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Poet-soldier Rupert Brooke dies in Greece
On April 23, 1915, Rupert Brooke, a young scholar and poet serving as an officer in the British Royal Navy, dies of blood poisoning on a hospital ship anchored off the Greek island of Skyros, while awaiting deployment in the Allied invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Brooke, born in 1887 in Rugby, Britain, attended King’s College in Cambridge, where he befriended such future luminaries as E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes and Virginia Stephens (later Woolf) as a member of the famed Bloomsbury set. Brooke’s travels in the United States in 1912 produced a series of acclaimed essays and articles he also lived for a time in Tahiti, where he wrote some of his best-known poems. Returning to England just before the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Brooke gained a commission in the Royal Naval Division with the help of his close friend Edward Marsh, then secretary to First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. In his poetry, Brooke welcomed the arrival of war, writing: "Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour/And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping."
Rupert Brooke saw his only action of World War I during the defense of Antwerp, Belgium, against German invasion in early October 1914. Although aided by a stiff resistance from Antwerp’s inhabitants, British troops suffered a decisive defeat in that conflict and were forced to retreat through a devastated Belgian countryside. Brooke subsequently returned to Britain to await redeployment, where he caught the flu during the training and preparation. While recovering, Brooke wrote what would become the most famous of his war sonnets, including "Peace," "Safety," "The Dead" and "The Soldier."
Brooke sailed for the Dardanelles near Turkey on February 18, 1915 problems with enemy mines led to a delay in his squadron’s deployment and a training stint in Egypt, where Brooke contracted dysentery. By this time, Brooke’s poems had begun to gain notice in Britain, and he was offered the chance to return to Britain and serve away from the battlefield after his recovery he refused. On April 10, he sailed with his unit to Greece, where they anchored off Skyros. There, Brooke developed a fatal case of blood poisoning from an insect bite he died on April 23, 1915, aboard a hospital ship, two days before the Allies launched their massive, ill-fated invasion of Gallipoli.
On April 26, The Times of London ran an obituary notice for Brooke written by Winston Churchill. The thoughts to which he gave expression in the very few incomparable war sonnets which he has left behind, Churchill wrote, will be shared by many thousands of young men moving resolutely and blithely forward in this, the hardest, the cruelest, and the least-rewarded of all the wars that men have fought. The opening lines of "The Soldier," Brooke’s most famous poem, evoke the simple, heartfelt patriotism to which Churchill felt all England’s soldiers should aspire: "If I should die, think only this of me/That there’s some corner of a foreign field/That is for ever England."
8 of the Most Amazing Facts about Molière
Molière. The mere evocation of this name sends us back to the apogee of French classic comedy. Even nowadays, Molière is considered one of the most important playwright who ever lived. His works are still among the most played in the world.
In this article, I will take you through my top anecdotes to introduce to you one of the most famous French author, to whom the theater industry still owes some of its most important masterpieces.
Portrait of Molière by Mignard – Public Domain – Source: Wikimedia Commons
Foreword about Molière
Molière, whose real name was Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, was born in Paris in the 16 th Century. He was the son of Jean Poquelin and Marie Cressé. His parents are carpet sellers in the French capital. Little is known about Molière’s childhood. The place and type of studies he would have followed before turning to playwriting still divides historians.
The only sure thing is that Molière decided to leave his parent’s household to join a travelling theater company as soon as he came of age. At this time, it was common for theater troupes to travel from town to town to play their works.
At the beginning of his career, Molière was “only” an actor – that is he played other authors’ works. It is only later that he would start writing his own plays.
1. Moliere and Tragedy
In the 17 th century, one genre vastly dominated the theater world: tragedy.
Indeed, at that time, tragedy is almost the only style that is written and played. In this context, Molière started his career by playing tragedy plays, and most notably those by Pierre Corneille, another famous French playwright.
However, Molière’s talents for tragedy were not really praised by his audience, and he ended up facing many failures during his tragedy performances. To understand what Molière probably went through, it is important to note that the way people went to see theater plays at the time was very different than ours.
