Moliere's Big Break

Les Précieuses ridicules - Molière

First of all I have to offer out my heartfelt thanks to the friend of mine who purchased this book for me (which actually contains a number of Moliere plays, though I will be reviewing on them individually) as a Kris Kringle present. Basically I asked for a copy of The Misanthrope (and I had in mind the Dover Thrift edition) and after scouring Melbourne for a copy, she ordered the Penguin version on line, so I felt blessed that I got not one, but six Moliere plays.


Moliere was a French playwright who ended up getting on the wrong side of certain church authorities after some of the more farcical plays in his repertoire (this is not one of them). I will speak more on this when I get to Tartuffe (which is the one I am reading now) but I felt that I would mention it.


This his not his first play, but it was the play that caught the attention of the King and pretty much made him famous. He had attempted to break into the Paris scene beforehand (and in those days the major cities, such as Paris, were the equivalent of Hollywood) but had failed, so he went travelling around the French countryside performing in the rural towns and cities. Obviously he was developing his style, and no doubt the Paris scene would have been hard for a first timer to break into anyway.


It was not as if Moliere was poor though, because his father, while being a carpenter, was basically the King's carpenter. Moliere also had a university education (in law) which pretty much meant that even if he didn't make it as a playwright, he would have been living a pretty comfortable life in any case. Remember that in those days being an actor was not a profession that made you bucket loads of money (well, I guess with the exception of a small number that is probably still the case today). Also, they tended to be considered a much lower class than today (the cult of celebrity didn't exist in 17th Century France). It was only if you had royal ascent (as did Shakespeare) that you could actually be considered successful (and having royal ascent was a very good thing because that meant that the king liked your work, and you could be guaranteed that your work would be preserved).


As for this play, well it is a short one act play about two women who are being married off, and they don't like the guys that their parents are marrying them off too. So the suitors pull a swifty by dressing their servants up as noblemen and have them court the ladies. The ladies fall for it, and when it is revealed, well, it is no doubt a very embarrassing situation. Okay, it may seem that in those days women were not supposed to marry below their class, then it was more of a convention, and also since there was much more influence from the family, there was not always the possibility of eloping (though it did happen). Mind you, it is still very much the same these days, though while there is freedom to an extent, there are still some households where the parents have a strong influence over who should marry whom.