Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere) - Biography and Works

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673) was born in the French family in Paris, France. He had a comfortable childhood as his father worked in the palace of the King for supplying the furniture. He is mostly known by his stage name Moliere. He is regarded as 'the Shakespeare of the French drama' and Voltaire described him as 'the painter of France' as he depicted his society's vices and virtues as it was in the seventeenth century France.

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere)

His unique style of blending humor and intellect, ability to expose the hypocrisy of the seventeenth century France, and witty language have made his works world famous on the stage and also in the universities.

After the death of his mother at the age of ten, he is expected to take care of his father's business and help him, but he showed more interest in drama and often watched the street drama and some drama at the Hotel de Bourgogne with his grandfather. This paved the way for him in the field of drama. In collaboration with the actress Madeleine, he founded the Illustre Theatre in 1643. But, he could not achieve success and the theatre went bankrupt. However, he did not give up. He joined with another troupe of theatre and started writing plays and also directed. In some plays, he acted too. Through this company's gradual success, Moliere held the patronage of Philippe I, Duke of Orleans. Moliere's two best-known plays from this period are L'Etourdi, ou le Contretemps and Le Docteur amoureux.

Moliere's success did not stop here, he made a way to Paris and performed in front of the King. His acting troupe joined with the famous commedia dell'arte troupe of Fiorillo. His some successful plays are Les Precieuses ridicules (1659), which ridiculed the Academie Francaise and L'Ecole des femmes (1662). These plays brought reputation in his career and the play's blatant comedy garnered much attention. Tartuffe (1664), a play that attacks the religion gained him notoriety rather than reputation. His another successful play Dom Juan that was based on the legend of Jon Juan, was also censored by the Roman Catholic Church. L'Avare and Le Misanthrope, solidified his remarkable contribution to French theater.

Moliere mainly satirized the contrast between people's perceptions of themselves and the perceptions of others upon them. He vehemently mocked the hypocrisy, vanity, coquettish manner, the so called high society and its ideals. His target group is young girls and the clergy and professional high classes. Because of his severe attack up on the high class society and religious group, many people did not admire him in fear of exposing their reality.

Moliere was suffering from Tuberculosis and because of its complications, he died on February 17, 1673. The priest refused to perform his last funeral rites, but when the King ordered the priest, his dead body was allowed to be buried.

Moliere Study Center

The Misanthrope (One Act Play)