Indeed, during performances, it was common for the audience to openly respond, by standing up, applauding, booing, and even calling out actors directly. Sometimes, theater halls even invited stands to sell baked apples in the back, so that the audience could buy apples to throw at the actors should the play displease them!
That is what happened to the unfortunate Molière as he tried himself to tragedy… he would soon leave that behind him to find his real talent in comedy.
2. To die on stage
Many fantasies have been written on Molière’s death.
Indeed, according to popular belief, Molière would have died on the stage of his theater as he played Le Malade Imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid). However, the truth is slightly different.
During the last performance of that play, and as he was portraying a sick man sitting on his chair, Molière started coughing blood. Thinking that the blood was part of the act, the audience started praising the actor’s performance. One man of the theater company, however, realizing the real situation, had the curtain dropped, to evacuate Molière. He was immediately taken home and would take several more hours before passing away.
Centuries after this episode, many still believe in the myth of the Molière’s passing on the stage. The Comédie Française, one of the most important and prestigious theaters in Paris, still exposes the infamous chair on which Molière played his last portrayal of a (not so) Imaginary Invalid…
By the way, the Comédie Française, whose history is intricately linked to Molière’s, is a major theater in the heart of Paris, near the Louvre and the Palais Royal (Royal Palace). You may see it thanks to our Landmarks walking tours, which you can book here!
Molière’s Chair at the Comédie Française in Paris – Picture by Peter Potrowl on Wikimedia Commons
3. Molière’s trunk
There are many mysteries surrounding Molière’s life and works.
Indeed, apart from a few signatures on administrative paperwork, there are very few handwritten traces of Molière. Upon his death, his wife reportedly decided to sell his trunk containing all of his works.
Legend has it that during the Restauration period (1815-1830) a man asked to be received at the French National Library, saying he had a worthy trunk. As it was late, the guards reportedly refused the man to enter, responding that no one could receive him at this time. The peasant accepted to leave but mentioned that he was bringing a trunk containing Molière’s original works, and that it was a shame for the Library. It was the very last time someone heard of the original plays. The trunk is still to be found, to this day.
4. Molière, the King’s carpet maker
Molière is worldly renowned as a playwright, but it is less known that he had an important function to Louis XIV’s Court – and it has not much to do with plays!
Indeed, if Molière is Louis XIV’s mentee, and rapidly became in charge of entertaining the very culture and theater oriented King, it is lesser known that he entered the almighty King’s Court by accepting a position of Great Carpet-Maker of the King.
The task was then assured by his father, Jean Poquelin. Naturally, Molière took the way paved by this father but his secret goal was clearly to get close to the King and have his plays benefit from this proximity.
In Louis XIV’s France, all plays performed in Paris had to have prior approval of the King in order to be allowed. Therefore, in addition to writing and performing plays, Molière was in charge of making the King’s bed, hanging tapestries in the royal apartments and overseeing the King’s furniture. This little-known role at the Court of the Sun King allowed Molière to have a privileged situation and to have quite a lot of advantages due to his contact with royalty.
5. Molière, a mysterious stage-name
As it is often the case with famous people, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin decided to use a stage-name, now vastly known as “Molière”.
But still today, the real reason of the stage name choice is not known. Even during his lifetime, Molière is said to have always refused to explain why he chose Molière as his pseudonym. Not even his closest friends – his theater company members – were in the loop. A historians’ theory, however, exposes that Molière could have chosen his stage-name in honor of novelist François de Molière d’Essertines, but there is no certainty on this explaination.
Portrait of Molière by Mignard – Public Domain – Source: Wikimedia Commons
6. Censorship and the Tartuffe Affair
The most famous plays by Molière are satirical towards the higher-classes of their time’s society. In his plays, Molière doesn’t hesitate to ridicule affluent members of Louis XIV’s Court, using colorful characters. Molière’s characters rarely spare the close entourage of the King, directly making fun of people who often happen to be in the audience, as the band performs before the King.
