuffe, ou, L'imposteur (1664, Tartuffe, or the Impostor), Le Misanthrope (1666, The Misanthrope), L'Avare (1668, The Miser), and Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (1670, The Bourgeois Gentleman). His masterpieces are those plays in which, attacking hypocrisy and vice, he created characters that have become immortal types, such as the hypochondriac Argan, Tartuffe, the hypocrite, Harpagon, the miser, and Alceste, the misanthrope. Like Shakespeare, Molière was an actor-manager, but his plays were comedies and had happy endings.
"If everyone were clothed with integrity, if every heart were just, frank, kindly, the other virtues would be well-night useless, since their chief purpose is to make us bear with patience the injustice of our fellows." (from Le Misanthrope, 1666)

Molière was born Jean Baptiste Poquelin in Paris. The Poquelins were an old bourgeois family, perhaps originally of Scottish origin. Molière's father was a prosperous upholster, the descendant of a long line of Beauvais tradesmen. Molière's mother died when he was ten. He studied until 1639 with Jesuits at the Collège de Clermont, where he had a strict upbringing. In 1643 he abandoned his social class and family's plans for his future for the theatre. With his friend he founded the Illustre Théâtre. The company members were mostly young and inexperienced, but their aim was to compete with the established theatre companies. 

Located in the less fashionable suburb of St-Germain-des-près, the Illustre Théâtre survived for nearly eighteen months, and eventually moved to the provinces. The theatre had sufficient success and it obtained the patronage of Philippe d'Orléans. Molière worked constantly, writing plays and directing. Moreover, he nearly always acted in the lead role himself. According to an actress, Mlle Poissa, Angélique Du Croisy, who was fifteen when Molière died, he was "neither too fat nor too thin; he was more tall than short, he had a noble bearing and a handsome leg; he walked slowly, gravely, with a very serious air. His nose was large, as was his mouth; he had thick lips, a dark complexion, heavy black brows, the various movements of which made his expression very comical . . . Nature . . .  had refused him those external gifts so necessary to the stage, especially for tragic roles."

After almost fifteen years experience of acting, managing, and writing, Molière returned to Paris. Little is know of his life in the provinces. His translation of Lucretius has been lost. In 1658 Molière performed before the King Louis XIV, and organized a regular theatre under the patronage of the brother of the king. After a difficult start, Molière's plays enjoyed popularity. Later in life Molière concentrated on writing musical comedies, in which the drama is interrupted by songs and dance or a combination of both. In 1662 he married nearly twenty years younger capricious, giddy Armande Béjart, who may have been the illegitimate daughter of his former mistress,  Madeleine Béjart. Armande soon antagonized a number of his friends. The issue of her parentage has never been settled. It has been suggested that she was the daughter of Madeleine and Molière himself.

During his early years in Paris, among Molière's close friends were La Fontaine, Claude Chapelle, and Racine. Molière achieved fame with the prose comedy Les Précieuses ridicules, first performed November 18, 1659 at the Théâtre du Petit-Bourbon. The author himself played successfully the Marquis de Mascarille, actually a disguised servant, and nearly adopted "Mascarille" as a new stage name. He soon had his own theatre, which was competing with Racine´s stage plays. 

The Shool for Wives (1662) is generally regarded as the first of Molière's masterpieces. It poked fun at the limited education that was given to daughters of rich families, and reflected the Molière's own marriage. "It's an odd job, making decent people laugh," says Dorante in La Critique de l'école des femmes. Moliére was among the few contemporary writers who had maintained the connection with the folk poetry of the Middle Ages. His characters were conceived in the French classic tradition, and compared to Shakespeare's individuals. Molière misanthropes, servants, chambermaids, and imaginary invalids were incorporations of single passions and ideas.

"Man, I can assure you, is a nasty creature," wrote Molière in Tartuffe, ou L'imposteur (1664, Tartuffe, or the Impostor), which aroused the wrath of the Jansenists. The play was banned but Molière escaped further punishment thanks to the royal protection – Louis XIV allowed it to be staged. The title characer Tartuffe has been taken to the home of credulous Orgon. He believes with his mother Pernelle that Tartuffe's pious example will be good for the other members of the family. Orgon determines that his daughter Mariane, who loves a young man named Valère, shall marry Tartuffe. Orgon's wife Elmire begs Tartuffe to refuse Mariane's hand, and he attempts to seduce her. Orgon rejects the truth about his guest and signs over his entire property to him. Elmire devises a way to expose the hypocrite Tartuffe to Orgon, whose eyes are opened a little too late. Tartuffe turns the family out of the house, and tries to have his former host arrested. But by the order of the King, the arresting officer apprehends Tartuffe instead, and the impostor is hauled off to prison.

