The Theatres of Molière

The Theatres of Molière

The Theatres of Molière

The Theatres of Molière


Moliere's plays are the cornerstone of the French Classical dramatic repertoire. Adapted and exploited in his day by dramatists of the English Restoration, they are now again growing in popularity.In this detailed and fascinating volume, Gerry McCarthy examines the practice and method of possibly the greatest actor-dramatist. From the rough farces of Moliere's days on the road to the creation of the diverse and spectacular court entertainments on his return to Paris, McCarthy sheds new light on the dramatic intelligence and theatrical understanding of Moliere's writing for the actor.Drawing on Moliere's own brief discussions of performance and the contemporary evidence of his practice, this is a crucial addition to the debate on style and method in classical acting and on the staging of classical plays on the contemporary stage.


I chose to assume the form of the sun, because of the unique quality of the radiance that surrounds it; the light that it imparts to the other stars, which compose a kind of court; the fair and equal share of that light that it gives to all the various climates of the world; the good it does in every place, ceaselessly producing joy and activity on every side; the untiring motion in which it yet seems always tranquil; and that constant invariable course from which it never deviates or diver ges- assuredly the most vivid and beautiful image of a young monarch.

Louis XIV, Mémoires

Magnificence was vital to royal propaganda in the grand siècle of Louis, and at the outset, festival, with the figure of the monarch at the centre, was a chief instrument of display. The King's liking for the ballet de cour is well known, and he was a proficient, even a gifted dancer, participating in shows created by artists working in the inner circles of the court, among whom Molière was prominent. Louis's involvement in theatre is noteworthy, but hardly surprising given the society in which he moved. He was young, with the tastes and the social skills of any courtier of the day, and would have adopted the habitual entertainments of an earlier age: like his father, he would be expected to take to the floor as the first personnage of the ballet de cour, or exhibit his skill at any of the performances of martial or equestrian arts where the court displayed itself and celebrated its accomplishments.

The contemplation of the monarch in the symbolic exercise of power is indispensable to the functioning of even a modern monarchical state. Where power tended to the absolute its virtual manifestation on an almost daily basis was a vital confirmation of the actual political supremacy of the sovereign. The spectacle of the young Louis triumphant in the carrousel, or resplendent in the allegorical ballet, was

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