It is as the plays are presented to the King that he can activate his Right to Censor, which means the King can demand to withdraw some parts of the incriminated play, or even deny the right to publish and perform it altogether.
In the long history of Molière’s plays censorship, one episode in particular remained famous. It deals with the presentation of one of Molière’s major works: The Tartuffe.
This play is a direct attack towards the Religious classes at the time, especially towards “dévôts” (those turned religious to some extreme extent). The first performance pleases the King very much, but the Religious crowds present that day – as well as the very pious Anne of Austria, mother of the King – are extremely shocked. Under the intense pressure of these people, the king Louis XIV agrees to censor the play.
Molière, wishing to defend his play, found a clever way to turn the situation around and have the play approved: he replaced the very pious “tartuffe” (hypocrite) by a “falsely-pious” man (that is that the main character only pretended to be pious while it was not true, thus not directly implicating the Religious classes).
Although the incident could remain an anecdote, it marked a sharp turn in Molière’s works. From that moment on, the playwright decided to no longer make fun of direct influent targets at the Court – which could have his plays censored – but instead to make fun of general habits and customs of the Court – which then allowed for the Court itself to laugh without having anyone feeling targeted and hurt. Like Tartuffe, Don Juan was another play that had to cope with censorship.
It took Tartuffe five years to be fully granted royal approval…
7. Madeleine and Armande Béjart
When Moliere chose to work with a theater company, he met with a famous family of the industry: the Béjarts. Most members of that family worked in the field as actors.
Molière first met with one woman from the family, Madeleine Béjart. At the beginning of his career, the relationship with her was to last several years. However, slowly, the bond between Molière and Madeleine turned from love into friendship.
Since he was no longer in a relationship, Molière met with many other women until he married another member of the Béjart family, Armande, years later. Armande Béjart was Madeleine’s younger sister. She was nearly twenty years younger than Molière’s former lover, a large age difference which fed a rumor.
Portrait of Armande Béjart by Mignard – Public Domain – Source: Wikimedia Commons
Indeed, some saw in Armande not the sister but the daughter of Madeleine. Some people even went as far as wondering whether Armande was not the daughter born from Molière and Madeleine’s relationship! By marrying Armande, Molière would, then, have married his own daughter…
Historians now mostly believe that Armande was indeed Madeleine’s sister and not her daughter. But the rumor lived long enough to reach King Louis XIV’s royal ears.
As he was told that Molière was about to marry his own daughter, the witnesses reported that the King reaction was to answer to the messenger : “Should he marry the daughter, then, I’ll be witness at their wedding!”.
8. The Molière Affair
Of all the anecdotes to tell about Molière, the most significant one is without a doubt the one that came to be called “ the Molière Affair”.
It is a major controversy regarding the paternity of Molière’s works. Started in 1919, this theory by author Pierre Louÿs states that Molière was not the real author of his plays, and that he was only the one who signed them.
According to the theory, Molière’s works would have been really written by Pierre Corneille. Still today, several authors think that this theory might be true. The lack of written traces by the hand of Molière is an important argument of this theory defenders. The argument that Molière, among his many activities would have barely have the time to write is also often given.
Pierre Corneille by Le Brun – Public Domain – Source: Wikimedia Commons
According to this theory, Pierre Corneille would have used Molière to write satirical comedy plays which he didn’t want to publish under his own name, being renowned and appreciated as the greatest tragedy playwright. Corneille would have then wished to protect his reputation and avoid endangering his name by assimilating it to the writing of poorly developed and risky satirical comedy.
Many arguments in favor of this theory are given to support the idea that Molière didn’t write his plays, but no evidence of it was ever found, and proven. To this date, this theory is still debated.
It is fun to think that one of the most recognized comedy theater author could be a usurper. But until proven otherwise, let us still consider Jean-Batiste Poquelin to be Molière, the author of some of French most iconic plays…
These many anecdotes about Molière’s life participate in feeding the mystery. Although a renowned author worldwide, is known about the playwright’s life and myths and legends around him grew numerous.