When an outraged theatre-goer stood up during a performance of Sganarelle; ou, le Cocu imaginaire (1660) and declared that he was being libelled, the audience laughed knowing that they all were libelled. Although Moliére mocked the sly peasant and the vain bourgeois, he was careful not to attack the institution of monarchy and the authority of the Church. Art had become an instrument of the government, but Louis XIV himself had not much time to think the artistic significance of his favorite, who enjoyed his protection from the attacks of the court. When the King once heard that Molière was the greatest writer of the century, he replied: "But I never knew that."

Although Moliére mocked the sly peasant and the vain bourgeois, he was careful not to attack the institution of monarchy and the authority of the Church. Art had become an instrument of the government, but Louis XIV himself had not much time to think the artistic significance of his favorite, who enjoyed his protection from the attacks of the court. When the King once heard that Molière was the greatest writer of the century, he replied: "But I never knew that."

In 1664 Louis XIV became the godfather of Molière's first son Louis, who died in November. Molière's friend Racine wrote his play for a rival, older theatre. At this time he started to suffer from bad health, but he remained stubborn in his efforts to get his controversial plays performed. After the disastrous reception of the first three acts of Tartuffe, he wrote its fourth and fifth act. Dom Juan; ou, Le Festin de pierre, finished in 1665 and based on plays of the same title by the actor-writer Dorimont and Claude Villiers, was banned.

In February 17, 1673, Molière collapsed onstage during an early performance of his last play Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid), partly based on his own sad life and illness. He died ten o´clock at the same night. There having been no priest present, he was refused sanctified burial. After Molière's death, the theatre group Comédie Française was formed to promote his work. The publication of a plagiarized version of his play The Affected Ladies in 1659 forced Molière to begin publishing his own plays. As a result his works have survived fairly well, but a mass of legend has accumulated around his personality during centuries.

For further reading: The Life of Molière by H. Trollope (1905); Molière: His Life and His Work by B. Matthews (1910); La jeunesse de Molière by G. Michaut (1922); Molière by J. Palmer (1930); Molière: Sa vie dans ses oeuvres by P. Brisson (1942); New Light on Molière by J. Cairncross (1957); Molière: A New Criticism by W.G. Moore (1962); Men and Masks by L. Grossman (1963); Molière: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. by J. Guicharnaud (1964); History of French Dramatic Literature in the Seventeeth Century by Henry C. Lancaster (1966); Molère by A. Tilley (1968); Molière: Traditions in Criticism, 1900-1970 by E. Romero (1974); From Gesture to Idea by Nathan Gross (1983); The Happy End of Comedy by Zvi Jagendorf (1984); The Life of Monsieur De Molière by Mikhail Bulgakov and Mirra Ginsburg (1986); Molière by Hallam Waller (1990); Molière's Theatrical Bounty by Albert Bermel (1990); Molière: The Theory and Practice of Comedy by Andrew Calder (1993); Rereading Molière by James Patrick Carmody and Jim Carmody (1993); Approaches to Teaching Moliere's Tartuffe and Other Plays, ed. by James F. Gaines and Michael S. Koppisch (1995); Intruders in the Play World: The Dynamics of Gender in Molière's Comedies by Roxanne Decker (1996); La Carriere de Molière by C.E.J. Caldicott (1998); The Public Mirror: Molière and the Social Commerce of Depiction by Larry F. Norman (1999); Molière: A Theatrical Life by Virginia Scott (2000)  - See also: Isaiah Berlin - Suom.: Moliérilta on suomennettu lukuisia muita näytelmiä, mm. Scapinin vehkeilyt, 1901 (suom. Jalmari Finne), Lannistettu aviomies, Oppineita naisia, Väkinäinen naiminen sekä valikoimat Komedioja 1-2.

Selected works:

