'The Miser and Other Plays: A New Selection'
By Jean-Baptiste Moliere (Author), David Coward (Editor, Translator, Introduction), John Wood (Translator)
This volume of Moliere's dramatic commentaries on society presents 'The Miser', a misguided hero who obsessively disrupts the lives of those around him. 'The School for Wives' is newly translated for this edition and was fiercely denounced as impious and vulgar. Moliere's response to his detractors became 'The School for Wives Criticized'. Even more alarming to critics was his version of 'Don Juan'. In 'The Hypochondriac', he produced an outrageous expose of medicine.
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Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, also known by his stage name, Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature. Among Molière's best-known dramas are Le Misanthrope, (The Misanthrope), L'Ecole des femmes (The School for Wives), Tartuffe ou l'Imposteur, (Tartuffe or the Hypocrite), L'Avare ou l'École du mensonge (The Miser), Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid), and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (The Bourgeois Gentleman).
From a prosperous family and having studied at the Jesuit Clermont College (now Lycée Louis-le-Grand), Molière was well suited to begin a life in the theatre. Thirteen years as an itinerant actor helped to polish his comic abilities while he also began writing, combining Commedia dell'Arte elements with the more refined French comedy.
Through the patronage of a few aristocrats including the brother of Louis XIV, Molière procured a command performance before the King at the Louvre. Performing a classic play by Pierre Corneille and a farce of his own, Le Docteur amoureux (The Doctor in Love), Molière was granted the use of Salle du Petit-Bourbon at the Louvre, a spacious room appointed for theatrical performances. Later, Molière was granted the use of the Palais-Royal. In both locations he found success among the Parisians with plays such as Les Précieuses ridicules (The Affected Ladies), L'École des maris (The School for Husbands) andL'École des femmes (The School for Wives). This royal favour brought a royal pension to his troupe and the title "Troupe du Roi" (The King's Troupe). Molière continued as the official author of court entertainments.
Though he received the adulation of the court and Parisians, Molière's satires attracted criticisms from moralists and the Church. Tartuffe ou l'Imposteur (Tartuffe or the Hypocrite)and its attack on religious hypocrisy roundly received condemnations from the Church while Don Juan was banned from performance. Molière's hard work in so many theatrical capacities began to take its toll on his health and, by 1667, he was forced to take a break from the stage. In 1673, during a production of his final play, Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid), Molière, who suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis, was seized by a coughing fit and a haemorrhage while playing the hypochondriac Argan. He finished the performance but collapsed again and died a few hours later. In his time in Paris, Molière had completely reformed French comedy.
Note: 'The Great Books of the Western World' recommends Molière's 'The Miser', 'The School for Wives' both contained in this edition)