Despite these many uncertainties, Molière remains one of the most played authors in the world. He represents such a major part of the French literary culture that the French language is now often described as the “Language of Molière”. Nowadays, the best actors and actresses in France (and the French-language world) still receive a “Molière” Award every year, which is the French equivalent to the Olivier Awards in the UK or the Tony Awards in the US.
Molière is to the French-speaking Theater what Shakespeare is to the English-speaking one.
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Nicolas enjoys long walks across the French Capital, and taking pictures of it along the way. Overtime, he has discovered many hidden gems he is now eager to share!
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&aposs best-known dramas are Le Misanthrope, (The Misanthrope), L&aposEcole des femmes (The School for Wives), Tartuffe ou l&aposImposteur, (Tartuffe or the Hypocrite), L&aposAvare ou l&aposÉcole 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 writin 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) and L'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 soon after, and died a few hours later. In his time in Paris, Molière had completely reformed French comedy.
Molière (1622 – 17 February 1673) was a French actor, director and writer. His real name was Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, Molière was his stage name.  He wrote some of the most important comedies in human history. 
He was born in Paris where his father owned a carpet shop. As a young person, Molière decided to live an artist's life. At the age of 21, he founded a theatre company that soon went bankrupt. From 1645–1658, he toured France with some of his friends.
Later, King Louis XIV made Molière responsible for the entertainment at the court of Versailles near Paris. Molière was happy to have the king among his friends, because he had many enemies, especially important people in the Roman Catholic church. Molière's comedies deal with human weaknesses: jealousy, meanness, hypocrisy, fear of death. By putting his characters in ridiculous situations, Molière wants to entertain and educate his audience.
One of his most important plays is Tartuffe, showing a bigoted man stealing his way into a rich family. Molière's last play was Le Malade Imaginaire, called in English The Hypochondriac. As in many of his comedies, Molière played the main role. He died on stage during the fourth performance. Because of his problems with the church, he was not allowed to be buried in a church cemetery.
Porcelain and pottery marks - Rosenthal marks
Philipp Rosenthal started doing business in the porcelain industry in 1884 roku in Erkersreuth situated near Bavarian Selb. In the beggining he was buying Hutschenreuther whiteware. These items were then decorated by his wife Maria and sold door to door.
Already in 1891 r., because of porcelain shortage in the market, Rosenthal established his first factory in the Bohemian town called Asch. Produced there whiteware were subsequently painted and decorated in Rosenthal's workshops. Until mid 1930s. Rosenthal overtook factories: Kronach, Marktredwitz (with Thomas brand), Selb, Waldenburg, Sophienthal and Waldershof.
In 1910 and 1920 artistic ceramic divisions were opened.
Philipp Rosenthal was a Jew. In the second half of 1934 situation in Germany was so tense that he lost control of his business. In 1935 he was forced to leave Germany and died in 1937.
The factory continued operations during the WWII. Philip Rosenthal, son of the founder, was fighting Nazi Germany. After the win he returned to Germany trying to regain control. He suceeded only in 1950.
Under Rosenthal junior management the company swiftly recovered. Philip hired the bes artists as Bjorn Wiinblad from Denmark, Hans Theo Baumann from Germany, Raymond Peynet from France and Tapio Wirkkala z Finland. In 1979 when the company was closing to the 100th anniversary, it hired around 8500 workers.
In 1997 Waterford Wedgwood plc took control of Rosenthal. Part of the group became Hutschenreuther in 2000.
Financial problems of Waterford Wedgwood made that in 2009 Rosenthal was bought by Italian Sambonet. The company is now traded as Rosenthal GmbH.
Jim Phelan, one of the all-time winningest NCAA men’s basketball coaches at Mount St. Mary’s, dies
The hype leading up the Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball game at Wagner on Jan. 28, 1993, centered on Jim Phelan potentially becoming the eighth coach in college basketball history to win 700 games. And while the Mountaineers celebrated after securing a 69-64 victory to help their coach join that exclusive club, he took it all in stride.
