Pioneer of French comedy.. Molière stirs renewed passion and crosses the Channel to compete with Shakespeare
After a long estrangement with the audience in Shakespeare’s country, plays based on Moliere’s texts have finally returned to attract many English spectators thirsty for a timeless comedy, inventively written by the French playwright who celebrates Saturday the fourth centenary of his birth.
During his life, which spanned nearly 50 years, his life experience was reflected in his theatrical works through which he presented a show to different groups of people, works that entertained the public for decades and remained widespread even after his departure on February 17, 1673.
Among the most prominent plays of Molière, which are world-famous: The School of Husbands-1661, The Wives School-1662, Tartouf-1664, A Doctor Against His Nose -1666, The Scrooge-1668, The Enemy of Humans-1670, The Wise Women -1672, and The Illusionist -1673.
Moliere in London
At the National Theater in London, where the audience was accustomed to serious, deep scenes, the audience laughed during a scene in which the American actor Dennis O’Hare as the famous Tartuffe character covers Moliere, his betrayal through a parody of an innocent equestrian scene. The playwright from the scenes of his travels throughout France for 13 years (1645-1658).
“Comedy can cross centuries if we know what to do,” actor O’Hare told AFP.
He noted that “part of the humor was based on language, while another part was based on sheer idiocy…But there are also great moments of pity and emotion that enrich the action so much.”
The success of this theatrical production based on the story “Tartouf” in 2019 proved that Moliere was able to attract a wide audience in Shakespeare’s country, but this was not always the case.
“Often there were more people on stage than in the hall,” says Noel Peacock of the University of Glasgow, who specializes in Molière’s work in English-speaking countries.
In the 1980s, a critic in the British newspaper “Sunday Times” warned of the gap between France and the United Kingdom, asking, “How can we make free trade agreements with a country that cannot export its best comedy?”
But the situation has “completely reversed” since then, according to Peacock, as dozens of Molière’s works have been shown on English stages in recent years.
It was presented by “Tartouf” – which contributed to the development of European theater – only 3 copies in London between 2016 and 2019. The play “Le Misanthrope” was presented in 2009, and the play “Don Juan” in 2017.
Professor Peacock attributes this renewed interest to new translations whose authors focus more on conveying the spirit of writing than on the literalism of Molière’s texts.
“Great plays go on for a reason,” says American theater actor Dennis O’Hare. “Tartouf is the character of the crooked, corrupt bastard. But he’s also the kind of guy who, in the tradition of French comedies, goes against the rules and conventions of society.”
“I wondered in the past if my French upbringing alone made me admire Molière,” says one viewer. “But I don’t think so. There are so many sides to Molière, he is so rich and varied, he excels in both comedies and tragedies, just as much as in plays. philosophical. He addresses everyone.”
Theatrical adaptations of Moliere’s work have also been successful elsewhere around the world, including Germany, Russia and Japan.
A book on Molière in the Arab world also indicates that the works of the famous French playwright have been shown in Arab countries since at least 1847, and that he has become the “spiritual father of theater” in many countries.
“Molière’s plays were so important in the world,” says Comedian Francaise archivist Agat Sanjuan, “that it formed the basis for some national theaters that adapted his works to the local language and culture.”
In England, Molière faced fierce competition with Shakespeare, even though the works of the French playwright had crossed the other side of the English Channel since the 1760s.
But Moliere had a bigger resonance in Scotland, Peacock said, where “his main advantage was that he was not English.”
French comedy pioneer
No accurate information was available about the upbringing of Molière, who was born in the French capital, Paris, but researchers showed that his mother was a religious bourgeoisie, while his father worked in the royal palace as a servant. Molière lived with his father and his new wife, and was educated in a Jesuit school by a number of French geniuses such as Voltaire, according to several sources.
Because of the proximity of his father’s shop to a simple French theater for street actors, Molière became acquainted with the world of plays in his childhood, and after studying law and philosophy, he worked as a lawyer for a short period, but later turned to the theater.
In his early twenties, he left law practice and devoted himself to theater, contrary to his father’s will and family traditions. In June 1643, he participated with 3 of the Bejarmadlina family, Joseph, his sister Genevieve and 7 others, and his old teacher Georges Pinel – who called himself Lacouture – in the formation of the “Brilliant Theatre” troupe.
It is said that he changed his name to his famous nickname “Moliere” so as not to embarrass his father and his family.
He devoted himself entirely to art, despite the financial and economic troubles he faced. The Tartouf play, which deals with religious hypocrisy, angered the church, and one of the priests demanded that he be burned alive, but King Louis XIV provided him with protection and support.
At the beginning of his theatrical life, he entered into a difficult competition with the great playwrights in Paris, and although his acting troupe was not famous, but he quickly proved his worth when the troupe performed distinguished performances in the countryside and was able to obtain official permits. Human models in his plays.
After his return to Paris in 1658, Molière presented his first two famous plays, “The Fool” and “A Quarrel of Love.”
Later, Molière was invited by the brother of King Louis XIV, and this was the beginning of real fame, especially after he performed a tragedy in the guard hall in front of the king, and then performed the play “The Lover Doctor” written by him in front of the king and his entourage, and won the admiration of those present.
French historians have tried to learn about Molière’s personal life by analyzing his plays, but nevertheless have found little about his biography and private life.
His theatrical works remained a witness to his artistic standing and his human spirit, and his success in forming a disciplined artistic troupe became a proverbial set.