The Miser and Other Plays

The Miser and Other Plays

The Miser and Other Plays

The Miser and Other Plays

Excerpt

Molière was born in Paris in 1622 and died there in 1673. His father, Jean Poquelin, was a merchant upholsterer and a man of some substance. He had purchased an office at court and in 1637 secured the reversion to his son. Meanwhile young Poquelin (the name Molièe was assumed later) was receiving, as a pupil of the Jesuits, the best education the age afforded. Afterwards he appears to have studied law at a university, but where is not known for certain.

At the age of 21, on the threshold of the career that was planned for him, he resigned his rights in the office at court, compounded for his share of his deceased mother's estate, and threw in his lot with a company of actors. What motives there were, if any, beyond the irresistible attraction of the theatre we do not know. One thing is certain, that the choice was final and decisive. Thereafter through all the vicissitudes of thirty years on the stage his passion for acting burned unabated to his death.

The nucleus of the company to which Molière attached himself was provided by members of one family, the Bèjarts. Three daughters, Madeleine, Geneviève, and Armande, and two sons, Joseph and Louis, were at various times members of the troupe and, once enrolled, never left it. Madeleine, it has always been assumed, was at one time Molière's mistress; that she was his comrade and colleague until her death the year before his own is beyond question; Armande, younger by twenty years, was to become his wife.

The project of establishing a new theatre in competition with the two companies then playing permanently in Paris did not meet with success. Molière was imprisoned for debt and released on the intervention of his father. In 1646 he and his companions forsook the capital for the provinces and, for the next twelve years, led the life of itinerant players. They have been traced in various provincial towns mainly in the South, but little is known of their adventures. It is clear, however, that it was in this school that Molière learned his trade: when in 1658 the company came back to Paris, they were an experienced team of actors, he had become their acknowledged leader, and their repertory included, with many . . .

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