“I remember being on the road, and he couldn’t wait to get back to Emmitsburg,” recalled Kevin Booth, who was a redshirt senior shooting guard on that team and is ranked eighth in school history in career points (1,741) and second in 3-point field-goal percentage (.459). “For all of the hoopla around it, if you know Coach, he was unfazed by it. For him, it was really just another game. That kind of just sums him up and who he was. He was great, but enjoyed the simple things in life.”
Phelan, who spent 49 years as the head coach of the Mountaineers and is one of the all-time winningest coaches in NCAA history, died in his sleep Wednesday morning at his home in Emmitsburg, the university announced Wednesday. He was 92.
Mr. Phelan’s death reverberated throughout social media.
His passing was especially tough for some of his former players, including Luis Grillo, a shooting guard who ranks 19th in career scoring (1,387 points), sixth in points per game (17.3) and eighth in free throws made (353) from 1967 to 1970 and was an NBA official for 15 years.
“It’s a tough day for a lot of us,” Grillo said, his voice swelling with emotion. “He was a good man, a great man.”
“It’s been a rough day,” said Cliff Warren, who was a point guard, graduate assistant and assistant coach for Phelan for a total of nine years. “I’ve laughed and I’ve cried all day.”
To those who knew him, Phelan was simply “Coach” – a moniker that signified the respect he had earned from players, colleagues and those who followed him in the sport.
“He’ll always be Coach,” current Mount St. Mary’s coach Dan Engelstad said. “That’s what he was. He was before his time, but he was a teacher of life. I think everybody calls him Coach, to be honest with you. I never called him Jim or Mr. Phelan. He always will be Coach to me.”
“There are very few people in this world that I will call Coach,” former Mountaineers coach and current George Washington coach Jamion Christian said in an interview in 2014. “They’re Coach Phelan, Coach [Shaka] Smart [of Marquette], Coach [Pat] Flannery [of Bucknell], Coach [Bob] Johnson [of Emory and Henry, a Division III program]. I call them ‘Coach’ because they taught me more than just how to run a basketball program. They taught me how to influence lives, and they influenced me in that process.”
A native of Philadelphia and a 1951 graduate of La Salle, Phelan made the All-Philadelphia team for three straight years. He then went into the Marine Corps and led the Marine Cagers from Quantico to the All-Marine Championship. He was named the Most Valuable Player in the Corps. After his discharge, Phelan played briefly with the Philadelphia Warriors of the NBA and the Pottstown Packers of the old Eastern League.
Phelan left his hometown in 1954 to become head coach at Mount St. Mary’s College. Forty-nine years later, he guided 16 Mount teams to NCAA tournaments, including five trips to the Division II Final Four and the College Division national championship in 1962.
Nineteen of his teams reached the 20-win plateau, while just 10 have suffered losing records. Phelan led two NCAA Division I tournament teams and earned one National Invitation Tournament bid. In 1967, he was named the school’s athletic director. He served dual roles over the next 22 years, helping to lay the groundwork for the Mount’s move to Division I in 1988. Once the move was made, however, he resigned as AD to devote his full attention to the basketball program.
In the Northeast Conference championship game on March 1, 1999, Phelan became the fourth person to coach 800 college basketball victories, and led his team into its 16th NCAA basketball tournament.
When he retired in 2003, only North Carolina’s Dean Smith, Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp and Winston-Salem’s Clarence Gaines had logged more victories than Phelan, who won 824 games at Mount St. Mary’s. Phelan ranks ninth on the all-time list in Division I men’s basketball history.
Warren, who led the Mountaineers to their first winning season in Division I as a senior in 1989-90 and was an assistant on Phelan’s staff when the head coach, guided the program to its first NCAA tournament in 1995, said Phelan was famous for “Phelanisms” such as “Semper fi,” (“always faithful”) “being in a foxhole” and “showing some stomach.”
“Because he was a Marine, I observed every day those qualities of toughness,” Warren said. “He was always true to his word, to everybody around him. He meant a lot of things to a lot of people.”
