Moliere 1622 - 1673 (51)

The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”


The miser

Since you wish it, Sir, I will tell you frankly that you are the laughing-stock of everybody; that they taunt us everywhere by a thousand jokes on your account, and that nothing delights people more than to make sport of you, and to tell stories without end about your stinginess. One says that you have special almanacs printed, where you double the ember days and vigils, so that you may profit by the fasts to which you bind all your house; another, that you always have a ready-made quarrel for your servants at Christmas time or when they leave you, so that you may give them nothing.

Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin his real name) was a French playwright, director and actor, one of the greatest writers of the French theater. He was born in Paris on January 15, 1622 and was the son of a textile merchant who became a royal decorator, so Moliere had a privileged childhood with access to the king's yard. He attended a Jesuit college in Paris and continued his law studies in Orleans. He returned to Paris but never worked as an attorney. He met a young actor, Madeleine Bejar, and decided to live with her and become an actor. In 1643 he founded with Madeleine’s brothers a theatrical company; in one year he went bankrupt and was imprisoned for debts. His father paid the debts and he was released.The troupe left Paris and for years was giving performances to the province of France. Around 1655 Moliere returned to Paris, he started writing his own play and soon presented his creations on the royal stage. In 1659 he won the king's appreciation with "The Affected Young Ladies" and in 1662 he had a big success with "Women's School"; the king decided to support him financially after that.

In 1664 Moliere became the director of the King's Theatrical Society and wrote four plays. The latter was "Tartuffe", which was played in the palace and had immediately intense reaction by the nobles and the clergy. The king was forced to ban the play. The Archbishop of Paris threatened him with aphorism. Moliere spent years trying to defend Tartuffe, he wrote a revised version under another name, but again the court banned it. Moliere, in most of his works, had been critical of hypocrisy, flattery, intrigue, of the clergy and the aristocrats, so he had many enemies. In 1669, when the old courtyard was weakened, he finally managed to have the permission and Tartuffe was played to the public; it was a huge success. Next work was the Bourgeois Gentleman, which also had a great resonance. With Madeleine he lived a happily family life except the fact that their boy died in infantry; they had also a girl. On February 17, 1673, while playing in his latest work, "The Imaginary Invalid" Moliere began coughing and spitting blood as he suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis. He was shuffled down but re-enrolled and continued. The spectators were surprised by the realism of his playing as they thought it was part of the role, until he collapsed. They carried him home where he died two hours later. Under French law at the time, actors were not allowed to be buried in the sacred ground of a cemetery but with the intervention of the king, Molière's body was buried at night, in Paris cemetery.