What kind of child was Molière that he turned out to be the greatest writer of comedy in
all great French theatre?
There are first a few points to point out regarding Molière’s journey. One, Molière was fascinated with the art of theatre when he was just a kid. Two, he rejected his father’s job and abandoned his law degree. Three, he used the pseudonym Moliere. Four, he was tenacious when it came to every obstacle in his career and five, he died doing what he loved until the very end... literally.
To start off with a very famous quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, he wrote “Toutes les grandes personnes ont d’abord été des enfants. Mais peu d’entre elles s’en souviennent” or in English translates to “all adults were first children but few of them remember that”. Saint-Exupéry was told not to think about childish imaginations and Molière was probably told the same thing by his father if he were to tell his father of his interest in theatre. Molière’s father wanted him to be an upholster appointed to the royal court just like him. However, the difference between Molière and Saint-Exupéry is that Molière never left his childhood fantasies and pursued theatre right after studying law. That already shows how ambitious Molière must have been as a child and shows a story of character development throughout his life.
Saint-Exupéry once drew a boa constrictor that swallowed an elephant, but the dullness of the adults resulted in their mistaking the drawing for a brown hat. If Molière had done the same as Saint-Exupéry, young Molière would have drawn what would have looked to an adult like an attempt to draw a boat. However, young Molière’s talented mind would have seen his future love of theatre.
Comic theatre in the 17th was not very respected and therefore Molière used his pseudonym instead of his real name, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. Children’s behaviors reflected a lot of parental influence so there must have been some caution in his childhood dream. Even when Molière acted with his troupe at the time, he used clown makeup so there must have been some sort of parental influence or societal influence. Additionally, could Molière’s experience of his mother passing away when he was just ten years old have influenced his plays? Molière’s usual comedy play depicts a pair of lovers overcoming an obstacle to getting happily married. So, could a child’s fantasy of happy ending reflect in his most notable plays?
Nonetheless, Molière’s child plays never stopped during adulthood. One example of this is the make-up of the word “Tartuffiée” from his play Tartuffe in Act two scene four. Molière was never afraid to be silly with his plays and exaggerate characterizations. His comedic side of him was probably prevalent in his childhood self. Although not all his plays were successful, he was able to captivate the audience’s attention again and again in his plays. Even with fame, Molière never stopped acting till the very last play, The Imaginary Invalid, when he passed.
Although very little of Molière’s childhood is known, Molière’s spirited childhood never left, even with parental and societal influences. That is not to say that comedy itself is childish, but that childhood dream of theatre could have been the one key that helped him be celebrated till this day. Molière always had his childhood spirit in him and thanks to that, Molière was able to continue his career as the greatest in all French theatre.
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Émelina Jean. “L'enfant dans le théâtre du XVIIe siècle.” In: Littératures classiques,
n°14, janvier 1991. Enfance et littérature au XVIIe siècle. pp. 79-92;
Molière, and Françoise Ruller-Theuret. Le Tartuffe. Éditions Larousse, 2006.
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