Engelstad, who first met Phelan 14 years ago as a 22-year-old assistant on Milan Brown’s staff for the Mountaineers, said Phelan enjoyed attending games in person and met with Engelstad and Dave Reeder, the director of financial aid at the university, for lunch every Monday until the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Mr. Engelstad said what he appreciated most about Phelan was his unwavering loyalty to the program.
“He was with me during the lean years,” Engelstad said. “He would keep me up by being able to crack a joke or talk about his lean years and pick me up. If you’re not winning, it’s a tough gig, and he was always one to put life in perspective and help me get out of those personal ruts. I’ll forever be grateful for that.”
Christian, who was a shooting guard for Phelan from 2000 to 2003 and helped Mount St. Mary’s reach the NCAA tournament in 2014 and 2017, remembered a meeting with Phelan two days after an 86-72 loss at Long Island University on Jan. 12, 2013, in his first season as the coach.
“Coach usually came in on Wednesday, but he had such a great feel, great timing,” Mr. Christian said. “I was kind of muddling through in my mind what was happening with the team, and he came in and sat down. I said, ‘Hey, Coach, how are you?’ and the first thing he said to me was, ‘Well, Jamion, a lot better than you are.’ I looked at him and thought, ‘He’s exactly right.’ So I said, ‘Coach, you’re right.’ And then he said, ‘But you’ll find a way to beat them. Now let’s go to lunch.’ It was just one of those things where in that moment, that was exactly what I needed to hear. There were several moments like that when I played for him and after playing for him when he would just have the perfect timing to say the thing that I needed to hear. He had a little bit of humor and a lot of truth, and it’s really hard to find people who have that kind of quality.”
Phelan has been inducted into 12 Halls of Fame, including the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (2008), the Northeast Conference Hall of Fame (2010), the Mount St. Mary’s Sports Hall of Fame (1988), La Salle University Hall of Fame (1964), the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame (2010), the LaSalle College High School Hall of Fame (2010) and the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame (2010). He was honored with the Lapchick Character Award in 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
See the edition of Molière by DESPOIS AND MESNARD in the Collection des grands écrivains (Paris, 1873-1900), also an English translation of his works with French text by WALLER, 8 vols. (London, 1902-7), and English version with memoir by WALL in Bohn's Library (3 vols., London, 1876-77) LACROIX, Bibliog. molièresque (Paris, 1875) VEUILLOT, Molière et Bourdaloue (Paris, 1877) LONGHAYE, Hist. de la litt. franç. au XVIIe siècle (Paris) CLARETIE, Molière and Shakespeare in Fortnightly Review, LVII (London, 1900), 317 MATTHEWS, Molière (New York, 1910).
Instead of providing the biopic that the title appears to promise, Laurent Tirard's second feature speculates on what the young Jean-Baptiste Poquelin -- better known as Moliere, one of the giants of classic French theater -- might have been getting up to in 1644, when he briefly vanished from history's radar.
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This review was written for the theatrical release of “Moliere.”
PARIS — The starting point for this highly enjoyable costume drama is a gap in the hero’s CV. Instead of providing the biopic that the title appears to promise, Laurent Tirard’s second feature speculates on what the young Jean-Baptiste Poquelin — better known as Moliere, one of the giants of classic French theater — might have been getting up to in 1644, when he briefly vanished from history’s radar.
Tirard’s suggestion — in his witty Gallic counterpart to the Oscar-winning “Shakespeare in Love” — is that the fledgling actor-writer-director Moliere (Romain Duris) was on the run from his creditors, holed up in the home of Monsieur Jourdain (Fabrice Luchini), a wealthy bourgeois gentleman, mining material for what later was to become two of his greatest plays.
With the bailiffs at his heels, Moliere jumps at Jourdain’s offer to cover his debts in exchange for coaching in acting technique. Jourdain is besotted with the beautiful widowed marquise Celimene (Ludivine Sagnier)and, encouraged by Dorante (Edouard Baer), a wily aristocrat on the make, has written a one-act play with which he hopes to impress her.
