Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature. His father was a Parisian furniture merchant and upholsterer to the king. Jean Baptiste received his early education at the College de Clermont, a Jesuit school, becoming a promising scholar of Latin and Greek. He trained as a lawyer but shunned the law to go into theatre instead. Since the theater life was not considered very respectable, he assumed the name "Molière" in order to spare embarrassment to his family. In 1643, Molière incorporated an acting troupe, the Illustre Theatre, in collaboration with the Bejart family. With this company, Molière played an unsuccessful season in Paris, resulting in bankruptcy, then left to tour the French provinces until 1658. The company then returned to Paris and played before Louis XIV. The king's brother became Molière's patron; later Molière and his colleagues were appointed official providers of entertainment to the Sun King himself. In 1662 he married Armande Béjart, a 19-year-old actress with whom he had one child, Esprit-Madeleine (1665). In the late 1660s, Molière developed a lung ailment from which he never recovered, although he did not cease working with his troupe. He died on February 17, 1673, following the fourth performance of The Imaginary Invalid.
Molière's comedies attacked hypocrisy in social behavior and satirized the French upper classes.Over the course of 24 years he wrote 12 full-length comedies, a number of pastorals, and other forms of dramatic entertainment, including his popular comedy-ballets. Among Molière's best-known works are The Misanthrope, The School for Wives, Tartuffe, The Miser, The Imaginary Invalid, and The Bourgeois Gentleman. Tartuffe offended powerful religious factions in the court of Louis XIV during an early staging and was banned from public performance. Although the King allowed forbidden entertainment to private audiences who asked for the play to be read or performed in their homes, it would not have its public premiere until several years later.
Molière was heavily influenced by the stock characters and situations featured in Italian commedia dell'arte, encoutering several troupes during his travels. This influence was then enhanced when Molière's shared the Théâtre du Petit-Bourbon in Paris with the Italian Players, led by the celebrated Scaramouche.
More about Moliere