This article was originally published in a short history of the drama. martha fletcher bellinger. new york: henry holt & company, 1927. pp. 178-81.
Molière’s life is a story of struggle, hard work, domestic unhappiness, death and burial in darkness and almost shame. In time, she belongs between Corneille and Racine, but she died before either of them. her birth is dark. in school she seems to have been familiar with many Latin, Spanish and Italian comedies. in her poverty he associated with low fellows, and at one time acted as a valet in the king’s household. At about the age of twenty-two he became an actor and a manager; but for a time he utterly failed. one theatrical enterprise after another failed, and in 1645 he was imprisoned for debt. After being released, he assembled a group of actors and left Paris for a tour of the provinces, a tour that lasted about ten years.
in 1658 molière brought his company of actors to paris and performed for the first time in the presence of king louis xiv, in the guard room of the old louvre. the pieces presented were nicomède by Corneille, and docteur amoureux, by Molière himself. Fortunately, on this return to the capital, Molière’s sense of humor was tickled by the absurdities of salons and literary ladies whose main objective in life was to promote culture; and the production of les précieuses ridicules (The Pretentious Young Ladies) in 1659 marked the turning point in his career. It was his first attempt to handle real life as it was in Paris in his day. Madame de Rambouillet was dead; but the literary cult she had established was still very much in vogue. Molière took advantage of the affected speech, elegant gallantries and learned sentimentality of the précieuses and caricatured them with infinite skill. even the blue stockings and the hunks were forced to laugh at themselves. les précieuses ridicules was an immediate success and encouraged its author to believe that contemporary life was his real field.
From then on, Molière gradually honed his style, though as manager he continued to produce the works of intrigue and adventure that were characteristic of the old school. in his own plays he created a new genre, attacking not only the sentimental blue stockings and insipid ballroom hunks, but also noblemen, actors, priests, doctors, corneille and the high-flying writers of their class along with rival plays – any and all provided a target for their laugh-provoking shafts. he was not only a playwright but also a leading actor in his company, and as a comedian he must have had extraordinary gifts. While acting in his last play, le malade imaginaire , in 1673, he suffered a coughing fit that turned out to be the harbinger of his death. he was denied the sacrament of the church and reluctantly allowed a Christian burial. During the next century a bust of him was placed in the academy and a monument was erected over his grave.
There are more than twenty moves in total by this genius. they are written in verse of a rather prosaic type, and divided sometimes into three, sometimes into five acts. he tried many different methods in handling comedy, and in almost all of them he was brilliantly successful. brander matthews has enumerated works that belong respectively to the comedy of manners, the comedy of character, the romantic comedy, the tragicomedy, the comedy ballet, the criticism in dialogue, the satirical interlude, the legendary drama and a kind of philosophical comedy that sometimes sometimes it becomes a farce. , and sometimes it turned into a serious drama. Molière took his plots from any source he wanted. some came from lope de vega and other spanish playwrights; Others from Italian originals that had been brought to France by Larrivey. he was familiar with the methods of the Italian commedia dell’arte. It is not in his plots or in his situations where Molière’s greatness lies, but in the understanding and revelation of his characters. he could pick up the intimate and insignificant details of a man’s daily habit and turn them to dramatic uses with marvelous dexterity. His style was well suited to speech, his wit almost unerring. although he borrowed freely from Spanish and Italian sources, however, he had little interest in children’s trapdoor devices, lost children, kidnappings, and strawberry brand recognitions. what interested him was the way a man might act when vanity, conceit, hypocrisy, or greed gained control. he laid out his story and brought the action to a climax without the use of informers, asides, soliloquies, or clumsy explanations; and all the while he kept his audience laughing. In George Meredith’s parlance, he was “both precise and fickle,” and he held nothing sacred, nothing beyond his wits. with all this, however, there was in his mind a positive belief in the goodness of human nature and in the saving power of common sense. he himself was kind, sincere, honest, with a hatred of hypocrisy and hypocrisy, farce and farce. he loved youth and all things hearty and wholesome; and he was never bigoted, malicious or mean.
Almost all of Molière’s work was done in too much of a hurry. she has been accused of not having a consistent organic style, of using faulty grammar, of mixing her metaphors, and of using unnecessary words to complete her lines. all of these things are occasionally true, but they pale in comparison to the richness of the character she portrayed, the brilliance of her wit, and the ingenuity of her technique. she distrusted sensitivity or pathos; but instead of pathos she had “melancholy–a powerful and searching melancholy, which strangely sustains her inexhaustible joy and her triumphant joy”. 
Both comics and serious drama were powerfully affected by Molière’s work, not only in his time and country but everywhere and up to the present. every playwright who has lived since his time is in his debt. Fielding and Sheridan in England, and Regnar in France learned their technique from him and sometimes borrowed situations from him directly. and the general structure of his works has never been improved.
- béjart – a biography of the family of actors associated with molière.
- the botch – an introductory note on the work.
- death of molière – story of the last days of molière and his last comedy-the imaginary invalid.
- the doctor in spite of himself – a summary of the work.
- don juan – synopsis of the play.
- the misanthrope – analysis of the work.
- the misanthrope – a synopsis of the play.
- the miser – analysis of the work.
- molière – a biography of the French playwright.
- molière (1622-1673): a biography, plus links to purchase all of his works currently in print.
- molière index – an index of articles on the French playwright.
- Molière at Court – Account of Molière’s first performance before Louis XIV, King of France, and his resulting assignment to the Hotel du Petit Bourbon.
- molière: monologues – a collection of monologues by molière.
- molière: monologues – more molière monologues.
- molière: plays in one act – an index of short plays.
- molière: poems – an index of poems by molière.
- molière quotes: a collection of quotes attributed to molière.
- molière quotes – more quotes from his works.
- Molière’s childhood and education: a biographical account of Molière’s early years.
- the first works of moliere and mdlle. Debrie: A Brief Description of Molière’s Early Farces and an Account of Five New Actors Joining Her Company in Lyons.
- the marriage of molière – biographical account of the marriage of molière with the actress armande béjart.
- the pretentious young ladies: an introductory note on the work.
- the school for husbands – summary of the work.
- the school for husbands – an introductory note on the play.
- the school of wives: history and analysis of the work.
- the school of wives – an introductory note on the work.
- tartuffe – a history of the play.
- Tartuffe – a synopsis of the work.
- Find more articles on Molière
- buy works by molière
- Search eBay! for Molière collectibles
1 brand of matews. the development of the drama.