Masquerading as a priest named Tartuffe in order to conceal his true role from Jourdain’s wife, Elmire (Laura Morante), Moliere nonetheless forms a romantic attachment to Elmire that is soon reciprocated. At the same time, Tirard develops a subplot in which Jourdain promises to see his daughter, Henriette (Fanny Valette), wed to Thomas (Gilian Petrovsky), Dorante’s son, even though the young woman’s heart is set on Valere (Gonzague Requillart), her music teacher. Dorante, needless to say, is interested only in Jourdain’s money.
The story is worked out in the best traditions of farce, with an array of disguises, concealments and subterfuges, and there are plenty of laughs along the way. The ending, however, is bittersweet. Tirard frames the story with the reappearance 13 years later of Elmire, now dying of consumption. Although she has stayed with Jourdain in the meantime, she has retained her love for Moliere. She now enjoins him to give up hopes of writing in the supposedly nobler form of tragedy to concentrate on inventing a new form of comedy, one that fully explores the human heart.
Part of the fun for spectators familiar with the work of Moliere is recognizing situations and lines of dialogue — mostly attributed to Jourdain — that occur in two plays that Moliere wrote much later, “The Bourgeois Gentleman” and “Tartuffe.”
Duris, arguably the brightest of the current wave of young French male leads, is excellent in the leading role. Luchini is in his element as the buffoonish Jourdain, to whom Tirard lends a moment of dignity as the story reaches its denouement. Morante too is faultless as the woman torn between a desire for romantic love and adventure and the constraints of bourgeois marriage.
Production design is impeccable. Although the movie does not take itself too seriously, it has some interesting insights into the processes of creativity and the role of drama and repartee in the age of Louis XIV. The dialogue is a pleasure in itself, perfectly pitched between the language of today and the stilted cadences of high society in the mid-17th century.
Fidelite Films, France 2 Cinema, France 3 Cinema, Wild Bunch
Director: Laurent Tirard
Screenwriters: Laurent Tirard, Gregoire Vigneron
Producers: Laurent Sivot, Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier
Executive producer: Christine de Jekel
Director of photography: Gilles Henry
Production designer: Francoise Dupertuis
Costume designer: Pierre-Jean Larroque, Gilles Bodu-Lemoine, Pui Lai Huam
Editor: Valerie Deseine
Moliere: Romain Duris
Jourdain: Fabrice Luchini
Elmire: Laura Morante
Dorante: Edouard Baer
Celimene: Ludivine Sagnier
Henriette: Fanny Valette
Valere: Gonzague Requillart
Running time — 120 minutes
No MPAA rating
Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) was born in Paris on January 15, 1622. His father was one of eight valets de chambre tapissiers who tended the king's furniture and upholstery, so the young Poquelin received every advantage a boy could wish for. He was educated at the finest schools (the College de Clermont in Paris.) He had access to the king's court. But even as a child, Molière found it infinitely more pleasant to poke fun at the aristocracy than to associate with them. As a young boy, he learned that he could cause quite a stir by mimicking his mother's priest. His mother, a deeply religious woman, might have broken the young satirist of this habit had she not died before he was yet twelve-years-old. His father soon remarried, but in less than three years, this wife also passed away. At the age of fifteen, Jean-Baptiste was left alone with his father and was most likely apprenticed to his trade.
The boy never showed much of an interest for the business of upholstering. Fortunately, his father's shop was located near two important theatrical sites: the Pont-Neuf and the Hôtel de Bourgogne. At the Pont-Neuf, comedians performed plays and farces in the street in order to sell patent medicines to the crowds. Although not traditional theatre in the strictest sense, the antics of these comic medicine-men brought a smile to Jean-Baptiste's face on many an afternoon. At the Hôtel de Bourgogne--which the boy attended with his grandfather--the King's Players performed more traditional romantic tragedies and broad farces. Apparently, these two theatrical venues had quite an impact on the young Poquelin, for in 1643, at the age of twenty-one, he decided to dedicate his life to the theatre.
