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Poquelin, Jean-Baptiste

Born: 1622 AD
Died: 1673 AD
Nationality: French
Categories: Actors, Playwrights, Satirists

1622 – Born on January 15, 1622.

1640 – At the age of 18 Poquelin received the title of the "Tapissier du Roi." This put him in frequent contact with King Louis XIV.

1642 – Poquelin became a lawyer in Orleans in 1642.

1643 – In June 1643, together with his lover Madeleine Béjart and a brother and sister of hers, he founded the theatre company or troupe of L’Illustre Theatre. At this time he assumed the pseudonym Molière, possibly inspired by a small village of the same name in Southern France close to Le Vigan. It was also likely that he changed his name to spare his father the shame of having an actor in the family. The failure of the company caused him to spend some weeks in prison for debt. He was freed with the help of his father, and left with Madeleine for a tour of villages as a travelling comedian. This life lasted 14 years, during which he initially played with the companies of Charles Dufresne, and subsequently created a company of his own. In the course of his travels he met the Prince of Conti, the governor of Languedoc, who became his patron, and named his company after him. This friendship would end later, when Conti joined Molière’s enemies in the Parti des Dévots.

1658 – Molière reached Paris in 1658 and played at the Louvre (then for rent as a theatre) in Corneille’s tragedy Nicomède and in the farce Le docteur amoureux (The Doctor in Love), with some success. He was awarded the title of Troupe de Monsieur (the Monsieur was the king’s brother) and with the help of Monsieur, his company joined a famous Italian Commedia dell’arte company.

1659 – He became firmly established at their theatre, Petit-Bourbon, where on November 18, 1659, he performed the premiere of Les Précieuses Ridicules (The Affected Young Ladies), one of his masterpieces.

1662 – Molière moved to the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, still with his Italian partners, and married Armande, whom he believed to be the sister of Madeleine; she was in fact her illegitimate daughter, the result of a flirtation with the Duc of Modène in 1643, when Molière and Madeleine were starting their affair. The same year he played L’École des Femmes (The School for Wives), subsequently regarded as a masterpiece. Both this work and his marriage attracted much criticism. On the artistic side he responded with two lesser-known works: La Critique de "l’École des Femmes", in which he imagined the spectators of his previous work attending it, and L’Impromptu de Versailles, about Molière’s troupe preparing an improvisation. This was the so-called Guerre Comique (War of Comedy), in which the opposite side was taken by writers like Donneau de Visé, Edmé Boursault, and Montfleury.

1666 – Le Misanthrope was produced. It is now widely regarded as Molière’s most refined masterpiece, the one with the highest moral content, but it was little appreciated at its time. It caused the "conversion" of Donneau de Visé, who became fond of his theatre. But it was a commercial flop, forcing Molière to immediately write the Le Médecin malgré lui (The Doctor Despite Himself), a satire against the official sciences. This was a success despite a moral treatise by the Prince of Conti, criticizing the theatre in general and Molière’s in particular. In several of his plays, Molière depicted the physicians of his day as pompous individuals who speak (poor) Latin to impress others with false erudition, and know only clysters and bleedings as (ineffective) remedies.

1673 – One of the most famous moments in Molière’s life is the last, which became legend: he died on stage, while performing Le Malade Imaginaire on February 17, 1673. Strictly speaking, he collapsed on stage, and died a few hours later at his house, without sacraments because two priests refused to visit him and the third arrived too late. It is said that he was wearing yellow, and because of that, there is a superstition that yellow brings bad luck to actors.