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Molière, pseudonym of JEAN BAPTISTE POQUELIN (1622-73), French dramatist, and one of the greatest of all writers of comedies. His universal comic types still delight audiences; his plays are often produced and have been much translated.
Molière was born in Paris on January 15, 1622, the son of a wealthy tapestry maker. From an early age he was completely devoted to the theater. In 1643 he joined a theatrical company established by the Béjarts, a family of professional actors; he married one of the members of the family, Armande Béjart, in 1662. The troupe, which Molière named the Illustre Théâtre, played in Paris until 1645 and then toured the provinces for 13 years, returning to Paris in 1658. On their return Louis XIV lent the troupe his support and offered them occasional use of the Théâtre du Petit-Bourbon and, in 1661, use of the playhouse in the Palais-Royal. Secure at the Palais-Royal, “Molière for the rest of his life committed himself entirely to the comic theater, as dramatist, actor, producer, and director” (Encarta 96).
In 1659 the company presented Molière’s Les pr;cieuses ridicules (The Affected Young Ladies). Written in a style similar to that of the older farces, it satirizes the pretensions of two provincial girls. The work took Paris by storm, and from that time until his death, at least one of Moli;re’s comedies was produced each year (Compton’s 95).
L’;cole des femmes (The School for Wives, 1662) marks a break with the farce tradition. “Considered thefirst great seriocomic work of French literature”, it deals with the part women played in society and their preparation for it; the play constitutes a bold satire on contemporary materialistic values and, as such, was denounced for impiety and vulgarity (Encarta 96).
In Tartuffe ( first version, 1664; third and final version, 1669) Mol…