Moliere: A Theatrical Life

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Overview

Molière's long-lost trunk of letters and manuscripts has yet to be found amidst the dust of some Parisian attic, but in spite of that, a story of his life can be told from documentary evidence, reminiscence, gossip and innuendo, and inferences from his plays. He was very much a man of his time and place, and this new biography, the first to be written in English since 1930, places the great actor/playwright in his historical context as the son of well-to-do bourgeois and student at the Jesuit College de Clermont in the 1630's, as one of a group of stage-struck hopefuls and as a vagabond actor in the provinces in the 1640's and 50's, and--from 1658 to his death in 1673--as a clever courtier, a faithful friend, a not-so-faithful lover, a successful and controversial playwright striking out against hypocrisy in religion and medicine, and a cynical survivor of the literary, cultural, and marital wars. Virginia Scott is Professor of Theater at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She has published numerous articles in Theater Survey, Theater Journal, and Theater Research International as well as writing the book The Commedia dellÀrte in Paris, which won the George Freedley Award for the best book in theater studies in 1991.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The strength of her [Scott's] book...lies less in its portrait of Molìere himself than in the densely researched and pervasive background against which she is able to situate him....What she does do is arrestingly illuminate the complex world of theatre and court, both in Paris and elsewhere, that finally constitutes almost all that can really be known of Molìere's life." Economist

"In the first biography of MoliD'ere in English since 1930, [Scott] threads her way gracefully and wittily through this tangle of information to build up a credible portrait of the playwright... Scott spends much time on Moliére's historical context, relationships, economic and political life, and artistic struggles and develops an excellent portrait of his theater and the state of drama in his time. ... Highly recommended." Library Journal

"Ms. Scott provides valuable correctives here. The strength of her book lies less in its portrait of Molière himself than in the densely researched and pervasive background against which she is able to situate him....What she does do is arrestingly illuminate the complex world of theatre and court, both in Paris and elsewhere, that finally constitutes almost all that can really be known of Molière's life." Economist

"...eminently readable... scholarly without lapsing into jargon, witty without straining to be clever, flavorously personal but never self-indulgent." Washington Post

"Nobody knew that the middle classes had manners of their own, rather than just aspirations to other people's, until Moliere emerged to mock them. One of the virtues of Scott's biography is that he shows just how thoroughly bourgeois and Parisian an upbringing Molière had." The New Yorker

"...conscientiously researched..." The New York Review of Books

"a fine biography of an interesting man who deserves to be better known. My chapeau is respectfully doffed to Scott for an excellent job." Greenwich, CT Time

"Nobody knew that the middle classes had manners of their own, rather than just aspirations to other people's, until Moliere emerged to mock them. One of the virtues of Scott's biography is that he shows just how thoroughly bourgeois and Parisian an upbringing Moliere had." The New Yorker

"...crammed with theatrical information." Dallas Morning News

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As the first substantive English-language biography of Moli re since 1930, this is a happy arrival for students of the theater and of French literature and culture. In spite of the intermittent lack of verifiable facts, Moli re's life reliably materializes as high drama, and Scott does not waste time trying to canonize refutable trifles. She makes the leaps necessary to create a strong narrative without sacrificing scholarship, and she paints her mischievous protagonist in front of a set of 17th-century France, magnificently evoked through vivid detail and fluid imagination. Born in 1622 to a bourgeois Parisian tapissier, or furniture merchant and upholsterer, Moli re took a law degree in 1642, but then disappointed his parents by forming the Illustre Theater and becoming an actor, playwright and libertine. One of the central mysteries of Moli re's life is his wife, Armande. She is sometimes identified as the illegitimate daughter of Moli re's former mistress, Madeline Bejart, and Scott agrees with that controversial conclusion, but notes that it is only partly because the information available "intersects coherently with that conjecture and creates credible character choices." Scott freely admits that the possibility also "stirs my imagination and produces a more interesting narrative." Moli re unwittingly made many enemies through his social satires. The church, the medical profession and the monarchy were among the many institutions lining up to ban Moli re's comic plays, though still he managed to prosper in a violent and restrictive age. He ended his days playing the lead role in his own play The Imaginary Invalid and was very nearly denied the right to be buried in holy ground, because of his failure to repent before God and church for a life misspent, as was believed of actors at the time. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Economist
Ms. Scott provides valuable correctives here. The strenth of her book lies less in its portrait of Molière himself than in the densely researched and persuasive background against which she is able to situate him....What she does do is arrestingly illuminate the complex world of theatre and court , both in Paris and elsewhere, that finally constitutes almost all the can really be known of Moli&#232:re's life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521782814
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Virginia Scott is Professor of Theater at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is the author of The Commedia dell'Arte in Paris (1990), winner of the George Freedley Award for best book in theatre studies, 1991.
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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin; 2. Madeleine; 3. The Illustre Théâtre; 4. Exile; 5. Return to Paris; 6. Husbands and Wives; 7. The Courtier; 8. Enemies; 9. Friends; 10. Marriage (and Love); 11. Last Act; 12. Envoi; Works consulted.
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