  • La Jalousie du barbouillé, 1645/50 (attributed to Molière, prod. before 1655)
    - The Jealousy of Le Barbouillé (tr. Charles Heron Wall, in The Dramatic Works of Molière, Vol. 1, 1876-77)
  • Le Médecin volant, 1645/50
    - The Flying Doctor (tr. Charles Heron Wall, in The Dramatic Works of Molière, Vol. 1, 1876-77)
    - Lentävä lääkäri (suom. Raoul af Hällström, 1963)
  • Les Précieuses ridicules, 1660 (prod. 1659)
    - The Affected Ladies (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Moliere, 1714) / The Conceited Young Ladies (tr. Samuel Foote, 1762) / The Affected Misses (tr. Curtis H. Page, 1908) / The Affected Young Ladies (tr. Barrett H. Clark, 1913) / The Precious Damsels (tr. Morris Bishop, in Eight Plays, 1957) /  The Pretentious Young Ladies (tr. Herma Briffault, 1959) / The Ridiculous Précieuses (tr. Donald M. Frame, in Tartuffe and Other Plays, 1967)
    - Sievistelevät hupsut (suom. Otto Manninen, teoksessa Komedioja 2, 1959)
  • Sganarelle; ou, le Cocu imaginaire, 1660 (prod. 1660)
    - The Imaginary Cuckold (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / The Picture (tr. 1745) / Sganarelle (tr. A.R. Waller, in The Plays of Molière, 1926) / Sganarelle or The Imaginary Cuckold (translated by Richard Wilbur, 1993)
  • Dom Garcie de Navarre; ou, le Prince jaloux, 1661 (prod. 1660, in Oeuvres posthumes, 1684)
    - Don García of Navarre (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / Don Garcie de Navarre (tr. A.R. Waller, in The Plays of Molière, 1926)
    - Don Garcia Navarralainen (suom. Esko Elstelä, 1975)
  • L'École des maris, 1661 (prod. 1661)
    - A School for Husbands (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Moliere, 1714) / The School for Husbands (tr. A.R. Waller, in The Plays of Molière, 1926; Richard Wilbur, 1992)
  • Les Fâcheux, 1662 (prod. 1661)
    - The Impertinents (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / The Boors (tr. A.R. Waller, in The Plays of Molière, 1926)
  • L'Étourdi; ou, les Contretemps, 1663 (prod. 1655?)
    - The Blunderers (tr. Samuel Foote, 1762) / The Bungler (tr. Richard Wilbur, 2000) / The Idiot (tr. Ranjin Bolt, 2001)
  • Le Dépit amoureux, 1663 (prod. 1656)
    - The Amorous Quarrel (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / Lovers’ Quarrels (tr. A.R. Waller, in Works, 1926 / The Love Tiff (Frederic Spencer, 1930) / The Lover's Quarrel (tr. Richard Wilbur, 2005)
  • L'Impromptu de Versailles, 1663 (prod., in Oeuvres posthumes, 1684)
    - The Impromptu of Versailles (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / The Versailles Impromptu (tr. Morris Bishop, in Eight Plays by Molière, 1957; Donald M. Frame, in Tartuffe and Other Plays, 1967)
    - Versailles´n impromptu (suom. Helvi Nurminen, 1965)
  • L'École des femmes, 1663 (prod. 1662)
    -  The School for Wives (translators: Donald M. Frame, in Tartuffe and Other Plays, 1967; Richard Wilbur, 1971; Ranjit Bolt, 1994) / Let Wives Tal Tent (tr. Robert Kemp, 1983) / Educating Agnes: A New Adaptation of Moliere’s School for Wives, or, L’Ecole des femmes (adapted by Liz Lochhead, 2008)
    - Naisten koulu (suom. Otto Manninen, 1931) / Vaimojen koulu (suom. Esko Elstelä, 1975)
  • La Critique de l'école des femmes, 1663 (prod. 1663)
    - The School for Women Criticised (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Moliere, 1714) / The Critique of the School for Wives (tr. Morris Bishop, in Eight Plays by Molière, 1957) / The Critique of the School for Wives (tr. Donald M. Frame, in Tartuffe and Other Plays, 1967)
  • Le Mariage forcé, 1664 (prod. 1664)
    - The Forced Marriage (tr. 1762)
    - Väkinäinen naiminen (suom. Aug. Ahlqvist, 1860)
  • Les Plaisirs de l'Ile enchantée, 1664 (prod. 1664)
    - The Pleasures of the Inchanted Island (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Moliere, 1714)
  • L'Amour médecin, 1666 (prod. 1665)
    - The Quacks (tr. 1705) / Doctor Love (tr. 1915) / Love is the Best Doctor (tr. H. Van Laun, in The Dramatic Works of Molière, 1875-1876)
