Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Moliere-the French "Shakespeare"

Moliere by
Jean Antoie Coype
February 17 marks the anniversary date of the death of the greatest French playwright -Moliere.  He died almost on stage performing  his famous play the Malade Imaginaire (Imaginary Invalid). He was born in Paris on January 15, 1622  with the  given name of Jean Marie Poquelin from a well-to-do family of merchants.  Leaving his law studies, he founded a theatrical group the ""Illustre Theatre" at the age of 21 with his actress mistress Madeleine  Bejart and that is when he took the stage name of Moliere.  After going bankrupt, the troupe leaves Paris and become an itinerant theatre  playing principally in the provinces of France's  southwest.  For 12 years, from 1646 to 1658, Moliere honed his skills as an actor, playwright and  theatre director.

Moliere's armchair -courtesy
Comedy Francaise
The group returned to Paris in 1658  under the protection from the King's Brother, Philippe d'Orleans who offered the group a theatre in which to perform -- the Theatre du Petit Bourbon. Moliere performed tragic plays by contemporary playwrights like Corneille and Racine as well as his own creations- comedies like the Precieuses Ridicules.  In 1661, the  group got a new abode at the Palais Royal as the Palais Bourbon theater was being demolished to make room for the new Louvre Colonades.

Moliere's plays range from comedies to tragedies and comedy-ballets.  Moliere was a prolific author and among  his body of work are plays that are considered to be at the pinacle of France 's litterature and are as popular today as when they  were first performed.  Among the  plays that are regularly performed in France and all over the world are: l"Ecole des Femme", le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, le Malade Imaginaire, L'Avare, Tartuffe, le Misanthrope, les Femmes Savantes, Don Juan to name a few.

Moliere- Pere Lachaise
While performing the Malade Imaginaire, Moliere was overtaken by a fit of cough.  He died at home a few hours later
  from the ravages of tuberculosis on February 17, 1673. As it was the custom of the time, being an actor, he was refused the last rites and banned from being buried in the sacred ground of a cemetery. His widow, Armande Bejart asked King Louis XIV to authorize a burial at night . He agreed and Moliere was buried in an unconsecrated plot in a Parisian cemetery. His remains were transferred in 1817 to the Pere Lachaise.

When visiting Paris, consider attending a performance of France's classic theatre at the venerated Comedy Francaise located at the Palais Royal.  Of note, on the anniversary date of Moliere's birth (January 15), the chair on which Moliere last performed the Malade Imaginaire is brought on the of the Comedie Francaise.

#Paris # France # Moliere # Comedie Francaise #Pere Lachaise


No comments: