Moliere

On this date in 1622, playwright and poet Jean Baptiste Poquelin, who adopted the stage name Moliere as an actor, was born in Paris. His father was an upholsterer/valet to the king. Jean Baptiste studied philosophy in college, started a Parisian acting troupe and toured the provinces with it for many years, acting, directing and writing. As a favorite of King Louis XIV, he produced a succession of 12 popular comedies still being performed, including "The School for Wives" (1662), "Don Juan" (1665), "Le Misanthrope" (1666), and "Tartuffe" (1667), all irreverent and increasingly irreligious. "Tartuffe," a satire on religiosity, originally featured a hypocritical priest. Although Moliere rewrote Tartuffe's profession to avoid scandal, some religious officials nevertheless called for Moliere to be burned alive as punishment for his impiety. Moliere was excommunicated in 1667. He married actress Armande Bejart, when she was 19, and they had one daughter, Esprit-Madeleine, in 1665. Becoming ill while playing the lead in his play, "The Imaginary Invalid" (1673), Moliere insisted on finishing the show, after which he died. Catholic officials refused to officiate or formally bury Moliere. It took the intervention of the King to get him interred under cover of night at a cemetery reserved for suicides. D. 1673.

" . . . there is nothing, I think, so odious as the whitewashed outside of a specious zeal; as those downright imposters, those bigots whose sacrilegious and deceitful grimaces impose on others with impunity, and who trifle as they like with all that mankind holds sacred; those men who, wholly given to mercenary ends, trade upon godliness, and would purchase honour and reputation at the cost of hypocritical looks and affected groans; who, seized with strange ardour, make use of the next world to secure their fortune in this; who, with great affectation and many prayers, daily preach solitude and retirement while they themselves live at Court; who know how to reconcile their zeal with their vices; who are passionate, revengeful, faithless, full of deceit, and who, to work the destruction of a fellow-man, insolently cover their fierce resentment with the cause of Heaven."

—Moliere, monolog by Cleante, Tartuffe (1667)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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