  • Le Misanthrope; ou, l'Atrabilaire amoureux, 1667 (prod. 1666)
    - The Misanthrope (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / The Man-Hater (tr. 1770) / The Misanthrope (translators: Richard Wilbur, 1955; Joachim Neugroschel, 1966; Donald M. Frame, 1968; John Wood, 1959; Tony Harrison, 1973; Martin Crimp, 1996; Maya Slater, 2001)
    - Ihmisvihaaja (suom. Otto Manninen, 1929; Esko Elstelä, 1977; Markku Hoikkala ja Otso Kautto, 2002)
  • Le Médecin malgré lui, 1667 (prod. 1666)
    - The Dumb Lady (tr. 1672) / Love's Contrivance (tr. 1703) / The Forced Physician (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / The Mock Doctor (1732) / The Doctor in Spite of Himself (tr. Barrett H. Clark, 1915;  William-Alan Landes & S.H. Landes, 1998; Timothy Mooney, 2008) / Forced to Be a Doctor (English version by George Gravely, 1956) / A Doctor in Spite of Himself (tr. John Wood, in The Misantrophe and Other Plays, 1959)
    - Lääkäri vastoin tahtoansa (suom. Oskar Vilho, 1899) / Lääkäri vastoin tahtoaan (suom. Maija Lehtonen)
  • La Pastorale Comique, 1667 (prod., music by Lully, in Théâtre, 1888-93)
    - The Comic Pastoral (tr. Henri Van Laun, in The Dramatic Works, Vol. 4, 1875-76)
  • Le Sicilien ou l'Amour peintre, 1668 (prod. 1667)
    - The Sicilian (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / The Sicilian or Love the Painter (tr. John Wood, in The Misantrophe and Other Plays, 1959)
  • Amphitryon, 1668 (prod. 1668)
    - Amphitryon (tr. 1690; other translations: Richard Wilbur, 1995)
    - Amphitryon (suom. Otto Manninen, 1929)
  • George Dandin ou le Mari confondu, 1669 (prod. 1668)
    - George Dandin (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / George Dandin; or, The Husband Defeated (tr. 1732)
  • Tartuffe; ou l'Imposteur, 1669 (prod. 1664, rev. version, prod. 1664, 1667)
    - Tartuffe (tr. Matthew Medbourne, 1670) / Tartuffe; or, The Hypocrite (tr. Henri Van Laun, in The Dramatic Works, 1875-76) / Tartuffe, or The Impostor (tr. John Wood, in The Misanthrope and Other Plays, 1959; Christopher Hampton, 1984) / Tartuffe (tr. Haskell M. Block, 1958; Richard Wilbur, 1963; Joachim Neugroschel, 1967; Donald Frame, 1967; Ranjit Bolt, 1997) / Molière’s Tartuffe: A Comedy in Five Scenes (adapted by Thomas Hischak, 2001) / Tartuffe: A Verse Translation, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism (verse translation by Constance Congdon; edited by Consnstance Congdon and Virginia Scott, 2009)
    - Tartuffe (suom. Otto Manninen, 1920; Esko Elstelä, 1973) / Tartuffe, eli, Teeskentelijä (suom. Arto af Hällström)
  • L'Avare, 1669 (prod. 1668)
    - The Miser (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714; other translations: Henri Van Laun, 1875-76; Miles Malleson, 1950; George Graveley, 1956; Wallace Fowlie, 1959; Ranjit Bolt, 1995; J.J. Mills, 2009)
    - Saituri (suom. 1907; Lauri Hirvensalo, 1946)
  • Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, 1670 (prod. 1669)
    - Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / The Cornish Squire (tr. 1734) / Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (tr. A.R. Waller, in The Plays of Molière, 1926) 
  • Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, 1670 (prod. 1670)
    - The Citizen Turned Gentleman (tr. 1672) / The Merchant Gentleman (tr. Margaret Baker, 1915) / The Would-Be Gentleman (tr.  A.R. Waller, in The Plays of Molière, 1926) / The Self-Made Gentleman (tr. George Graveley, in Six Prose Comedies, 1956) / The Middle-Class Gentleman (tr. Herma Briffault, 1957) / The Proper Gent (tr. Henry S. Taylor, 1960) / The Bourgeois Gentleman (tr. Albert Bermel, 1987; Bernard Sahlins, 2000; J. Miller, 2001; H. Baker, 2001) / The Bourgeois Gentilhomme (tr. Nick Dear, 1992)
    - Porvari aatelismiehenä (suom. Sulevi ja Otto Manninen, teoksessa Komedioja 2, 1959)
  • Psyché, 1671 (with Pierre Corneille and Philippe Quinault, music by Lully, prod. 1671)
    - Psiche (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / Psyche (tr. Henri Van Laun, in The Dramatic Works, Vol. 5, 1875-76)