Jean-Baptiste had fallen in love with a beautiful red-headed actress named Madeleine Béjart. Along with Madeleine, her brother Joseph and sister Genevieve, and about a dozen other young well-to-do hopefuls, Jean-Baptiste founded a dramatic troupe called The Illustrious Theater. It was about this time that he changed his name to Molière, probably to spare his father the embarrassment of having an actor in the family.
Molière and his companions made their dramatic debut in a converted tennis court. Although the company was brimming with enthusiasm, none of them had much experience and when they began to charge admission, the results proved disastrous. Over the course of the next two years, the little company appeared in three different theatres in various parts of Paris, and each time, they failed miserably. Several of the original members dropped out of the company during this period. Finally, the seven remaining actors decided to forget Paris and go on a tour of the provinces. For the next twelve years, they would travel from town to town, performing and honing their craft.
It was during this period that Molière began to write plays for the company. His first important piece, L'Étourdi or The Blunderer, followed the escapades of Mascarille, a shrewd servant who sets about furthering his master's love affair with a young woman only to have his plans thwarted when the blundering lover inadvertantly interferes. The five-act piece proved quite successful, and a number of other works followed. By the spring of 1658, Molière and his much-improved company decided to try their luck once more in Paris. When they learned that the King's brother, the Duke of Anjou, was said to be interested in supporting a dramatic company which would bear his name, they immediately set about gaining an introduction to the Court.
On the evening of October 24, 1658, Molière and his troupe performed for the first time before Louis XIV and his courtiers in the Guard Room of the old Louvre Palace. They made a crucial mistake, however, by performing a tragedy (Cornielle's second-rate Nicoméde) instead of one of their popular farces. The Court was not impressed. Fortunately Molière, realizing their blunder, approached the King at the conclusion of the tragedy and asked permission to perform one of his own plays, The Love-Sick Doctor. The King granted his request, and the play was such a success that the little company--which would thereafter be known as the Troupe de Monsieur--was granted use of the Hôtel du Petit Bourbon, one of the three most important theaters in Paris.
The first of Molière's plays to be presented at the Petit Bourbon was Les Précieuses Ridicules or The Pretentious Ladies which satirized Madame de Rambouillet, a member of the King's court who had set herself up as the final judge of taste and culture in Paris. The play proved so successful that Molière doubled the price of admission and was invited to give a special performance for the King. The King was delighted and rewarded the playwright with a large gift of cash, but Molière had made powerful enemies of some of the King's followers. Madame de Rambouillet and her coterie managed to have performances of the play suspended for fourteen days and, in an attempt to drive Molière from the city, eventually managed to have the Petit Bourbon closed down completely. But the King immediately granted Molière use of the Théâtre du Palais Royal where he would continue to perform for the rest of his life.
Over the course of the next thirteen years, Molière worked feverishly to make his company the most respected dramatic troupe in Paris. (Eventually, they were awarded the coveted title "Troupe of the King.") He directed his own plays and often played the leading role himself.
On February 17, 1673, Molière suffered a hemorrhage while playing the role of the hypochondriac Argan in The Imaginary Invalid. He had insisted on going through with the performance in spite of the advice of his wife and friends saying, "There are fifty poor workers who have only their daily wage to live on. What will become of them if the performance does not take place?" He passed away later that night at his home on the Rue Richelieu. The local priests refused to take his confession, for actors had no social standing and had been excommunicated by the church. Nor would they permit him to be buried in holy ground. Four days later, the King interceded and Molière was finally buried in the Cemetery Saint Joseph under the cover of darkness.
Molière left behind a body of work which not only changed the face of French classical comedy, but has gone on to influence the work of other dramatists the world over. The greatest of his plays include The School for Husbands (1661), The School for Wives (1662), The Misanthrope (1666), The Doctor in Spite of Himself (1666), Tartuffe (1664,1667,1669), The Miser (1668), and The Imaginary Invalid (1673).