  • Les Fourberies de Scapin, 1671 (prod. 1671; two scenes was based on Cyrano de Bergerac´s play Le Pédant Joué, 1654)
    - The Cheats of Scapin (tr. 1677; John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / That Scoundrel Scapin (tr. John Wood, in Five Plays, 1953) / Scapin the Scamp (tr. George Gravely, in Six Prose Comedies, 1956) / Scapin (tr. Albert Bermel, in The Actors Molière, 4 vols., 1987) / Scapin (tr. Gerard Murphy, 1998)
    - Scapinin vehkeilyt (suom. 1910) / Scapinin kujeet (suom. Toini Havu, 1949)
  • Les Femmes savantes, 1673 (prod. 1762)
    - The Female Virtuosos (tr. 1693) / Blue Stockings (tr. 1884) / The Learned Ladies (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714; other translators: Renée Waldinger, 1957; Richard Wilbur, 1978) / The Sisterhood (tr. R.R. Bolt, 1989)
    - Oppineita naisia (suom. Otto Manninen, 1905)
  • Le Malade imaginaire, 1673-74 (prod. 1673)
    - The Hypocondriack (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / Doctor Last in His Chariot (tr. 1769) / The Imaginary Invalid (translators: Henri Van Laun, in The Dramatic Works, 1875-76; Kenneth Weston Turner, 1939; Merritt Stone, 1939; Miles Malleson, 1959; John Wood, in The Misantrophe and Other Plays, 1959; Bert Briscoe, 1967; James Magruder, in Theater, Volume 34, Number 1, 2004; James Magruder 2006) / The Hypocondriac (adapted by Roger McGough, 2009)
    - Luulosairas (suom. Arto af Hällström)
  • La Princesse d'Élide, 1674 (prod. 1664)
    - Pricess of Elis (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Moliere, 1714)
  • Œuvres, 1682 (8 vols.)
  • La Comtesse d'Escarbagnas, 1684 (prod. 1671, published in Oeuvres posthumes, 1684)
    - The Countess of Escarbagnas (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714; John Wood, in The Plays of Molière, 1926)
  • Les Amants magnifiques, 1684 (prod. 1670, published in Oeuvres posthumes, 1684)
    - The Magnificent Lovers (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) /  The Courtly Lovers (tr. A.R. Waller, in The Plays of Molière, 1926)  / The Lavish Lovers: A Comedy Interspersed with Music and Ballet (translation with introduction and notes by David Edney, 2009)
  • Mélicerte, 1684 (prod. 1666, published in Oeuvres posthumes)
    - Melicerta (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714)
  • Dom Juan; ou, le Festin de pierre, 1683 (prod. 1665)
    - Don John (tr. John Ozell, in The Works of Monsieur de Molière, 1714) / Don Juan (translators: George Gravely, 1956; Donald M. Frame, 1967; Christopher Hampton, 1984; Richard Wilbur, 1998)
    - Don Juan (suom. Tyyni Tuulio) / Don Juan eli Kivinen illallisvieras (suom. Esko Elstelä, 1971)
  • The Works of M. de Molière, 1714 (6 vols., tr. John Ozell)
  • The Works of Molière, French and English, 1739, 1748, 1755 (10 vols., tr. H. Baker and J. Miller, reprint 1929, 2 vols.)
  • Œuvres, 1765, (6 vols., ed. by Voltaire)
  • The Dramatic Works of Molière, 1875-76 (6 vols., tr. Henri van Laun)
  • Œuvres complètes, 1873-1900 (14 vols., ed. by E. Despois and P. Mesnard)
  • The Dramatic Works of Molière, 1876-1877 (3 vols., ed. Charles Heron Wall)
  • The Affected Misses, 1908 (2 vols., tr. Curtis H. Page)
  • The Kiltartan Molière, 1910 (tr. Lady Augusta Gregory Dublin)
  • The Plays of Molière, 1926 (8 vols., tr. A.R. Waller)
  • Comedies, 1929 (2 vols.)
  • Four Molière Comedies, Freely Adapted for the English Stage, 1931 (tr. F. Ansley)
  • Five Plays, 1953 (tr. John Wood)
  • Œuvres complètes, 1956 (2 vols., ed. Maurice Rat, rev. by Georges Coutlin, 2 vols. 1971)
  • Six Prose Comedies of Molière, 1956 (tr. G. Gravely)
  • Eight Plays by Molière, 1957 (tr. Morris Bishop)
  • The Misanthrope and Other Plays, 1959 (tr. John Wood)
  • Œuvres complètes, 1962
  • The Misantrope and Other Plays, 1967 (tr. D.M. Frame)
  • Molière: Oeuvres complètes, 1971 (ed. by G. Couton)
  • Œuvres complètes, 2010 (2 vols., ed.  Georges Forestier, Claude Bourqui, et al.)  


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